In Caesar's Shadow: The Life of General Robert Eichelberger

By Paul Chwialkowski | Go to book overview

3
SIBERIA -- A PERSONALITY EMERGES

In July 1918, General Graves instructed Eichelberger to "cut orders" for their transfer to France and to "pick us out a division which will go soon." The two available units were the 6th and 8th Divisions; the 6th Division was scheduled to sail for France in three days, while the 8th Division (stationed in Palo Alto, California) was to leave in 30 days. Eichelberger selected the 8th Division. Two weeks later, as Eichelberger was en route to Palo Alto, he learned from Graves that their orders had unexpectedly been changed, and that they were to sail for Siberia instead. 1

The reasons for American intervention in Siberia were complex and controversial. In July 1918, the Allies were alarmed by the strength of the German offensives in France. They feared that the western front would collapse unless some efforts were made to restore the eastern front in Russia. The Russian Revolution and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918 eliminated Tsarist Russia as a fighting force in the East; the French and British feared that the growing power of the Bolsheviks would create a political atmosphere hostile to Allied military and economic interests. In order to preserve their economic claims and aid those elements willing to continue the war against Germany, the French and British planned armed expeditions into Russia and encouraged the Japanese to stake their claims in eastern Siberia. 2

The British used the Japanese as an excuse for American participation; they argued that American involvement was necessary to protect against Japanese threats to the Open Door Policy in China. The British added that American troops were needed to protect the "vast military stores [which] had been sent into Russia from the United States for the use of the Czarist government." For "humanitarian reasons," the French urged American intervention to protect 65,000 Czech soldiers (deserters from the Austro-Hungarian army and colonists from the old Russian Empire); the French claimed that this "Czech Legion" had been stranded in eastern Russia after the collapse of the Tsarist government, and

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