Rare Photos Of Us Army / Ymca In Siberia Russia 1918-20
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Rare Photos Of Us Army / Ymca In Siberia Russia 1918-20:
RARE PHOTOS OF US ARMY / YMCA IN SIBERIA RUSSIA 1918-20 YANKS IN SIBERIA SCARCE PHOTOGRAPHS OF
US MILITARY / YMCA IN RUSSIA 1918-20
TWENTY-FIVE (25) Photographs (23 are real-photo postcards) of CONDITIONS IN RUSSIA during the US Army excursion into SIBERIA in 1918-1920. Collected by a YMCA official working in conjunction with the SIBERIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE (S.E.F.). THESE PHOTOGRAPHS INCLUDE: --Siberian city views --Rolling BOX-CAR "Canteens"
along the Trans-Siberian RR --Russian Soldiers --Russian Peasants & Refugees --Portrait with a Russian Priest --Young men, women, & children
in ranks as "SCOUTS" --Some genre scenes of Russian life --Massed Russians carrying BANNERS
in a Parade or Demonstation --Dead Bodies in the snow, ETC. [see scans below]
--All of the 23 real photo postcards in this collection are in good condition. Contrast varies from quite good to a few that are somewhat hazy (see scans below). Eleven (11) of the photo-postcards have captions written in dark ink on the front or reverse. There are two (2) non-postcard photos. One is postcard-size (about 3.5 x 5.75”). It has a tape-reinforced vertical crease running down the right side and a small tear along the top edge, but is otherwise in good condition. The final photo measures a bit smaller (about 3 x 5.5”) and is in good condition. Any visual documentation of YANKS IN SIBERIA is scarce. This collection has nice identification & provenance from the ink inscription on the front of the first postcard in the collection. It pictures a young man wearing a military-style Y.M.C.A. campaign hat and uniform (YMCA insignia on collar). The inscription on this postcard reads: “REMEMBERING DAYS ON THE U.S.A.T. (US Army Transport) AMERICA – JOHN G. CATTRON — EARLVILLE IOWA.” The U.S.A.T. America was originally a German ship seized by the US on the declaration of war in 1917, and used by the Navy during the war. After the armistice, AMERICA was used by the Army as a troop transport. On 30 December 1919, the Army transport America was ordered "to go on a long secret trip as soon as possible." America sailed for the Pacific on 30 January 1920. Sailing via Cavite, in the Philippines and Nagasaki, Japan, America reached Vladivostok in late March. The situation in Russia had deteriorated markedly. The collapse of the White government sounded the death knell of the western attempt to intervene in the civil war. By the time the ship arrived at Vladivostok, the evacuation of the Czech legion (and US Army troops) was well underway. Ultimately, U.S.A.T. America reached Trieste on 8 August 1920, disembarking her contingents of Czechs without incident. It is quite likely that John G. Cattron was evacuated on the U.S.A.T. America along with the Czech troops he had served during his YMCA service in Siberia. He possibly wrote the inscriptions on his collection of photographs while aboard the evacuation transport on its way to Europe.
SOME IMPORTANT HISTORICAL BACKGROUND FOR THESE EVENTS IS PRESENTED BELOW, FOLLOWED BY DETAILED SCANS OF THE PHOTOGRAPHS THEMSELVES:
YANKS IN SIBERIA --
“In hope it began; in perplexity it ended” The American YMCA Association had established a presence in Russia first in 1900. Their ultimate goal was Christian service to the Russian people no matter what happened politically in that country. The Association therefore did what it could in Soviet Russia to remain neutral. However in October 1918, the Soviets informed the Association that it was “considered a decidedly harmful organization.” All types of work by the Association were to be stopped, its property confiscated, and the secretaries sent abroad or to concentration camps. Political neutrality in Soviet Russia had proved impossible. THE US ARMY INVADES SIBERIA: The Bolshevik Revolution had removed Russia from World War I and the Allies had begun sending troops into Russia at two points (Norther Russia & Siberia) to re-open an Eastern front against the Germans. US troops were committed only after great soul-searching by President Woodrow Wilson, since the action directly violated one of his overly-idealistic “Fourteen Points.” Ultimately, creation of the Siberian Expeditionary Force ( S.E.F. ) was an act of Presidential will. In the ensuing campaign of 1918–19, U.S. troops battled the Red Army through Russia’s bitterest snows. With no sensational headlines then, and only a vague historical memory now, the American intervention in Russia can perhaps best be described by lines from “Dover Beach” by poet Matthew Arnold -- “And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night.” YMCA Association secretaries who left Bolshevik Soviet Russia were assigned to many surrounding locations. The Y.M.C.A. was represented at practically every point where troops were stationed in the region. They outfitted railroad cars, turning them into portable (rolling) canteens. As the year 1918 came to an end, the YMCA had moved from neutrality to serving the Allied forces that had intervened in the raging Russian civil war. Several secretaries were eventually taken prisoner by the Bolsheviks. YMCA SUPPORTS THE CZECH LEGION: Involvement with Allied plans was even greater in Siberia, which was to prove the last stand of the YMCA in Russia. The American YMCA involvement in Siberia had begun with assistance to the Czech Legion. These soldiers had refused to fight for Germany and Austria-Hungary and had gone over to Russia. As the Russian front collapsed, these forty-plus thousand Czechoslovak soldiers decided to head east to Vladivostok along the TransSiberian railroad, thence to embark for the western front to renew the fight against Germany. Tensions between the Czech Legion and the Bolsheviks broke out into the open on June 29, 1918. These events played a significant part in President Wilson’s decision to send American troops into Russia. The Allied decision to send troops to Vladivostok, no doubt partly inspired the YMCA Association to continue their already-existing program of support to the Czech Legion, now at war with the Soviet government. The Czechs were settling down in garrisons along the TransSiberian and showing no great disposition to return to Europe. Thus the YMCA became more involved in the struggle against the Bolsheviks. Their privations in the fortybelow winter temperatures were merely a footnote to the general Siberian agony. The S.E.F.’S chief surgeon reported to Washington that hundreds had been stricken by “plague, typhus, relapsing fever, typhoid fever, scarlet fever and malignant sore throat.” EVENTS AFTER WWI: On 22 March 1919, the Soviet General Staff demanded withdrawal of all YMCA staff from Russia. Events were happening fast, and the US government was soon considering a much greater recall—that of the American military and diplomatic presence itself from Siberia, after the collapse of the White Russian Provisional Siberian Government. On January 2, 1920, Major General William Graves, commander of the American Siberian Expeditionary Force (S.E.F.) , announced that American troops would shortly leave Siberia, having already been pulled out of North Russia. Graves praised and supported the YMCA work. Now the majority of YMCA secretaries departed with the American and Czech troops. General Graves and his staff embarked with the final echelon on April 1, 1920. The Vladivostok YMCA was allowed to struggle on until 1923, even after all foreign troops had left Siberia and the Soviets had taken over the Far Eastern Republic. With the Bolshevik takeover in Russia and the Soviet victory in the Civil War, the objective of the YMCA's program was simply incompatible with the beliefs of the new Russian leaders. The program of the American YMCA in Russia was over.
SOME FURTHER DETAILS CONCERNING JOHN G. CATTRON:
JOHN GARDNER CATTRON was born 21 September 1882 in Earlville, Delaware County, Iowa. He was the son of William Valentine Catron and Maria Elizabeth Gardner. He passed away on 3 Jun 1952 in Wiliamsport, PA. He earned a B.A. from Upper Iowa University. He served in Europe and Siberia as a Secretary of the Y. M. C. A. from 1918-1920. As an Associate General Secretary of the Association, he attended Yale Divinity School in 1921-1922. On 25 December 1918, THE MANCHESTER [Iowa] DEMOCRAT reported: “John G. Cattron, who has been in training several weeks for Y. M. C. A. secretary overseas, and of late has been stationed at Springfield, Mass., writes to his mother that he will be home on a furlough during the holidays while enroute to San Francisco, from which port he sets sail early in the new year to engage in army Y. M. C. A. work.” In ASSOCIATION MEN, the Official Magazine of the American YMCA – Vol. 48, No. 1, for September, 1922, on page 43, Cattron remembered: “In our work as "Y" secretary with a Czecho Slovak Regiment in Siberia, we kept a small library for the use of the men of the regiment. One day we recommended a Russian translation of Fosdick's Meaning of Prayer to one of the men. This man usually read a book in a day. He kept this book six days and apologized saying, "I had to do much thinking." He professed great interest. We replied, "We have six copies of this book and we will judge of your interest by the number of men reading these books." 'From that day on the six books were out constantly and we had a waiting list of men desiring to read them. It naturally followed that men came individually and then in groups TO OUR BOX CAR to discuss this book which they had read. These groups became permanent, met daily and took up the discussion of life problems. Result—many men made character decisions and some men found Christ.—John G. Cattron, New Haven.” A reference also exists that implies that Cattron’s work in Siberia included organizing early units of the BOY SCOUTS. Related work may also be referenced by his inscriptions written on the back of several of the real photo postcard photographs in this lot.
THE SCANS THAT FOLLOW SHOW: --1st - FRONT & REVERSE OF ALL 25 PHOTOGRAPHS (the reverse of some photos have explanatory captions written by Cattron). --2nd - ENLARGED DETAIL OF A FEW OF THE PHOTOS. [Be certain to scroll all the way to the bottom]
[Novonikolaevsk was renamed Novosibirsk in 1925]