[November 3, 2019] British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said that “History is written by the victors.” He was talking about how future generations would view World War II and the bloodbath that constituted its essential elements. Likewise, we rarely hear about the Polar Bear Expedition of Allied Forces that attacked Russia in the midst of their Revolution. The expedition failed.
During the latter days of the First World War, Russia had disintegrated into a brutish purge of its aristocracy. Czarist Russia was rampant with corruption, inefficiency, disregarded the common man, and poor handling of the war. It was clear, from the view of the Allies, that Russia was no longer part of the effort.
At the request of the British and French governments, the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson authorized an American expedition to assist in achieving two objectives. The first objective was to prevent war material stockpiles from falling into the hands of the Central Powers or Russian Bolsheviks. And second, to rescue the Czechoslovak Legion, which was stranded in North Russia.
Following the Allied Armistice with Germany on November 11, 1918, family members and friends of soldiers who fought there began writing letters to newspapers and circulating petitions to their Congressional representatives, asking for the return of the force from Russia. By early 1919, these forces were still in Russia (mostly due to the winter freezing the ports). In April 1919, a relief force arrived at Arkhangelsk, where the American force disembarked.
A year later and with the backing of the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization, expedition members began lobbying to obtain funds to retrieve the bodies of those who had lost their lives in Russia. The current VFW Magazine has an article on their efforts and worth reading how our troops are instilled with the idea to never “leave a man behind.” As of the publication date of this blog post, the VFW has not put the article up on their Webpage.
By the time World War I ended, the Communist ideology had taken hold in many parts of the world. Russia was just one location. China’s dance with Communism began about the same time but for different reasons. The point is that all the ideology accomplished with dictators at the lead was the death of more than 100 million people. The estimated death toll of the Allied Polar Bear Expedition was less than 1,000.