Raymond King served as a Private and Private First Class in the U.S. Army from Feb. 24, 1918 through July 8, 1919.
He was assigned to G Company, 339th Infantry, 85th Infantry Division, which received their basic training at Camp Custer, Michigan.
The 30,000 men of the 85th Division broke camp beginning on July 11, 1918 and over the next seven days they were transported on seventy trains to Camp Mills, NY. On the 21st of July, they boarded troop transport ships and departed New York City, bound for Liverpool, England. Pvt. King was aboard the USS Northumberland for the eastbound journey across the North Atlantic Ocean.
Upon arrival in England, the 337th Ambulance Company, the 337th Field Hospital Company, the first battalion of the 310th Engineers and the entire 339th Infantry Regiment, were separated from the rest of the 85th Division and sent to a training camp near London, where they were re-fitted with new uniforms and equipment. While there, they were designated the American North Russia Expeditionary Force (ANREF) and on Aug. 25th they departed England for Archangel, Russia. The remainder of the 85th Division was sent to France.
During their deployment to North Russia, most elements of the ANREF were sent to the front lines to fight on the side of the White Russians in the Russian Civil War against the Bolshevik Red Army. During their nine months in North Russia, 250 Americans died in battle and from other causes.
Upon their departure from Russia in June of 1919, the ANREF adopted as their insignia a white polar bear on a blue field, which all officers and enlisted men were authorized to wear on their left shoulder. Their deployment to North Russia became informally known as the Polar Bear Expedition and the veterans called themselves Polar Bear soldiers.
Private First Class King was aboard the USS Von Steuben when it departed Brest, France on June 22, 1919 for the westbound journey across the North Atlantic Ocean. The Von Steuben arrived in Hoboken, NJ on June 30, 1919 and the men were sent to Camp Merritt, New Jersey. Their stay was brief and on the evening of July 3rd, they arrived in Detroit, Michigan. The next day, the people of Detroit held a grand welcoming event on Belle Isle for the returning "Polar Bears", that included a parade, speeches, a picnic, dancing, swimming for the soldiers and their family members who were able to be there with them. The next day the soldiers boarded trains for Camp Custer and four days later Private First Class King was discharged from the Army and resumed civilian life.