The Alleged Mutiny of Company I, 339th Infantry
On or about 30 March 1919 in Archangel, Russia, an incident occurred involving the Captain and men of Company I that would become blown all out of proportion and eventually find its way into Michigan and Wisconsin newspapers.
Here is a copy of the report issued on 25 June 1920 by Major H.N. Scales (the former Adjutant & Inspector assigned to the American North Russian Expeditionary Forces) regarding his May 1919 investigation of this incident.
Source: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD, Record Group 120, 85th Division records, Stack Area 290, Row 1, Compartment 27, Shelf 3, Boxes 2 and 3.
Transcript of the above document:
Washington, D.C., June 25, 1920
From: Major H.N. Scales, Former Adjutant &
Inspector, American Forces in North Russia
- 2 -
(b) The testimony showed that the Captain commanding
Company I, 339th Infantry, did not order his Company
formed nor did he ever give a direct order for the sleds
to be loaded. He did not report this trouble to the
Commanding Officer (a field officer) of Smallney Barracks,
but hastened to 'phone his troubles to the Commanding
Officer, American Forces in North Russia. The Captain was
alleged to be a socialist and closely allied with Victor
Berger before declaration of war. He impressed me as
being rather weak and totally unfitted for duties of
Company Commander, yet his tours of duty at the front
were considered satisfactory by his Commanding Officer.
This report mentions other similar "troubles" that occurred with British and French units and that word of them never got past the British censor as did the Company I incident.
According to a different report 1, one of those incidents occurred on or about 01 Feb 1919 when a British unit refused an order to load up and move out. Another incident involved 113 French soldiers in Archangel who refused an order on or about 01 March 1919 to load up and proceed to Verst 455 on the Vologda Railroad front. They were promptly arrested and returned to France for trial.
The book "Quartered in Hell" 2 describes an incident which began on 04 March 1919 in Toulgas, when one Private and three non-commissioned officers of Company B, 339th Inf. drew up and delivered a petition that listed their grievances and threatened a mutiny unless they were addressed by their officers before March 15th. On March 8th, one of the company sergeants broke up their planning and placed the four under house arrest. On the 13th, a court-martial was convened by six staff officers who had arrived from Archangel. The Private was called in first and read the Articles of War and the charges of mutiny, treason and desertion. He responded by tearing his clothes wide apart and shouting, "Look at the lice, the dirt, the filth. We are half starved. But none of you have lice or go hungry" [according to some accounts, an estimated one-third of their daily rations were being pilfered during transport from Archangel to Toulgas - Mike Grobbel]. The courtroom was deathly quiet for a long minute before the head officer rose and said, "Private, if you promise us you'll use your influence to keep down any further trouble, we shall leave Toulgas in less than ten days". The Private agreed and was excused. The others were each called into the courtroom and when they were also excused, the topic was never discussed again.
1 "Mutinies Report", National Archives Microfilm M924, Roll 2, section 23-36.1
2 "Quartered in Hell: The Story of the American North Russian Expeditionary Force 1918-1919", by Dennis Gordon, pp. 216, 223-224.
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