Americans in Foreign Forces

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by Chris Dickon, Sep 19, 2014.

  1. Chris Dickon

    Chris Dickon New Member

    By the time that the United States entered World War I in 1917, tens of thousands of Americans had already fought in the war, and many had already died. Officially, 36,000 Americans had joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force starting in 1914, 10,000 had joined Commonwealth Forces from England, and thousands fought with French forces, including the French Foreign Legion. In the first years, they took the chance of losing American citizenship and many who joined Canadian forces hid their American citizenship. Eventually, the US, Canada and the UK came to tacit and back channel agreements about Americans in Commonwealth forces. France had enlisted Americans in ways that would protect their American citizenship. By the time of the American declaration in 1917, the American presence in foreign forces was well-known, though still controversial for some. But those Americans who wished to stay where they were rather than joining US forces were supported in that determination by their own government. In 1920 American law allowed that any American killed in service with foreign allied forces was entitled to burial in American war cemeteries. A similar story was repeated in World War II. Please see
  2. DancingLady

    DancingLady Member

    Interesting, I think my history books in school neglected to mention anything about this. I feel like I have honestly never heard anything about this. Those men deserve to be remembered because made the choice to fight for what they believed in. It shouldn't matter to us if we agree with them, it was an individual decision that takes a lot of courage.
  3. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    One story I find facinating was the tale of the Russian Railway Service Corps. They were a body of specially recruited railroad men, technicians, and engineers from the American Siberia (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Dakotas and Montana) with the notion of maintaining and operating the Trans-Siberian Railroad so as to facilitate the provision of supplies to the Tsar's Army tokeepit in the Great War.

    In theory the 276 men (my guestimate) of the RRSC were a part of the Russian Army but as the corp was mustered into service (in St. Paul, Minnesota) on the very day of the Bolshevik Revolution, wore US Army type uniforms, and were paid through an account with the US State Department the point or their service was in legal limbo for many years.

    After muster they were sent to Japan where they cooled their heels for months while persons of authority decided what to do. Finally they were used as the core for support of the American invasion of Russia (part of the international "coallition" invasion) of 1918-20. They were in support of the US Army 27th Infantry Division, yet they were considered at that time as Russian Consultants.

    After many years of litigation they were legally recognized as a part of the US military and survivors got pension benefits and burial rights.
  4. DancingLady

    DancingLady Member

    What a mess. Why was there any question about them being Americans if they were mustered in America? Sometimes the bureaucracy just does not seem to understand common sense.
  5. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    But the RRSC was never meant to be a part of the US Military. They were meant to serve the pre-Soviet Russian government. It is an oddity of History that the Russian government no longer existed just as the RRSC came into existance.ding

    Think of them as legally perceeding the American Volunteer Group (Chenault's Flying Tigers), who were, in theory, part of the Chinese government. They, too, werereally paid by the US State Department (before the existance of CIA).
  6. R Leonard

    R Leonard Active Member

    A popular myth, one of many.

    The pilots and other personnel, for that matter, of the American Volunteer Group were NOT paid by the US State Department nor any other US government or military entity; though I suppose one could make the argument the Claire Chennault was drawing retirement pay from his Army service. But actually being paid for service flying or in support of flying operations? No, The US had nothing to do with it. The AVG personnel were each and individually under a services contract with the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company, in the words of Chennault:

    “. . . Their offer was a one-year contract with CAMCO (Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company) to 'manufacture, repair and operate aircraft at salaries ranging from $250 to $750 a month. Traveling expenses, 30 days leave with pay, quarters, and $30 additional for rations were specified. They would be subject to summary dismissal by written notice for insubordination, habitual use of drugs or alcohol, illness not incurred in line of duty, malingering, and revealing confidential information . . . There was not mention in the contract of a $500-bonus for every Japanese plane destroyed. Volunteers were told simply that there was a rumor that the Chinese government would pay $500 for each confirmed Jap plane. They could take the rumor for what it was worth. It turned out to be worth exactly $500 per plane. Although initially the five-hundred-dollar-bonus was paid for confirmed planes destroyed in air combat only, the bonus was soon applied to planes destroyed on the ground - if they could be confirmed."

    The Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company was established in China in 1933 (note, before the war with Japan started) to first, assemble aircraft purchased by the Chinese government from foreign sources and second, to train the Chinese to do so. For the purposes of recruiting, AVG personnel, air and ground, CAMCO established an office in New York City, though most of the time the recruiters were beating the bushes for those willing to separate from the service or were already recently separated.

    My father remembered an AVG recruiter visiting his ship USS Ranger (CV-4) in Norfolk where he was a newly promoted LTJG-type fighter pilot in VF-42. A USN regular, he had no interest in waltzing off to China, but there were a couple of AV(N)s whose service commitments were ending soon who went along with the program. Had they stayed on, they would have been retained or re-activated with the coming over the horizon expansion of naval aviation. A handful of the AVG types (most of whom, oddly enough, were naval aviators, 59 versus 39 recruited from the USAAF) came back to the USN and USMC when the AVG was disbanded in July 1942. MAJ Gregory Boyington, USMCR, was probably the most well-known to the public; others included (highest wartime rank): Noel R Bacon (LCDR, USNR), Percy R Bartelt (LCDR, USNR), Herbert R Cavanah (LTJG, USN), Edwin S Conant (LCDR, USNR), Donald R Knapp (LCDR, USNR), Frank L Lawlor (LCDR, USNR), Edmund F Overend (MAJ, USMCR), Curtis E Smith (LTC, USMCR) and Fritz E Wolf (LCDR, USNR). Still others went to wartime service with the USAAF or with CNAC.

    Bottom line, though, CAMCO was paid by the Chinese government and in-turn paid the AVG personnel, including processing the bonuses.

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