Search This Blog

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Jay H. Bonnell Reminiscence of The Polar Bear Expedition

You Bonnell/Bunnell family members are a wonderful bunch.

One of my correspondents informed me the University of Michigan has digitized and made available online the Jay H. Bonnell typescript I mentioned in my last post.

The Jay H. Bonnell reminiscence of the Polar Bear Expedition to Northern Russia 1918-1919

Addendum: UM's Bentley Historical Library's magazine published a story on the Polar Bear Expedition Bentley Historical Library article The Bentley's magazine has many fascinating articles and I've spent the last three hours enjoying them.

Thank you, University of Michigan.

Addendum: Steven Bonnell has it right. The Jay H. Bonnell #342490 is the man who wrote the reminisces linked above. I found this article on

Bay City Times, Thursday, 20 February 1919 page 11
From a Bay City Boy in Russia
From Pvt. Jay H. Bonnell, Company A., 310th engineers, Archangel district, Northern Russia, to his wife, Mrs. Jay H. Bonnell, 807 West John street, under date of December 17.
It is getting near Christmas and I am still in Russia. They say the coldest weather here is about 25 degrees below zero, but it is a dry cold and don't seem much colder to feeling than our Michigan winters. I am feeling fine and gaining weight and haven't even had a cold so far this winter. We have plenty of food and clothing, but lack blankets, as I lost one of mine in a battle on the front.
Just received some more letters and about 25 newspapers, and while I am writing this letter the resto f the boys in the car are having a great time reading Bay City news.
We have a Y.M.C.A. car along with us, and if we have rubles we can buy candy, gum, canned stuff, etc. We ride about seven miles back and forth to work in a train. The working hours are short though, as we have only about seven hours of daylight.
A sergeant, corporal and nine men besides myself were let off a boat about 200 miles up the Dvinn river on September 14, and the authorities must have forgotten they sent us, because we were reported missing. On November 10, a corporal and myself were detailed to go to Archangel and get some supplies for the men. We left the others in a little town on the Yosa river, a branch of the Dvinn. It certainly was some trip. It is about 200 miles, and took us four days. We went about 150 miles in a canoe, and then caught a tug the rest of the way to our destination. As soon as we reported to headquarters we were taken off of the missing list. I am now on a railroad front where I can get mail out once in a while.
As far as the army making a man of a person, it depends on the man, for I know some who will come out better men, and some that will not, I am sorry to say. One has to have a strong will to endure the hardships and monotony of this life, for we have had no fighting now for over a month. The men are all anxious to get home and sometimes complain now that the war in France is over. Believe me, I will know how to appreciate home when I get there.

Addendum 2: Life is full of funny connections. The Wednesday 27 March 2019 Wall Street Journal (page A15), contained a revies by Mark Yost of The Polar Bear Expidition by James Carl Nelson (Morrow Publishing). The  4400 soldiers in 339th Infantry were mainly Michiganders, which explains why the University of Michigan has a collection on the expidition. The troops were sent to protect the Allied supplies at Murmansk from capture by the Germans. The arms and materiel had originally been sent there to help in the fight against the Bolsheviks. The review ends "Mr. Nelson quotes Lt. John Cudahy, the son of a wealthy Wisconsin family and America's future ambassador to Belgium and Poland, who summed it up best: 'When the last battalion set sail from Archangel, not a soldier knew, no not even vaguely, why he had fought or why he was going now, and why his comrads were left behind.'"

1 comment:

  1. Could this be the SAME Jay H Bonnell at ??