"Detroit's Own" Polar Bear Memorial Association American North Russia Expeditionary Force



Color Guard re-enactors, White Chapel Cemetery, 27 May 2002

The "Detroit's Own" Polar Bear Memorial Association is dedicated to honoring and maintaining the memory of the 339th Infantry Regiment, the 1st Battalion of the 310th Engineers, the 337th Ambulance Co. and the 337th Field Hospital of the U.S. Army's 85th Division. These men, officially designated the American North Russia Expeditionary Force and also known as "Detroit's Own" and "Polar Bears", were sent by President Wilson to North Russia where they fought the Bolshevik Red Army from September 1918 through June 1919.

- President
- Vice President
- Secretary
- Sergeant at Arms

The Association is an affiliate of the
Michigan's Own Military and Space Museum
1250 Weiss Street
Frankenmuth, MI 48734
Phone: (989) 652-8005 or e-mail:

To join the Association or re-up, please use this form.
If you have any questions, e-mail:

What's New!

Polar Bear Wear - 2015 Catalogue now available!

Our VP Kevin Stark has made arrangements with Charleviox Screen Masters in Charleviox, Michigan to make available a nice selection of shirts and caps that carry our Polar Bear logo. Certain types of shirts can be ordered either with a silkscreened or embroidered logo. 

The Polar Bear Memorial Association receives a small portion of the proceeds from each sale, so this is a great way to both honor the "Polar Bears" and support our Association. 

Currently all purchases must be made by mail order using the flyer and order form which can be downloaded from this link.   Please allow 3 to 4 weeks for delivery. 

American Legion lends support to Polar Bear Heroes

During its Spring Meetings in Indianapolis on May 8, 2014, the American Legion’s National Executive Committee approved Resolution 20, which supported the Department of Michigan's efforts to have the Polar Bear Monument added to the National Register of Historic Places.  Kudos to American Legion Post 14 Commander Stephen Stevens and Executive Board member Larry Chase for promoting this resolution at the district and national levels. The resolution was approved at the National American Legion Convention in August 2014. The last time a resolution such as this appeared on their National Convention agenda was in support of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

The Bentley Historical Library's "Polar Bear Expedition Digital Collections" web site has been entirely re-constructed and the effort is now nearly complete. This interactive site features the digitized "Polar Bear Collections" housed at the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library. Back in the 1960s the Bentley Historical Library began collecting personal papers of the Polar Bear veterans through a collaboration with the Polar Bear Association. About nine years ago the Library began digitizing this collection and making it available on-line. Additional digitized materials have been added to the collection in recent years but it was necessary to revamp the web site using different software so that the new content could be made accessible. Additional materials are awaiting digitizing and will be added to the web site in the near future.

The web site currently contains:

1. 63 collections digitized in 2004 by the University Library.
2. 17 collections digitized by the U of M School of Information and Bentley Historical Library.
3. 19 collections digitized by donors.
4. A roster of soldiers who served with the Polar Bears, containing 6,813 names.
5. Collections of books, newspapers, periodicals, and maps digitized from our collection.
6. Links to Polar Bear-related publications digitized by others.

(click photo to enlarge)

Recognize any of these soldiers? Send an e-mail to Mike Grobbel if you do. This snapshot was found in the collection of Sgt. Simon Davis, Co. B, 339th Inf. Reg., but he is not among them. Based on the bottle of Rye Whiskey, the availability of pipe tobacco and the metal bed frames, this photo was most likely taken in the U.S.A.
UPDATE: The soldier at the far left has been identified as Cpl. Frank Swiderski, 126th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Division, which trained at Camp Custer, Michigan. 

Browse the lists of official captions for (510) photographs taken in North Russia by the U.S. Army Signal Corps.The lists are complied in order of increasing SC number. The SC number is usually found in the lower left hand corner of the image, next to the U.S. Army Signal Corps logo. Many of the captions identify the subjects in the photo by their name, rank and/or unit. Information on how to obtain copies of these photos can be found on this page.

"FUGITIVE MOMENT: The True Story of an Unsung Hero", by Phil Penningroth, available in Kindle Edition only at Amazon.com. "Look Inside".

FUGITIVE MOMENT is a "novel history" that tells the true story of Louis Penningroth, a YMCA War Prisoners Aid Representative, who defied both the United States government and his YMCA superiors in order to negotiate the freedom of American and British prisoners of war in Bolshevik Russia.

Visit the new web site The Foreign Burial of American War Dead

"The American Expedition to North Russia in 1918-1919 has been oddly neglected by professional historians, with the result that most US citizens, including even the best educated and well-read, have been unaware of its existence. Partly, this has been because it got underway in the closing weeks of the Great War (now officially called World War I), and like a side show at a circus where they are already striking the tent, it drew little attention.

"Besides that, there was the confusion and obscurity surrounding it with regard to its purpose, especially in Washington and among the American troops who were involved: they literally had no idea what they were being sent to do. Even President Woodrow Wilson, as will be seen, was in a spin of uncertainty as to whether he should or should not authorize the expedition, and the British leadership (for it was to be an Allied operation, including British and French soldiers, but with the British officers in all the top command positions) offered little clarification.

"Without further enlightenment, five thousand American doughboys found themselves, early in September of 1918, after a long, slow trip from England through the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean, disembarking at the Russian port of Archangel - and more than half of them no sooner ashore than they were, with astonishment, packed off to "the front" to fight "the Bolos" - which was to say units of the Soviet Red Army. The operation thus turned out to be, willy-nilly and right from the start, an invasion of Soviet territory."

Ernest M. Halliday - from the Introduction to his book
When Hell Froze Over

For a concise overview of the American North Russian Expeditionary Forces, read
"The Polar Bear Expedition - American Intervention in Northern Russia, 1918-1919",
by the Michigan Historical Collections of the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan.





Webmaster: Mike Grobbel .
This web page was created on 04 July 2002 and moved to"http://pbma.grobbel.org" on 08 July 2007; Last Revised: 11 April  2015
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