Statement of Mr. Jesse Halsey


Statement of Mr. Jesse Halsey






1918 September 20


Report on what the Americans have been doing in Russia.


Library of Congress, Woodrow Wilson Papers


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum


American Red Cross
Trotsky, Leon, 1879-1940
World War, 1914-1918--United States


Morgan Willer






Document scan was taken from Library of Congress microfilm reel of the Wilson Papers. WWPL volunteers transcribed the text.



I went to Russia in September, 1917, as a Red Cross worker and did Red Cross work with the Russian Army until Feb. 15, 1918, when I became connected with the American Embassy in Russia. I was a supply manager while with the Red Cross and saw much of the Russian front. After I became connected with the Embassy, Mr. Hugh Martin and myself went to Murmansk, where I stayed for nearly six months. I went there as Mr. Martin’s Assistant, but he was called away shortly afterwards on a diplomatic mission and I was left in charge as the American Representative at that point. I was with a British Admiral and a French Captain. I don’t know very much about the South of Russia, although I have been over it, but I am pretty well acquainted with the North around Murmansk and with the territory occupied by the Czecho-Slovaks, which is east of Murmansk in Siberia. I think generally the people in the North of Russia welcome intervention, but it should a strong enough not to appear ridiculous or it is fore-doomed to failure. I have talked to a British General and he told me that the military operations have already gone as far as they had hoped to go this fall. It is a place called Kotlas, and the Allied forces can very soon connect up with the Czecho-Slovaks in the East in Siberia. The U.S. is getting full credit for what is going on. The people are suffering for the common necessities of life. The British have brought in some food and supplies that were American stuff and that has helped some. Intervention is not the word to use in expressing what the Allies are doing in Russia. I wish we had a word that would express what it means. We have recommended the Soviet form of government and the troops have paid attention to the feelings of the people. Of course arrests had to be made of German spies and anti-Russians, but they were made with as little friction as possible and everything was done to strengthen the pro-Ally sentiment in the country. I don’t know much about Archangel, but I am sure the American Council in Archangel is trying to create the same impression. Some sort of program ought to be started to interest the people of the whole North country and to afford relief for their suffering. The Red Cross and YMCA ought to be consolidated so there would be no overlaping [sic], confusion or duplication. Our Government should work out some program of relief and it should be definitely decided here in co-operation with the British, who are going to administer it. There are 80,000 people in that part of the country who must be clothed and fed and provided with household necessities, and I am inclined to think most of them can pay for these things in their money, and I don’t think there will be a great amount of Red Cross work to do. They have lumber and need sawmill machinery and tools, but they need immediately food, clothing and cooking utensils, and they ought to be included in the program. I haven’t any personal request to make, but I think I can be of service to whomever has charge of this scheme in this country. I brought the official mail to this country from the Embassy and took it to the State Department this morning. While sitting there some one came in and asked about the Red Fins. I couldn’t butt into the conversation but I could have told the man in charge something definite about the Red Fins. They are thinking of changing the program and sending some food into Finland. There are many Fins in this country bound by blood ties to the people in that country and they think we ought to do something for Finland after helping Belgium. Martin and I made one trip through the country districts last winter and everywhere we went we were welcomed. The people are more than willing to give us credit for what has been done, even by the British and French. I had a good many maps and plans, etc., which I turned over to Mr. Sims to help in forming some definite plan of action. They are going to turn over the war work to the YMCA and the British Government is going to use the American organization which will do all the relief work this winter. The American Government would naturally choose the Red Cross, but whichever does the work they should work in harmony and according to some definite program. The Czecho-Slovaks are deserters from the Austrian Army and are really Bohemians. They were taken prisoners by the Russians and did not return to Austria, where they were unwilling subjects of that country, after their release, but held together in Siberia east of Murmansk. They hold probably 2000 miles up there and there are 60,000 of them. They are the strongest pro-Ally troops in any of the Allied Armies. The Germans tried to disarm them at first but they would’nt be disarmed but captured one town after another until they got the big strip of country where they are now, which shows how weak the Bolsheviki and Red Guard Armies were. Germany had a great chance to make friends in the Ukraine but I think she have lost it. They took out everything they could get and treated the people with the same overbearing, autocratic way they had treated the other country they overrun. Germany had her greatest chance in the Ukraine for the people called her in to restore order because they were a property loving people and did’nt want to lose what they had, but I hear that it takes 300,000 German troops there now to maintain order of any kind, and German soldiers are frequently found in wells and cisterns who have been shot and thrown there by the people. I got my figures about the 300,000 troops from the French Intelligence Office at Murmansk. It seems impossible but I am judging by their statement, and I don’t know how they verified their figures. I want to say that if Germany has not lost her chance, that she is losing it very fast. They had a fat goose there but cooked it. It was like it was in Murmansk in a way. The Germans sent submarines up and sank all the fishing boats and skiffs, etc., and over night almost sentiment changed. The sailors and fishermen element turned over four destroyers to the British Admiral to hunt the German subs with. German agents got busy and claimed that British submarines were responsible for the sinkings, but the sailors had the bodies examined and proved that it was German shrapnel, which of course stopped that tale. As I said at first, unless the Allies program of intervention is made strong enough not to appear ridiculous, it is fore-doomed to failure, but there are wonderful possibilities in Russia for the Allies if they only take advantage of it, for the sentiment of the people is mostly with them. Trotzky assured the people that peace would not be signed just a short time before it was, and afterwards it was said it was because the United States had consented to Japanese intervention. The ordinary ignorant class of people in Russia live, believe and fight according to their prejudices, and they are formed largely by a matter of personal help or contact. If Germany feeds one of them, he likes Germany; if we feed him, he likes us, but they will misjudge us if they want to it matters not what we do. The most disheartening thing in Russia is the way the moderately well to do classes hold aloof from everything that is going on in Russia except what is immediately before them. They don’t seem to care what happens to all the balance of Russia out side of the small plot they own.

Original Format





Unknown, “Statement of Mr. Jesse Halsey,” 1918 September 20, WWP25192, World War I Letters, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.