In November, 1917, there were, in Russia, some 100,000 Czech and Slav soldiers who had been in the service of Austria-Hungary, but had gone over to the Russians in hopes of winning their independence fighting on the side of the Allies. After Russia went out of the war it was agreed those Czech-Slavic troops would be allowed to cross Russian Siberia to Vladivostok, whence they would sail to join the Allies in France. Friction developed between the Bolsheviks and these migrant troops and Trotsky, yielding to German pressure, sought to disarm them. The situation went down hill, and it was decided to dispatch two Allied Expeditionary Forces, with one of them going to Vladivostok to police the Trans-Siberian railway and support the Czechs. The Siberian forces would consist of Japanese troops with supporting elements of Americans, French, British, Chinese, and Italians. Though policy dictated a strict non-intervention posture, many things led to American participation--not the least being rumors that Germany was extending separate peace feelers toward Japan. This way Allied Forces came to be under the command of General Kitsuzu Otani, Commander of the Fourth Japanese Army Division in Manchuria during the Russo-Japanese War. The U.S. Expeditionary Force would be under the command of Maj. Gen. William Graves, with Lt. Col. O. P. Robinson as his Chief of Staff: Military Intelligence would be handled by Lt. Col. Barrows.
The 27th Inf. Regt. received their orders 3 Aug. 1918, and embarked from Manila, 7 Aug., on the transports Merritt, Warren, and Crook. Two of the transports arrived at Vladivostok 15 Aug. And the third arrived the following day. The colors were brought ashore and paraded in Vladivostok 19 Aug., 1918, before the populous; and Gen. Otani, Imperial Japanese Army; Adm. Knight, U.S.N.; Gen. Deiderichs, Czech Army; and the Expeditionary Staff. Thereafter, the Regt. went into temporary camp for six days, near Vladivostok.
The first exchange with hostile’s took place 19 Aug., at a station of the Ussuri railroad branch. Co.’s F and G had arrived "on the line" the previous evening and information was received at Razdolnoe that Chinese bandits were pillaging a village to the north of that town. First Lt. George Herrick, commanding F Co., chose forty men and proceeded to the village. Near midnight a flank patrol fired to determine enemy strength. The Chinese returned the fire briefly and then hurried off. It was on this occasion that the troops incurred their first man slightly wounded by a rifle bullet.
The Ussuri Front
Because of the configuration of the border between Manchuria and Russia, the Trans-Siberian Railway runs over 300 miles north from Vladivostok to the town of Khabarovsk before turning west toward the interior. Shortly before Graves arrived, elements of the 27th Regt., commanded by Col. Henry Styer, had joined the Japanese in a sweep along this section of the line and had pushed some miles west of Khabarovsk. The initiative for this operation had come from the Japanese, who had informed Styer that some 15,000 enemy troops in that region were preparing a drive upon Vladivostok, itself. The enemy, according to the Japs, was a combined force of former German and Austrian prisoners of war and Bolsheviks. Its mission was to capture the stores in the port city. Graves approved American participation in the so-called "Ussuri Campaign" when he first learned of it because he believed it comported with his orders to keep the railroad open and supplies protected. Subsequently it was determined the Japs had misrepresented the situation. Gen. Oi, Commander in Chief, Allied forces in Siberia, felt the necessity for immediate action on the Ussuri Front and the 27th Inf. moved from Vladivostok, on 24 Aug., to operate with the 12 Div. of the Jap Army. The Regt. arrived at Sviagina on 27 Aug., and the next day received orders to proceed to Nikolsk Monastery to cover the right flank of Allied forces moving towards Habarovsk. Between 1 and 4 Sept., the Regt. marched sixty miles over tough muddy terrain and arrived at Ussuri on 4 Sept. Gen. Oi was highly complimentary on the Regiment’s traverse of this terrain. On 6 Sept., Habarovsk was entered by Jap. cavalry, and Kalmakov’s Cossacks and instructions were sent to forward a company of infantry to help occupy the city. Co. E, commanded by 1Lt Edward Larkin, was selected to form a detachment, under Maj. Miller, and sent forward by train, arriving on 10 Sept.
The Japs intended to pursue the Bolsheviks and capture Blagoveschensk. The Americans were invited to participate and Co. E entrained, on 11 Sept., with two companies of Japs to form the advance guard of the expedition, commanded by Maj. Gen. Yamada. The pursuit, by train, was continually interrupted by blocked tunnels and burned bridges, so many detours were made by marching. On one 25 mile stretch the Jap companies were preceding E Co. And, as the column was approaching Bureya, the Japs began to fall out and seriously impede the movement of the column. It was about 2000 hours and the Americans suffered severely from the cold during the forced halts since they were still in khaki and must keep moving or freeze. Word was sent back that Co. E should proceed and pass on through the forward elements. This was done with dispatch and the 27th Troops arrived at Bureya more than an hour ahead of the Japs. The Jap. Gen. complimented the Company and commented that they march like Russian Wolfhounds. Thus was born the nom-de-guerre of the Regiment that forevermore, as Wolfhounds, would blaze their paths across the annals of military endeavor. Between 23 Aug. and 20 Sept., the Wolfhounds covered over 1100 miles. The entire campaign was made with Equipment "A", which is more a condition that a phrase. While still in khakis the command was exposed to almost continual rains and, on the Amur River, suffered severely from cold and two snow storms. They continued in this same equipment until 10 Oct. 1918.
The Tega River
On 22 Sept., a detachment of forty men, from E Co., under 1Lt. E. D. Doryland, and a Cossack guide, was sent under orders of Gen. Yamada to Zeya to intercept an enemy gunboat on the Tega River. The initial move was made by train arriving at Uhlmine Station, at 1410 hours, where they secured three days rations and departed at 1615 hours for the river. At 1900 hours, the detachment came to a small settlement, about 14 versts (1.5 miles = 1 verst) from the railroad, and took shelter in an empty house. March was resumed on 23 Sept. and the troops arrived at Kausal that same day. Early on 25 Sept., the troops departed and reached a point called Kachbrin that afternoon. It was here that they were informed that Jap gunboats had passed up the Tega River and cleared it of the enemy. Starting back at 0535 hours, 27 Sept. the detachment marched the entire distance back in 13 ˝ hours arriving in Ushumun the night of 28 Sept. The march was made over muddy roads and swamps during a snow storm and, being in khakis, this performance probably rivals any other march in American Army history for difficulty.
The Regt. Departed from the camp at Ussuri, 14 Sept., and arrived the next day at Habarovsk where they went into barracks. The concentration of the entire Regt. at Habarovsk, including the Miller-Larkin-Doryland detachment, was effected 10 Oct. 1918.
The war prison camp at Krasnaya-Retchka was turned over to the Americans in Nov. 1918. Some 2000 war prisoners from the battlefields of Europe were confined at this prison camp. Co. E, under the command of Capt. Ed Larkins, was assigned the task of reorganizing the camp and furnishing the guard. The reorganization and improvement of this camp was one of the outstanding accomplishments of the Wolfhounds in Siberia. The brick garrison buildings formerly occupied by a regiment of railroad troops of the Russian Army were in a bad state of repair. The prisoners, about 1500 of whom were officers, lacked proper food and clothing and 460 were ill with fevers of various kinds and without hospital facilities, until E Co. brought with them their medical detail of three men, Capt. Ben Burette and two enlisted men.
Lt. Col. Ferdinand Reder, who had been a German Army Officer before capture, expressed the sentiment of the prisoners in a letter to the camp commander, upon the relief of the American Troops some time later. It ended with the follow:
. . . we should like all the world to know that we owe our lives, our health and happiness, our power for good in this world, to the noble American Troops of the 27th Foot Regt., to the great American Nation.
The gratitude of the Austro-Hungarian prisoners was made manifest some time later when the Wolfhounds were stationed at Verkhne-Udinsk, 200 miles from Habarovsk, where a thousand prisoners of war under Ataman Semeonoff volunteered to fight for and with the Regt. against any and all forces, and without asking for pay or clothing, only that they be armed to fight for the country which had done so much for them and their fellow prisoners.
The winter quarters of the 2 and 3 Battalions was established at Habarovsk. The relations between the Americans and the Cossacks were pleasant at first, but gradually there was a change of feeling due to the wanton executions and murders that occurred under the regime of Ataman Kalmykov, self appointed governor of the Amur Province. The executions became so numerous and without cause that even the so-called "Government Troops" became restless. Finally, on the night of 27/28 Jan. 1919, a large force of Kalmykov’s troops mutinied and reported in a body to the Wolfhound commander. When asked what they were doing, they replied: "We have mutinied against Kalmykov and his officers. We will fight the Bolsheviks under the Americans, or under any proper Russian officers, but we will die in the streets if an attempt is made to force us to return to Kalmykov’s command." They were marched to the YMCA building and disarmed. The force numbered over 500 and had four field pieces, three machine guns, and 350 animals. Within two days the desertions jumped to 800. Newspaper reports distorted the facts and laid the blame to the Americans, but Col. Matsuya, Jap Chief of Staff, went to bat for the Americans and got it straightened out. On 1 Feb., the mutineers were conducted to Krasnaya-Retchka until their case could be settled. The session continued until 15 Mar. and then disbanded with decision to the Cossacks or the Conduct of Kalmykov and his officers.
Kalmykov, disappointed in his efforts to fix blame on the Americans and clear himself of responsibility, started a campaign of lies and slander that continued throughout the American’s service in Siberia.
The Gandy Dancers
In Mar. 1919, an agreement among the intervening powers went into effect which provided for the maintenance and security of the Trans-Siberian RR. Rail interests, both for Russia and America, played a secondary, however, large part in American intervention. Although American experts, who had been there since 1917, would handle the technical operations, overall control would be in the hands of the Russians. The result was the Kolchak government (This was Admiral Kolchak whose loyal Imperial troops, near Lake Baikal, were trying desperately to stem the Red tide.) would try to use the rails exclusively for its own benefit, and would purge the system of anyone suspected of disloyalty to its cause. Secondly, the agreement spelled out the areas to be guarded by the signatories, thereby freeing White Russians for combat against the Bolsheviks. Under this agreement the American units were sent into the interior where they were assigned to a section just east of Lake Baikal. The Wolfhounds were given two sectors: six companies were sent to guard the railroad from Nikolsk to Ussuri, and the remainder of the Regiment was sent to Verkhne-Udinsk. Each sector was about 100 miles long.
For sometime the Americans had been bothered by the Jap. supported Cossack chieftain Ivan Kalmikov, who operated in the region around Khabarovsk. Kalmikov nominally respected Kolchak’s authority but in fact acted independently, and disliked the Americans. With the railway agreement came a new Cossack antagonist, named Gregorii Semenov, also sponsored by the Japs. Controlling the area around Chita, Semenov possessed a most powerful fleet of armored trains and was a thorn which could not be dislodged.
Two battalions of the Wolfhounds, commanded by Col. C. H. Morrow, were sent to guard the tracks in the Baikal area. Semenov, who had free run of the area before the Americans arrived, had no intention of curbing his activities. The situation reached a climax when Morrow forbade one of Semenov’s armored trains, The Destroyer, to proceed into the American sector without being fired upon by Morrow’s 37mm cannon. To top it off, Jap. troops appeared and informed Morrow they would not allow Morrow to attack Semenov’s train. They then situated themselves directly in the line of fire between Morrow and Semenov. The Japs were finally convinced that Morrow meant what he said and had the train moved back down the track out of range. The Japs came to regard Morrow as a fellow like a bomb with a short fuse already lighted.
The station at Kraeffski, about 12 miles from Svyagino, was guarded by two squads of Charlie Co. in the early days of June 1919. One morning, at daybreak, the sentry heard a strange noise, and notified his comrades and all prepared to meet whatever might be coming. Voices heard in the morning mist and tall grass indicated the direction from which trouble might be expected. When the mist lifted, the section found itself surrounded by more than 150 Bolsheviks irregulars, armed with varied firearms and tin-can grenades. As the leader of the group approached Sgt. Johnny Richardson, it was noted the Red was armed with an Army colt and spoke English. He said he had come to remove telephone equipment from the station and gave the orders to his men. He waved his weapon around and also asked for tobacco; he seemed familiar with the ways of the troops and it was later determined he was a deserter named Karachun. Sgt. Richardson, estimating the odds against him, felt he was in no position to resist. As soon as Maj. Wallace, sector C.O., received the report of the affair, he replaced the section with a full platoon from F Co., under Lt. Wilson Rich. The Maj. organized a composite force, of Wolfhounds, and, stopping at Kraeffski to pick up a section of Lt. Rich’s platoon, moved on to Shmakovka, following a wagon road into Bolsheviks territory.
After Maj. Wallace had departed, Lt. Rich’s group was alerted, by an excited peasant woman, to possible imminent danger. He had his men out at daylight and entrenched along the base of a high railroad embankment. Due to a shortage of ammo, the most having been taken by Maj. Wallace, Lt. Rich cautioned his men not to fire until he gave the signal. His caution was timely for the outposts saw a long skirmish line, some 900 yards out, approaching. It was later learned to be a force of 150 Bolsheviks irregulars and 35 Chinese bandits, or "Hunghuzies". At 600 yards out the enemy force opened an inaccurate fire and, emboldened by the Wolfhounds lack of response, attacked on the double. When the enemy was at 200 yards, Lt. Rich ordered open fire and the volley brought the enemy to the ground. The Chinks, on the left flank, had reached a pile of aspen logs where they could return fire with little danger to themselves. Two of the Hunghuzies were hit in the top of the head as they peeked over the logs, and the effect of these two shots caused the Chinks to break and run. By chance a single Wolfhound cook, Edward Evens, of F Co., found himself alone nearly 100 years in front of the embankment and, gaining a position on the roof of a small shack, poured a steady fire into the enemy flank, accounting for nine of the attackers by himself. The Bolsheviks retired in confusion after thirty minutes of the skirmish.
Two F Co. troopers, Sgt. Charles Bachelor and Pvt. John Burt, had been out on an extended recon the night before the attack and were captured by this same band while on their return to their lines. They were held 20 days and returned in a prisoner exchange. It is said that these two were the only Americans in Siberia, captured by Bolsheviks, who lived to tell about it.
Shortly before noon, an orderly handed Col. C. H. Morrow, C.O. of two Wolfhound Battalions, an order to seek out the band of Bolsheviks operating in that area and destroy them.
Uspenka had been reported to be the Headquarters and supply base for this band of Bolsheviks and it was to this objective the first move was made. The troops lost an extra day having to circumvent an impassible bog and at 1400 hours the following day, armed men were seen hurrying across a field and up a hill adjoining the road. A quick visual recon was made thru field glasses and a line of some thirty objects toward the right, in newly dug positions, appeared to be a line of skirmishers. On closer inspection the objects were found to be dummies intended to attract fire. Upon reaching the last cover before an open field, the Bolsheviks could be seen, but the Wolfhounds, lined up like a welcoming committee. The main body of Wolfhounds, waited under cover while a nine man patrol advanced within 200 yards of the enemy. One of the Reds raised up over the trench and aimed at the patrol only to be greeted by the patrol’s unified fire. It was a whisper compared with the volley that followed from the enemy. In an untenable position, Lt. Channing, in charge of the patrol, led the charge on the enemy trenches. Two of the patrol went down and the Lt. reached the fortified position alone. The rest of the patrol had taken firing position on the hillside and, for fear of being hit from both sides, Lt. Channing had to lay low while the troops advanced. Lt. D. M. Ladd rescued Lt. Channing and the Wolfhounds proceeded to clear the enemy positions. The two men hit, of the patrol, were found to be only wounded. The next day, 12 June, Lt. Channing led six squads into Uspenka and, with automatic fire from their BAR’s, routed the enemy. Four wagons full of material were destroyed and the expedition remained on their post for nearly a week to see if anything would occur. This expedition eliminated any further enemy activity in the Spasskoe area.
Through the month of June the armored trains belonging to the Russians proved to be a new threat. They constantly interfered with traffic and communications and, the train commanders caused terror with everybody they came in contact with--on and off the trains. The troops of Ataman Semenoff were like those of Kalmykov, in the Spasskoe sector, and they recognized that while the Americans were protecting them, they were totally opposed to the murder and terror spread by these Russians. The Semenoff forces hated the Americans and placed them in a Catch 22 situation--alienating the Russian people, if they attacked Semenoff, or having to defend themselves against the Red troops.
In Aug., 1919, Capt. Lindsey Johns, 27th Regt., and Cpl. Ben Sperling, 31st Regt., were dispatched to return the only American deserter, a former 31st Regt. man, and made their way to Iman, a town far north of our sector--and H.Q. for Malmykov’s Cossacks, Kolchak’s troops, and Jap. and Chinese troops. The two Americans, arriving 31 Aug., were received cordially at the Allied H.Q.; however, the Russians, upon learning the mission, became evasive and demanded to see written passports permitting them to enter the Russian sector. The two soldiers were then taken prisoner and held hostage pending recognition of Kalmykov by the American Government.
That night Capt. Johns broke arrest and tried to get a message thru before he was rearrested. The message was never sent. Capt. Johns made a second break and wired his whereabouts and that he was on his way back to H.Q. the Wolfhounds entrained to Iman and took it over, but Cpl. Sperling had been removed to Khabarovsk. Two days later the American Cpl. was returned but had been beaten and whipped severely. The situation deteriorated and an alert was sent out to be on guard against the Cossacks.
In Sept. 1919, the Regt. took station at Beresovka and, for the next two months, all efforts were concentrated toward preparing for the coming winter. Early in Oct. the United States Government made a shipment of rifles to the Kolchak Government, the shipment being made in several echelons. One of these echelons, of 45,000 rifles, reached Chita on 24 Oct. In charge of the detachment was 1Lt. Peter Ryan, 27th Inf. At Chita, the Semenoff authorities demanded the rifles be turned over to them and they made a display of force to emphasize their demands. Lt. Ryan made preparations for action and it was only after several personal telegrams passed between Col. Morrow and Semenoff that a conflict was averted and the shipment was allowed to proceed to Omsk.
On 3 Jan. 1920, a large Red force was concentrating in a village about 12 miles sw of Verkhne-Udinsk, and it was expected that they would take over the railroad at that point. Lt. Col. Alvin Gillam J., was dispatched, on the 4th, with 250 enlisted men and officers, with their objective the village of Mukheeno. Nearing the village, the Wolfhound scouts were fired upon, but soon a messenger came out and it was arranged that the Americans might enter without further resistance. That night conferences were held and the Red leaders insisted their only intention was to combat the horrible atrocities perpetrated in that region by Gen. Levitsky and his "Wild Division" composed mostly of Mongolians. The Americans were assured that the sector of the railroad in their care would not be molested and the detachment returned to Verkhne-Udinsk on 5 Jan., without any further incident.
Life had been somewhat peaceful for the Wolfhounds stationed at Lake Baykal, under Col. Morrow; but, not, since Kolchak had been losing all winter, they found themselves between the Reds and civil war amongst the Russian allies. The front was moving closer every day. Semenov asked permission to dispatch several of his armored trains to the font to bolster Kolchak’s crumbling defenses and Morrow agreed. Four of the trains passed through without incident on the night of 9 Jan, 1920. The fifth, named Destroyer, halted at Morrow’s headquarters at Verkhne-Udinsk. The Mongol troops jumped out and started looting the station, not stopping until Col. Morrow ordered them out of town.
The following night, Destroyer stopped at Posolskaya village, 60 miles nearer to the front. A detachment from M Co., Wolfhounds, was there commanded by Lt. Paul Kendall. The troops stared curiously at the fired up locomotive. The armored train looked like a landlocked battleship with cannon mounted on the front flat car and the locomotive behind this assault car. Then there were boxcars with Mongol troops and supplies. Luckily for the 38 Wolfhounds, Sgt. Carl Robbins had a Russian girl friend who warned the lanky Tennessean that Semenov’s men had not stopped there for the scenery. We’ll sleep outside tonight." Kendall said when Robbins passed the warning along.
Sometime, after midnight, the Destroyer discharged its’ hail of rifle and cannon fire blasting the American boxcars to splinters; however, the Wolfhounds swarmed out from under the cars like angry bees and, surrounding the Mongol train, started pouring on a rain of rifle fire and hand grenades. Realizing that little damage was being done to the Destroyer, Sgt. Robbins dashed to the locomotive, vaulted into the cab, and threw a grenade into the firebox, killing the engineer and himself. The Russians decided Posolskaya was too hot for them, and the train limped out of town; however, Sgt. Robbins grenade had done its work and a few miles from the village the engine collapsed in a burst of steam. The Mongols telegraphed Kendall for permission to surrender. This turned out to be the last fight for the American Expeditionary Force. Sgt. Carl Robbins was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, posthumously, and Lt. Kendall was also awarded the DSC. Lt. Kendall stayed in the Army to later command the 88 Div., in WW II.
In Jan., 1920, thousands of persons were swarming east to escape the advancing Reds since Kolchak’s White Army had collapsed. On 4 Jan., the Admiral placed himself under the Czech’s who turned him and his "gold train" over to local authorities. The $325 million was sent back to Moscow and Kolchak was sent to the wall.
American troops were ordered to withdraw and, by 14 Jan., the troops were back in Vladivostok and, on the 16th, had embarked on the Great Northern Transport which sailed the next day for Manila.
The troops arrived in Manila on the 26th, after a three day stop at Nagasaki, Japan, and went into camp at Camp Thomas H. Barry. A later contingent departed Vladivostok 10 Mar., on the transport "Thomas" arriving in Manila a week later. They, also, went into Camp Barry. The Wolfhounds may not have been the first into WW I, they were guarding American installations in the Philippines, but, without doubt, they were the last out of WW I--in 1920.
In addition to Unit Citations and Battle Streamers, for Mindanao and Siberia added to the Regimental Colors, DSC’s were awarded, under General Orders #32 to 1st Lt.’s Fairfax Channing and Christian Gross for extraordinary heroism near Uspanka, Siberia, 11 June 1919. Also, under the same orders, dated 25 Oct., 1919, Edward Evans, cook, F Co., for extraordinary heroism near Kraefski, Siberia, 12 June 1919. Further DSC’s were awarded to 2 Lt. Paul Kendall and PFC Homer Tommie, M Co., 19 Jan., 1920, near Posolskaya, Siberia, and a posthumous DSC to Sgt. Carl Robbins, in the same action. These Wolfhounds were, also, awarded the French Medaille de Guerre.
History of the 27th Inf. Regt. Hunt, Honolulu Advertiser.