Polar Bear Expedition Digital Collections

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Polar Bear Expedition Digital Collections

The material in Deep Blue forms part of the Polar Bear Expedition Collections at the Bentley Historical Library. Additional digital materials and online finding aids may be accessed at the Polar Bear Expedition Digital Collections website.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

In 1963 the Bentley Historical Library, a research library of the University of Michigan, began a project of locating and preserving source materials relating to the American intervention in North Russia, the "Polar Bear Expedition." With the cooperation of the Polar Bear Association, which had been organized by the Polar Bear veterans, the library collected the letters, diaries, photographs, and memorabilia of the veterans, along with maps, newspapers, and other published material. In the years since 1963, we have continued our efforts to locate and preserve the record of the Polar Bears, and we continue to add newly discovered collections every year.

In 2004, to better preserve the fragile collections and to make them more widely available for research, the library began to digitize the Polar Bear collections. The digitization and initial public access were provided through the University of Michigan Library's Digital Library Production Service.

In 1918, at the end of World War I, the United States sent two intervention forces to Russia. The 339th Infantry and supporting units were sent to European Russia, the region surrounding the cities of Archangel (Arkhangel’sk) and Murmansk near the Arctic Circle, initially to protect supplies and help reopen the Eastern Front against Germany. The 27th and 31st Infantry were sent to the Vladivostok region of Siberia, to assist Czechoslovak military units trying to make their way out of Russia to the Western Front. These two forces became part of broader efforts by the Allies and others to oppose the Bolshevik revolutionaries who had taken power in Russia. Separated by thousands of miles, the two forces did not interact with each other.

The 31st and 339th Regiments have both taken the name Polar Bears, and both use the polar bear in their regimental crests, but it is the intervention in European Russia that has come to be nicknamed the "Polar Bear Expedition." The 339th Infantry and supporting units were made up mainly of draftees from Michigan and Wisconsin. The Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan has developed the largest collection of manuscript and printed materials on the Polar Bear Expedition, consisting of over eighty-five individual collections of primary source material as well as numerous published materials. The Bentley Library has not attempted to document the men who served in Siberia.

Please note:

Please check individual collections for copyright status.

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