WWI 310th Engineer “Polar Bear” in Archangel Russia, 1918 – US Northern Russia Expedition

310th Engineer in Archangel, Russia

Don’t know too much about the US involvement in Russia during WWI?  Don’t worry, neither did I until a few years ago.  The above photo was acquired from a poorly listed eBay auction, and depicts a 310th Engineer posing for the camera in a Russian studio in the city of Archangel.  Photos of “Polar Bear” soldiers are incredibly rare, especially front-taken studio portraits.  I’ve seen a FEW example of Polar Bears posing back home, but only a couple taken overseas.  This one is particularly rare, as it shows a member of the 310th Engineers, who only sent ONE battalion of soldiers up to Russia.

Want to read more about the Polar Bears?  Visit the site below!

An excerpt taken from the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan’s website:


“The American military intervention at Archangel, Russia, at the end of World War I, nicknamed the “Polar Bear Expedition,” is a strange episode in American history. Ostensibly sent to Russia to prevent a German advance and to help reopen the Eastern Front, American soldiers found themselves fighting Bolshevik revolutionaries for months after the Armistice ended fighting in France.

Because many of the American troops involved in the intervention were from Michigan, the Michigan Historical Collections has long been interested in documenting this episode. This guide describes the Collections’ holdings of manuscripts and photographs as well as maps and primary printed source materials relating to the Polar Bear Expedition.

During the summer of 1918, the U. S. Army’s 85th Division, made up primarily of men from Michigan and Wisconsin, completed its training at Fort Custer, outside of Battle Creek, Michigan, and proceeded to England. While the rest of the division was preparing to enter the fighting in France, some 5,000 troops of the 339th Infantry and support units (one battalion of the 310th Engineers, the 337th Field Hospital, and the 337th Ambulance Company) were issued Russian weapons and equipment and sailed for Archangel, a Russian port on the White Sea, 600 miles north of Moscow.

When American troops reached their destination in early September, they joined an international force commanded by the British that had been sent to northern Russia for purposes never made clear. Whatever the reasons for the intervention, however, the force was fighting the Bolsheviks who had taken power in Petrograd and Moscow the previous winter.”

4 thoughts on “WWI 310th Engineer “Polar Bear” in Archangel Russia, 1918 – US Northern Russia Expedition

  1. Hi, nice picture. My Husbands Grandfather was a Polar Bear. He was from Essexville, MI . Numerous Families attend services at the Official Memorial sight at White Chapel in Troy, MI. on Memorial Day. This group is called the Polar Bear Memorial Association. You should also visit Michigan’s Own, Inc. Military And Space Museum in Frankenmuth, MI. They have a large display of the Units History as well as photos and personal items. Here is the web site address for you; http://www.michigansmilitarymuseum.com/about.html,.

  2. Have been trying to get more information on this expedition for some time. My father, Floyd S. Ostrom, from Detroit, served in the 337th Ambulance in this expedition, although I always thought he was in the Signal Corps in WWI. While there is some info in the UM archives, I can’t find much about his unit or the Signal Corps activity during this adventure. Am still in the process of researching this, and have gotten some recent books that I hope will help. Thanks for the above info. Floyd S. Ostrom II.

      • I have no picture of him in uniform. In fact, I had no idea of his roll in WWI, other than the Signal Corps connection, until long after he had died (1971). I do know that he attended a 1962 Polar Bear reunion in Detroit, based on info from the U of M collection. At one time I had a film strip (20 ft at best) from WWI that I assumed he had taken as a Signal Corps member, but that has dissappeared after multiple moves over the years. I would love to be directed to someone that may be able to help. The only other connection to that time period is what appears to be a Chinese insence burner, metal, with a marking on the bottom, that he may have obtained in Vladevostok, as he mentioned being there at some point. But that is so far from the main Polar Bear expedition, I have no idea the how or the why. thanks for your response

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