Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day - WWI Service in Russia

© 2010, copyright Michelle Goodrum Roy Bindon's US military service during WWI was a bit unusual. He was inducted into the Army 30 April 1918 in Chicago, Illinois and shipped out to Siberia, Russia on 2 September of that same year. Roy was trained as a sniper and served with the Machine Gun 31st Infantry and later the 27th Infantry.

Roy Bindon, sitting, in Khaborovsk,
Siberia 1918. Original privately held

The American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia were charged with keeping the Trans-Siberian Railroad open and out of the hands of the Bolshevicks. Roy and his comrads arrived in Vladivostok and went to work. As Roy's daughter told me the story:
One day the troops had gone up past Volodevestock (?) and Verteneudinks (?). She thinks it was beyond Verteneudinks. The troops were out guarding the Trans-Siberian Railroad and Roy, being a machine gun sniper, was sent out in the woods by his commandant.
While he was out, the Bolshevicks camped below the tree that he [Roy] was stationed in, where he had set up his machine gun sniper position. They [the Bolsheviks] spent the night below him and he had to stay up in that tree all night long. He hung on for dear life until they got up early the next morning and moved out.
When Roy thought the Bolsheviks were sufficiently gone, he reported back their position to his commandant. The commandant, had a canvas tent or some other temporary structure that was somehow heated. As Roy reported in to the commandant, the warm air hit his cold eardrums, and his eardrums burst. He slowly started going deaf from that point on.
It really is a rather extraordinary story. I was able to confirm it by obtaining Roy's military records (see sources below). According to these records, Roy was treated in December of 1918 at an Army hospital in Khabarovsk, Siberia.

Roy came back from Russia and spent many years in Hines hospital because he was slowly going deaf and the ringing in his ears just about drove him crazy. After reading Roy's military records, I can only imagine the frustration he and the family went through trying to get him the medical help that he needed.


Roy's Military Records obtained from the Department of Veteran's Affairs in Chicago, Illinois. More specifically, his Honorable Discharge Certificate, various Requests for Army Information and Applications for Disability Compensation.

Carol Fuller Interview, 24 February 1994.

© 2010, copyright Michelle Goodrum


  1. Thank you for sharing a remarkable story.

  2. My great-grandfather also served in Russia during WWI, but in North Russia (west), not Siberia. You can read his story here.

  3. Fascinating story Miriam and very well written! It gives me something to aspire to in my writing.

    Ever since my mother-in-law told me about her father's Siberian service, I have been enthralled by that part of our history. There's not a great deal of information readily available on the subject so I jump whenever I see something.

    I have a copy of an article titled, "American Polar Bears' Defense of Vladivistok" by Karl H. Lowe that appeared in Military History in October 1997 that is very interesting. Also, a book titled, America's Siberian Adventure, by William S. Graves is available on the web. I haven't had a chance to read it yet but am hoping to soon.

  4. What a fascinating story, and truly an unusual tour of service. I think I will try to find the Graves book, too - I knew we had forces in Siberia at that time, but have never seen any articles or books on them.

  5. What a great story (and picture!). I never would have imagined that could happen. I agree. I was probably a nightmare getting him help.