Siberian Adventure

CHAPTER IV from The Great Conspiracy: the secret war against soviet Russia
None of the incidents or dialogue in The Great Conspiracy has been invented by the authors. The material has been drawn from various documentary sources which are indicated in the text or listed in the Bibliographical Notes.

1. Aide Mémoire

ON August 2, 1918, the day British troops landed at Archangel, Major General William S. Graves of the United States Army, commander of the 8th Division at Camp Fremont, Palo Alto, California, received an urgent coded message from the War Department in Washington, D.C. The first sentence, when decoded, read: -

You will not tell any member of your staff or anybody else of the contents of this message.

The message then instructed General Graves to "take the first and the fastest train out of San Francisco and proceed to Kansas City, go to the Baltimore Hotel, and ask for the Secretary of War."

No reason was offered to explain why the General was being summoned with such dispatch to Kansas City, and no indication of how long he would be away from his post.

General Graves, a veteran, hard-bitten soldier, was not given to asking questions which obviously were not wanted. He stuffed a few belongings into a small traveling bag. Two hours later, he was aboard the Sante Fe express speeding east from San Francisco.

When the General arrived in Kansas City he found Newton D. Baker, the Secretary of War, waiting for him at the station. The Secretary of War was in a hurry. He had to catch a train in a few minutes, he explained. Hastily, he told General Graves why he had summoned him to this mysterious meeting. The War Department had "selected" Graves to take command of an expedition of American troops which was to leave immediately for Siberia.

Secretary Baker then handed General Graves a sealed envelope, and said: "This contains the policy of the United States in Russia which you are to follow. Watch your step; you will be walking on eggs loaded with dynamite. God bless you and good-by!"

That night, alone in his hotel room in Kansas City, General Graves opened the sealed envelope. He drew out a seven-page memorandum entitled Aide Mémoire. The memorandum was without signature, but at the conclusion there appeared the words: "Department of State, Washington, D.C., July 17, 1918."

The Aide Mémoire began with a series of broad generalizations about "the whole heart of the American people" being "in the winning of the war." It was necessary, stated the document, that the United States "co-operate ungrudgingly" in every possible way with its allies against Germany. The Aide Memoire then reached its main subject: -

It is the clear and fixed judgment of the Government of the United States, arrived at after repeated and very searching considerations of the whole situation in Russia, that military intervention there would add to the present sad confusion in Russia rather than cure it, injure her rather than help her, and that it would be of no advantage in the prosecution of our main design, to win the war against Germany. It cannot, therefore, take part in such intervention or sanction it in principle.

This was a clear and precise statement of policy with which General Graves heartily agreed. Why then was he acing scat to command American troops on Russian territory? Puzzled, the General read on: -

Military action is admissible in Russia, as the Government of the United States sees the circumstances, only to help the Czecho-Slovaks consolidate their forces and get into successful co-operation with their Slavic kinsmen. . . .

Czechoslovaks? In Russia?

"I went to bed," General Graves wrote later, describing the incident in his book, American Siberian Adventure, "but I could not sleep and I kept wondering what other nations were doing and why I was not given some information about what was going on in Siberia."

Had General Graves known the answers to the questions that were keeping him awake he would have been far more perturbed that summer night in Kansas City.

2. Intrigue at Vladivostok

Under the feudal rule of the Czar, the vast and fabulouslv rich region of Siberia had remained almost entirely undeveloped. Much of the immense area stretching from the borders of Europe to the Pacific and from the Arctic to Afghanistan was completely uninhabited. Across this wild uncharted land ran the single-track Trans-Siberian Railroad, the only link between the east and the west. Whoever controlled this railroad and the territory for a few miles on either 'side of it controlled Asiatic Russia, a sub-continent of immeasurable strategic importance and wealth.

In the midsummer of 1918, as Raymond Robins traveled eastward along the Trans-Siberian Railroad, he had seen sidetracked trainloads of Czechoslovakian soldiers. Former unwilling members of the Austro-Hungarian Army, these Czechs had deserted in large numbers to the Russian lines before the Revolution. The Imperial Russian High Command had formed them into a Czech Army fighting side by side with the Russians against the Austro-German forces. After the downfall of Kerensky, the Soviet Government had agreed, at the request of the Allies, to transport the Czech troops across Russia to Vladivostok. They were to sail from this port, circle the globe and join the Allied forces on the Western Front. More than 50,000 of these Czech soldiers were strung out along the 5000-mile stretch of railroad from Kazan to Vladivostok.

The Czech soldiers believed that they were going to fight in Europe for the independence of Czechoslovakia; but their leaders, the reactionary Czech Generals Gayda and Sirovy, had other plans. In connivance with certain Allied statesmen, these generals were planning to use the Czech troops to overthrow the Soviet Government. . . .

According to the agreement reached between the Allies and the Soviet Government, the Czechs were to surrender their arms to the Soviet authorities during their passage through Soviet territory. But on June 4, 1918, Ambassador David R. Francis had privately informed his son in a letter that he was "planning to prevent if possible" the disarming of the Czech soldiers. The American Ambassador added: -

I have no instructions or authority from Washington to encourage these men to disobey the orders of the Soviet Government, except an expression of sympathy sent out by the Department of State. I have taken chances before, however.

Acting under orders from Generals Gayda and Sirovy, the Czechs refused to surrender their military equipment to the Soviet authorities. Simultaneous outbreaks occurred all along the Trans-Siberian line. The well-trained and amply equipped Czech troops seized a number of towns where they were stationed, overthrew the local Soviets and established anti-Soviet administrations.

During the first week in July, with the aid of Russian counterrevolutionaries, General Gayda staged a coup in Vladivostok and set up an anti-Soviet regime in that city. The streets were placarded with a proclamation signed by Admiral Knight of the United States Navy, Vice-Admiral Kato of the Japanese Navy, Colonel Pons of the French Mission, and Captain Badiura of the Czechoslovak Army, who had become commandant of the occupied city. The proclamation informed the populace that the intervention of the Allied Powers was being undertaken "in a spirit of friendship and sympathy for the Russian people."

On July 22, 1918, five days after the U. S. State Department drew up its Aide Mémoire on the need for sending American troops to Siberia to aid in the disembarkation of the Czech troops, DeWitt Clinton Poole,(1) the American Consul in Moscow, sent the American Consul at Omsk a cipher telegram which read: -

You may inform the Czecho-Slovak leaders confidentially that pending further notice the Allies will be glad, from a political point of view, to have them hold their present position. On the other hand they should not be hampered in meeting the military exigency of the situation. It is desirable first of all, that they should secure control of the Trans-Siberian Railway, and second, if this is assumed at the same time possible, retain control over the territory which they now dominate. Inform the French representatives that the French Consul General joins in these instructions.

The pretext given by the Allied Powers for invading Siberia in the summer of 1918 was that they were coming to save the Czechs from unprovoked attacks by Red Army troops and by German war prisoners armed by the Bolsheviks. Throughout that spring and summer, British, French and American newspapers were filled with sensational reports that the Bolsheviks were arming "tens of thousands of German and Austrian prisoners in Siberia" to fight against the Czechs. 'The New York Times reported that in the city of Tomsk alone, 60,000 Germans had been supplied by the Reds with military equipment.

Captain Hicks of the British Intelligence Service, Captain Webster of the American Red Cross Mission, and Major Drysdale, the American Military Attaché at Peking, traveled to Siberia, with permission from the Soviet authorities, to investigate the charges. After weeks of careful investigation, the three men reached the same conclusion: there were no armed German and Austrian prisoners in Siberia. The charges, the three officers declared, were pure fabrication propaganda deliberately designed to involve the Allies in intervention against Soviet Russia.(2)

On August 3, 1918, British troops landed at Vladivostok.

"We are coming," the British Government informed the Russian people on August 8, "to help you save yourselves from dismemberment and destruction at the hands of Germany. . . . We wish to solemnly assure you that we shall not retain one foot of your territory. The destinies of Russia are in the hands of the Russian people. It is for them, and them alone, to decide their forms of Government, and to find a solution for their social problems."

On August 16, the first American detachments landed.

"Military action is admissible in Russia now," declared Washington, "only to render such protection and help as is possible to the Czechoslovaks against the armed Austrian and German prisoners who are attacking them, and to steady any efforts at self-government or self-defense in which the Russians themselves may be willing to accept assistance."

The Japanese landed fresh forces that same month.

"In adopting this course," announced Tokyo, "the Japanese Government remains constant in their desire to promote relations of enduring friendship, and they affirm their policy of respecting the territorial integrity of Russia and of abstaining from all interference with her national politics."

The Japanese soldiers in Siberia were thoughtfully provided by the Japanese High Command with little Russian dictionaries in which the word "Bolshevik," defined as Barsuk (badger or wild beast), was followed by the notation: "To be exterminated."

3. Terror in the East

On September 1, 1918, General Graves arrived in Vladivostok to take over command of the American Expeditionary Force in Siberia. "I landed in Siberia," he later wrote in American Siberian Adventure, "without any preconceived ideas as to what should or should not be done. I had no prejudice against any Russian faction and anticipated I would be able to work harmoniously and in a co-operative spirit with all the Allies."

General Graves's instructions, as set forth in the Aide Mémoire, were to protect the Trans-Siberian Railway, to help the Czech forces disembark from Vladivostok, and to refrain from interfering in domestic Russian affairs.

He had scarcely established his headquarters when he was visited by the Czech leader, General Gayda, who proceeded to put Graves straight on the Russian situation. The Russians, said Gayda, could not be ruled "by kindness or persuasion, but only by the whip and the bayonet." In order to save the country from utter chaos, it was necessary to wipe out Bolshevism and put a military dictator in power. Gayda said he knew just the man for the position: Admiral Alexander Vassilievitch Kolchak, an exCzarist naval commander who had come from Japan to organize an anti-Soviet army and who had already rallied considerable forces in Siberia. Meanwhile, General Graves must help the Czechs and the other anti-Soviet armies to fight the Bolsheviks.

Gayda then presented General Graves with a plan for an immediate march to the Volga and an assault on Moscow from the east. This plan, Gayda revealed, had been approved by his French and British advisers and by representatives of the U. S. State Department.

General Graves repeated the orders he had received from his Government and said he intended to stand by them. He told Gayda that as long as he was in command, no American soldiers would be used against the Bolsheviks or would interfere in any other way with internal affairs in Russia. . . .

Gayda left in a fury. A short time after, General Graves received another important visitor. This time it was General Knox, the former supporter of Kornilov and now the commander of the British forces in Siberia.

"You're getting a reputation of being a friend of the poor," Knox warned General Graves. "Don't you know they're only swine?"

General Graves had what Raymond Robins called "the outdoor mind." He was a man who believed in finding out things for himself. He decided to secure firsthand information about the actual state of affairs in Siberia. His intelligence officers were soon traveling about the countryside and bringing back extensive and detailed reports of their observations. Before long Graves had reached the conclusion that: -

The word -'Bolshevik," as used in Siberia, covered most of the Russian people and to use troops to fight Bolsheviks or to arm, equip, feed, clothe or pay White Russians to fight them was utterly inconsistent with "non-interference with the internal affairs of Russia."

By the autumn of 1918, there were already more than 7000 English troops in northern Siberia. Another 7000 British and French officers, technicians and soldiers were with Admiral Kolchak, helping him train and equip his White Russian, anti-Soviet army. Aiding the British and French were 1500 Italians. There were approximately 8000 American soldiers under General Graves's command. By far the largest force in Siberia was that of the Japanese, who had high ambitions of taking Siberia over entirely for themselves: the Japanese soldiers numbered over 70,000. . . .

In November, Admiral Kolchak, with the aid of his British and French supporters, established himself as dictator of Siberia. The Admiral, an excitable little man, who was described by one of his colleagues as a "sick child . . . certainly a neurasthenic . . . always under another's influence," set up headquarters at Omsk and gave himself the title of "Supreme Ruler of Russia." Announcing that Kolchak was the "Russian Washington," the former Czarist Minister Sazonov promptly became Kolchak's official representative in Paris. Paeans of praise for the Admiral sounded in London and Paris. Sir Samuel Hoare repeated his opinion that Kolchak was "a gentleman." Winston Churchill described Kolchak as "honest," "incorruptible," "intelligent" and "patriotic." The New York Times saw in him "a strong and an honest man" with "a stable and approximately representative government."

The Kolchak regime was generously supplied by the Allies, especially by Britain, with munitions, weapons of war and funds. "We dispatched to Siberia," General Knox proudly reported, "hundreds of thousands of rifles, hundreds of millions of cartridges, hundreds of thousands of uniforms and cartridge belts, etc. Every bullet fired against the Bolsheviks by the Russian soldiers in the course of that year was manufactured in Great Britain, by British workers, out of British raw material, and shipped to Vladivostok in British bottoms."

A popular Russian ditty of the time went: -

Uniforms British,

Epaulettes from France,

Japanese tobacco,

Kolchak leads the dance!

General Graves did not share the Allied enthusiasm for the rule of Admiral Kolchak. Every day his intelligence officers brought him new reports of the reign of terror which Kolchak had instituted. There were 100,000 men in the Admiral's army, and thousands more were being recruited on penalty of being shot. Prisons and concentration camps were filled to overflowing. Hundreds of Russians, who had had the temerity to oppose the new dictator, dangled from telegraph poles and trees along the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Many more reposed in common graves which they had been forced to dig themselves before Kolchak's executioners had mowed them down with machine-gun fire. Rape, murder and pillage were the rule of the day.

One of Kolchak's top aides, a former Czarist officer named General Rozanoff, issued the following instructions to his troops: -

1. In occupying the villages which have been occupied before by bandits [Soviet partisans] insist upon getting the leaders of the movement, and where you cannot get the leaders, but have sufficient evidence as to the presence of such leaders, then shoot one out of every ten of the people.

2. If, when the troops go through a town, and the population will not inform the troops, after having a chance to do so, of the presence of the enemy, a monetary contribution should be demanded from all, unsparingly.

3. The villages where the population meet our troops with arms should be burned down and all the full grown male population should be shot; property, homes, carts, etc. should be taken for the use of the Army.

Describing the officer who issued these orders, General Knox told General Graves: "Rozanoff is a bully fellow!"

Along with Kolchak's troops, terrorist bands, financed by the Japanese, were ravaging the countryside. Their chief leaders were Ataman Gregori Semyonov and Kalmikoff.

Colonel Morrow, the commander of the American troops in the Trans-Baikal sector, reported that in one village occupied by Semyonov's troops, every man, woman and child was murdered. The majority of the occupants, related the Colonel, were shot down "like rabbits" as they fled from their homes. Men were burned alive.

"Semenov [Semyonov] and Kalmikoff soldiers," according to General Graves, "under the protection of Japanese troops, were roaming the country like wild animals, killing and robbing the people. . . . If questions were asked about these brutal murders, the reply was that the people murdered were the Bolsheviks and this explanation, apparently, satisfied the world."

General Graves openly expressed his abhorrence of the atrocities which were being carried out by the anti-Soviet forces in Siberia. His attitude aroused much hostility among the White Russian, British, French and Japanese leaders.

Morriss, the American Ambassador to Japan, who was visiting in Siberia, told General Graves that the State Department had wired him that American policy in Siberia necessitated support of Kolchak. "Now, General," said Morriss, "you will have to support Kolchak."

Graves replied that he had received no word from the War Department directing him to support Kolchak.

"The State Department is running this, not the War Department," said Morriss.

"The State Department," answered Graves, "is not running me."

Agents of Kolchak launched a propaganda campaign to undermine Graves's reputation and bring about his recall from Siberia. Lies and rumors were widely circulated describing how the General had gone "Bolshevik," and how his troops were aiding the "Communists." Much of the propaganda was anti-Semitic. A typical piece stated: -

The United States soldiers are infected with Bolshevism. Most of them are Jews from the East Side of New York who constantly agitate for mutinies.

Colonel John Ward, a British M.P. who was acting as Kolchak's political adviser, publicly declared that when he visited the headquarters of the American Expeditionary Force he found that "Out of sixty liaison officers and translators, over fifty were Russian Jews!"

Certain of General Graves's own countrymen helped spread the same propaganda. "The American Consul at Vladivostok," revealed General Graves, "was cabling to the State Department each day, without comment, the libelous, false, and scurrilous article:, appearing in the Vladivostok press about the American troops. These articles, and the criticism of the American troops in the United States, were built around the charge of being bolshevistic. This charge could not have been based on any act of the American troops . . . but the charge was the same that was lodged against every one in Siberia who did not support Kolchak, by Kolchak adherents, which included Consul General Harris."

When the campaign of slander was at its height, a special messenger came to General Graves's headquarters from General Ivanoff-Rinoff, the commander of all Kolchak's forces in eastern Siberia. The messenger told General Graves that if he would contribute $20,000 a month to Kolchak's army, General Ivanoff-Rinoff would arrange for the propaganda against Graves and his troops to come to an end. . . .

This General Ivanoff-Rinoff was one of Kolchak's most savage and sadistic commanders. His soldiers in eastern Siberia slaughtered the entire male populations of villages suspected of having harbored "Bolsheviks." They made a common practice of raping women and whipping them with ramrods. They murdered old men, women and children.

One young American officer, who had been sent to investigate the atrocities committed by Ivanoff-Rinoff, was so shaken by what he saw that after he had finished making his report to Graves, he exclaimed, "General, for God's sake never send me on another expedition like this! I came within an ace of pulling off my uniform, joining these poor people, and helping them as best I could!"

When General Ivanoff-Rinoff was menaced by a popular uprising, Sir Charles Eliot, the British High Commissioner, hurried to General Graves to express alarm over the safety of Kolchak's commander.

"As far as I'm concerned," General Graves grimly told Sir Charles, "the people could bring Ivanoff-Rinoff opposite American headquarters and hang him to that telephone pole until he was dead-and not an American would turn his hand!"

In the midst of this ever-spreading civil war and intervention in Siberia and throughout Soviet Russia, startling events occurred in Europe. On November 9, 1918, German sailors mutinied at Kiel, killed their officers and hoisted the Red flag. Mass peace demonstrations swept Germany. On the Western Front, Allied and German soldiers fraternized in no-man's land. The German High Command sued for an armistice. Kaiser Wilhelm II fled to Holland, surrendering his imperial sword at the frontier to a surprised young Dutch border guard. On November 11, the Armistice was signed. . . .

The First World War was over.

1. DeWitt Clinton Poole later became Chief of the State Department's Russian Affairs Division.

2. The findings of Captain Hicks, Captain Webster and Major Drysdale were kept from the British and American publics. Captain Hicks received a curt order to return to London, and then was assigned to work with Captain Sidney Reilly. The U. S. State Department shelved the reports of Captain Webster and Major Drysdale.

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