Thursday, November 29, 2012

Jesse Halsey | Root Commission

When the Root Commission left Russia, they cabled the State Department that hut work must be immediately developed with the Russian army. Now, the Root Commission was not an overall contingent. They attended state functions and dinners. Kerensky and his ministers put the best foot forward and the Commission, like most of the rest of the world, was fooled. One member, Charles Edward Russell, a socialist, got away from the dinners, listened to the soap-box orators and put in a minority report, which was disregarded.

The War Council hustled ten of us over the continent and across the Pacific toward the “Eastern Front.” A list of required equipment included a Prince Albert and a dress suit! I told the management that I was going to war and not to a pink tea; so into my duffel bag went three pairs of overalls and some flannel shirts.

Things blew up in Russia soon after we arrived. I was glad that my preacher clothes were at home. We crossed Siberia and were in Moscow when the Bolsheviks gained control in November (1917). The soldiers were swarming home from the front, determined to be there when the land was divided. Everyone was a “tavarish,” a comrade. Officers lost their gold braid and shoulder straps, and often their necks, as well. A committee ran the government—no longer a Czar. Why not a committee for the army also? If the regiment needs no colonel, the individual needs no boss. “Doszedenia” “Nichevo.”

I have gone in my flannel shirt where the British Admiral could not come, except as my guest. For nearly six months I ran the American headquarters on the Mourman coast, where there was an ice free port three hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle. I acted as chaplain for the British fleet (because I went to school in Edinburgh, the Admiral, in spite of the overalls, which I never wore on Sundays—gave me a commission as if the established church of Scotland.) For six months, I read the English service, to meet the regulations, and then preached.

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