It was on April 23, 1920 that General William S. Graves and the last of his remaining staff departed Vladivostok by boat, bound for the United States. Most of the 8,000 troops under his command in Vladivostok had left Russia weeks earlier, on April 1, an occasion the New York Times acknowledged briefly in its April 10 edition.
“The last American troops left a week ago. During their stay in Siberia they were attacked viciously by much of the Russian press and regarded with some suspicion by many intelligent Russians. This was due in part to the unfortunate character of their instructions, which kept them from doing anything useful, and in part to a deliberate and malicious foreign propaganda.”
Thus ended an episode in U.S.-Russia relations of which few Americans are aware, as it is generally not taught in schools, when Woodrow Wilson, in an ill-defined and ill-fated effort to thwart the Bolshevik takeover of Russia and support a few other Allied goals at the tail end of World War 1, sent Graves and his men to the far west of Russia in August of 1918, and 5,000 troops to the north east of Russia in Arkhangelsk the following month.
Russians have not forgotten this uninvited military intervention in their affairs. Nikita Kruschev mentioned it during his famous visit to the United States in 1959, as the Cold War was peaking.
Speaking to a group of studio executives at Twentieth Century Fox, the then-Soviet premier reminded his hosts that remember that the Soviet people were well aware of their history.
They also remember that in the hard time after the October Revolution, U.S. troops led by their generals landed on Soviet soil to help the White Guards fight our Soviet system. And they were not the only ones to land. The Japanese landed too, the French landed in Odessa and the Germans advanced as far as the Soviet Caucasus. The armed forces of bourgeois Poland seized Kiev. The British, too, landed their forces to fight us. Many European capitalist countries, as well as the United States and Japan, sent their troops into an offensive against the young Soviet state in an effort to strangle our Revolution.
Your armed intervention in Russia was the most unpleasant thing that ever occurred in the relations between our two countries, for we had never waged war against America until then; our troops have never set foot on American soil, while your troops have set foot on Soviet soil.
Read America’s Siberian Adventure (1931), by William S. Graves, in its entirety here.
For much more insight into Woodrow Wilson and his motivation for this intervention, see Tariq Ali and William A. Williams on the subject here at the Raucous Rooster. See also Lenin’s Dilemma by Tariq Ali (2017).
Read When the U.S. Invaded Russia by Jeff Klein at Consortium News.
Read The Forgotten Story of the American Troops Who Got Caught Up in the Russian Civil War at the Smithsonian magazine online.
See also The Midnight War by Richard Goldhurst (1978), and When the United States Invaded Russia by Carl J. Richard (2013)