The United States’ Invasion of Russia Was a Yearlong Freezing Hell for the Troops

In October 1918, the Red armies inflicted a large number of casualties on the Americans, who had expected a relatively calm winter. Instead, the Red assault forced the allies to retreat back toward Arkhangelsk. They were forced to give up all their gains and take a loss of 10% of their force: 110 killed in combat, 30 missing and 70 dead from Spanish flu.

Fighting a war in Russia during the winter is never a good idea, and yet time and again, people keep trying. The United States is as guilty of it as Napoleon was.

In November of 1918, much of the world was jubilantly celebrating the end of World War I, the “war to end all wars.” As those celebrations caught the attention of newspapers and newsreels all over the United States, there was one group of Americans whose war hadn’t yet ended.

Around 5,000 American soldiers were part of an allied expedition to intervene in the ongoing Russian civil war against the “Red” Bolshevik forces. For a little over a year, the American Expeditionary Force in North Russia fought to give the anti-Bolshevik “White” Russians the upper hand.

As summer turned to fall in 1918, the combined forces of Britain, France, Italy, the United States and the rest of their allies were making drastic advances against their World War I enemies. Things were looking bleak for the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria.

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