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American Expeditionary Force in North Russia, 1918 - 1919
Pictures & Records
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by Craig R. Scott, CG
This series of images includes reports of morale, of efficiency, and of operations; correspondence; daily and weekly intelligence summaries; strength reports, returns, orders of battle; and maps and charts, which document the activities of the American Expeditionary Force, North Russia.
In June 1918, the Allied Supreme War Council voted for military intervention at Murmansk and Archangel in North Russia by a force of mixed nationals under British command in support of the White Army in the Russian Civil War against the Bolshevik (Red Army) forces. In July 1918, President Woodrow Wilson agreed to furnish American troops for the intervention. The American “Murmansk Expedition” consisted of the 339th Infantry Regiment, the 1st Battalion of the 310th Engineers, 337th Field Hospital, and 337th Ambulance Company, all elements of the 85th Infantry Division, also known as the Custer Division. In August 1918, the expedition, consisting of 143 officers and 4,344 enlisted men sailed from England for Archangel. Arriving in September, it deployed along a front 450 miles long, extending from Onega in the west, to Pinega in the east.
The North Russia Transportation Corps Expeditionary Forces, consisting of the 167th (Operations) and 168th (Maintenance) companies, were sent to Murmansk in March and April 1819 to operate and maintain the Murmansk Railway.
Early in 1919, President Wilson decided to withdraw American forces from North Russia. By August 5, 1919, all American forces had been withdrawn and Headquarters, AEF, North Russia, ceased to exist.
The Historical Branch, War Plan Division, 1918 – 1921, began collecting and classifying the material included in this publication in about 1920. Its successor, the Historical Section of the Army War College, continued to collect material during the 1920s and 1930s.
None of the images are security classified, but at one time or another many of the original documents were classified as secret or confidential at the time they were created.
Reports of officers
Numerous reports of officers, detailing various aspects of the morale of the troops and military operations, are included in the files. Image 1, shown here, begins the report of the Commanding Officer of Headquarters Company, 339th Infantry, concerning the events of December 11, 1918, when the Anglo-Slavic Legion mutinied.
Image 2 shows the first page of a cable message from the American Consul at Archangel describing the evacuation of Shenkursk. An excerpt reads:
Yesterday Shenkursk was successfully evacuated. The troops brought out with them most of their supplies, the wounded and sick and 500 civilians. The Russian troops behaved excellently. Refugees from Shenkursk who reached this place declared that a portion of the town was destroyed by the Bolsheviki troops and many of the citizens were murdered. The population here was depressed by the news and the Provisional Government has become quite anxious.
Strength reports and returns
Image 3 provides a breakdown of the Allied forces in the Murman District, including Polish, Russian, Slavo-British, and Servian forces in addition to American companies.
Maps and charts
Many maps detail Allied positions, Russian positions, and the military condition of Eastern Europe in the period. The final image shown here is a map of European Russia, showing the disposition of Russian troops and the line held on 20 May 1919.
Using the collection
These records were originally filed using the War Department historical decimal classification system. Fold3 has alphabetized the reports for ease of use. The original finding aid to these records is a folder list that can be found in the descriptive pamphlet published by NARA.
There are additional records relating to the AEF, North Russia, in Record Group 120, Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I), 1917 – 1923. Documents relating to American activities in North Russia are found in the records of the American Section of the Supreme War Council, 1917 – 1919 (available at Fold3) in the same record group. The general correspondence files of the Military Intelligence Division in the Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, Record Group 165, also deal with North Russia. As do the Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59, regarding the conditions in North Russia during the period.
The Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan explores related records and the stories of the men within the American Expeditionary Forces in Polar Bear Expedition Digital Collections, an online digital archive.
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Search or browse the Historical Files of the American Expeditionary Force, North Russia, 1918 – 1919 here.
The images shown here are scanned from the National Archives microfilm publication M924, Historical Files of the American Expeditionary Force, North Russia, 1918 – 1919. The original records are located in Record Group 120, Records of the American Expeditionary Force (World War I), in the National Archives at College Park – Archives II (College Park, Maryland).
The descriptive pamphlet for M924, published by NARA, may be viewed or downloaded here.