Saturday, June 27, 2020

Virgil Stoltz and the Polar Bear Expedition


     Pvt .Virgil French Stoltz was one of the Americans who found themselves fighting in the Russian Civil War even after the armistice was signed ending WWI. Sometimes called the Polar Bear Expedition, most army historians are hard pressed to explain why the US Army wound up in Vladivostok, a Russian seaport on the Pacific.  This was probably the farthest nineteen- year old Pvt. Stoltz could get from Sumner, Illinois.

     Virgil was born on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1900, to Frank and Carrie McNece Stoltz. If it was cold on the night he was born, it was nothing compared to the cold he would experience in Russia. He enlisted July 18, 1919, and departed from Fort Mason, California, August 15, 1919, on the USS Logan. While on board he wrote the following letter to his friend, Miss Helen Griggs, dating it September 4, 1919.

Dear Friend:

I will write you a few lines to let you know that I am still alive.
I am away out on the Pacific Ocean, on my way to Siberia. We will land their Saturday morning sometime, and believe me, I will sure be glad, for (we having been traveling) about twenty-four days and have two more days to go before we reach Siberia.
We are among the Japan Islands now. We can see land on both sides. I have had "chow" or supper, as you people call it. Just passed a Japan steamer, known as a tramp or a freighter.
I will try to tell you a little bit about the trip on the Pacific. We left San Francisco, California, on August 15 for Honolulu and got there August 22, about 10 o'clock and left there the 23rd at 11 o'clock for Vladivostok, Siberia, a 14- day trip. It was seven days from San Francisco to Honolulu.
This is about all for this time, but will write more as soon as I get to my company.
Your friend,  Pvt. Virgil Stoltz  
19 Co. Siberia Replacement Detachment 

Helen reported that she received another letter in June 1920, from Virgil saying he had been to Siberia but was then back in Manilla at the Philippine Islands.  He said he was fine but had seen quite a few hardships while in Siberia with the Infantry.

Stoltz was discharged June 30, 1922, and married Florence Judy in Lawrence County, Illinois, a year later on July 2, 1923.  After his marriage he worked as a boiler maker in Hammond, Indiana. He died June 12,1987, and is buried in Glen Haven Memorial Park in Los Angeles County, California.  


For a good overview of this military engagement see the following website:  Forgotten Doughboys