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

INTRODUCTION | CEREMONIES & EVENTS | HONOR ROLL | MILITARY DECORATIONS | ENGAGEMENTS

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"Polar Bear" Engagements in North Russia, 1918-1919
(under construction)

My selection of the engagements and summaries listed below are intended only to give visitors to this website a chronological and geographical overview of the fighting involving the Companies of the 339th Infantry, and their attached and Allied units. It is not intended to be an all-inclusive list and description of their battles. I highly recommend that visitors read the referenced materials (listed at the bottom of this page) to learn more of the interesting details about these and other engagements the "Polar Bears" had with the enemy.

Mike Grobbel

Additional maps:
Frederick C. O'Dell Map Collection - Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. These maps were produced by the U.S. Army 310th Engineers mapping section in 1918 and 1919. Links on this page will open photographic images of selected maps from the Collection, which is stored at the Bentley Library and most of which do not appear on their Polar Bear Expedition Digital Collections web site.
Settlements near the junction of the Vaga and Dvina Rivers (British military map, circa 1918)
Archangel region (Russian forestry service maps, 2002)
Bereznik on the Northern Dvina River, just downstream of the junction with the Vaga River (Google Maps, 2007)
Emtsa (Verst 433) on the Vologda-Archangel Railroad (Google Maps, 2007)

Vologda Railroad Front

Date Location Type Companies Casualties Ref. Summary
11 Sep 1918 Verst 464 Offensive M (n/a) Moore, p.21 (2) Platoons of.....
16 Sep 1918 Verst 464 Defensive I & L (n/a) Moore, p.21 Bolsheviks counter....
29-30 Sep 1918 Verst 458 Offensive I, L & M 4 KIA, 14 inj. Moore, p.25 An assault.....
13-17 Oct 1918 Verst 455 Offensive I, L & M 2 KIA, 8 inj. Moore, p.27; Halliday, p. 115 Bolo fortifications....
04 Nov 1918 Verst 445 Defensive I & French 1 KIA, 2 inj., 1 MIA; estimated enemy casualties total bet. 150 and 200. Moore, p.29 On this date,.....

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Emtsa River Front

Date Location Type Companies Casualties Ref. Summary
27 Sept-03 Oct 1918 Near Kodish Offensive K, L 7 KIA, 24 inj. Moore, p. 57 During their....
13-18 Oct 1918 Kodish Offensive K, L, British & Canadian 11 KIA, 31 inj. Moore, p. 58; Halliday, p. 114 Engineers constructed.....
05-08 Nov 1918 Kodish Defensive K 7 KIA Moore, p. 61; Halliday, p. 115 The Bolsheviks....
29-31 Dec 1918 Kodish & Emtsa Offensive E, K, MG & French 7 KIA, 35 inj. Halliday, p.139; Moore, p. 128
Carey, pp.104-127
Surprise attacks.....

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Dvina River Front (under construction)

Date Location Type Companies Casualties Ref. Summary
19-20 Sept 1918 Seltso Offensive B, C & D 3 KIA, 8 inj., 1 MIA Moore, p. 33; Halliday, p. 79 On Sept 7th.....
10-14 Oct 1918 Seltso Defensive B 2 injured; 29 enemy killed Moore, p. 35; Cortright In response....
11-14 Nov 1918 Toulgas Defensive B, C & D 28 KIA, 70 inj.; 500 (est.) enemy dead. Cortright  
             

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Vaga River Front (under construction)

Date Location Type Companies Casualties Ref. Summary
  Ninji Gora   A   Halliday, p.  
29 Nov 1918 Ust Padenga Offensive C 6 KIA, 4 MIA, 3 POW Moore, p. 66 A patrol of ......
19 Jan 1919 Ninji Gora Defensive A 6 KIA, 17 inj.,17 MIA Halliday, p. 177; Moore, p. 136 A platoon......
20-22 Jan 1919 Visorka Gora Defensive A 5 KIA Halliday, p. 184; Moore, p. 138 5 men died.......
25 Jan 1919 Shenkursk Defensive A,C (n/a) Halliday, p. 194; Moore, p. 143 Retreated......
             

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Onega River Front (under construction)

Date Location Type Companies Casualties Ref. Summary
24 Sept 1918 Chekuevo Defensive H (n/a) Halliday, p. 94 H Co.....
01 Oct 1918 Kaska Offensive H 6 KIA Halliday, p. 95 British orders.....
23-24 March 1919 Bolshie Ozerki Offensive E, H   Halliday, p. 259; Moore, p. 168 Bolshevik forces....
31 March - 04 April 1919 Bolshie Ozerki Defensive H, M   Halliday, p. 263; Moore, p. 170 On March 31st....

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Summaries - Vologda Railroad Front

11 Sept 1918 - 2 Platoons of M Co. successfully engaged and drove the Bolsheviks from their fortifications at Verst 466 and took possession of the railroad bridge further south at Verst 464 (1 Verst = 2/3 mile). (Back)

16 Sept 1918 - Bolshevik forces counter-attacked the ANREF outpost holding the bridge at Verst 464 and were repulsed. (Back)

29-30 Sept 1918 - An assault (including a flanking column) on the Bolo position at Verst 455 was attempted with only 4 hours planning. The flanking column, without good maps, lost their way in the swamps and joined the main assault in front of Verst 455, instead of attacking from behind it. The Allied advance captured the railroad bridge at Verst 458, and it was there that the advance stalled. (Back)

13-17 Oct 1918 - Bolo fortifications at Verst 455 were captured with a flanking attack and the use of artillery mounted on the Allied armored train. Cos. I and M continued advancing until they captured the Bolo outpost at Verst 445 on 17 Oct. This will be as far south as the ANREF will successfully advance along the Vologda Railroad Front. (Back)

04 Nov 1918 - On this date, M Co. was in reserve at Obozerskaya. The 140 Allied troops who were manning the front line fortifications between Verst markers 448 and 443.5 fought off an attack by an estimated 800 to 1,000 Bolsheviks; further action on this front was limited to artillery duels and patrols, with the exception of the 29 Dec 1918 attempted surprise attacks on Emtsa and Kodish which were supposed to lead to the capture of Plesetskaya. (Back)

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Summaries - Emtsa River Front

27 Sept-03 Oct 1918 - During their trip down the railway from Archangel, two platoons of K Co. were left behind to guard the railroad shops at Issaka Gora. When the remaining two K Co. platoons arrived at Obozerskaya on Sept 7th, they were dispatched overland towards Seletskoe. Here they were attached to the British "D" Force, which was charged with preventing the Bolos from taking control of that village and pushing them back upstream along the Emtsa River beyond Kodish. The Bolos attacked Seletskoe on 16-17 Sept and "D" Force repulsed them, causing the enemy to retreat. On Sept 25, the other 2 platoons of K Co. plus L Co. arrived in Seletskoe and on the following day, all of K Co. plus 2 platoons of L Co. set out to chase the retreating Bolos and take Kodish. From Sept 27th through Oct 3rd, the Bolos held off the men of K and L Cos. at the banks of the Emtsa River, keeping them from crossing and advancing on Kodish. (Back)

13-18 Oct 1918 - Engineers constructed a ferry, which was used to move L Co. and 2 platoons of K Co. across the Emtsa River, where they flanked the enemy holding Kodish. The remainder of K Co., plus British marines and Canadian artillery, opened fire on the Bolos from across the river while the flankers attacked Kodish from the rear. That night, the remaining Allied forces crossed the Emtsa and on the following morning, sharp fighting caused the Bolshevik forces to flee Kodish. On the 17th, the American forces advanced down the road towards Avda, but after only 4 Versts, they met stiff Bolshevik resistance at the 15th Verst pole. After a second day of fighting, a nighttime flanking maneouver by the Americans caused the Bolos to evacuate and retreat to Kochmas. An order from Gen. Ironside to "hold on and dig in" prevented any further advances down the road towards Avda. (Back)

05-08 Nov 1918 - The Bolsheviks began shelling Kodish on Nov 1st, which by then was protected only by the 180 men of K Co. On the morning of Nov 5th, the Bolos attacked Kodish from both front and rear. Only by the skillful use of their machine guns were the Americans able to hold off the enemy and escape across their recently-built bridge on the Emtsa, which occurred under cover of darkness late on the 8th. The Americans took up their old Oct 3rd positions on the banks of the Emtsa while the Bolos did likewise in Kodish. (Back)

29-31 Dec 1918 - Surprise attacks on Emtsa and Kodish were planned in an effort to push the enemy southward and take over the railroad town of Plesetskaya and provide better winter quarters for the ANREF. A White Russian detachment on snowshoes was to attack the railroad village of Emtsa from the east, while Allied troops were to cross the Emtsa River and attack Kodish. The coordinated flanking attack on the village of Emtsa stalled and was abandoned because of deep snow and not having the proper type of snowshoes. The 2,700 Bolo troops in Kodish retreated in the face of the attack from the 450 men of E, K & MG Companies, however, the White Russian and British forces failed to reach their objectives, allowing the Bolos their successful retreat. Kodish was captured and held until February 1919. (Back)

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Summaries - Dvina River Front

19 Sept 1918 - On Sept 7th, the 1st Battalion of the 339th Infantry (Companies A,B,C & D) were sent up the Dvina River to Beresnik. From there on Sept 13th, Cos. B,C & D began to chase the Bolos further upstream to the southeast, with the ultimate goal of taking Kotlas and joining up with Czech forces who were approaching it form the east.. On the 19th, the Bolos halted their retreat at Seltso and began attacking the ANREF units with machine guns and heavy artillery bombardment from their gunboats. An unsuccessful flanking attempt by B Co. on the 20th resulted in 3 deaths and 8 injured. With the White Russian artillery having finally caught up with the 339th late in the day on the 20th, coupled with the Bolshevik decision to withdraw upstream, the ANREF was able to easily take Seltso. The town was left in the hands of White Russian and Royal Scottish troops and the 339th moved on to the Vaga River Front. (Back)

10-14 Oct 1918 - In response to increased Bolshevik pressure on the garrison at Seltso, B Co. was sent to assist in the defense of the town. On Oct 10th, B Co. attacked the Bolos who were entrenched on the southern outskirts of Seltso, killing 29, while sustaining only 2 injured. With cold weather setting in, their British gunboat withdrew downstream and the Bolshevik forces took the opportunity to attack Seltso on Oct 14, forcing the Allied troops to retreat to Toulgas. (Back)

11-14 Nov 1918 - Having given up on reaching Kotlas, the Allied forces began setting up a fortified garrison in Toulgas, which by now included B, C and D Cos. of the 339th. On the morning of Nov 11th, the Bolsheviks staged a diversionary attack on the south end of Toulgas, which was shortly followed by the attack of their main forces from the swampy ravine on the west. Heavy machine gun resistance by the Allies forced the main body to pull back and regroup for an attack on the north edge of the village. Here they were prevented by the fine work of the Canadian Artillery from taking anything more than the ANREF field hospital, which had been left undefended. The Bolo infantry fell back and their artillery shelled the village during the night. The next morning, the Bolo artillery focused on the Allied blockhouse that was protecting the bridge at the southern approach to the village. Once it was hit, their infantry attempted to cross the bridge, but without success against the deadly machine gun fire from B Co. While this was happening, the Royal Scots stormed the field hospital and routed the Bolos who were holding the patients as prisoners. On the 13th, the situation worsened for the surrounded Allied garrison in Toulgas when the Bolos changed tactics and mounted a continuous bombardment of the village. By nightfall, with their ammunition running low and no outside communications, the Americans decided to try and break the seige by staging a surprise flank attack on the Bolshevik forces south of the village. In the pre-dawn of the 14th, B Co. managed to sneak through the swamps west of the village and at daylight, they charged the surprised Bolsheviks. Thinking that Allied reinforcements had arrived from the north, the Bolos retreated and due to the worsening weather, their gunboats retreated upstream, leaving Toulgas in the hands of the Allies. (Back)

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Summaries - Vaga River Front

29 Nov 1918 - A patrol of approximately 100 men from C Co. was led by Lt. Francis Cuff to drive the enemy out of their position near the village of Trogimovskaya (about 8 Versts from Ust Padenga). Because of the deep snow, the patrol had no choice but to use the only available trail to reach the village. Where the trail passed through a dense section of forest, the main body of the patrol was ambushed by the enemy and Lt. Cuff led their successful withdrawal. However, a detachment of the patrol at the edge of the forest was having difficulty disengaging the enemy, so Lt. Cuff and his men re-engaged the enemy and came to their aid. During this engagement, Lt. Cuff and a small group of his men became separated from their main patrol and were surrounded by the enemy. Completely surrounded and greatly outnumbered, they bravely fought off the inevitable until they were overwhelmed, with a final toll of 6 killed, 4 missing and 3 captured. (Back)

19 Jan 1919 - A platoon of men from A Co. retreated to Visorka Gora when the Bolsheviks launched a surprise artillery and infantry attack on them. Out of the 47 men in that platoon, only 7 made it to Visorka Gora uninjured. (Back)

20-22 Jan 1919 - Five men died when a single enemy shell exploded inside the medical post. Visorka Gora was abandoned late in the evening of Jan 22nd. A Co. eventually retreated to Shenkursk at 4:00 pm on Jan 24th. (Back)

25 Jan 1919 - Retreated from Shenkursk to Vistafka in the face of 3,000 advancing Bolshevik troops, beginning at 1:30 AM on the 25th and arriving late on Jan 26th. (Back)

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Summaries - Onega River Front

24 Sept 1918 - H Co. had been sent to Onega from Archangel in mid-September to reinforce a garrison of British soldiers. Shortly after their arrival, two platoons of H Co. were sent 50 miles up the Onega river to Chekuevo. This village was on the critical road between Murmansk and Obozerskaya. On the 24th, 300 Bolosheviks attacked the 115 Americans and 93 White Russian volunteers stationed there. When the Bolo leader was killed by machine gun fire, H Co. seized the initiative and charged the enemy attackers. The Bolos fled and were chased by the Americans for 5 miles south along the river road before they broke off and returned to Chekuevo. (Back)

01 Oct 1918 - British orders were given to H Co. to co-operate in the drive on Plesetskaya by advancing down the Onega River in parallel with the advance on the Railroad Front. At the village of Kaska, the 2 H Co. platoons and 100 White Russian volunteers attacked a force of 700 Bolsheviks at dawn on Oct 1st. When the Russian volunteers realized the size of the opposing force, they fled into the forest, leaving the Americans no choice but to break off the attack and retreat to Chekuevo. (Back)

23-24 March 1919 - Bolshevik forces had transversed the swamps from the south and on March 17th, they completely destroyed the small French garrison stationed at Bolshie Ozerki. They occupied the village, which sat on the critical road between Murmansk and Obozerskaya. H Co. was stationed to the west on the Onega River, and were effectively cut off from the Railroad Front by the Bolo occupation of Bolshie Ozerki. On the 23rd, E Co. attacked the Bolshevik forces from the east, while H Co. joined in the attack from the west. Their attempt to re-take Bolshie Ozerki failed. On the 24th, Allied artillery bombarded Bolshie Ozerki from the east at Verst 18, destroying the town. E Co. was relieved by M Co. on March 28th. (Back)

31 March - 04 April 1919 - On March 31st, the Bolos attacked M Co. at their fortifications at Verst 18, 4 miles east of Bolshie Ozerki, with village of Obozerskaya (12 miles further east) as their ultimate objective. H Co. and three companies of the British 6th Yorkshire Regiment (newly-arrived from Murmansk) attacked them from the rear on April 2nd. Under severe pressure from the Allied forces and faced with rapidly warming temperatures, the Bolos retreated southward on April 5th. (Back)

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References:

Moore: The American Expedition Fighting the Bolsheviki, edited by J.R. Moore, H.H. Mead and L.E. Jahns, originally published in 1920, reprinted by "The Battery Press", Nashville, TN, ISBN: 0-89839-323-X; July 2003.

Halliday: When Hell Froze Over by E.M. Halliday; iBooks, New York, NY, ISBN: 0743407261; October 2000.

Carey: Fighting the Bolsheviks: the Russian War Memoir of PFC Donald Carey by Donald Carey, Edited by Neil G. Carey, Presidio Press, Novato, Ca.; ISBN: 0-89141-631-5, 1997.

Cortright: "Bloody Battle on Peace Day" - by Vincent Cortright; Military History Magazine; Oct. 1998


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This page created and maintained by Mike Grobbel
This page created: 04 July 2003; Last revised: 18 Feb 2011
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