More by James Carl Nelson
In August 1918, the 339th regiment of the U.S. Army—roughly 5,000 soldiers, most hailing from Michigan—sailed for Europe to fight in World War I. But instead of the Western Front, these troops were headed to Archangel, Russia, a vital port city 1,000 miles northeast of Moscow. There, in the frozen subarctic, amid the chaos of the Russian Civil War, one of the most extraordinary episodes of American history unfolded.
The American North Russia Expeditionary Force—self-dubbed “The Polar Bear Expedition”—was sent to fight the Red Army and aid anti-Bolshevik forces in hopes of re-opening the Eastern Front against Germany. On the 100th anniversary of the campaign, award-winning historian James Carl Nelson recreates this harrowing, dramatic military operation in which Americans and Bolsheviks fought a series of pitched battles throughout a punishing fall and winter.
As the Great War officially ended in November 1918, American troops continued to battle the Red Army and an equally formidable enemy, “General Winter.” Subzero temperatures made machine guns and light artillery inoperable. In the blinding ice and snow, sentries suffered from frostbite while guarding against nearly invisible Bolos camouflaged by their white uniforms. Before the Polar Bears’ withdrawal in July 1919, more than 200 perished from battle, accidents, and the Spanish flu.
But the Polar Bears’ story does not end there. Ten years later, a contingent of veterans returned to Russia to recover the remains of more than 100 of their fallen comrades and lay them to rest in Michigan, where a monument honoring their service still stands: a massive marble polar bear guarding a cross that marks the grave of a fallen soldier.
The Polar Bear Expedition includes 25 black-and-white images throughout.
The incredible true story of Clifton B. “Lucky” Cates, whose service in World War I and beyond made him a legend in the annals of the Marine Corps.
Cates knew that he and his small band of marines were in a desperate spot. Before handing the note over to a runner, he added three words that would resound through Marine Corps history:
I WILL HOLD
From the moment he first joined the Marine Reserves of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I, Clifton B. Cates was determined to make his mark as a leader. Little did he know what he would truly accomplish in his legendary career.
Not as well-known as his contemporaries such as Alvin C. York, his fame would not come from a single act of heroism but from his consistent and courageous demeanor throughout the war and beyond.
In the bloody second half of 1918 with the 6th Marine Regiment, he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart, the Silver Star, was recognized by the French government with the Legion of Honor and the Croix de Guerre, and earned the nickname “Lucky.”
I Will Hold is the inspiring, brutally vivid, and incredible true life story of a Marine Corps legend whose grit and unstoppable spirit on the battlefield matched his personal drive and sage wisdom off of it.
Five Lieutenants tells the story of five young Harvard men who took up the call to arms in the spring of 1917 and met differing fates in the maelstrom of battle on the Western Front in 1918. Delving deep into the motivations, horrific experiences, and ultimate fates of this Harvard-educated quintet—and by extension of the brilliant young officer class that left its collegiate and post-collegiate pursuits to enlist in the Army and lead America's rough-and-ready doughboys—Five Lieutenants presents a unique, timeless, and fascinating account of citizen soldiers at war, and of the price these extraordinary men paid while earnestly giving all they had in an effort to end "the war to end all wars."
Drawing upon the subjects' intimate, eloquent, and uncensored letters and memoirs, this is a fascinating microcosm of the American experience in the First World War, and of the horrific experiences and hardships of the educated class of young men who were relied upon to lead doughboys in the trenches and, ultimately, in open battle.