Veterans Day Commemoration Remembers 1918-1919 Russian Operation
On a cold Monday, November 11, a few dozen veterans, community officials and military historians met at the Doughboy Statue in downtown Missoula to commemorate an operation in which American troops were sent to fight in Russia following the end of World War I.
Military historian Hayes Otoupalik began by detailing the history of one of the men commemorated on the Doughboy statue itself.
“One of the men’s names on the Doughboy Monument was Shaughnessy, who was a veteran of the American North Russian Expeditionary Force in Archangel, Russia in 1918 and 1919, and he lost his life there,” said Otoupalik. “Today, Dennis Gordon, who coauthored a book called ‘Quartered in Hell’ will give a talk about our American experience in North Russia. This ceremony today is in remembrance of John Shaughnessy who fought in North Russia.”
Otoupalik said seldom has been heard about American military in that operation.
“Very few people recall or know about this today,” he said. “One of the big surprises in 1959 and 1960 when Nikita Khrushchev went to the UN, took his shoe off and beat on the podium and said that we’d been to his country, but he hadn’t been to our country, and a lot of people didn’t know what he was talking about.”
Otoupalik said thousands of Americans were sent to Russia but the operation was ended after just one year.
“We sent 5,500 men to Archangel, Russia and over 20,000 men to Vladivostok, and it turned into a quagmire. By 1919, we had removed our troops from North Russia and by 1920 we had pulled all our forces out of Siberia,” he said. “About 100 men were killed there and there are a fair number of them that are still buried in the tundra of North Russia to this day.”
Otoupalik said this part of American history must be remembered by those living today.
“Nobody’s forgotten until they’re forgotten,” he said. “We want to keep their memories alive because today, we’re involved in hot little wars all over the world and here’s an instance where right after the Armistice in World War I where there were thousands of Americans overseas, but today they’re almost forgotten. This important to remember these old men.”
The ceremony also commemorated the 100th anniversary of the American Legion.
At 11:11 a.m. on November, 11, 1918 the Armistice was signed in Versailles, France, officially ending World War I.