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From the Spring 1998 Issue, Volume Seven, Number Two:

Fighting the Bolsheviks: The Russian War Memoir of Private First Class Donald E. Carey, U.S. Army, 1918-1919;
edited by Neil Carey

Reviewed by Martin Vitz

    "When did World War One end and the Russian Civil War begin?" has been a difficult question for historians trying to piece together and understand the foggy rationale for the Allied intervention in Russia in 1918-1920. It was just as difficult and confusing for the soldiers caught up in it at the time -- and a whole lot more personal. This chronicle of the lonely experience in the North Russian woods doesn't answer the big question but it does shed interesting light on the confusion of those who were trying to find and kill the elusive "Bolos."

    In this review there isn't space to attempt to sort out the reasons why Great Britain, the U.S., Canada and other countries sent troops to Murmansk, Archangelsk, Siberia and South Russia after the Bolshevik coup and the treaty of Brest Litovsk. For those who may be interested in the larger context for Carey's book, I've listed some good general sources below.

    What makes this book especially unusual and fascinating is that it is an enlisted man's story by a very atypical enlisted man for the times. At age 25 Donald Carey was older than most of his fellow soldiers and far better educated. A farm boy who graduated from Olivet College, he taught school for three years before being inducted in May, 1918. Most of those in the 339th Infantry Regiment of the 85th Division were young, from urban backgrounds and, often, recent immigrants, including many from Eastern Europe and Russia. Carey was not interested in serving as an officer and shouldering that responsibility, but he was a good Christian and a "good soldier." During his entire period of service he kept notes which, after the war, he expanded into this "War Diary" which is actually a comprehensive memoir as the title indicates. Fortunately, his son Neil took time to edit and publish it with the addition of some contemporary newspaper clippings, notes, and maps to help the reader.

    Carey gives a clear, straightforward picture of his journey from Michigan to the "Railroad Front" south of Archangelsk and back home again. Company E's war was typical of the 339th's service along several hundred miles of perimeter. The land was swampy, thickly forested and had few roads or tracks through the wilderness. Settlements were sparse and tiny and there were almost no local resources to live off. Even for the mostly Michigan and Wisconsin "Polar Bears," as they were called, the cold was fierce and the winter darkness depressing. This is an extremely readable first person narrative of the daily activity and bitter fighting, especially at Kodish (or Kadish), where Company E was most heavily engaged. (Note: 23 Americans, out of somewhat over 5600 total, received the Distinguished Service Cross, the United States' second highest medal for valor in combat, an indication of the extent and ferocity of the fighting). This is a rare book on this rarely covered offshoot of World War I which any student of that conflict should enjoy.


Books Relating to the Allied Intervention and

The Russian Civil War


1. Quartered in Hell - The Story of the American North Russian Expeditionary Force 1918 -1919, by Dennis Gordon; Chief of Research Hayes Otoupalik. Product of The Doughboy Historical Society and G.O.S., Inc. P.O. Box 3912, Missoula, MT 59806 U.S.A. Copyright 1982. ISBN: 94225800-2

2.The Midnight War The American Intervention in Russia, 1918-1920, by Richard Goldhurst-l New York, McGraw-Hill, 1978.

3. The Day They Almost Bombed Moscow The Allied War in Russia 1918-1920 by Christopher Dobson and John Miller; New York, Athaneum, 1986.

4. The Russian Civil War by Evan Mawdsley; Boston, Allen & Unwin, 1987.

5. Red Victory A History of the Russian Civil War by W. Bruce Lincoln; New York, Simon & Schuster inc., 1989.

6. Russia Leaves the War and The Decision to Intervene, Volumes I and 11 of Soviet-American Relations 1917-1920, by George F. Kennan; New York, W.W.Norton & Company, 1958.


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