World War I is known mainly as a war that decimated Europe, especially western due to the length of the trench warfare. However, few Americans realize that their ancestors fought not only in Western Europe, but also above the Arctic Circle in northern Russia. James Carl Nelson addresses this topic in The Polar Bear Expedition.
Nelson brings a much-needed light to a dark period of American history. American participation was a boondoggle from the very beginning – the troops were not properly supplied and reinforced to successfully accomplish the mission. He puts the blame on all levels of leadership starting with President Wilson and ending with Colonel George Stewart – the leader American troops. He blames Wilson for placing American troops in the situation and Stewart for abdicating his responsibility in leading and allowing the British wastefully use Americans.
Despite the damning of American leadership, Nelson praises the American doughboys who fought in brutal winter conditions against overwhelming numerical odds. Countless times the Bolos (Bolshevik Russians) attacked isolated outposts – forcing the American, British, Canadian, and French defenders to desperately fight for their lives.
To Nelson’s credit, most of the Americans who were killed or died from influenza are chronicled or mentioned in the book – 235 in total. The deaths were spread over hundreds of miles outside of Archangel.
The book includes 16 pages of black and white photographs and a map inside the covers.
Nelson’s book is an excellent tribute to the American men who served courageously in a fruitless expedition.