The Polar Bear Expedition by James Carl Nelson

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for The Polar Bear Expedition:

We invaded Russia? We invaded Russia!

Quick synopsis:

Story of the Polar Bear Expedition, where the Allied Powers at the end of World War I invade near Archangel, Russia to…. well no one was quite sure what the hell they were doing there.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

Yeah, we actually invaded Russia and stayed there a bit after World War I ended. Who knew?!

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

This has to be one of the dumbest moves by a U.S. President ever. Woodrow Wilson eventually agreed to sending U.S. troops to Russia to protect military equipment and reopen the Eastern Front. Or maybe to fight the communists. Wilson’s orders are so horribly unclear no one was ever really sure.

My Take on The Polar Bear Expedition:

This whole scenario was so weird.

Americans sent to Russia to help end the war. The war ends and the Americans remain. Until people really start complaining and mutinying. This entire story is the archetype of the question, “Why the hell are we even here?”

Nelson moves through the episode pretty fast and covers seemingly all the major functions and units for the Americans. He adds some interesting anecdotes and really gives time to those who were killed during the battles.

Nelson definitely takes the time to show just how badly run the entire operation was while making sure the soldiers doing the fighting are seen as the heroes they are.

And another historical cliché is confirmed. Truth is stranger than fiction.


Good book on a little known event in history. Very high level, so it won’t satisfy military history buffs looking for tactical breakdowns, but still a great read. Buy it here!

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