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Date of Award
Aaron B. Retish
At the height of the First World War the Russian Empire under Tsar Nicolas the II collapsed, to be followed quickly by the Provisional government set up to replace it, plunging Russia into its famous and bloody Civil War. The Russian Civil War took a primary Allie out of the war, forcing an increasingly desperate Allied War Council to make every effort to somehow reopen the eastern front, lest hundreds of thousands of German troops be shipped to already strained battlefields in France. In their desperation the Allies, along with their newest ally, the United States of America, sent troops directly to Russia in order to secure war supplies, ports, and perhaps even armies and governments for the purpose of continuing the war with Germany. This led to the creation of the American North Russian Expeditionary Force (A.N.R.E.F) who would be later known as the Polar Bear Expedition, a group of about 5,500 men sent to Archangel, Russia's primary White Sea port, for the winter of 1918-1919. The Polar Bear Expedition, made up extensively of men from Michigan, found themselves, after enlisting and training to fight Germans in France, fighting Bolshevik soldiers in frigid northern Russia. This work will build upon the work of others who have already answered why the Polar Bears were sent to north Russia, and examine this question from the Polar Bears perspective. Did they understand what they were fighting for? What were they told? And what did it mean to them to fight Bolsheviks? This work will examine the Polar Bear expedition in a top down approach, beginning with the origin of the expedition in World War One, continuing through its impact on the Russian Civil War, and finally examining in detail the men of the Polar Bear Expedition, and their understanding of what they were doing, and their place in history.
Comfort, Mark Aaron, "World war, civil war, and polar bears: the american-north russian expeditionary force" (2010). Wayne State University Theses. Paper 68.