(From "In the World War")
State Historic Site
BY FEBRUARY 1919, twenty-six year old Clearmont farmer Arthur Louis Roebling had already been in the army for nine months. As part of the 44th Engineers and (later) the 148th Transportation Corps, he had served in both England and France. He was about to head even farther afield!
The Polar Bear Expedition - also known as the American North Russia Expeditionary Force - was a continent of about five thousand American troops who went to Arkhangelsk (Archangel), Russia, as part of the American intervention in the Russian Civil War of 1918. Corporal Roebling was one of these troops, whose primary job was to prevent stockpiles of Allied war materials - originally intended for the Eastern Front - from falling into the hands of Bolshevik revolutionaries.
Roebling made it back from Russia and was honorably discharged from the Army in August 1919. He returned to Clearmont where he lived and worked as a farmer/rancher until his death in 1965. He is buried the Sheridan Cemetery.
Dear Folks - Well, this don't seem like the last day of February to me. I really expected to be in the U. S. A. by that time, but now I don't think I will see that part of the world for a few months at the very least.
I am in St. Pierre Des Corps today on my way to northern Russia. This is our first move, and I don't think we will be here long, then to England where we will be equipped for our expedition. You no doubt have seen in the papers what the object of our expedition is, and I don't know how much I can tell regarding our trip, but I guess the censor will pass this much.
There are several others from around Clearmont going with me; when our government called for volunteers, Powder River was the first represented, same as in other cases. [Fred] Reinhart, who used to work for the Leiter Estate, Guy Drake of the X4 outfit, and myself are the only ones from the Clearmont vicinity, but many others from Wyoming are going, mostly from the Sweetwater country, and a goodly part from Alaska.
I expect to find it very cold at our destination (Archangel), I think, but I prefer cold from rain. It rains every day here and you can imagine conditions in general. But my nature naturally calls for a change all around and I think will be perfectly satisfied in Russia.
Well, there are not many of the boys left who came over with the old 44th Engineers, scattered all over France, and soon Russia, and I guess there are many friends of mine I won't get to see again. So for their benefit I wish you would publish this letter so they can communicate with me later.
Shortly before he left for Russia, Roebling had the opportunity to explore a little bit of France. Here are some of his impressions:
Today finds me back with my company again after visiting some of the sights of France. I was in Paris. I only stayed there one day, but surely had a good time! I spent most of my time in Cannes, surely a wonderful city on the Mediterranean Sea. I visited some of the most ancient buildings in the world. I sure filled up on oranges and other fruit while there. ...
I visited Monte Carlo, where they have the largest gambling halls in the world and that's where the game got its name. Nothing but nobility habitates this city and the suicides are many, caused by gambling, going broke and no other thing left but suicide. During the heavy gambling season, deaths average about twenty per week. ...
I was in Prince Albert's throne room and just like us Americans, three of us climbed in the throne chair just to see how it felt to sit in a prince's chair, and the French guide nearly had a fit. I was the first to get in it and there was room for two more. We had just as much respect for the prince's chair as we did for any other. ...
I was in Italy a short way, but the A. E. F. is not allowed far into Italy. The Alps Mountains are surely wonderful, but not as pretty as our Big Horns. They are more historic because they are older and the work of nature shows better from a distance, but I like the Big Horns best.