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polar bears monument 1000A monument for the Polar Bears stands at White Chapel cemetery in Troy. (Photo: David Guralnick, The Detroit News)

'Polar Bear' memorial in Troy marks a largely forgotten GI mission in WWI Russia

By Neal Rubin
via the Detroit News newspaper (MI) web site

Troy — The first 56 who lie buried near the marble statue of the polar bear died in Russia, where their government sent them to fight ghosts when the rest of the world was celebrating the end of the Great War.

The others, though — the ones who bought their burial plots close by, across a pathway from the Polar Bear Monument — were lucky enough to come home. And years later, when so many others had forgotten the sad and sorry story of the Polar Bear Expedition, they made the choice to lie forever near their brothers in shared misery.

The Polar Bears were some 5,000 soldiers of the American North Russian Expeditionary Forces, most of them from Michigan. They fought the Bolsheviks with guns and cannons in Russia's frozen northern reaches for seven deadly months after the November 1918 armistice that ended World War I.

Their mission was unclear, their president reluctant and their weaponry ill-suited for the conditions. Largely forgotten outside Metro Detroit, they were remembered at 11 a.m. Monday, May 27 in the 90th annual WWI Polar Bear Memorial Service in Troy.

Read the entire article on the Detroit News web site here:

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