More by James Carl Nelson
In the winter of 1919, 5,000 U.S. soldiers, nicknamed "The Polar Bears," found themselves hundreds of miles north of Moscow in desperate, bloody combat against the newly formed Soviet Union's Red Army. Temperatures plummeted to sixty below zero. Their guns and their flesh froze. The Bolsheviks, camouflaged in white, advanced in waves across the snow like ghosts.
The Polar Bears, hailing largely from Michigan, heroically waged a courageous campaign in the brutal, frigid subarctic of northern Russia for almost a year. And yet they are all but unknown today. Indeed, during the Cold War, two U.S. presidents, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, would assert that the American and the Russian people had never directly fought each other. They were spectacularly wrong, and so too is the nation's collective memory.
It began in August 1918, during the last months of the First World War: the U.S. Army's 339th Infantry Regiment crossed the Arctic Circle; instead of the Western Front, these troops were sailing en route to Archangel, Russia, on the White Sea, to intervene in the Russian Civil War. The American Expeditionary Force, North Russia, had been sent to fight the Soviet Red Army and aid anti-Bolshevik forces in hopes of reopening the Eastern Front against Germany. And yet even after the Great War officially ended in November 1918, American troops continued to battle the Red Army and another, equally formiddable enemy, "General Winter," which had destroyed Napoleon's Grand Armee a century earlier and would do the same to Hitler's once invincible Wehrmacht.
More than two hundred Polar Bears perished before their withdrawal in July 1919. But their story does not end there. Ten years after they left, a contingent of veterans returned to Russia to recover the remains of more than a hundred of their fallen brothers and lay them to rest in Michigan, where a monument honoring their service still stands.
In the century since, America has forgotten the Polar Bears' harrowing campaign. Russia, notably, has not, and as Nelson reveals, the episode continues to color Russian attitudes toward the United States. At once epic and intimate, The Polar Bear Expedition masterfully recovers this remarkable tale at a time of new relevance.
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.