Michigan 'Polar Bears': The WWI force who fought Russian Bolsheviks for months after armistice | Michigan Radio
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Michigan 'Polar Bears': The WWI force who fought Russian Bolsheviks for months after armistice

Nov 8, 2018

November 11th is Veterans Day. 

The national holiday was formerly known as Armistice Day, and this year marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the very bloody stalemate of World War I.

But for one group of American soldiers — known as the Michigan Polar Bears — the fighting did not cease.

Mike Grobbel is the grandson of Corporal Clement Grobbel, one of the Polar Bears soldiers. He's also the President of the Polar Bear Memorial Association. Eric Perkins is the Michigan History Center's military history expert. They joined Stateside to talk about how the regiment wound up fighting the Bolsheviks during the bloody chaos of the Russian Revolution, months after the end of WWI.

Most of the members of the Polar Bears were Michiganders, and Grobbel says these men endured harsh conditions in Northern Russia, near the White Sea port of Arkhangelsk.

"Temperatures got to 50 below zero. Men on sentry at night would be startled. They thought they'd hear a gunshot, but it was actually tree limbs freezing and breaking off," he said. 

Listen above to hear Perkins explain why President Wilson sent American troops to Russia, and why that plan did not work out as he had hoped.

This segment is produced in partnership with the Michigan History Center.

 

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