The Washtenaw Polar Bears
Bolsheviks at Ust-Padenga, Russia, a casualty of the undeclared, almost unintentional, war called the Polar Bear Expedition.
The men had not signed up to fight Russians. The U.S. Army had assigned them to the 339th Infantry, the 310th Engineers, or the 337th Field Hospital company. Training in June 1918 at Camp Custer near Battle Creek, they thought they were headed for duty in World War I on the battlefields of France. A clue came that plans were changing when, during later training in England, the army issued long underwear--in August. "It is terrible to wear in this kind of weather," one Michigan corporal wrote in his diary. Then they traded in their standard Enfield rifles for older Russian-made ones, boarded troop ships at Bristol, and sailed north for more than a week.
The "Spanish influenza" struck all three of their vessels, which, somehow, carried no medical supplies. Thirty soldiers died before landfall. Many sick men were carried down the gangplanks when the transports docked on a blustery September 4, 1918, in Archangel (now known in English by its Russian name, "Archangelsk.")