EARLY in July, 1919, I received notice from Wash Eington stating:
"If the American Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Roland S. Morris, goes to Omsk, you will go with him."
There had been a great deal of talk concerning the recognition of Kolchak by the United States, so I concluded the Ambassador's trip had something to do with this question. I felt that this was a political mat-ter with which I had nothing to do, and for me to go to Omsk as directed, would give the impression that I had something to do with establishing the policy of the United States in Siberia. I had consistently tried to let the Allies understand that this was not the case.
I cabled to Washington and suggested the inadvisability of my going with the Ambassador. The authorities did not look at the question as I did, and cabled me on July 7:
"Reference your 373: if Morris goes to Omsk, it is desired you accompany him."
As soon as I knew that Mr. Morris was going, I consulted him and we prepared for the trip. We had to make up our train with American soldiers for guard, and it was not until July 11 that we left Vladivostok.
The Kolchak people had represented to Washing-ton, that my reaction to the Russian question was due to my service in the Far East, which had brought me in contact with the very reactionary Cossacks and, for that reason, I had no conception of conditions west of Irkutsk. As I had to go to Omsk, I decided to find out, if I could, the sentiment of the people toward the Omsk regime. Ambassador Morris had his own interpreter and I had mine, and we decided to have them go separately and talk to the people when our train stopped for any purpose. All sidings at stations were filled with trains loaded with refugees from some place in Western Siberia. I directed my interpreter to converse generally with the women, as I thought they might be more likely to talk than the men, and I kept notes of what the interpreter reported to me when he returned to the train.
From Vladivostok the railroad runs north along the coast, with Amur Bay on the west, and the hills rising close on the east. After about twenty miles we left the ocean.
The town of Nikolsk, about sixty miles from Vladivostok, is the junction point of the part of the Ussuri Railroad which runs to Habarovsk and the main line to Progranichnaya, where it connects with the Chinese Eastern running through Manchuria. Nikolsk is, for Siberia, a modern city with a normal population of about fifty thousand, and it was the Headquarters of an Army Corps in Czarist time.
Beyond Nikolsk, on the main line, there was a great deal of cultivated land, at least in the vicinity of the railroad, and it was estimated that over 80% of the country was under cultivation, the chief product being wheat.
At Progranichnaya, on the boundary between Siberia and Manchuria, there is a custom house, a railroad station, and only very small buildings. After leaving here, we travelled through Manchuria for nine hundred and twenty miles, and the country was extensively cultivated, to a greater or less extent, all the way to Harbin which is four hundred and eighty miles from Vladivostok.
When we reached Harbin on the 13th of July, we found the heat there very oppressive, but the city was very interesting, with a cosmopolitan normal population of about eighty thousand. The city is on the navigable Sungari River. Every nation is supposed to be represented at Harbin, where there were about thirty thousand Russians, and a portion of the city is occupied exclusively by the Chinese. The importance of Harbin is due, in a great measure, to the fact that it is the junction point between the Chinese Eastern and the South-ern Manchuria or Japanese railway to Mukden and Dairen. Due to the cosmopolitan population they. have many substantial business houses with extensive commercial connections in the city. Harbin is near the eastern part of a vast plain, extending westward, and this plain becomes much drier as one proceeds to the west. Parts of the plain are inhabited by nomads who move according to the needs of their stock animals.
Tsitsihar, about one hundred and seventy-five miles west of Harbin, is the principal town in Western Manchuria and has a normal population of about seventy thousand.
Manchuli, sometimes called Manchuria, is the station between Manchuria and Siberia and is four hundred and fifteen miles from Tsitsihar. At this point the Chinese Eastern joins the Trans-Baikal branch of the Trans-Siberian Railway. This junction is the centre for caravans carrying merchandise for long distances. The caravans are made up of horses and camels, and the camels are often hitched to large two wheeled carts.
Two hundred and thirty-five miles from Manchuria is Karimskaya, the nearest town to the junction point between the Chinese Eastern and the Amur railway, an all Siberian railway line, which runs northeast and north of the Amur River to Habarovsk and thence south to Vladivostok.
From Nikolsk to Karimskaya the railroad is only a single track but, from this point west, it is double tracked.
The most difficult section of the Trans-Siberian Rail-way to protect and keep in operation is said to be from Karimskaya to Irkutsk. This difficulty is due to the fact that the railroad must cross the Trans-Baikal plateau and go around the southern part of Lake Baikal. This necessitates passing through thirty-eight tunnels, which makes it difficult and expensive to maintain and protect, but engineers claim there is no alter-native route; besides the climate is extremely severe and few people live in this section, as July is the only month on the Trans-Baikal plateau that is free from frost.
Chita, at that time the domain of Semeonoff, is one hundred and forty miles from Karimskaya and normally had a population of about seventy-five thousand people.
At Verkhne-Udinsk, where the Headquarters and two battalions of the 27th Infantry were located, for the purpose of guarding a sector of the Trans-Baikal Railway assigned to the Americans to protect, we stopped for the day to see Colonel Morrow and to inspect his camp and his troops. The weather was delightful the day we were there and I was much pleased with the appearance of Colonel Morrow's camp and his command. There is an important caravan route across the great Mongolian desert extending from Kalgan to Verkhne-Udinsk. This route is constantly travelled by camel trains, and about forty days is required to make the trip.
The railroad reaches Lake Baikal about eighty miles from Vekhne-Udinsk and runs close to the shore for about one hundred and eighty miles. The lake is a beautiful body of water about four hundred miles long and varies from twenty to sixty miles in width, with an area of thirteen thousand squares miles. It is said to have the greatest deh of any fresh water lake in the world, and in many places this great deh extends almost to the shore of the lake. The extreme known depth is six thousand five hundred feet. The mountains surrounding the lake rise to a height of four thousand five hundred feet above sea level, while the lake is less than two thousand feet above sea level.
Irkutsk, the metropolis of central Siberia, situated on the Angara River forty miles from where the river leaves the lake, is the most interesting city in Siberia from a historical point of view. The Angara is the only outlet from Lake Baikal. In Czarist times the political and penal prisoners exiled to Siberia were generally assembled at Irkutsk and sent from there to various sections to be confined or to be kept under surveillance. The harsh measures used by the Czarist regime to keep these prisoners from escaping, had not entirely disappeared when I passed through Irkutsk. I saw about twenty prisoners with good sized chains fastened to their ankles and on the end of the chain a large ball was fastened, which it was necessary for the prisoner to carry over his arm, in order that he might walk. The railroad runs along the south side of the river, while the city is on the north side and the station and the city are connected by a pontoon bridge, held in place by strong guy ropes.
After leaving Irkutsk, we passed through a heavily wooded section for about four hundred miles, then emerged on to the great steppes of Siberia which begin soon after leaving Krasnoyarsk, which was established in 1628, on the banks of the Yenessei River. This was where boats started in summer with the produce of that section, for the mouth of the river on the Arctic Ocean, and thence to be transhipped to such countries as considered it profitable to send their ships to the mouth of the Yenessei to procure and handle this produce.
This town is remembered with great sadness as there was a prison camp for German and Austrian prisoners at Krasnoyarsk. I felt at the time that the treatment of these men was a disgrace to modern civilization, as the Russians could not feed them but would not give them their freedom. There was a young Swedish woman who lived in the town and devoted her entire time and energies to helping these poor unfortunates keep body and soul together.
At Krasnoyarsk I learned something of General Rozanoff with whom I was to try to work in Vladivostok. He was the man who, on March 27, 1919, issued instructions to his troops:
1. " In occupying the villages which have been occupied before by bandits (partisans) to insist upon getting the leaders of the movement, and where you can not get the leaders, but have sufficient evidence as to the presence of such leaders, then shoot one out of every ten of the people."
"If, when the troops go through a town, and the population will not inform the troops, after having a chance to do so, of the presence of the enemy, a monetary contribution should be demanded from all, unsparingly."
"The villages where the population meet our troops with arms, should be burned down and all the full grown male population should be shot; property, homes, carts, etc. should be taken for the use of the Army."
We learned that Rozanoff kept hostages and, for every supporter of his cause that met death, he would kill ten of the people kept as hostages. He spoke of these methods used in Krasnoyarsk as handling the situation with gloves, but declared his intention of taking off his gloves when he came to Vladivostok, and handling the situation without the consideration he had shown the people of Krasnoyarsk.
Such were the acts of Kolchak supporters, while being protected by the Allied military troops.
General Knox had stated to Major Slaughter that Admiral Kolchak wanted to send some man to Vladivostok of whom I would approve, and General Knox suggested that I ask for Rozanoff, as he was a " bully fellow." I told Major Slaughter that I was not interested in individuals, and the only hope I had was that Kolchak would send a man to Vladivostok who would follow the practices of civilized nations.
Rozanoff proved to be the third worst character known to me in Siberia, although he could never quite reach the plane occupied by Kalmikoff and Semeonoff.
The town of Tomsk is about sixty miles from the main line of the Trans-Siberian Railway, with a spur running from Taiga to Tomsk. I was particularly pleased with the beautiful location of Tomsk. This is called the educational centre of Siberia, and there is a well known university there, with very substantial buildings, but with no equipment in them at that time. The Governor of the province, who was a Kolchak appointee, met us and was very courteous, but when Mr. Morris asked him what the people thought of the Kolchak Government, his reply was, in effect, that the people had no confidence in the officials surrounding Kolchak.
During this entire trip, Mr. Morris and I had been getting, by personal conference and through our interpreters, information as to the attitude of the people toward the Kolchak Government.
On the day we left Tomsk, or the next day, Mr. Morris said to me:
"You and I have been much criticized because of our attitude towards the Kolchak regime; it has been repeatedly said we have the Far Eastern orientation and that if we would come West, we would find an entirely different situation after we left Irkutsk; and with all the people questioned by us and, through the interpreters, we have not found a single individual who spoke a good word for the Kolchak regime."
Mr. Morris and I, up to this time, had worked together very harmoniously and I felt that he had been very helpful to me and had seen the situation in Siberia exactly as I had.
Just before we got to Omsk, or when we arrived at Omsk, Mr. Morris received a telegram. After reading the telegram he said:
"Now, General, you will have to support Kolchak."
I replied that I had nothing from the War Department directing me to support Kolchak. He replied with what appeared to me as some asperity:
"The State Department is running this, not the War Department."
"The State Department is not running me."
I had felt that Mr. Morris had been remarkably fair and had been neutral in his handling of conditions that were submitted to him for his consideration, but his remark showed clearly that he had received some message indicating to him that the State Department was going to support or was supporting Kolchak. I feared this was going to at least mar the cordial cooperation of our work. By this time it was almost impossible to find a neutral in Siberia, and the sympathy of Mr. Morris in my efforts to be neutral, in a situation where neutrality was very difficult, was very much appreciated by me. Consul General Harris and Consul MacGowan were known to be very strong Kolchak supporters. So was the American Red Cross, but the other representatives of the United States, so far as I could tell, were trying to be neutral and I felt that I had the cordial cooperation of all the United States representatives, except the ones mentioned above.
It is sometimes puzzling to one who does not under-stand our system of Government, to understand how the State Department could be supporting Kolchak and the War Department not support him. I have never been satisfied in my own mind that President Wilson knew of the unneutral attitude of Consul General Harris in Siberia and approved of his attitude, but the President, as all knew, was fully occupied with the questions arising in the Peace Conference and could not give any of his personal attention to Siberia. It was apparent to me that Consul General Harris had the full support of the Russian section of the State Department, and I believe he had the support one step higher in the hierarchy of the State Department.
Whether this was known or not to the President, the reason for not issuing orders to me, as commander of the United States troops, to support Kolchak is apparent. To have ordered American troops to take sides in this internal conflict, which not only would have implied the use of force, but would have required the use of force, would have been an act of War. The Constitution of the United States provides:
"The Congress shall have power - to declare war; grant letters of marque and reprisal and make rules concerning caures on land and water."
The Executive was therefore powerless to direct the use of troops, and there can be no question but that President Wilson and the War Department expected me to remain neutral. This is shown by my original orders; by the directions from the Chief of Staff on March 28, 1919, to continue this policy until changed by. the President; and by the statement of the President, on June 26, 1919, in response to a Senate resolution concerning the American troops in Siberia, as follows:
"The instructions to General Graves direct him not to interfere in Russian affairs, but to support Mr. Stevens wherever necessary."
Could the intent, of our Government, so far as my action was concerned, be made any clearer than this?
Notwithstanding these instructions, the State Department representatives, or some of them, did not cease their efforts to discredit me and my work in Siberia. These statements are confirmed by the following communication sent to the Chief of Staff on November 22, 1919, and signed by Brigadier General Marl-borough Churchill, Director Military Intelligence:
"After conference with the Russian Division of the State Department I believe the State Department is of the opinion that General Graves' instructions from the Secretary of War, to steady any efforts at self-government or self-defense in which the Russians themselves may be willing to accept assistance was ample authority for him to do everything practicable to steady the Kolchak Government. Kolchak has not been recognized by this Government, but the notes of May 26 and June 12, clearly indicate the Allied and Associated Powers have agreed to extend to Admiral Kolchak and his associates a certain amount of sup-port. In spite of this, the diplomatic papers signed by the President of United States are of the greatest importance."
The two notes referred to by General Churchill were never sent to me. I could not have changed my policy if they had been sent to me, because I had specific instructions " not to interfere in Russian affairs " until these orders were changed by the President and I was in touch with the War Department by cable every day.
Why was General Churchill selected as the messenger to convey the supposed opinions of the State Department? He was not the man to whom the State Department should convey their views as to the policy I was following. The facts of the matter are, the State Department, as represented by Mr. DeWitt C. Poole, had found an underling in the War Department who was willing to attem to help him discredit the work of the Military in Siberia.
As a further justification of my statement, while still in Siberia, I was informed by Mr. Frazier Hunt, a prominent newspaperman who is probably more prominent now, that, when he was in the State Department to see about going to the Far East, a representative of the Department had spoken in a very discredit-able way about me and my work in Siberia. Mr. Hunt said he thought I ought to know this and that, as he expressed it, he expected to find that I was a terrible " dub." In his later articles, he spoke in a very complimentary way of the attitude and work of the United States troops in Siberia.
Again, a Major-General United States Army now retired, told me that he was approached by a representative of the State Department who said they were going to relieve me from command in Siberia, and " how would he like the place? " This State Department representative must have known that as long as Secretary Baker and General March were in office at the War Department, the State Department would not select the Commander of American troops and I can only consider this act as a cheap political effort to try to secure the support of this officer in the attem to have me relieved.
The objection of the State Department to me could not have been based upon personal grounds, because I did not know them. By elimination, one can only arrive at the conclusion that the representative of the State Department, who was so active in a War Department question, hoped to get a commander in Siberia who would disregard not only his orders but the Constitution of the United States and use the American troops to help Kolchak, some of whose military adherents were committing acts that were a disgrace to civilization.
The memorandum of General Churchill, conveying what he believed to be the views of the State Department, finally was acted upon by the War Department and an officer of the General Staff was ordered to re-port whether or not I had complied with my orders in Siberia.
Before this report was prepared, an officer of the Army gave a dinner or a luncheon at the Metropolitan Club at which Mr. Poole, some British officers, and the officer who was to write the memorandum were guests. I am not informed as to other guests. One officer of the Army has officially characterized this dinner as a conference. The officer who was to write the memorandum said that at this conference he formed the impression, " that the British officers and our own State Department representatives present at the conference, felt that General Graves had, by his refusal to take sides in the Kolchak-Bolshevik affair, not carried out his instructions." 'With this background, the General Staff officer was supposed to be ready to write his report.
As this officer was required to report as to whether or not I had complied with my orders, one would naturally think it would be necessary for him to know what my orders were. The State Department and the War Department did not look at it in that way or, at least, this officer had to write the report as to whether or not I had complied with my orders without ever seeing them.
Based upon this report, Major General Haan, Di-rector 'War Plans Division, on December 15, 1919, stated in part as follows :
"It should be noted that nothing in all the instructions issued authorizes the Commanding General of the American Forces in Siberia to employ his forces in combat against any Russian force. Even the agreement to support Admiral Kolchak does not imply opposition to his enemies by force of arms. The principle of non-interference in Russian internal affairs, limits the activities of the American forces in Siberia to guarding supplies, to keeping the lines of communication open, and to supporting Mr. Stevens.
"General Graves has apparently carried out these instructions under difficult circumstances and has refrained from interfering in Russian internal affairs. It is believed that he has a clear understanding of his mission.
"There are indications, however, that the State Department feels that the support of Kolchak implied opposition to Kolchak's enemies in every way except by the use of armed forces on the fighting fronts.
"This would seem to indicate somewhat of a change in policy by the State Department from the policy heretofore mentioned of. non-interference in Russian internal affairs."
After I returned from Siberia and obtained the book, " Russian American Relations, March 1917 - March 1920. Documents and Papers," I learned for the first time what the notes of May 26 and June 12, 1919, mentioned by General Churchill, referred to. In the note to Admiral Kolchak of May 26, the United States, England, France, Italy, and Japan all stated:
"We are therefore disposed to assist the government of Admiral Kolchak and his associates with munitions, supplies, and food, to establish themselves as the Government of all Russia, provided we receive from them definite guarantees that their policy has the same object in view as the Allied and Associated Powers."
The note of June 12 was to Admiral Kolchak, notifying him that the United States, England, France, and Japan were willing to extend to him:
" The support set forth in the original letter."
It will be noticed that this offer of assistance ex-tended only to furnishing Kolchak with, " food, munitions and supplies," none of which carried with it military support and therefore, I, as Commander of the American troops, was not concerned. Why were these notes mentioned in any criticism of my actions?
General Churchill did not give the contents of the notes, but left the inference that if the contents were known there would exist a cause for criticism. This procedure was unworthy of an officer occupying an important position in the War Department, and a most unusual action for an army officer.
The report of General Haan seems very clear to me, except the part that says the State Department feels that I should have used American troops against Kolchak's enemies, except on the fighting front. I could not help or harm Kolchak, except by the use of American troops and my only authority or responsibility was with such troops. I had no political or welfare responsibility; I had no financial or economic responsibility except the responsibility imposed upon all commanding officers of American troops by law and regulations of the War Department. All of these facts were known in the State Department.
As conditions were in Siberia, the use of the words, " Fighting front " was indefinite and inappropriate. The fighting that occurred in Eastern Siberia was con-fined to the efforts of considerable groups of peasants and workers some of whom were probably led by the Bolsheviks and known as " partisans," to protect them-selves and their families from the atrocities committed by the Kolchak troops.
The next place of interest, after leaving Taiga, was Novo-Nicolaevsk, now called Novo-Sibirsk. This town is on the Obi River and was of small importance except for its river connections with Southern Siberia and the Arctic Ocean. The Soviets have made this town the Capital of this vast agricultural area and it is known as the Chicago of Siberia.
The next city was Omsk, where Kolchak had his Headquarters. This town is on the Irtish River and was founded in 1717. The Soviets have also made Omsk the economic centre of a large district.
When our train arrived at Omsk, Mr. Morris and Mr. Harris walked up and down the platform, evidently discussing the situation, and when Mr. Morris returned to the train he said:
"Harris says no one can get along with you."
Mr. Harris was at Omsk and I was at Vladivostok, thirty seven hundred miles away. His duties were imposed upon him by the State Department; T had nothing to do with the duties of Mr. Harris and he had nothing to do with my duties and if we ever had any personal differences I knew nothing of it. Mr. Harris would not have made this remark if I had been using American troops as the British, French, and Japanese were using their troops in the support of Admiral Kolchak.
What Consul General Harris meant was to tell the Ambassador, in an offensive way, that no one could force me to support Admiral Kolchak. The resort to the use of abuse and misrepresentation of those who would not follow their bidding, was characteristic of the autocratic Russians surrounding the Admiral and with whom Consul General Harris found his congenial associates.
After the arrival of Ambassador Morris, one of the members of the Kolchak regime said:
"Soukine drew up another recei for the saving of Russia: we are on the threshold of recognition."
Soukine was reported as frequently saying to the ministers that Kolchak was now going to be recognized by other Governments, and every evening the Kolchak ministers were meeting to discuss the questions to be discussed at the formal conference of Allied representatives and the Kolchak ministers the next after-noon.
The question of financing and building up the rail-roads in Siberia was an important question for discussion between the Allied representatives and the Russians. Colonel Emerson was in Omsk at that time and told me the Russians did not know what they had. He told me that one day the Russians asked for some material, I think it was copper, and he knew where there was enough of that material along the Trans-Siberian Railway to meet their needs for 40 years. At this meeting he told the Russians they did not need any of this material, and they assumed their usual attitude of resentment towards him.
Mr. Morris is reported as saying:
"If the Omsk Government will make a stand, we will probably recognize you."
General Knox knew the morale, strength, and in-efficiency of the Kolchak troops much better than Ambassador Morris and said:
"That no form of military assistance would his Government give, and that he would not even communicate with London about it, as what they had been furnishing was falling into the hands of the Reds."
In order to determine whether the Kolchak troops were able to make a stand in August, 1919, I will try to analyse the official reports made to me. One report read:
"It is estimated that on July i, outside the office holding and military class, the Omsk Government had less than i % of followers. It was estimated that the Red followers were about 45 %, Social Revolutionists about 40%, with about 1o% divided among other parties, giving 5% to the military, office-holders and Kolchak followers."
From this period on, even to the fall of the Omsk Government, Kolchak's Army represented a retreating mob.
It should be remembered that Ambassador Morris did not reach Omsk to begin his conference until three weeks after the report above quoted was made. The Kolchak troops had been defeated before Tchelyabinsk and had reported that they were going to be withdrawn to the Ishim River, and reorganize and reform the line extending along this river, from Ishim on the north, to Petropavlosk on the south, (a distance of one hundred and ten miles) with a view to starting an offensive on September i, an offensive that had for its objective, " to drive the Bolsheviks into the Volga River."
The reports handed out for public consumion were that General Pepelaieff had under him in the north, or right of the line, 20,000 men; General Lokvitsky, in the centre, had 31,000 men; and General Sakharoff, on the south, the left of the line, had under him 50,ooo men.
As I was in Omsk at this time and had nothing to do, I went to General Dietrichs, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian forces, and asked to go to Petropavlosk to witness the mobilization. He informed me that there was great congestion at Petropavlosk due to the mobilization and to the contemplated visit of Kolchak, and he suggested that I go to Ishim on the north and ask the Russian commander for an escort and cars, and go by motor from Ishim to Petropavlosk and I would see the whole thing. This suggestion of General Dietrichs pleased me very much.
As Mr. Morris and I lived in the same car it was necessary for me to make arrangements for my trip to Ishim, about 16o miles from Omsk. I went to Colonel Emerson and asked him to take his private car and go to Ishim with us, which he kindly consented to do. He had a train made up, consisting of cars for the sleeping and feeding of twenty or thirty American soldiers, a flat car with my government Cadillac. on it, and his railroad car.
We left about 8 o'clock in the morning and about 11 o'clock were put on a siding and left there. No one could or would give us any information as to why we were held up. Colonel Emerson could not get our train moved even though he was First-Assistant to Mr. Stevens, who was supposed to be in charge of the technical operation of the railroad. About sunset our train started. They kept stopping us, and it resulted in our taking thirty-two hours to go one hundred and sixty miles.
About four hours before we arrived at Ishim, we were stopped at a small town, and a number of Kolchak officers appeared and told a corporal in charge of the train-guard that they had to take our train for military purposes, and were very sorry that we would have to get out. This corporal decided he could handle that situation without reporting to me and, in fulfillment of that idea, he ordered his guard to load their rifles and notified those Russian officers that, " if they started anything there would be more dead Russian officers in that town than they had even seen." This resulted in our moving on toward Ishim. After leaving the town, the interpreter came and reported the conversation between the corporal and the Russian officers, but the corporal never reported the occurrence to me. We finally arrived at Ishim at 4 P.M., on the second day after leaving Omsk.
When I got off the car at Ishim, as I expected, the ubiquitous English officer appeared to tell me what I should and should not do. An English officer seemed to be always present with any Kolchak troops and this particular Englishman, named Captain Murray, said:
"General, I beg of you not to go across there, as the Bolsheviks will caure you, and that will spoil all we have accomplished over here."
This seemed a remarkable statement for two reasons:
First - How and why did Captain Murray know that I contemplated going to Petropavlosk by motor? Manifestly, they had been notified from Omsk and this was the first open attem to keep me from observing at first hand the reported mobilization.
Second - How was I in danger of caure by Bolsheviks, in going along a line reported to me by General Dietrichs, Kolchak commander, as being occupied by Kolchak troops? We would have been rather stupid if we had not sensed something wrong.
Captain Murray kindly offered to see the Russian commander and see when I could call on him. He re-turned and said the Russian commander had directed him to tell me that he was taking a nap and he would see me when he had finished his nap. This message was tantamount to a notification to me that he was hostile to me and to my visit. After receiving this message, my natural inclination was to ignore this Russian commander, but I realized that every official representative in Omsk, Russian and Allied, was hostile to my actions in Siberia and unfavourable to me personally and this made it necessary for me to follow every well recognized custom. I decided I had to call on this Russian commander, or I would be put on the defensive.
I started out with Colonel Emerson, Major Slaughter, and my interpreter, to make my official call. The Russian commander was living in a train, which we did not find where Captain Murray had told us it was located. We eventually located the train and were ushered into the presence of the Russian commander. His manner was exceedingly unfriendly. I asked him for an escort, and told him I was directed to do so by General Dietrichs. He replied that he had no soldiers he could trust as an escort for me. I then asked him if he would let me have the motor cars General Dietrichs told me I could have and he replied that he could not let me have any cars. I then asked him if there were any cars in the town of Ishim that we could hire to take us to Petropavlosk. He replied, " Yes, but you will not get them." In the meantime, this Russian had sent for a glass of tea and sat there and drank it in our presence without asking us to join him, so we arose, said " Good-bye ", and left him.
The action of this Russian showed conclusively that conditions somewhere were not as represented and we were not to see the real condition, but we had suspected this reported Russian Army was more or less a myth.
On the return to our train, we decided to take my automobile, which was a seven passenger car, and go to Petropavlosk regardless of the grave danger of which Captain Murray had notified us, and Colonel Emerson, Major Slaughter, the interpreter, the chauffeur and one soldier and I left for Petropavlosk at 7 P.M., August 14. We were all armed with pistols except the soldier who had a rifle. The car had the American flag fastened to the radiator as well as the flag carried by a Major General.
The road from Ishim to Petropavlosk was reported as being a highway, but we found the highway differed from other country roads by being marked by two fur-roughs, about eighty feet apart, and these two fur-roughs were only helpful in indicating the road to Petropavlosk. We had gone only sixty-three miles when night began to approach and, as we thought it inadvisable to travel at night, we drove into an oatfield and waited for daylight. This was an uncomfortable night, and rest was impossible, due to the mosquitoes.
About 2 A.M., a Russian appeared mounted on horse-back, and asked who we were and what we were doing there. I told the interpreter to tell him everything he wanted to know. The Russian then extended to us an invitation to go to his village and spend the night there, and stated his village would consider it a great honour to entertain an American General. I expressed our thanks to him and through him to the other people of his village, but told him we had to move on as soon as daylight came, which would not be long. He seemed satisfied and left.
As soon as we could safely continue our journey we did so, arriving at the village on the banks of the Ishim River a little after sunrise, where we had been told we would cross the river. We stopped in the village to obtain information about crossing the river and in a few moments the car was surrounded by men, women, and children. Before leaving Ishim, I had filled my pockets with Hershey's chocolate bars, which we had brought along in case we should need them. I distributed this candy to the women and children; which seemed to please them immensely. We could discover no unfriendly attitude, in fact, there were everywhere, the most friendly and cordial expressions. I asked a woman, who seemed to be the representative of the village, how we could get across the river and she directed a man to go with us and show us where we could cross. The river was probably three hundred yards wide at this point. The natives had stretched a cable across the stream, had built a raft that would hold a pony and cart, and by means of the cable they pulled themselves and their produce from one side of the river to the other. There was some anxiety as to whether the raft would hold the automobile, but we decided it would and, after we all got out of the car, the chauffeur drove on, and the car seemed safe. The Russian was told we would return that afternoon and he promised if the raft was on his side of the river when we returned he would pull it over. We all em-barked, took hold of the cable and pulled ourselves to the opposite side of the river.
This village was thirty miles from Petropavlosk, where we arrived about to o'clock. We had been looking for the Kolchak Army but had seen only three Russian soldiers on the trip. The Russian Commander at Petropavlosk had not been notified of our expected visit, as they had expected to block us at Ishim. When I met this Russian General, he threw his arms around me and was very hospitable. I asked him where his troops were and he said that he had none. I asked him how they expected to start an offensive in two weeks if they had no troops there. He said that if an offensive was contemplated I knew more about it than he did.
We went to the station at Petropavlosk to see if we could discover the congestion General Dietrichs had told me existed there. There was evidence of some soldier shipments in excess of needs for a small garrison but not enough to be characterized as congestion and, it was evident to me, that a fraud was being practiced in the representations as to the forces of Kolchak. This representation was part of the scheme to get money from the United States to help Kolchak destroy bolshevism.
On our return to Ishim, we found the raft still on our side of the river and by the time we had pulled ourselves across, the majority of the people in the village had assembled to meet us. The priest asked us to go to his house and have some wine and cake in order that the people might have an opportunity to meet us and we accepted the invitation. I asked this priest about the Bolsheviks; he said there were rumours that they were expected, but he did not know. We spent about an hour at the priest's house and there was certainly nothing but the most kindly feeling towards us by the people of that village.
The British Captain did not meet us upon our return to Ishim and neither were we delayed on our return trip to Omsk. The day I got back to Omsk, I went to see General Dietrichs and asked for an explanation of this unusual representation to me and he said that I had gone the wrong way as the Kolchak Army was about ten miles to the west of where I had been. I called General Dietrichs' attention to the statement of the Russian Commander at Petropavlosk that there were no troops in that section. His reply was that this man did not have sense enough to know anything.
That statement would only satisfy a man who wanted to be deceived, and the evidence was of such a nature as to convince everyone, except Consul General Harris, that the fall of the Kolchak Government was imminent.
On August 7, prior to my trip to Ishim, I cabled the War Department from Omsk:
"The Kolchak forces are still retreating and it looks as if the demoralization is such that the hope of re-forming the Army and renewing the offensive must be based upon the weakness of the Bolsheviks, and lack of their desire to come to Omsk, which I cannot assume to be the case. Well authenticated reports justify the statement that officers are leaving the troops and fleeing to the rear, staff officers preceding line officers in this flight, soldiers are throwing away their arms and ammunition and in some cases their heavy clothing so as to enable them to move more rapidly to the rear. I have been unable to discover any enthusiasm for the Kolchak Government."
On August 1o, Colonel Sargent, who had command in Vladivostok during my absence in Omsk, cabled the War Department:
"General Gaida arrived Vladivostok from Omsk eighth instant, in an interview he stated substantially as follows : - ` The Kolchak Government cannot possibly stand and if the Allies support him they will make the greatest mistake in history. The Government is divided into two distinct parts, one issues proclamation and propaganda for foreign consumion stating that the Government favors and works for a constituent assembly, other part secretly plans and plots a restoration of monarchy. This is perceible only to those who are part of the Government. It is a hypocritical government which attems to convince the peasants that their cause is being fostered and yet looks for the psychological moment to restore monarchy. Kolchak has surrounded himself with old regime officers whose only salvation for future existence depends on restoration of monarchy.' "
On August 18, after my return from Ishim, I re-ported by cable as follows :
"Admiral Kolchak had told Ambassador Morris that the Siberian Army was withdrawing to Ishim river and would reform there and make stand against Bolsheviks. On way to Ishim we met approximately thirty trains which had been used for evacuation purposes. All trains had many soldiers on them who were evidently returning from the front. We estimated that we had seen five thousand soldiers. Some few rifles could be seen, but it was evident these soldiers were not organized, but were returning as individuals. Some Semipalitinsk Cossacks arrived at. Petropavlosk overland from Ekaterinburg. I talked to them and they said that the Infantry of the Kolchak Army would not fight and the Cossacks were tired of doing all the fighting and were on their way home."
In a written report made September 26, after my return to Vladivostok, I stated, in part:
"The fact that Kolchak forces had melted away was confirmed by many people later seen at Omsk.
Colonel Grey, who commanded a storming brigade of Kolchak troops, told us of the condition in the Russian forces and his descriion of these conditions, could hardly have been worse. He stated that there had been hardly any fighting for nearly six weeks, that the Army had disintegrated, and the men had become worse in their treatment of the inhabitants than the Bolsheviks had ever been; that practically every soldier had a horse and cart which he had taken from the peasants; that soldiers requisitioned whatever they wanted, some times giving a recei but more often not."
This statement referred to the period near August 20, although my report was not made until my return to Vladivostok. In that written report of September 26, I stated :
"As another indication of the belief of the people, General Ivanoff-Rinoff came to see me at Omsk and told me as soon as they checked the Bolsheviks the entire personnel of Kolchak's ministers would have to be changed; that they had no point of contact with the people; that the people had no confidence in the ministers, and Kolchak would have to get rid of them."
In this connection I asked Ivanoff-Rinoff if they were going to permit Kolchak to remain in power, and he replied, " Yes, if he is willing to meet the wishes of the people."
I considered this a most remarkable statement, as Ivanoff-Rinoff was a part of Kolchak's administration and was head of all Siberian Cossacks. This statement bordered on disloyalty as Ambassador Morris, with whom I came to Omsk, was looking into the power and capacity of the Kolchak Government with a view to recommending to the United States Government as to the advisability of recognizing Kolchak.
The day after Ivanoff-Rinoff's visit, I witnessed a ceremony in the Russian Church, where Admiral Kolchak promoted Ivanoff-Rinoff to the grade of Lieutenant-General, kissed him on the cheeks, pro-claimed him as a Russian patriot and presented him with a gold sword.
These were Russian ways which probably could not be duplicated in any other country in the world. It was not possible for me to see how Kolchak could hope to succeed by the use of military forces, when his adherents were treating as they were the military men fighting for his cause, and the potential military who were being mobilized. The treatment of the peasants 'who were being mobilized has been previously referred to.
While at Omsk, we heard of a train that had arrived at Kolumzino, just across the river from Omsk. Ambassador Morris, Colonel Emerson, and I went to see. the condition of the men from the front who were re-ported as being typhus patients. We found these sick and wounded had been put into box cars without any accommodations of any kind. Many of these men were too ill to help themselves and there was only one nurse to five or six hundred men. There were no arrangements for food and only a very limited quantity of water carried in canteens. No help was provided for the seriously sick in attending to the calls of nature.
We looked into the first box car and saw two dead men in the car and a third was dying, while a sick comrade held his head and tried to give him a drink of water. Many of the sick had mustered sufficient strength to crawl out of the cars, but this effort exhausted them and they were sprawled on the ground by the train, a helpless mass of humanity.
As these soldiers had practically given their lives fighting for the Kolchak cause, one would have expected that some supporters of Kolchak, men or women, or both, would have been present to give comfort and assistance to those helpless, dying men. It was a pitiful sight to see these unfortunates, with no one trying to help them.
When we returned to Omsk, Colonel Emerson and I walked to the park. There was a band playing and we estimated that there were about a thousand people dancing. This gay crowd was not more than twenty minutes travel from where the soldiers were dying, undoubtedly many from neglect.
During our stay in Omsk, Ambassador Morris seemed to believe that there was some hope of pacifying Siberia by helping Kolchak, but I never saw any practical way of restoring order through the medium of Kolchak supporters. The trip to Omsk had not changed my views, in fact, after the trip I had more confidence in my estimate of Kolchak's strength, than I had before, because I was no longer fooled by the reports as to the attitude of the people west of Lake Baikal.
There were conflicting reports as to the recommendations of Ambassador Morris on the question of recognition. I saw in the public press of the United States that he had recommended recognition.
The information I received from Omsk, which I considered very reliable as it came direct from Soukine, Kolchak's Foreign Minister, was to the effect that Mr. Morris had recommended recognition, but only if the United States was willing to send twenty-five thousand soldiers to Siberia to replace the Czechs and provide financial assistance to Kolchak to the amount of two hundred million dollars. I feel confident that these conditions were attached to the Ambassador's recommendation.
Mr. Soukine told my informant that Kolchak was in no position to enforce the Railway Agreement unless the United States recognized Kolchak, provided financial assistance to the extent of two hundred million dollars, and sent twenty-five thousand American soldiers to replace the Czechs. He further stated that Mr. Morris had agreed not to make an issue of their failure to enforce the Inter-Allied Railway Agreement until the final decision was made in Washington as to recognition, financial assistance, and the sending of American troops. Anyone knowing the sentiment of the Congress of the United States at that time, would consider such a conditional recommendation for recognition as equivalent to a recommendation for non-recognition.
In any event, and fortunately for the United States, Kolchak was not recognized. In my judgement, at no period of Kolchak's regime would recognition have been of any service to him.
The ambassador and I left Omsk for Vladivostok about the loth of August. We stopped at Novo-Nicolaevsk, Irkutsk, Verkhne-Udinsk, and Harbin. Nothing of interest happened until we reached Semeonoff's territory. By this time it was well known that Semeonoff had established what were known as his " killing stations " and had openly boasted that he could not sleep at night when he had not killed some one during the day.
We stopped at a small station and two American Russian Railway Service Corps men got on our train and told us of the killing by Semeonoff soldiers, two or three days before our arrival, of a trainload of Russians consisting of three hundred and fifty people. I do not remember if there were only men in the train, or if there were men and women. These two Americans stated substantially as follows:
"The trainload of prisoners passed the station and it was generally known in the station that they were to be killed. The Service Corps men started to go to the place of execution but were stopped by Semeonoff's soldiers. In one hour and fifty minutes the emy train returned to the station. The following day these two men went out to the killing place, and saw evidences of the wholesale execution and it was evident from the shells on the ground that the prisoners had been killed with machine guns, as the emy shells were in piles just as if they had been ejected from machine guns. The bodies had been placed in two ditches which had been freshly dug. In one ditch the bodies were entirely covered, in the other ditch many arms or legs were left uncovered."
I was given an affidavit by one of these Service Corps men as to this occurrence but can not locate it in my papers, although what I have stated above is substantially what was in the affidavit.
During my trip to and from Omsk, I had an opportunity to talk to many of Mr. Stevens' assistants, relative to the operation of the railroad and the rail-road agreement. I reported to Washington :
"I formed the impression from talking with American Railway Service Corps representatives that our railway men are accomplishing very little. They are advising the Russian railway people but have no power to see that their suggestions are followed. Mr. Morris thinks they are accomplishing something and that the obstacles can be removed, I, however, do not believe this can be done as long as Kolchak is in power.
"The Russian military practically control the rail-roads. They do this by station commandants and regional boards. These officials will not let anything go to regions not known to be pro-Kolchak, and justify their actions by the old claim of Bolshevism.
"The railroad agreement contemplates the operation of the railroad by the Technical Board provided in the Allied agreement."
These military officials were Kolchak appointees, and he would not remove them although the railroad was permeated with scandal and graft. Colonel Ernerson told me these station commandants were demanding forty thousand roubles in addition to the regular freight charges for a box car from Vladivostok to Omsk.
A Russian general at Vladivostok gave up a position on the Trans-Baikal Railroad that paid him three thousand roubles per month, on the ground that he and his family could not live on that, and came to Vladivostok and took a position on the regional board with-out any salary attached to it.
When I was in Irkutsk, I was told by Colonel Lan-try, Mr. Stevens' second assistant, that there were thirteen thousand and five hundred tons of merchandise at Irkutsk and twenty-seven thousand tons at Stretinsk, for shipment to various points in Siberia. This merchandise consisted, to a large extent, of pickled fish, put up in kegs, which is a staple food for the poor Russian and is very much desired by them. This regional board refused to let him move a pound of this fish. I was later informed by Colonel Lantry that practically all of this fish spoiled and had to be thrown in the river.
At this same time salmon, canned on the Amur River by Sale & Frazar, a firm doing business in Tokyo, Japan, was shipped through these towns without question. The canned salmon was much more expensive and not so much desired by the poor people. The reason these regional boards at Irkutsk and Stretinsk would not let Colonel Lantry ship this fish was, of course, because no one would bribe them to let it be shipped. The members of these regional boards, who were Kolchak military representatives, were indifferent as to the needs of the poor people.
It is my judgment, the President of the United States would never have entered into the Inter-Allied Rail-road Agreement without a belief that this agreement would bring relief to the Russian people, regardless of their political affiliations. This could not be accomplished in Siberia. All Allied representatives and the United States State Department representatives were solidly behind Admiral Kolchak and the more hopeless the cause of Kolchak became the more bitter his sup-porters became towards everyone who did not assist him.
The United States, England, France, and Japan might have put enough money into Siberia to keep the railroads running and enough soldiers to guard it, all for the benefit of Kolchak, but at this time, after the terrible excesses committed by his supporters, and others who claimed to support him, no power on earth could have driven the peasant to support his cause.
Another great injustice to the workmen on the rail-road was due to the fall in the value of the rouble from ten cents, in September, 1918, to almost nothing, without increasing the number of roubles paid them for their service. I estimated the salaries of the train-men, at one period of Kolchak's power and, including conductors, engineers, and trainmen, it was three dollars and seventy-five cents per month. This was the average, some a little less and some a little more. This was better than nothing, and if they left the railroad they could get no other work. In one case, the men struck for higher wages, the Kolchak management called it bolshevistic, and executed some of the leaders of the strike.
I doubt if history will show any country in the world during the last fifty years where murder could be committed so safely, and with less danger of punishment, than in Siberia during the regime of Admiral Kolchak. As an example of the atrocities and lawlessness in Siberia, there was a typical case in Omsk, Kolchak's Headquarters, on December 22, 1918, just one month and four days after Kolchak assumed power as " Supreme Ruler." On this date, there was an uprising of workmen in Omsk against the Kolchak Government. The revolutionaries were partly successful, opened the jail and permitted two hundred prisoners to escape.
Among these, one hundred and thirty-four were political prisoners including several members of the Constituent Assembly. The day this occurred, the Kolchak Military Commander at Omsk issued an order calling upon all who had been released to return to jail, and stated, that in case of failure to return within twenty-four hours, they would be shot on sight. All members of the Constituent Assembly and some other prominent political prisoners returned to confinement. During the night some Kolchak officers took the members of the Constituent Assembly from the jail, telling them they were taking them to a place of trial for their alleged offenses, and shot and killed all of them. Nothing was done to the officers for this brutal and illegal murder. As conditions were in Siberia, such atrocities could be easily concealed from the world.
The foreign press was constantly being told that the Bolsheviks were the Russians who were committing these terrible excesses, and propaganda had been used to such an extent that no one ever believed that atrocities were being committed against the Bolsheviks.
Colonel Morrow, in command of American troops in the Trans-Baikal sector, reported a most cruel, heartless, and almost unbelievable murder of an entire village by Semeonoff. When his troops reached the village, the inhabitants apparently tried to escape by flight from their homes, but the Semeonoff soldiers shot them down, men, women, and children, as if they were hunting rabbits, and left their bodies where they were killed. They shot, not one, but everyone in the village.
Colonel Morrow induced a Japanese and a French-man to go with the American Army officer to investigate this wholesale murder, and what I have just stated is substantially what was contained in a report signed by the American, the Frenchman, and the Japanese. In addition to the above stated executions these officers reported that they found the bodies of four or five men who had evidently been burned alive.
Naturally, people wondered what could be the object of such terrible murders. The object is similar to the reason why men in charge of prison camps keep bloodhounds, and employ other means to terrorize prisoners, with a view to deterring them from trying to escape. In Siberia the people who were victimized were not prisoners, but the people responsible for the terrors were determined that all Russians should, at least, act as if they were whole-heartedly supporting Kolchak's cause. This treatment sometimes succeeds to the extent of temporarily preventing the real sentiment of the people. from being known. This was the case in Siberia, and I am convinced that the American people know nothing of these terrible conditions.