Archangel Campaign

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ARCHANGEL CAMPAIGN, an Allied operation that supported Russian forces during World War I. On 16 March 1918 Germany compelled the revolution-torn Russia to ratify the Treaty of Brest Litovsk. The Allies were concerned because the treaty gave the German army entry into Finland, thus positioning it for marches upon the Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangel, where military supplies from Allied ships had been stockpiled. The Allies also feared that U-boat bases might be established on the North Cape. The new Bolshevik government in Moscow welcomed Allied troop landings at Murmansk in March 1918 as support against further demands by Berlin. The Allies proposed to form a shield in desolate northern Russia behind which the Russians could build a new Red Army. On this premise British officers led a push nearly 400 miles southward and firmly secured the railroad approach to Murmansk.

By 3 August 1918 Allied relations with the Bolsheviks had deteriorated, and Archangel was seized by 1,500 British and French troops. The Allied force at Archangel was enlarged on 5 September by the addition of three American battalions from the 339th Infantry Regiment of Lieutenant Colonel George E. Stewart and was reinforced a few weeks later by two additional companies. Although constituting 40 percent of the Allied troops under the command of British major general Frederick C. Poole, Americans had little say in planning operations.

The original American mission as envisioned by President Woodrow Wilson was "to guard military stores which [might] subsequently be needed by Russian forces and to render such aid as [might] be acceptable to the Russians in the organization of their own self-defense." By September 1918, however, civil war was raging in Russia, and Britain and France favored the Whites. An Allied force of 10,000, including U.S. soldiers, pushed into Siberia, hoping to reach a Trans-Siberian Railroad link at Vyatka, 600 miles to the southeast.

In the summer the Bolshevik army had been too feeble to prevent the Allied seizure of Archangel, but by autumn Mikhail S. Kedrov had formed the Sixth Army around two understrength rifle divisions. The Reds had ample spaces for flanking maneuvers, and by mid-October the Allied advance was stalled about halfway to the objective of Vyatka. The U.S. 339th by then was responsible for a front of nearly 450 miles. The principal combats, trifles compared to the colossal battles in the main theaters of World War I, were at Tulgas and Kodish. (Trotsky was falsely rumored to have been present.)

The general armistice on the western front on 11 November 1918 removed the anti-German rationale for the campaign. Wilson was absorbed in his plans for Versailles, and the American public had little enthusiasm for a new commitment to restore order in Russia. Consequently, the 339th held place through a more or less peaceful winter and spring and began sailing for home on 2 June 1919 with the French. The British withdrew on 28 September. This ambiguous venture cost the United States 144 men killed in action and about 100 more dead from illness or accident. For generations some historians referred to the venture as American "imperialism."


Goldhurst, Richard. The Midnight War. New York: McGraw Hill, 1978.

Ironside, Sir Edmund. Archangel, 1918–1919. London: Constable, 1953.

Kettle, Michael. The Road to Intervention, March–November 1918. New York: Routledge, 1988.

Melton, Carol Kingsland Willcox. "Between War and Peace." Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1991.

Strakhovsky, Leonid I. Intervention at Archangel. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1944.

R. W.Daly/a. r.

See alsoMurmansk ; Russia, Relations with ; Siberian Expedition .