Interventionists in the Far East


Japanese troops, assisted by the British, French and Americans, occupied the Russian far east for several years during the Russian Civil War.

The Far East was to be occupied by a 25,000 man intervention force made up primarily of Japanese and Americans with token forces from the other allies. They began landing in Vladivostok in April 1918. The Americans sent 9,014 men titled the American Expeditionary Force Siberia under Major General WS Graves, made up of the 31st and 27th Infantry Regiments from the Philippines, part of the 8th Infantry Division and supporting units. The British sent two battalions who were joined by 10,700 French under General Maurice Janin who would command the entire expedition. Some 1,400 Italian troops rounded out the force.

Western Allies in Siberia

In Vladivostok the allies formed a base of operations to which the fledging White Army in Siberia rallied. They found there Major Gen. Sir Alfred William Fortescue Knox of the British Army, who had served as military attaché to the Tsar since 1911 and as the liaison with the Russian Army during the war, along with most of the other foreign military liaisons. Knox and company had beat feet from the crumbling Russian lines on the eastern front, staying one step ahead of both revolutionaries and Germans. They were instrumental in forming a liaison with the new White government. The Western Allies pushed from Vladivostok along the Trans-Siberian railway moved as far into Siberia as Chita, actively fighting the Reds while supporting the Whites. This expedition was able to assist most importantly with the removal of the Czech Legion as well as other allied military units trappd when world war one ended from Siberia. General Graves was very independent of Janin and Knox, determined to help the Czechs withdraw and not to embroil his men in Russia’s internal civil war. With that mission accomplished and the Whites in headlong retreat, most of the Allied forces withdrew from Siberia in April 1920. This force lost around 500 men combined, including 170 Americans.

Japanese in Siberia

The Japanese, asked to initially match the American commitment of 7,000, instead immediately sent 12,000 soldiers. They were to be under a unified command, but refused and were independent of the other allies and followed their own orders and agenda. The Japanese, who only thirteen years before had fought the Russians over Korea, had territorial designs on the crumbling Russian far east. The Japanese soon raised their forces to over 70,000 land troops under General K Otani plus a large naval detachment. Together with locally recruited auxiliaries including mercenary cossack bands of the warlord generals Semenov, Annekov and Kalmykov, the Japanese could count on some 120,000 armed men on the ground in Russia. When the Western Allies left Russia along with the Czech Legion in 1920 the Japanese remained in sole occupation. They continued a low-key warfare against Red partisan bands under Bolshevik commanders CM Leonardo, VK Blyuher, and I P Uborevich for two years while engaging the regular Red Army in artillery duels. The Japanese, who set up a puppet white government in the extreme maritime parts of eastern Siberia, did not withdrawal from mainland Russia until after pressure from the west in October 1922. Even after this, the Japanese maintained occupation of the Russian half of the north Pacific island of Sakhalin until 1925. The Japanese in this time period lost over 5,000 men to combat and disease.

Interventionists in minor theathers

In addition to the far east, the south ukraine and the north kola area, other smaller interventionist served in other regions. In the Caucasus this included the tiny 1300-man Dunsterforce assisted by last units of the Tsar’s army -General Baranov’s cavalry corps, and naval units on the Caspian Sea. In the summer of 1919 on Baltic Sea a flotilla of 55-foot British coastal motor boats sank the old cruiser Oleg, then raided the Red Navy base at Kronstadt, sinking the battleship Petropavlosk, the cruiser Paimiat Azova, and seriously damaged another Red battleship. The British Volunteer Tank Detachment, with 48 men and six tanks, fought with General Yudenich White’s in their attack on St Petersburg in 1919.