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Chapter XLI

Field Operations, Table of Contents



The primary mission of the American forces which were sent to Siberia during August and September, 1918, was conducting an operation in connection with the Japanese and Czechoslovaks, which had for its object the clearing of the Ussuri-Amur Provinces of the Bolshevik bands which were present there under the leadership of armed Austro-German prisoners of war.1


The American forces were made up of troops from both the Philippines Department and the United States.

On August 3, 1918, The Adjutant General cabled the commanding general, Philippines Department, to send by the first available United States Army transports the following troops to Vladivostok for station: The 27th and 37th Regiments of Infantry, one field hospital, one ambulance company, and a company of a telegraph battalion, fully equipped, including clothing for winter service. As the strength of the designated regiments was only about 2,700, the commanding general, 8th Division, Camp Fremont, Calif., had been instructed to select 5,000 infantrymen from the 8th Division, the number necessary to bring the Philippine regiments up to war strength. He had also been instructed to provide for the necessary staff corps.2

Authorization was granted by The Adjutant General to the commanding general, Philippines Department, to send to Vladivostok staff officers, with such intelligence personnel as might be deemed necessary for investigating the amount, character, and availability of supplies of all kinds, including subsistence, fuel, forage, and animals for the maintenance of the expeditionary forces.2

Subsequent orders (August 6-10) placed under the command of the commanding general, 8th Division, who had been designated to command the American Expeditionary Forces, Siberia, Evacuation Hospital No. 17 (then at Fort Sam Houston, Tex.), Base Hospital No. 93 (Camp Lewis, Wash., Medical Supply Depot No. 7 (San Francisco, Calif.), and authorized him to take with him to Vladivostok one veterinary field unit, certain officers of the Medical Department, as well as other personnel from headquarters of the 8th Division.2

The troops from the Philippines Department sailed from Manila on August 5 and 12, and the commanding general, A. E. F., Siberia, with a part of his staff and 1,889 enlisted personnel, departed from San Francisco on August 14. The contingent from the Philippines arrived at Vladivostok on August 15-16; that from the United States on September 2.2


FIG. 92.-Typical Russian barracks

FIG. 93.-Interior of Russian barracks, subsequent to renovation by American troops


Immediately after landing, a survey of Vladivostok was made with a view of determining the barracks, storehouse, hospital, and commercial resources available and adaptable to the needs of the troops. After a conference with the Russian authorities, barracks were selected, cleaned, and occupied, and other arrangements were made for the establishment of a military base.2

The maximum effective strength of the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia was 8,831; this was in the month of September, 1918. This number, which included 286 officers, was gradually reduced, so that by the end of February, 1920, the month immediately preceding that in which our forces were withdrawn from Siberia, there were but 4,288. In detail, the strength of the subdivisions of the forces for the month of October, 1918, was as follows:3

Troops other than Medical Department





27th Infantry




31st Infantry




Others, including staff and detachments








In, or in the immediate vicinity of, Vladivostok, the base, the troops varied in numbers between 1,000 and 1,800, the remainder being widely scattered.2

Medical Department





Field Hospital No. 4




Ambulance Company No. 4




Evacuation Hospital No. 17




Medical Supply Depot No. 7




Personnel unassigned to units








Grand total




aThis number does not include 27 nurses assigned to Evacuation Hospital No. 17.

From the beginning of the activities of the American forces in Siberia, both the commissioned and enlisted personnel of the Medical Department, proved insufficient in number. This was due to the fact that in August, 1918, the 27th Infantry left Vladivostok on a combined expedition to Habarovsk. Numerous stations and substations were established along the railroad for a total distance of many hundreds of miles. American forces garrisoned these practically the entire time our troops were in Siberia. This wide distribution of troops made the problem of providing medical attendance for them very difficult. The fact that medical officers and men generally lacked training was a further source of embarrassment; nor, widely scattered as they were, was central supervision possible, and this added to the difficulties. Then, too, railroads and telegraph lines frequently were interrupted. Connection, especially with Verkhne-Udinsk, 1,700 miles distant from Vladivostok, was most unsatisfactory. Medical records and returns, from which only the medical situation at distant points could be assumed, were very generally defective.4


The shortage of officers and trained enlisted personnel was intensified when in the fall of 1918 all emergency personnel was ordered to the United States for discharge. This caused so much additional embarrassment in the care of the disabled that it became advisable to repatriate cases of hernia and other operable defects which had existed prior to enlistment.4

The dental personnel was sufficient to give emergency treatment and rendered as satisfactory service as circumstances permitted, but thorough dental treatment of the command was not practical. Because of the exigencies of the service which required many stations and substations to make frequent changes of personnel, it was generally impracticable to complete treatments which were indicated.4

As measured by results, the veterinary personnel proved sufficient. The chief veterinarian reported no deaths from communicable diseases in animals from August 15, 1918, to June 30, 1919, and no outbreaks of such diseases (including glanders) during the six months ending December, 1919. No epidemic ever occurred among the animals, but a large number had to be killed just prior to departure on account of unserviceability.4



Field Hospital No. 4 arrived in Siberia, September 14, 1918. For the period of the occupation it had an average personnel of 5 officers and 70 enlisted men. With the ambulance company of the same number, it served at Habarovsk and at Verkhne-Udinsk-Beresovka, sailing for Manila on March 30, 1920. The establishments which it operated are discussed in other parts of this chapter.4


Ambulance Company No. 4 arrived in Siberia on September 14, 1918. Its average personnel was 1 officer and 130 enlisted men. Of this enlisted personnel, 65 men were detached for service with the troops guarding the railroad on the Spasskoe-Razdelnoe and Shketevo sectors, about half of this number being on duty at the Habarovsk hospital from November, 1918, to June, 1919.4

The full complement of animal-drawn wagons and ambulances, with the required number of animals, was brought by the company. The wagons were old and worn and their need of repairs was so aggravated by the bad roads that there were never more than six in commission at any one time. By April, 1919, only two were serviceable, and three others were obtained. Two wagons were used at Habarovsk, later at Spasskoe, and two at Verkhne-Udinsk-Beresovka. By May, 1919, all the wagons and teams in serviceable condition were transferred to Evacuation Hospital No. 17, Vladivostok, many having been condemned. There were four "White" motor ambulances, all of which were serviceable on June 30, 1919, after constant use since September 14, 1918, but these vehicles, which saw very hard service over very rough roads, were not


FIG. 94.-Medical ward, Evacuation Hospital No. 17

FIG. 95.-Interior of surgical ward, Evacuation Hospital No. 17


sufficient to meet demands. Three motor ambulances loaned by the American Red Cross, furnished practically all ambulance transportation for the last two months of the expedition’s stay in Siberia.4


Evacuation Hospital No. 17, which was used as the base hospital for the expedition, was organized at Fort Riley, Kans., March 4, 1918, was transferred to Fort Sam Houston, Tex., June 26, and sailed from San Francisco on September 2, 1918, arriving at Vladivostok on September 29. The next day it occupied barracks at Ulysses Bay. Its location was about 3 miles from the base, or from the limits of Vladivostok proper, and about 6 miles from headquarters, American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia. The only occasion when it was called upon to care for battle casualties was on June 25, 1919, after an attack by Bolsheviki upon an American detachment of 70 men. Forty-five of these were taken to the hospital, 19 dead and 27 wounded.4

The site of the hospital was a peninsula with Petroclus Bay on the east and Ulysses Bay on the west. Practically all the buildings used by the hospital were on one large hill, but they were widely separated, it being about a mile from the surgical ward to the nurses’ home. Including headquarters and the nurses’ home, the hospital proper occupied 10 buildings. The normal capacity of the hospital was 400 beds, with equipment for 500; and by crowding the enlisted men on duty and by utilizing some of their barracks space, the additional 100 were accommodated with fair satisfaction.4

In addition to the troops, this hospital cared for the sick from a German prison camp with approximately 500 prisoners, which was under American control, Young Men’s Christian Association workers, Knights of Columbus, Russian railway engineers service corps, many patients from United States battleships stationed at Vladivostok and a large number of civilians. Between October 18, 1918, and March 23, 1920, its period of operation as such, the total number of patients treated in Evacuation Hospital No. 17 was 8,100, including a great variety of cases, both medical and surgical. The maximum number of patients at the hospital at any one time was 500, on January 15, 1920. For the winter months of 1919 and 1920, the average number was about 300. Acute infectious diseases, though few in number, were seen in almost every form found in a temperate climate. This was due undoubtedly to the association of the troops with the civilian population, infectious disease among the latter being very prevalent and sanitary conditions very poor. Deaths from disease in this hospital numbered 86. It was finally closed on March 31, 1920.4


The expedition, sent north along the Ussuri railway, necessitated a hospital train, for the distance was too great and the roads too poor to warrant


any other kind of transportation. After considerable trouble with the local authorities, two hospital cars were fitted up from two small freight cars, and later three others were obtained for the same purpose. Equipped with standee bunks from the U. S. Army transport Warren, with Sibley stoves, and with medical and surgical supplies from the regimental hospital of the 27th Infantry, these cars, with their operating personnel, were sent forward, complete, in about 19 hours. They proved satisfactory until the cold weather in November demanded another type of vehicle. Each of the new cars, then provided, was a unit complete in itself, with kitchen, lavatory, ward, and quarters for personnel. Operated with it was an additional car for baggage, fuel, and hospital supplies for the various posts along the line. The two together formed a small but complete hospital and medical supply train.

FIG. 96.-Improvised hospital car, American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia

The hospital car itself was the conventional compartment type of the continental railroads, converted by standard Army equipment into a very satisfactory hospital of 12-bed capacity.5 These cars were operated continuously, though not without considerable difficulty and interference because of frequent attacks on trains and the destruction of bridges and telegraph lines. During the evacuation of patients, on June 12, 1919, the train was attacked at Knooring siding, 14 miles from Spasskoe, several rifle bullets passing through each of the cars, killing or wounding several passengers, but it proceeded to Habarovsk and evacuated patients, thence to the hospital at Spasskoe. The train, besides fulfilling its other purposes, made possible medical attendance to small detachments distributed along the railway line and the prompt removal of those found unfit for duty.4


FIG. 97.-Interior of car shown in Fig. 96

FIG. 98.-Converted hospital car, American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia



Medical Supply Depot No. 7, organized in San Francisco in August, 1918, with a personnel of 3 officers and 45 enlisted men, was charged with securing and distributing medical department supplies.

The supply departments were never consolidated in Siberia, requisitions being handled as they were in the United States prior to December 31, 1918. The main medical supply depot, with a floor space of 18,900 square feet, was located in Vladivostok. The officer in charge was also the disbursing officer of the Medical Department, most of his disbursements being for labor and for laundry work. The Medical Department conducted a laundry here which took care of all hospital linen which could be sent to this point.4


The supplies furnished, with few unimportant exceptions, were ample for all the needs of the Medical Department. Indeed the quantities received in the initial shipment were more than actually required and, because of limited storehouse space, were a source of considerable embarrassment. Under proper authority, large quantities of medical supplies were turned over later to the American Red Cross.4

The only defect in the quality of the supplies was that the biological products at first were received from the United States so short a time before the date of the expiration of valency that they were no longer potent. This condition was corrected later. A small quantity of vaccines was purchased locally.4

The methods of packing shipments from the United States sometimes proved unsatisfactory, and certain articles were received in a badly damaged condition. The following hospitals and infirmaries received their initial equipment from the depot, as well as numerous replacements issued from time to time, as required: Evacuation Hospital No. 17; United States military hospitals at Habarovsk, Spasskoe, Razdolnoe, Verkhene-Udinsk, Kharbin; German prison camp infirmary; emergency hospital, base, and line of communications; military hospital, allied mine guard, Sauchian mines infirmary, camp infirmary, 31st Infantry, Shkotovo; infirmary, Company K, 31st Infantry, Ugolnoya; Hospital Train No. 1.4

The method of transporting supplies by rail proved very satisfactory, especially from Vladivostok to Habarovsk and to points between, for the medical supply depot car which was attached to the hospital train in November, 1918, solved the problem of forwarding supplies to stations on the railroad, without delay. This car served two purposes: It was loaded with medical supplies going from Vladivostok, and on the return trip was used as a baggage car for patients. It also brought soiled linen from the hospitals to the hospital laundry at Vladivostok.4


The work of the American expedition in Siberia may be divided into the following phases:1 (1) The operation in connection with the Japanese and


Czechoslovaks for the purpose of clearing the Ussuri and Amur Provinces of Bolsheviki bands. This phase really terminated when the command went into winter quarters in the fall of 1918. (2) The period of garrison duty between the close of the allied campaign, in the fall of 1918, and the assumption of the duty of the protection of the Siberian railways (April 14, 1919), by the Allies under the interallied railroad agreement. (3) The railroad guard.


American participation in allied operations in Siberia, which was destined to play a very minor part, was begun at a time when the situation may be described thus: The Czechoslovaks along the Ussuri River, now supported by detachments of Cossacks, British, French, and Japanese, had been rather severely defeated and were in a somewhat precarious situation. Allied assistance was rapidly developing, however. The enemy was definitely confined to two sides of a triangle, with Habarovsk at the apex. Both ends of the base of the triangle, Chita and Vladivostok, along the Chinese Eastern Railway, were easily within the grasp of the Japanese forces. At the mouth of the Amur and in Peter the Great Bay, allied naval strength effectively controlled any possible approach by water of assistance to the enemy; the railroads from Vladivostok to Nikolsk and thence westward through Manchuria and the junction of the Chinese Eastern Railway with the Trans-Siberian Railway were meshes in the net which confined the enemy to a section of the valley of the Amur.2

On August 26, 1918, the 27th Infantry was directed to join the allied forces at the Ussuri front, reporting to the Japanese general commanding. The troops left on three trains composed of box cars, arriving at Sviagina the following day. Here the regiment was directed to maintain its position, and all the railway cars which had been used by it, save supply, hospital, ammunition, and officers’ cars, were then turned over to the Japanese forces.2

On August 30 the regiment began its march by road to Ussuri, at which place it arrived on September 4. Here it was directed to remain until further orders. After the Japanese troops had occupied Habarovsk, a verbal order was received by the commanding officer, 27th Infantry, directing one company of that regiment to proceed by train to Habarovsk, to participate in the formal occupation of that city. The company designated entrained that day and arrived at Habarovsk on the day following.2

At 5 p. m., September 6, orders were issued by the allied commander in chief, virtually indicating the termination of the Ussuri campaign and the inauguration of a new movement, which had for its purpose the clearing of the Amur Valley of the enemy.2

By the end of the first week in September the position of the enemy in eastern Siberia had been flanked from both sides. The Ussuri campaign and the capture of Habarovsk, September 5-6, completed the shutting in of the enemy and his confinement to the Amur Valley between the confluence of the


Onon and the region west of Habarovsk.2 With Blagovestchensk and the destruction of the remaining Bolsheviki forces as the objective, a concerted attack from all sides was inaugurated during the week of September 5-12, 1918. Japanese forces, part of the Japanese 12th Division, with Company E, American 27th Infantry, moved west from Habarovsk up the Amur. These forces of Infantry, however, had very little to do, for the advance of the Japanese cavalry troops was all that was necessary to sweep away the enemy.2

To replace the Japanese troops which had moved out of Habarovsk the American 27th Infantry, less Company E, was directed to take station at Habarovsk. This movement began on September 14, and was completed on the 16th, on which date Company C and some recruits for Company E were dispatched to join the troops moving toward Blagovestchensk. On September 20 Companies A, B, and D entrained for points west of Habarovsk, along the railroad, for guard duty at different stations.2

Companies C and E were relieved from guard duty west of Habarovsk and joined the 27th Infantry at Habarovsk on October 11, 1918. Somewhat later, November 10, Company C was dispatched to Spasskaya for guard duty, and Company E, on November 12, proceeded to Kraskaya Retchka, south of Habarovsk, for duty as prison guard over enemy prisoners. Companies A, B, and D also were sent on November 15, after being relieved from railroad guard duty west of Habarovsk, for station at Spasskaya. The remainder of the regiment remained in barracks at Habarovsk.2



Coincidently with the departure of the troops from Vladivostok toward the north on August 5, 1918, it became necessary not only to provide for their care in the field but also for the evacuation of their sick and wounded to the base being established at Vladivostok.5

At Habarovsk a military hospital was established, staffed by the personnel of Field Hospital No. 4, one-half of the personnel of Ambulance Company No. 4, and the Medical Department detachment which accompanied the 27th Infantry. The hospital was opened on November 11, with a capacity of 100 beds, and continued in operation until the departure of the troops to Spasskoe on June 20, 1919, when its material, personnel, and patients were transferred to Spasskoe military hospital. Unfortunately the Habarovsk hospital was cramped for space, and it was quite difficult to make it function satisfactorily. A number of slight cases had to be treated in quarters. When taken over by the American troops, the hospital buildings were in deplorable condition, necessitating much repair work and interior renovation. The main hospital building was piped for water, and a small drain pipe connecting with a cess pool was constructed by our troops, with the aid of Russian laborers. The hospital proper consisted of four separate buildings somewhat apart from one another. The main building, of brick and two stories high, accommodated the patients.5


Infectious diseases in this area were isolated and treated in a large building some distance from the main hospital. This was of two-story construction, the lower story being destined for an isolation and convalescent hospital. It was well adapted for the purpose.4

A prison hospital of 100 beds was established on November 8, 1918, at Krasnaya Retchka, 13 miles from Habarovsk, where one company of the 27th Infantry was stationed as guard over some 1,800 prisoners of war.4


To protect the region some 75 miles east of Vladivostok, from which much of the coal supply for the Priamur Provinces was derived, against local disturbances and disorder from the unsettled political condition, an allied mine guard was established in September, 1918. To this was assigned one company of the 31st Infantry. The troops arrived at Suchan September 12, met with no opposition and were quartered in the town hall. Nothing worthy of note occurred in the occupation of the district; the inhabitants were friendly.5

FIG. 99.-Russian barracks in Habarovsk, used as an isolation hospital by the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia


Prior to the arrival of the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia, a corps of American railway men had landed at Vladivostok with a view to assisting in the rehabilitation of Siberian railways. However, since they had no authority, these Americans could do little more than give advice; so, to put the railway in proper shape, the interallied railway agreement was adopted on April 14, 1919; and the railway was divided into sectors for guarding. The sectors assigned to the United States were: (1) Vladivostok, inclusive, to


Nikolsk-Ussuri, inclusive, and including the branch line to Suchan mines; total miles, 144. (2) Spasskoe, exclusive, to Ussuri inclusive; total miles, 70. (3) Verkhne-Udinsk, inclusive, to Baikal City, inclusive; total miles, 265. This was later changed to Verkhne-Udinsk to Mysovaya, including 102 miles; total mileage being 316.1


About the middle of April orders were received from American headquarters in Vladivostok directing the 3d Battalion of the 27th Infantry to take station at Verkhne-Udinsk in the Lake Baikal sector. Companies A and B had already been ordered from Spasskoe and had taken station in this sector late in March. By May 15 all the companies of the 3d Battalion had reached Verkhne-Udinsk. During June detachments were sent westward and took station at the following points: Mostovi, Tantaurovi, Selenga, Posolskaya, and Mysovaya. After the arrival of the Americans in this sector there was no case of interference with traffic on the railways or with connections by wire.6 No quarters for our troops could be secured in Verkhne-Udinsk, consequently, in September, headquarters and the entire command, excepting the necessary detachments along the railroad, took station at Beresovka, a small station 8 miles west of Verkhne-Udinsk. From the middle of September to the middle of November all efforts were concentrated on the preparation of the barracks there against the coming winter.6

Early in January orders were received to withdraw the troops to Vladivostok preparatory to departure from Siberia.6


Field Hospital No. 4, which had moved with the 27th Infantry from Habarovsk, occupied the floored and framed tents which provided accommodations for patients while the troops were in camp at Verkhne-Udinsk. Later, it was established at Beresovka in barracks buildings which were thoroughly cleaned, refloored, and whitewashed before occupancy.4

During the summer of 1919 about 75 American Red Cross nurses were stationed in Verkhne-Udinsk, in consequence of the approaching collapse of the Kalchak government. The volunteer services of some of these nurses were accepted in the hospital, its commanding officer providing them comfortable tents and a good mess. Between November 15, 1919, and January 15, 1920, 12 of these nurses who had remained in Verkhne-Udinsk were asked for by the commanding officer, 27th Infantry, to assist in the care of patients suffering from influenza, it having become epidemic among the troops. Quarters were furnished and meals were provided in the officers’ mess, the cost being refunded by the American Red Cross, which in turn planned to seek reimbursement from the Medical Department of the Army.4


During the last days of May and the first half of June, 1919, the 2d Battalion, 27th Infantry, was moved from Habarovsk to the Spasskoe Sector.


Two companies of the 31st Infantry had been stationed at Spasskoe, with Companies C and D of the 27th Infantry, but upon arrival of the battalion from the north it took station in and near Vladivostok.6

In the latter part of May, 1919, Companies C and D took station in little villages just north of Spasskoe. They were later, by the middle of June, joined by Companies E and F. This left Company H at Spasskoe, the headquarters for that sector.


During the month of November, 1918, a military hospital of 50 beds had been opened at Spasskoe, which now became headquarters of the medical service of the sector. Increased on June 20, 1919, to a bed capacity of 100 beds, this hospital provided comfortable accommodations for the entire sector. In June the occasional encounters of the troops with small bands of partisans, which also attacked passenger trains, taxed the hospital to the utmost. The hospital was closed on January 9, 1920, when troops left for Vladivostok to sail for Manila.4


The 31st Infantry was stationed in Vladivostok, on the Vladivostok-Razdolnoe sector and on the Ugolnaya, Shkotovo, and Suchan mines sectors. Also a company of this regiment was sent to Harbin in October, 1918.7


An infirmary was opened at Ugolnaya in May, 1919, and closed October 6, 1919, and a hospital was opened at Razdolnoe in November, 1918, and closed March 7, 1920, on which date the troops were returned to Vladivostok preparatory to embarkation for Manila. A hospital at the Suchan mines was opened on September 11, 1918, and closed August 19, 1919, when this command was transferred to Vladivostok. Frequent attacks by partisans were made upon the troops, who during the months of June and July made a number of punitive expeditions into the surrounding country and suffered a few casualties. The wounded were treated in Vladivostok at Evacuation Hospital No. 17. A 40-bed hospital was opened at Sehotoval on April 23, 1919, and cared for the patients from four substations. It was closed on January 12, 1920, troops leaving on that date for Vladivostok, en route to Manila.4

On June 25, 1919, the 70 men stationed at Romanovka were surprised at daylight by a large force of partisans, and suffered a loss of 19 men killed and 26 wounded. The hospital train had been sent up the railroad line the day before to distribute supplies and to be held in readiness for the evacuation of sick and wounded. On notification of the attack, received while the train was at Kanzaug, 20 miles distant, it was hurried to Romanovka, arriving there while the attack was still in progress. The wounded arrived safely at Vladivostok at 7 o’clock that night.4



(1) Operations to June 30, 1919, commanding general, A. E. F., Siberia, September 25, 1918.

(2) An account of the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia, August, 1918, to March, 1919, by Captain Lawrence B. Packard, U. S. A., April, 1919. On file, Historical Section, the Army War College.

(3) Returns from the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia to The Adjutant General August, 1918, to March, 1920.

(4) Report of the activities of the Medical Department with the A. E. F., Siberia, during occupation of Siberia, submitted by Col. W. F. Lewis, M. C., chief surgeon, to the commanding general, A. E. F., Siberia, March 31, 1920. On file, the Historical Section, the Army War College.

(5) Report of Medical Department activities, A. E. F., Siberia. By Col. James S. Wilson, M. C., chief surgeon, undated. On file, Historical Division, S. G. O.

(6) Report of operations, 27th Infantry, May 2, 1919, to January 29, 1920.

(7) Report of operations, 31st Infantry, August 21 to December 31, 1918, July 15, 1919.