With the men of the Allied Armies
and with the Prisoners of War in all parts of the world
Franklin A. Gaylord
WITH THE ARMIES OF OUR ALLIES
Down the Volga with the Red Triangle Welfare work is necessary to Russian civil life. The funda- mental need in Russia is aid to the peasant; and as soon as it established itself, the Red Triangle organization set up a floating exhibit of American agricultural methods to be sent down the Volga through the heart of Russia. It covered several hundred miles along both banks of this great river, reaching tens of thousands of people. Thirty-one Russian helpers aided the Y rural experts to demonstrate the films, models-, charts, and personal talks on modern methods of farm organization and home keeping in rural America. The exchange of prisoners, following the Brest-Litovsk peace, brought thousands of liberated Russians, who for three years had lived on the border-line of starvation. Many of them died en route and the doctors pronounced 25 per cent of the remainder tubercular. The Y was called upon to attack the problem, and, according to the civil authorities, the service in Moscow, Petrograd, and the cities near the border, saved thousands of these soldiers who would have died soon after reaching home. The indispensable supplementary ration, which was the substantial welcome of the Y, consisted of milk, eggs, palatable bread, and other necessities, which were the height of luxury to these returned prisoners. On many days the food supplied by the Y was all these men got to eat.
We have followed the Triangle through the dark days in southern and central Russia; now let us follow it to the Arctic Sea. Here, too, the armies of the Allies were fighting their way in the World War. This campaign had as its main military object the break-up of possible German submarine bases on the Arctic Sea and the protection of supplies delivered to the Kerensky government at Archangel and Murmansk. In the rigorous task in North Russia, 65 American Y secretaries, with some 30 British Y secretaries and a number of auxiliaries of Russian and other nationalities, were given the main responsibility for welfare service among the troops under the exceptional conditions of an Arctic winter in a miscellaneous force comprising twelve nationalities. Here the Y M C A was the only substantial force conducting welfare work throughout this difficult operation.
Fighting against the Elements at Archangel The number of the Allied troops reached 30,000 men at the maximum. About half were regular allied detachments, while the rest were Russian volunteer units. The American troops amounted to about 5000 men in the Archangel district, and 2500 along the Murmansk Railway. The larger Y work was based on Archangel, where the Allies main- tained their headquarters for fighting fronts on a narrowing circle 50 miles further south. After the first establishment of headquarters, which had again (as in France, England, and Italy) preceded the arrival of the American troops, secretaries were sent to the combat regions in the south, and by Christmas, 1918, every important base in the region had its Y hut and characteristic activities. When the town of Shenkursk was captured by the Bolsheviks in the middle of the Winter the Y hut, which had been a center in the midst of the fighting area, was burned with many other buildings. In other sections Y secretaries without permanent quarters went about with the troops on duty and distributed comforts to troops on the front line. Four American secretaries on this service were captured, one was awarded the French Croix de Guerre, three were given the Russian Cross of St. George, and others were mentioned in American Army Orders for bravery under fire on the front line.
With Reindeer Sled in the Far North An American Y hut in Russia had the honor of being placed at the apex of the narrow salient, pushed into the Bolshevik lines at Oust Podenga on the Vaga River, the farthest point reached by the Allies. This hut, directly across the river from enemy troops and closely camouflaged in consequence, was one of the finest field huts maintained in North Russia. Qn the Vologda Railroad a string of specially equipped box cars and canteens, with Y men in charge, served the outposts; while horse and reindeer sled service was given to other outlying points in the five or six campaigns in which the small American Army was bearing the heaviest attacks, braving the terrible arctic conditions and the exposed guerilla nature of the warfare. American casualties of over 400 were due largely to exposure to the fearful cold.
Testimony of Commanding Officer in North Russia At the time when this service was at its height Colonel Stewart, Commanding Officer of the American Forces in Northern Russia reported after a visit to the front: "On behalf of the officers and fnlisted men of my command I desire to express the appreciation we all feel of the excellent work done by your representatives in the ameliora- tion of the hardships of service of my troops. In my recent visit to various units of my command, aggregating twenty-eight days, during which, besides rail transportation, I covered 650 miles by sleigh, the work of your organization was constantly brought to my attention."
The Allied Expeditionary Army in Siberia assumed the proportions of a powerful force in August, 1918. It varied during the succeeding months from 60,000 to 80,000 along a front of almost 6000 miles. President Wilson officially placed America in cooperation with this force (Aug. 3, 1918) and a few weeks later the 27th U. S. Infantry and other units arrived from Manila. Major General Graves took command of the American forces. The objectives were: the protection of the Vladivostok stores, the support of the Czechs, and the restoration of the Siberian Railroad. Eleven armies were on the Siberian front; the largest was the Japanese; here, also, were the British, French, Italian, Roumanian, Polish, and Russian troops, and last of all the splendid regiments of the Czecho-Slovak Army, which had found and fought their way across Russia. The campaign lasted more than one year amid the most unstable political and military conditions, and all the national forces except a strong group of Japanese have now been removed from Siberia. But the opportunity for service in this expedition was incalculable and the American Y adapted itself adequately to the abnormal and fluctuating conditions.
At Vladivostok — Over 100 Y Men in 11 Armies The number of secretaries in Siberian work considerably passed the 100 mark; they were assisted by 200 Czech, Russian, Japanese, and others from various nationalities. The cost of the work was over $2,000,000. The Y service was carried to every section of this enormous front and showed results in every one of the 11 national armies. Seventeen were allotted to the American Expeditionary Forces, 15 served with the Czech Army, 20 in special Russian civil work, 10 administered the manifold activities of the International Hut and other activities for the Allied units in Vladivostok, 12 were occupied in the lecture and cinema bureau and the rest were assigned to miscellaneous activities. The Association had 10 separate huts among the American forces and 14 isolated posts as an extension service from the hut centers. There were also canteen cars which traveled with the troops when they were entrained.
. . .
Homeric Epic of the Czechs Crossing Siberia
The most dramatic event in the Far Eastern campaign is that of the Czecho-Slovak Army Corps. These Czechs, most of them ex-prisoners of war from the Austrian Army, had fought in Kerensky's last offensive, the only unit on the Russian side displaying the ardor which wins victory. During the Winter of 1917-1918, they held their organization together and brought it up to a total strength of 40,000 (which later was recruited to 60,000 or more) superbly trained men. They started in May, 1918, to travel by train across Russia and Siberia fdr transport across the Pacific and Atlantic and for service on the West Front. They filled 60 trains and attached to each regimental group there was at least one Y car. The Y men with the expedition included a number returning to America from the Russian service, but several had been with the Czecho-Slovaks from the beginning. They wete called "uncles" in honor of their practical demonstration of the sympathy which signified to the Czechs the ties of a blood relative. They bought and manufactured supplies for the canteen cars wherever they could, and throughout the expedition maintained a resourceful service for the soldiers and conducted local welfare work whenever the train stopped long enough at any one point along the route.
This expedition was attacked by Bolsheviki in June and part of it cut off from Siberia; 15,000 men got through but the remaining 25,000 started on a long campaign which lasted the greater part of the next year. This campaign was the chief reason for American intervention. One detachment after another of the Czech Army fought its way through to junction with other Czech-Allied units, all served by Y secretaries.
Fifteen or more Y secretaries were attached to the Czech Army fighting as an Allied force along the Trans-Siberian Railroad. This army covered an enormous area, stretching west as far as Ufa and Samara in European Russia. The fifteen clubs maintained for this army by the Y were scattered along 1800 miles of railroad, while to serve the vast intervening stretches, eighteen canteen cars, like the club cars in the Far East, were attached from time to time to the 60 trains controlled by the Czech staff. Several Y secretaries went with the Czechs on the last stage of their around-the-world trip to Prague, where they received a fitting share in the welcome given to this Homeric expedition on its home-coming. One of the Y canteen cars, which made the trip across Siberia, was brought back to Bohemia with the army. It has been proposed that it be erected in Prague as a public memorial to American constancy and service.