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Chapter XL

Field Operations, Table of Contents

CHAPTER XL

AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES IN NORTH RUSSIA

On August 9, 1918, certain units were designated to constitute the original American contingent of the north Russian forces, sometimes called the "Murmansk expedition," or "Expedition to the Murman coast." They were: The 339th Infantry; 1st Battalion, 310th Engineers; 337th Field Hospital; and 337th Ambulance Company. These organizations, which belonged to the American Expeditionary Forces, had arrived in England prior to the above date, and at the time were being prepared and equipped, at Aldershot, for service in Russia. Their instructions provided that no animals should be taken with them to Russia, but all vehicles, saddlery and harness (except for the field hospital company), and American field kitchens. British personal equipment was ordered issued, and clothing for winter service, with Russian rifles and Lewis machine guns, Russian pattern. On August 10, modified instructions directed that American personal equipment be taken instead of British. Preparations were completed and the command embarked on August 27, 1918, and arrived at Archangel on September 4.1

The American forces, numbering 143 officers and 4,334 men, after their arrival at Archangel, were promptly disembarked and shortly thereafter distributed. The 1st Battalion, 339th Infantry, joined the allied forces on the Dwina and Vaga Rivers. The 2d Battalion, 339th Infantry, was stationed at the base (Archangel, Bakharitza, and vicinity), with the exception of a detachment on guard duty at Isakagorka and a detachment at Onega. The 3d Battalion was distributed through the allied forces, two companies going to the left wing at Seletskoe. Shortly thereafter regimental headquarters was located in Archangel. Ambulance Company No. 337 was divided into 3 sections, 1 officer and 35 men being detailed to the allied forces along the railroad, 1 officer and 35 men with the allied forces on the Dwina, the remaining officers and men to the base. A detachment of five of the ambulance company personnel and one of the 339th Infantry, Medical Department, accompanied our other troops to Onega by way of Dwina Bay, White Sea, and Onega Bay, where they established a hospital and later accompanied our troops to Chekuevo. Field Hospital No. 337 remained at Bakharitza to care for the 378 influenza patients admitted in September, of which 60 proved fatal. Soon after, however, a section of the field hospital established a 100-bed hospital at Bereznik.1

From September, 1918, to May, 1919, occurred a series of engagements in which 82 Americans were killed and 7 died of wounds.2

Withdrawal of our forces commenced in May, 1919, and on August 25 only a small graves registration detachment remained.2


946

MEDICAL DEPARTMENT ACTIVITIES

The office of the chief surgeon of the American troops in North Russia was established in the convalescent hospital (described below) in Archangel, and an assistant represented him in the Dwina area because of its distance (135 miles) from the base. All arrangements for medical supplies and personnel were made through the deputy director (British) of the medical services.3 In every area the senior medical officer was British. Both armies had to comply with their respective regulations and some months elapsed before mutually satisfactory methods were evolved. The following arrangements were made January 5, 1919, over the signatures of the deputy director of Medical Services (British Army), French chief medical officer, and the chief surgeon, United States troops:3

1. The deputy director of medical services carried out the general direction of the entire medical services of the force and is responsible to the general officer commanding in chief.

2. All questions affecting the medical administration of the Force and relating to policy, to the drafting of orders, to the distribution, disposal, and relief of personnel and to sanitation will be decided after consultation between the senior allied or American administrative medical officer concerned and the D. D. M. S.

3. The chief surgeon, U. S. troops, and allied senior medical officers have control of their own personnel and will distribute them in conformity with the military and medical situation after consultation with the D. D. M. S.

4. A similar arrangement will hold in regard to fighting forces. With each force there is a senior administrative medical officer who is responsible to the officer commanding that force and to the D. D. M. S. This officer will work in close cooperation with the senior allied or American medical officer.

No action affecting different nationalities should be taken until its advisability has been discussed with the representative with the force of the senior allied medical officer or of the chief surgeon, U. S. troops.

All assignments of duties or movements, allied or American personnel, will be carried out under the orders of their S. M. O.’s or the chief surgeon or the representative of these officers on the spot.

5. All communications from British medical officers for the chief medical officers or allied and American troops at G. H. Q. should be made through channels to the D. D. M. S.

Similarly all communications from allied or American medical officers will be passed through their own chief medical officers.

6. All differences of opinion which can not be otherwise adjusted should be referred to S. M. O.’s, the chief surgeon, or the D. D. M. S.

7. In case of emergency the senior medical officer of the force or station may issue any order to allied or American medical personnel, but he must at the earliest opportunity report it to the representative at G. H. Q., of the medical service concerned and to the D. D. M. S. through the usual channels.

The most difficult problem for the Medical Department at first was proper distribution of its personnel, so as to cover the ground. The front then held was approximately 450 miles in length, encircling Archangel on three sides, from Pinega on the east and Ust Padenga on the south, to Onega on the west. The distance from Archangel to Pinega was 112 miles; from Archangel to Ust Padenga, 234 miles; and from Archangel to Onega, 145 miles. The total area occupied was approximately 15,000 square miles.3 As the American


947

troops were not concentrated in one sector, but were distributed throughout the entire area occupied, it was impossible to maintain their medical organizations intact. Officers and enlisted men of the Medical Department, including those on duty with Field Hospital No. 337 and Ambulance Company No. 337, therefore, were "pooled" and detachments varying in strength from 2 to 35 were sent to the various positions, and then moved as the military situation necessitated. The detachments with line troops accompanied their respective battalions and were subdivided when necessary. Owing to the rapidly changing military situation, the medical detachments were often moved and their strength was changed.3

A weekly report showing the distribution of the medical personnel was made to headquarters, A. E. F., North Russia, and a duplicate was sent to the deputy director of medical services, allied forces, Archangel. In some instances, the personnel was assigned to duty in hospitals, dressing stations, and aid posts and under direction of American medical officers served the needs of both American and allied troops, while on other occasions it was assigned to hospitals and dressing stations under British, French, or Russian control. Because of the distribution of the allied troops as a whole, all hospitals, dressing stations, and aid posts outside of Archangel cared for sick and wounded of all the allied forces in their respective sectors, regardless of the army to which they belonged or the nationality of patients admitted. Though this arrangement was essential under the circumstances, and operated to the best interests of all concerned, it rendered administration and the keeping of records and returns difficult.3

At first there were no French, Russian, or Italian military hospitals in the advance area, but later, when Russian troops permanently took over certain forward areas, the hospitals in these areas were transferred to them. In some instances buildings used as hospitals by British were turned over to the Americans upon their arrival in an area.3

During the voyage to Archangel an epidemic of influenza developed, the first case being recognized on August 29. Despite all possible precautions, the disease spread rapidly, until, on arrival at Archangel, there were 100 cases on the S. S. Somali, 75 on the S. S. Negoga. No cases occurred on the S. S. Tideus. These were the three vessels which transported the expedition. No deaths occurred at sea. Upon arrival it was found that the British hospitals were able to care for only a small percentage of the patients. Twenty-five of the most seriously ill were transferred to the British 53d Stationary Hospital, and American emergency hospitals were immediately opened. At this time the Archangel district was inadequately provided with hospitals and facilities to care for the sick. Not until November were enough beds available here to meet needs imposed by the epidemic. Field Hospital No. 337 took over two Russian barracks at Bakharitza, a small hospital (40 beds) was opened at Smolny Barracks (Archangel), and the American Red Cross provided a building at the north end of Troitsky Prospekt, which (accommodating 30 patients) was used for hospital purposes. The buildings at Bakharitza and Smolny Barracks were in a filthy condition, and even after thorough cleaning


948

it was necessary to scrub and spray them daily, as they were infested with vermin.3 It had been anticipated that these accommodations would be temporary only, but the last mentioned continued to be utilized for a number of months. A convalescent hospital accommodating 100 patients, later enlarged to care for 200, was opened October 8, 1918. This was equipped with a Thresh disinfestor. It was supplemented by a depot where all men returning to duty were equipped.4 On November 16, through the cooperation of the American ambassador, the British deputy director of medical services and the Russian authorities, the American Red Cross obtained a large building adjoining the convalescent hospital which it offered to our Medical Department. The offer was gladly accepted and the American Red Cross equipped the institution, undertook to maintain it, and assigned two female nurses to it. The proffer, at the same time, of the services of one of the American Red Cross medical officers was made. This hospital, which had a capacity of 100 beds, later increased, was the base hospital of the expedition and remained in operation until our troops were withdrawn.4 It received 911 patients and performed 103 operations. As it had no X-ray plant, necessary radiographic examinations were made by the British 53d Stationary Hospital, which was provided with equipment for that purpose.5

In addition to the hospitals which have been mentioned, 5 infirmaries were established in or near Archangel. A delousing station was placed at Smolny Barracks, and prophylactic stations operated there and at the convalescent hospital. Field Hospital No. 337 remained for a few weeks at Bakharitza to care for influenza patients,4 but on September 28 was divided into sections A and B, the former then moving to Beresniki, where it established a hospital of 100 beds. Section B remained at Bakharitza until October 7, when it moved to Shenkursk, where it operated a hospital of the same size. In January, when Shenkursk was abandoned, section B moved to Osinovo, where from the British it took over and enlarged the small hospital they had been conducting there.6 Another part of this section took over a detention hospital from the British at Ust Vaga. In this, the Dwina Vaga sector, American medical detachments were stationed at Malo Beresniki, Kitskoe, Toulgas, Kurgomin, Ust Padenga, and Chamova, maintaining aid posts, dressing stations, or infirmaries, according to the need.3 At Ust Padenga and at Chamova, 10-bed hospitals, and at Toulgas a 4-bed hospital, were established. At Ust Padenga, the dressing station was moved three times during the military activities of January 19, 20, and 21, and was struck once, three patients being killed and two wounded, among them a medical officer who died later in the hospital at Shenkursk. During the several days’ fighting, and until this line retreated to Shenkursk, many wounded were brought in to the field hospital and greatly overcrowded it. On January 24 it was necessary to evacuate this hospital, the Shenkursk hospital (Field Hospital 337, section B). At midnight 96 patients were transported to Shegovari, a distance of 20 versts (13.2 miles). This proved very difficult, as the enemy machine guns covered the main roads and in consequence the retreat had to be conducted over roundabout trails through the dense woods. Excellent help was


949

given by Lieutenant Tufanoff, Medical Corps, Russian Army, who later was killed in action at Kitskoe.4

Field Hospital 337, Section A, at Beresniki, was not able to furnish accommodations for the patients in question except for about 12 hours, as its capacity was only 100 beds and it was nearly full at the time of the retreat. Therefore, they had to be sent on to the base at Archangel. In the evacuation to the base but one patient died, a tuberculous case. This seems remarkable when it is considered how they were hurried on to Archangel, a distance of some 375 versts (247.5 miles). The temperature was about 30 below zero. The patients in the retreat were crowded by continually adding more wounded to their sleds. However, all were in sleeping bags and little complaint was heard on questioning them on their arrival at Archangel.4

In the Shegovari and Kitskoe region on the Vaga River a great deal of fighting took place during February, and the medical personnel worked night and day, often under heavy fire. Patients were evacuated to Ust Vaga, where a dressing hospital had been established, and then sent on to Beresniki to the field hospital there.4 At a later date, a third detachment (C) of Field Hospital No. 337 was formed and established a small hospital at Morjegorskaya.3

At Pinega, the most easterly point of the line, a hospital, with a capacity of 97 beds, was established December 20 by an American detachment of 1 officer and 8 enlisted men. It operated until April 8, 1919, when it was turned over to the Russian medical military department, as American troops were withdrawn from the sector.4

A small detachment made up from Ambulance Company No. 337 and from medical personnel with line troops accompanied troops beyond Seletskoe, where they assisted the British in establishing a small detention hospital which operated until May, 1919.4

For the Vologda or railway sector hospital facilities were provided in the railroad station at Obozerskaya which was taken over for this purpose. The hospital here was in position to receive patients from the Onega sector to the west and from the Seletskoe sector to the east and south, as well as from the railroad area. A very complete operating car and ambulances were maintained by the British based at this point. One or more American medical officers and the number of men required were kept on duty in this sector.3

The Onega expedition, which left Archangel September 14, included detachments of our Medical Department personnel which reinforced a British hospital at Onega and a dressing station at Chekuevo until American troops were withdrawn from that area.7

The supply of drugs, surgical dressings, and appliances proved sufficient. The type of bed in use practically everywhere—a wooden frame with canvas top—gave satisfaction, and the supply was ample. Additions to the ration by gifts from the American Red Cross, by requisition of medical comforts from British stores, and by barter with the local citizens for eggs, game, fish, potatoes, and milk made possible a fairly liberal and varied hospital dietary. In some localities Russian nurses (female) volunteered their services and


950

were of material assistance. Except at the most advanced stations, operative work could be done under good conditions, but the distance from the front in some sectors was so great that, with the difficulty in communication, wounded from these points did not receive operative care for several days. In some cases five days elapsed before they could be given any treatment other than re-dressing of their wounds. The Carrel-Dakin technique was employed whenever possible. Serious difficulties due to shortage of personnel occurred at times. They were really chargeable to poor transportation facilities rather than to lack in the Medical Department strength.3

In the early fall it was possible to evacuate sick and wounded from advanced points to the base on hospital barges. These provided a relatively rapid and comfortable method of transportation from the Vaga, Dwina, Pinega, and Seletskoe sectors. As navigation on the Dwina River became impossible after October 26, 1918, this method was no longer practicable. From that time until the river again opened in May the sick and wounded were transferred by horse-drawn sleds, carrying usually one or two patients each. Various types of covered or closed sleighs were constructed and tested, but all were unsatisfactory, as they either tipped over too easily or proved too heavy. The common Russian sled, built on the lines of a short, flat-bottom boat on runners, was ultimately found best. One of these would carry two recumbent patients. Lying on hay, in sleeping bags, covered by several blankets, with hot bricks to the feet, and with head and hands well protected by fur caps and heavy mittens, patients were transported comfortably in these conveyances. Convoys often were accompanied by our enlisted men to give patients the necessary care and attention en route. The journey was broken by frequent stops at the rest houses or hospitals which were established at intervals of from 5 to 20 miles along the route, and at some of these the convoys passed the night.3 The personnel staffing these places was drawn from the British Royal Army Medical Corps. As the distances of advanced points from the base ran up to 224 miles, the time necessary to perform the journey involved was considerable. Convoys of sick and wounded consisted of from 15 to 50 sleds, the larger convoys being preferable, as there was less likelihood of enemy attack on them. Small raiding parties and hostile patrols at times displayed considerable activity along the more exposed portions of the sled routes, notably between Beresniki and Emetskoe. The larger convoys were forced to proceed slowly, rarely averaging over 2 miles per hour.3 Even under the best conditions, and when traveling with a light load, a single sled could not make much more than 3 to 3 miles an hour.

As during the winter daylight was limited to from two to four hours, much of the traveling was then done in darkness, which was intensified by the heavy forests through which the trail ran for many miles. In spite of these handicaps, over 500 sick and wounded were evacuated by sleds to Archangel during the winter of 1918-19. No serious accident occurred; only one death en route was recorded—a case of advanced tuberculosis—and no case of frost bite, of freezing, or of any other condition due to exposure, was reported.


951

On the other hand, many cases were observed where the long journey in the open air proved distinctly beneficial, and patients who had not been progressing satisfactorily in hospital sometimes showed marked and rapid improvement en route. An inspector who investigated several convoys on the Dwina-Vaga front reported that all the patients said they were well fed, well cared for, and amply protected against cold. Even with temperatures as low as 50 below zero patients came through very well.3

Direct communication with Archangel by railroad existed at all times from the Vologda sector, and until March, 1919, the majority of casualties occurring in the Onega sector were evacuated by sled to the railroad and then transferred to Archangel by rail.3 In the latter part of March, Bolshieozerki was captured by the Bolsheviki, and the line of communication between the Vologda and Onega forces was cut for a short time. Until the recapture of Bolshieozerki, casualties occurring in the Onega sector were evacuated by sled to Onega and there treated in a British hospital. From Pinega it was necessary, because of swamps and forests, to evacuate southwest 80 miles to the Dwina River.3

EVACUATION OF SICK AND WOUNDED TO ENGLAND

A total of 527 patients were returned to England for further observation and treatment or because of permanent disability. A medical officer accompanied each group of patients. On June 3, 1919, 325 were evacuated. The considerable number at this time was because cases had accumulated during the winter months when transportation was not available and because the commanding officer, 339th Infantry, had requested that only men able to perform full duty be returned to that organization. Many of the patients in this large group were convalescing and would have been fit for duty in a short time, only 8 of the 325 being classed as "lying down cases."3

EVACUATION OF TROOPS

The first detachment of troops left Economie June 3, 1919, on S. S. Czar, carrying 1,668 officers and men. On June 15, the S. S. Menomina and S. S. Porto, sailed, carrying, respectively, 853 and 1,360 troops, representing the balance of the 339th Infantry and the 310th Sanitary Train detachment; this left in Archangel only the 310th Engineers and the commanding general and staff, with a small headquarters detachment, all of whom sailed soon afterward.3

All troops were disinfested and reequipped upon arrival from the several fronts. Prior to embarkation all were inspected for venereal diseases, contagious diseases, scabies, and lice, and ships were rigidly inspected before troops were allowed to embark. Conditions on board ship were found to be good except that most of the ships’ tanks had been refilled for the return voyage with untreated Dwina River water, which was known to be badly contaminated. This necessitated chlorinating all water on board before troops embarked.3


952-953

SUMMARY OF HOSPITAL FACILITIES8

The location of hospitals, dressing stations, and aid stations is given below.


Designation


Location


Opened


Closed


Bed capacity

Field Hospital No. 337

Bakharitza

Sept. 6, 1918

Oct. 6, 1918

250

Infirmary, 2d Battalion

Archangel

…do…

Nov. 21, 1918

40

American Red Cross (annex)

…do…

Sept. 7, 1918

June 3, 1919

30

American Red Cross hospital

…do…

Sept. 10, 1918

June 20, 1919

85

Detention hospital

Seletskoe

Sept. -, 1918

May 26, 1919

80

Field Hospital No. 337, detachment A

Beresniki

Sept. 25, 1918

June 10, 1919

100

Detention hospital

Obozerskaya

Sept. 29, 1918

Dec. 1, 1918

25

Convalescent hospital

Archangel

Oct. 8, 1918

June 13, 1919

225

Field Hospital No. 337, detachment B

Shenkursk

Oct. 19, 1918

Jan. 25, 1919

100

Detention hospital

Shegovari

Nov. 9, 1918

Jan. 26, 1919

10

Do

Pinega

Dec. 6, 1918

Apr. 8, 1919

200

Do

Ust Vaga

Jan. 29, 1918

June 11, 1919

20

Field hospital, detachment B

Osmovo

Mar. 25, 1919

May 31, 1919

60

Field hospital, detachment C

Morjegerskaya

Apr. 17, 1919

May 10, 1919

20

Hospital barge No. 335

Toulgas

May 9, 1919

June 13, 1919

40

Aid station

Ust Padenga

(a)

(a)

10

Do

Malo Beresniki

(a)

(a)

10

Do

Chinovo

(a)

(a)

10

Do

Kurgomin

(a)

(a)

10

Do

Chamovo

(a)

(a)

10

Do

Kitsa

(a)

(a)

10

Do

Verst 435

(a)

(a)

10


Total bed capacity

 

 

 


1,375

aDates not given, as these stations were occupied alternately by American and British medical personnel.

Number of hospitals, dressing stations, and aid stations maintained by United States Army Medical Department, Sept. 5, 1918, to June 20, 1919

22

Number maintained by British Army medical service

26

Total bed capacity, United States Army

1,375

Total bed capacity, British Army

2,756

NOTE.— (1) Bed capacity is approximate, as emergency capacity varied widely in different localities; (2) hospitals were often maintained alternately by American and British medical personnel; the above figures represent as closely as possible hospitals, etc., under distinctive control of each Government; (3) 756 British beds were on H. M. H. S. Kalyan, which was used as a hospital while frozen in the ice during the winter, but left for England June 3, l919.8


Total admissions to hospital (all causes)

2,352

Total discharged to duty

1,706

Transferred to other hospitals

12

Evacuated to England

527

Remaining June 20, 1919

3

Died

104


Total

2,352

Total casualties not admitted to hospital:

 

Killed in action

82

Accidentally killed

5

Suicide

1


Total

88

Total missing:

 

No information

36

Heard from as prisoners

3

Later released by enemy

4

Later reported dead

2


Total


46


Total casualties


2,486

Total deaths:

 

Killed in action

82

Accidentally killed

7

Suicide

1

Died of wounds

30

Died of disease

72


Total


192

Deaths from disease:

 

Lobar pneumonia

36

Bronchopneumonia

32

Enteritis, chronic, variety undetermined

1

Tuberculosis, chronic, pulmonary

1

Tuberculosis (psoas abscess)

1

Meningitis

1


Total


72

REFERENCES

(1) Report on North Russian Expeditionary Forces, by Brig. Gen. W. P. Richardson, commanding general, A. E. F., North Russia, June 27, 1919. On file, Historical Section, the Army War College.

(2) Final Report of Gen. John J. Pershing, September 1, 1919.

(3) Report of Medical Service, American Expeditionary Forces, North Russia, by Lieut. Col. E. Corning, M. C., June 20, 1919. On file, Historical Division, S. G. O.

(4) Report of work accomplished by the Medical Department since arrival in North Russia to March 31, 1919, by Maj. Jonas R. Longley, M. C., chief surgeon, U. S. Troops, Archangel, Russia. On file, Historical Section, the Army War College.

(5) Report of activities and war diary, Red Cross Hospital, Archangel, by Maj. W. H. Henry, M. C., commanding officer, undated. On file, Historical Division, S. G. O.

(6) Report of activities and war diary, Field Hospital No. 337, Detachment B., prepared under the direction of the commanding officer, undated. On file, Historical Division, S. G. O.

(7) Report of Medical Department activities, Onega sector, by Lieut. Col. E. Corning, M. C., undated. On file, Historical Division, S. G. O.

(8) Annual Report of the Surgeon General, U. S. Army, 1920, 408, 409.