Harold Van Vechten Fay: Witness to Japan's Offensive

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By Jamie Bisher
6,620 words
Jamie Bisher researches and writes about military and intelligence history. He used numerous reports by Capt. Fay in his forthcoming book, White Terror: Cossack Warlords of the Trans-Siberia. Contact Jamie via email at jetlag78@juno.com
    Strategic Location..........................................................................................  4
   Revolutionary Prelude................................................................................... 5
   H. Van Vechten Fay's Account of the Taking of Nikolsk-Ussuriisk................11
   Legacy of the Offensive..................................................................................20
On April 1, 1920 Major General William S. Graves and the American Expeditionary Force-Siberia (A.E.F.S.) gratefully departed Vladivostok after 20 frustrating months of safeguarding docks, warehouses and railroad tracks, punctuated by infrequent skirmishes against both Reds and Whites. An undetermined number of discharged doughboys and deserters stayed behind to tend to their new Russian brides, join the partisans, or try their hands in civilian trades.1 One of the latter was a recently discharged captain from Graves' intelligence department, Harold Van Vechten Fay, who remained in Nikolsk-Ussuriisk with a typewriter and an aspiration to write about the continuing revolution for foreign newspapers.
Fay was born in June 1890 to a wealthy family in the small city of Auburn, a prosperous, socially conscious community in central New York that was home to more than one state governor and numerous civic leaders of regional and national prominence, including U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward (mastermind of the 1867 Alaska purchase) and abolitionist Harriett Tubman. Fay's paternal grandfather had grown prosperous as a merchant of gloves and mitts, and his father became a successful lawyer and banker who was rich enough to employ four servants. 2 Harold Fay was well traveled, having visited Germany at least twice before the Great War erupted. 3 He arrived in Vladivostok in 1918 as a captain of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but adapted easily to his assignment as the overt A.E.F.S. Intelligence Officer in Harbin, China, Manchuria's thriving regional hub of international commerce, transportation and political intrigue. During the next several months he became an expert on Russia's Civil War as he traveled about observing, interviewing and reporting to Major General Graves' headquarters in Vladivostok. Captain Fay certainly did not stay in Russia because he needed money, but to launch a career in journalism by chronicling the country's clumsy steps out of centuries of autocracy and six years of bloody turmoil. Anti-Bolshevik ("White") territory had shrunk to a slippery foothold along the Trans-Siberian Railroad in Transbaikalia, and to Fay and most other observers the Russian Far East appeared to be poised on the threshold of a bright new revolutionary era under the enlightened and progressive pro-Bolshevik ("Red") forces.
Suddenly, just three nights after the last American Army transport sailed out of Vladivostok in April 1920, the Japanese launched a major offensive to disarm all revolutionary forces and occupy the Maritime Province. In doing so, the Japanese militarists pursued multiple purposes: to improve their negotiating position with the Allies over the future balance of power in the Pacific, to weaken Russia further, to expand Japanese commercial and military inroads into northern Manchuria, and to line their pockets with cash from the monopolies, sweetheart deals, and other opportunities for illicit gain that presented themselves in the legal vacuum of a military occupation. Ironically, although Japanese generals had been gearing up to launch their military occupation of the Russian Far East for several months, growing public opposition in Japan to the army's prolonged Siberian adventure had been threatening to restrain--if not derail--it, until the shocking news of a humiliating military defeat to Red partisans at Nikolaevsk-na-Amure actually strengthened the generals' hands, giving them license to retaliate.
Fay's testimony of events at Nikolsk-Ussuriisk exposes the Japanese charade that had begun two years earlier, when the Japanese General Staff piously declared that its soldiers had come to liberate Russians from the radical Red terror, support the Allied cause, evacuate the Czechoslovak Legion, and restore law, order and a seedling of democratic government. The 1920 Japanese offensive eclipsed the revolutionary dawn in the Russian Far East, prolonged the civil war for several months more, and consumed several hundred lives, but gave the White movement one last chance to seed a non-Communist government on Russian soil. Fay's account reaffirms the fact disputed at the time by the Japanese that the offensive and subsequent occupation were premeditated ventures. His description of the Japanese slaughter of Russian prisoners lends weight to Soviet accusations of similar incidents prior to and after the Nikolsk-Ussuriisk battle. However, the most surprising revelation in Fay's account was the degree to which the White military, including officers, had already been integrated into the local Red garrison, with the exception of reactionary extremists--the kalmykovtsy, who had sought refuge with their Japanese Army sponsors. Almost equally surprising was Fay's cordiality with the Red military establishment, demonstrated by the ease with which the American could saunter through Red military positions as well as the headquarters. From a broader perspective, Fay gives testimony of a spawning Japanese military aggression that did not abate until August 1945.
H. Van Vechten Fay wrote the following eye-witness account of the Japanese offensive as it transpired in the small, yet strategic city of Nikolsk-Ussuriisk. He immediately typed his detailed report of the battle, and, obviously intending to submit it for publication, entitled it: "The Taking of Nikolsk, Siberia By the Japanese, April 5, 1920, By H. Van Vechten Fay, Former Captain, Intelligence Dept., U.S. Army, Now a Newspaper Correspondent." Whether his story was ever published is unknown. However, he apparently gave a copy of his manuscript to an officer of the Russian Railway Service Corps (R.R.S.C.), the small group of American technical advisors then working on the Trans-Siberian and Chinese Eastern railroads, undoubtedly to provide them with fresh intelligence about Japanese activities. R.R.S.C. personnel were regularly harassed, and occasionally even attacked, by Japanese soldiers. When the R.R.S.C. terminated its mission and closed its Harbin office soon after, Fay's report was haphazardly boxed up among a jumble of other reports, messages, and miscellaneous papers, which disappeared into federal warehouses for the next seven decades. It surfaced in the U.S. National Archives, amidst Records of International Conferences, Commissions, and Expositions, the unlikely resting place of the R.R.S.C.'s disordered papers--Record Group 43 (RG 43), New Entry 844, File 238. 4

Strategic Location
The strategic location of Nikolsk-Ussuriisk (modern day Ussuriisk) ensured that the small city on the Suyfun River would not escape bloodshed during the Civil War. It was a coal-mining center of about 30,000 people, but its strategic value radiated from the railroads that coupled on the outskirts of the city. One pair of rails led sixty miles south to the docks of Vladivostok, and the others stretched 5,000 miles west to Moscow, to Europe, and to the world beyond. Not far from Nikolsk, the westbound rail lines split up, as the Trans-Siberian line bore northwest through the taiga to Khabarovsk then looped around Manchuria, hugging the Russian frontier along the mighty Amur River before darting into Transbaikalia. The other railline became the Chinese Eastern Railway as it took a shortcut through China's Heilongjiang and Kirin provinces, cutting across the Manchurian and Transbaikalian steppes to mate with its partner at Karymskaya, a serious little railroad town 61 miles east of Chita, from whence the double-tracks of the Trans-Siberian Railroad continued their march across the continents. The shorter and faster Chinese Eastern route was preferred by most travelers. 5

Revolutionary Prelude
Bolshevik authority in Nikolsk was ousted in mid-1918 before it had long enough to reveal its true savagery. An anti-Bolshevik pincer had begun its westward movement from the Pacific Coast on the morning of June 29, when Major General M.K. Dietrichs and 15,000 soldiers of the Czechoslovak Legion unseated the Bolsheviks in Vladivostok in a violent coup d'etat. About 100 Red Guards covered their comrades' escape from town, and the shooting left some 83 people dead and wounded on both sides. 6 Although the Legion's relations with the city's Bolshevik administration had been relatively cordial, the Czechoslovaks felt compelled to take the port that guaranteed their exit from the Russian morass.
The Czechoslovak action paved the way for Japanese and other foreign military incursions. Small British and Japanese landing parties came ashore on June 29 to show their support for the Czechs. In the afternoon the Chinese landed eighty men, and the Americans dispatched twenty sailors for the sole purpose of protecting resident nationals. The next day, Admiral Kato Kanji, commander of the Japanese naval squadron, even disarmed three Russian destroyers and one auxiliary. One week after the Czech coup, British, French and Japanese forces put the Vladivostok area "under their protection." 7 A Canadian observer, Major James Mackintosh Bell, recalled, "The great majority of the population of the city was still strongly Bolshevik in sympathy and, even many of those who were not, resented what they considered the arrogant attitude of the Czechoslovaks. Enormous processions of Red mourners accompanied the funeral of the Bolshevik victims of the Czechoslovak attack on the Staff Headquarters." 8
As soon as they took Vladivostok, the Czechoslovaks launched an offensive to clear the now hostile Reds from the railway. They encountered little resistance in the first sixty miles of their drive, then ground to a halt at Nikolsk-Ussuriisk. Local Red Guards and detachments of Hungarian and German internationalists put up a fierce defense of the town. Heavy fighting raged for days. Finally, "by dint of immense perseverance in the face of very considerable odds" the outnumbered Czechoslovak Second Division forced a Bolshevik withdrawal on July 5, 1918. 9 About 1,000 surviving Red Guards and internationalists conducted a fighting retreat northwards along the Ussuri River, joining about 4,000 other armed revolutionaries from the Maritime Province (mostly the Grodekovo area), before finally being chased into the taiga by the Japanese Army's 12th Division in September. 10 By that time, the White occupation of Nikolsk was well underway, and detachments of the Osobii Kazach'ii Otryad (O.K.O.)-the Special Cossack Detachment of the recently elected Ussuri Cossack ataman, Podesaul (Lieutenant) Ivan Pavlovich Kalmykov-had already established a Nikolsk headquarters and begun executing all suspected Red sympathizers.
Contrary to its popular image, the Ussuri Cossack Host was not a monolithic bastion of reactionary fervor. Indeed, since the February Revolution, the Host had been split by a traumatic schism that polarized Ussuri Cossacks into revolutionary and traditional factions, the former even succeeding to push through self-destructive resolutions in April 1917 that called for the abolishment of the Host's special privileges and its "merging with the peasant class." However, as soldiers returned from the front, even radicalized veterans were reluctant to renounce privileges paid for with blood, limbs and their friends' lives. Japanese, British and French military representatives provided financing and other material incentives to promote Kalmykov's election to the ataman's scepter in January 1918, although detractors insisted that Japanese agents had engineered his election through murder, coercion and bribes. 11 Nevertheless, in Nikolsk, as elsewhere in the Russian Far East, family relationships, old friendships, and economic hardship complicated the polarized Cossack politics to make a vicious struggle even more cruel. Throughout 1919, White counter-intelligence squads and anti-partisan patrols rounded up suspects and robbed wealthy citizens in the city and surrounding villages, and Red hit teams and guerrillas assassinated White officers, sabotaged the railroad and raided the same surrounding villages.
White rule ended abruptly on January 26, 1920. After a short siege, a partisan detachment under one Commander Shevchenko boldly marched into Nikolsk-Ussuriisk that morning. Upon their arrival, all but one of the local White units declared allegiance to Shevchenko's partisans. Even Nikolsk's Ussuri Cossacks, formerly the pillar of Kalmykov's power, and the Third Transbaikal Cossack Regiment joined the rebels. The partisans moved to surround the barracks of the Jaeger Cavalry Regiment. The young Jaeger commander, Colonel Viktor Vrashtel, and about 80 men, representing half of the understrength regiment, fled with four field guns. They lobbed three or four shells into Nikolsk from the city's outskirts, killing a handful of partisans, then "took to the hills." Meanwhile, some 500 Japanese and 1,000 Chinese troops declared their neutrality and observed the day's events from positions near the train station. Late that evening Vrashtel's soldiers returned to Nikolsk without their officers, surrendered and offered to fight for the partisans. Vrashtel and his officers made for the Chinese border but were captured and thrown into prison. 12 The fall of Nikolsk cut off Vladivostok from Ataman Semenov's shrinking White bastion in Transbaikalia.
On January 31, 1920, Vladivostok's White overseer General Sergei N. Rozanov was overthrown with a single artillery shot that rattled the walls of his villa. No fighting occurred. In the words of U.S. Major General William S. Graves, "That shot missed its mark, but the sound seemed sufficient for Rozanov and his supporters, the Japanese, to lose their nerve, as the Japanese clothed Rozanov in a Japanese officer's long cape and Japanese military cap, and conducted him to Japanese Headquarters, which ended his crooked career in Siberia." 13 Vladivostok's revolutionaries launched the Provisional Zemstvo Government of the Maritime Province which, on the surface, seemed to sincerely strive to organize an honest, just administration, but was actually a facade for Bolshevik control. The government lacked any legislative body, and was nominally led by an executive board consisting of two former teachers, a doctor and a surveyor, chaired by former educator A.S. Medvedev.
The partisans that liberated Nikolsk swarmed around Khabarovsk, where, on February 12, Ataman Kalmykov emptied the gold from the State Bank and ominously gave his army colors to a Sublieutenant Karpinskii for delivery to Chita. 14 The Japanese Army counted on Kalmykov to defend the city, and did its part by tearing up about one mile of railroad tracks leading into town. However local partisans had already begun negotiating with remaining White units in Khabarovsk to convince them to mutiny and help track down Kalmykov. Suddenly, an armed force appeared from the south, and the partisans took up defensive positions. A day and a half passed before they realized that the approaching force consisted of Bolsheviks and other revolutionaries from Vladivostok. 15 Meanwhile, Kalmykov and his pirates hijacked every drozhkii (horse-drawn taxi) they could find and escaped, killing all the drozhkii drivers at the edge of town. 16 Partisans marched into Khabarovsk unopposed on February 16, 1920. 17 People wept with joy and red flags blanketed the city. The partisan commander Bulgakov-Bel'ski forced a Japanese armored train commander to give up eight Kalmykov officers who were hiding on his train, and pressured the Japanese headquarters to agree "not to molest Russian or foreign [i.e., Korean] residents and to abstain from entering the town" unless given permission by Vladivostok's Zemstvo Government. Meanwhile Ataman Kalmykov and 800 diehard followers split into two groups and fled across the border into Manchuria, where the Chinese Army was waiting for them. Kalmykov surrendered without a fight at a squalid village called Norti about March 5. 18
The Red Army had pushed the front lines deep into Transbaikalia while partisans controlled huge swaths of territory that threatened to smother remaining White and Japanese strongholds, almost all located on the railroad. Before the end of March 1920, hundreds of Japanese civilians from Blagoveshchensk and other towns in Amur Province joined the sea of refugees that was fleeing to Vladivostok. A similar evacuation appeared likely from Nikolsk-Ussuriisk, which had become a flashpoint for Russo-Japanese tension. 19 On March 26, Japanese soldiers with fixed bayonets surrounded the railroad station, roundhouse, railyards, commandant's office, and telephone exchange, "preparing for a fight" but apparently could find no one to fight with. 20 Their lust for battle would not go unfulfilled for long.

H. Van Vechten Fay's Account of the Taking of Nikolsk-Ussuriisk
During the night of April 4-5, there was an increased activity on the part of the Japanese noticed around the railroad station, particularly about midnight, when one of the daily express trains was leaving for Vladivostok and the other was soon expected. After the departure of the first train, the Japanese placed guards at all the entrances to the station, holding those present in the station in confinement and preventing others from entering. An automobile, sent by Andreev, the commander of the Russian military forces in Nikolsk and vicinity, to meet two ladies, was held up at the station and later prevented from returning to the city proper by Japanese sentinels posted on both the roads to the city at the bridges. I obtained admission to the station, located the two ladies, and, provided with a written pass from the Japanese major commanding at the station, escorted them in the automobile through the Japanese lines to Andreev's headquarters. Previous to this, a Japanese company had lined up in front of the station and marched off towards the city. We passed a strong Japanese outpost at the bridge and noticed several Japanese soldiers advancing stealthily along the streets in the general direction of the Russian headquarters. We saw no Russians until we reached the headquarters.
In the inner room at headquarters were gathered Andreev and the officers of his staff. The general impression given was that they were all taken by surprise and were at a loss what measures to take. In fact, they had no intimation of what the Japanese were planning except a hurried message by wire from Vladivostok to the effect that there was firing in the city. [Japanese troops quietly began taking up positions and patrolling Vladivostok streets during the early evening of April 4, captured a Red armored train Edinenie Rossii and the cavernous train station without a shot about 9 p.m., promptly occupied the Red headquarters and central business district, then began fanning out to conduct massive arrests.] Andreev personally thought that the Japanese were making a show of force in order to lend weight to some demands. This opinion was shared by the other officers present. While there, Andreev sent two of his staff officers to the Chinese headquarters to ascertain what action they would take in case of open hostilities, and also ordered a battalion of Russians to take up a certain position. I could not understand what position was signified but believe it was the hill overlooking the city. Few other orders were given and it was apparent that no elaborate preparations nor dispositions were being taken.
Just at daybreak an automobile was spared to take me home. I expressed a desire to stay in case there was any action expected. Andreev stated that he expected no open hostilities, but if anything happened it would come within the next hour. In front of the headquarters were the following: a two-turreted armored automobile, a number of izvozchiks [drozhkii drivers], one machine gun with crew and a small detachment of cavalry. Driving down Nikolaevskaya [Ulitsa] we passed a strong Russian patrol slowly withdrawing just before arriving at the Grand Hotel. At the church, a distance of about 2,000 yards from the Russian patrol, the Japanese were in force. The Japanese officer who passed us through their lines told us to hurry up as firing was about to start. On the street paralleling Nikolaevskaya, about 200 yards distance, Russian cavalry were riding up and down in single file. On the cross-street between the opposing forces, but slightly nearer the Japanese lines, a few Japanese soldiers were lining up about fifty unarmed Russians apparently in uniform. Later on after the fighting started, a group of Russians of about the same size passed the American barracks on their way to the station under Japanese guard. These same men with others arrested at the station were later in the day sent into town, probably to the prisoner concentration camp established by the Japanese in one of the barracks of the Jaeger or 5th Cavalry Regiment. The Japanese were only gathered around the corner by the church. Farther along on Nikolaevskaya we passed single Russian sentries, as also on the West road leading from the city to the station. At the bridge was a Japanese picket consisting of one platoon. Immediately after our return, two companies of Japanese passed the American barracks on the West road, one of them at double-time.
Firing opened in the direction of the Russian headquarters at about six a.m. and continued until about nine a.m., gradually becoming more distant. Two three-inch field pieces opened up over the American barracks on the hill overlooking the city, and two one-pounders opened up from the street paralleling the railroad tracks. The latter was less than a hundred yards in front of the Czech echelon containing part of the Czech artillery regiment, and the former were even nearer to the station proper.
An estimate of the course of the engagement as gathered from all sources follows: General Adagiri, commanding the 15th Brigade (13th Division) with headquarters at Nikolsk, received a telegram from General Oi to disarm the Russian forces. He had four battalions of infantry and a battery of three-inch field pieces in garrison and received reinforcements in echelons (probably part of the 14th Division) from the north consisting of six companies of infantry and a half battery of artillery--altogether totaling between three and four thousand troops. Reliable estimates place the Russian forces at between six and seven thousand. The Russians did not want to start an engagement but the Japanese outposts kept pressing close upon the withdrawing Russians until the latter forced back to their headquarters [located] at the beginning of the so-called fortress or barracks area, and were forced to open fire or let the Japanese walk right in on them in force. As a result, the Japanese claim that the Russians caused hostilities by firing the first shot, though it is apparent that they did so under the most extreme provocation.
In the meantime, the Russians had occupied the hill, mentioned above, with about two hundred men and placed another at the foot on the other side away from town. A Japanese company, 95 men, approached from that side. The commander parleyed with the Russian commander, and, as a result, the two forces returned together to the top of the hill. The Japanese claimed that they had just come to occupy the top of the hill but not to fight. While the two forces were waiting within twenty yards of each other on top of the hill, firing commenced in town. A hand-to-hand fight ensued on the hill, as a result of which the Russians fled precipitately across the plain to the rear of the town. The Japanese lost six men killed, including the captain, and [had] some wounded. The Russians left a large supply of hand grenades and three-inch shells, and two three-inch pieces; also one Maxim machine gun, which the Japanese first lieutenant [later] stated [had] accounted for most of his casualties. For two days the Japanese did not allow the Russian sanitary men and nurses to gather their dead and wounded. They picked up six wounded on the outskirts of the hill. On the third day the Japanese permitted them to approach. They found 86 dead and no wounded. Some of the corpses had their hands clasped, others had their hands raised above their heads. Quite a number had both serious bullet and bayonet wounds, and almost all were badly cut up by bayonets. Chinese officers, whose barracks are near the hill, stated that they could distinguish Japanese killing the wounded. Russians living near the hill made similar statements, and showed one corpse with a roughly bandaged gunshot wound in the act of crawling under a veranda and with a mortal bayonet wound in the back. It is my personal opinion that the Japanese killed all the wounded they came across on the hill, due possibly to the heat of battle and in retaliation for the death of their captain.
In the town, the Russian barracks lie within the so-called fortress area, which is roughly a truncated triangle, with the headquarters at the truncated apex near the center of the town and the base bordering on the marshy open plain behind the town. On the one side lay the barracks of the Japanese troops quartered in town and on the other the open plain. A mud wall encircled the apex and the sides except for the space directly opposite the Japanese barracks. Here lay the barracks of the Russian engineer battalion, well supplied with machine guns and protected to a certain extent by barbed wire. When the Russians discovered that the Japanese intended bringing on a general engagement, they carried on a delaying action to cover their retreat, apparently in conformance with the general policy dictated by the provisional government. Certain forces apparently attempted to escape across the mud wall bordering the plain but were flanked by Japanese fire from the apex. A considerable number of dead bodies were along the outer side of this wall. The Japanese forces from their barracks attacked the other side of the triangle but were held in check during the whole period of the fighting by the Russian engineer battalion. It was here that the Japanese incurred the heaviest losses--42 killed and 81 wounded according to General Adagiri. The engineer battalion was formed of trained soldiers and officers from the European front, and was assisted by some Hungarian machine-gunners. Reports are conflicting but apparently it must have suffered heavily. The Japanese brought field artillery to bear on the barracks occupied by the battalion and breached it but were themselves caught in machine gun fire and lost ten men killed besides wounded. The Russians claim the battalion beat off three bayonet charges with hand grenades, and that the remnants of the battalion, after having covered the retreat of the main force, themselves got away, leaving twenty-five men with a machine gun behind. These men later tried to escape themselves, discovered they were surrounded, and dispersed hiding in the different houses. The inside of the barracks was in indescribable confusion.
While the engineer battalion was protecting their flank, the main force fell back by echelons from the apex of the triangle to the base and then retreated out into the hills, across the plain. The Japanese captured two battalions, almost entire, of the 33rd Infantry Regiment, of about 1,650 men. These prisoners stated that they were mostly all raw recruits and that very few had been supplied with arms. The colonel of the regiment, who was also captured, was not very communicative, and merely intimated that he had not been warned in time to make the necessary preparations. There was certainly plenty of time for a well trained unit to get under way. Being raw recruits they probably herded like horses in a burning stall, and it is not improbable that the Russian staff was not very much concerned whether they accompanied them to the hills or not.
The Russians lost in all between two and three hundred killed, between one and two hundred wounded and 1,650 prisoners. The Japanese lost about 60 to 70 killed and about 100 wounded. The Japanese general estimates that about four thousand Russians escaped to the hills. Since then several hundred more have left the city, among whom are some of the prisoners, a few hundred of whom were subsequently freed by the Japanese. The Japanese are occupying the three hills nearest to the city, but have not established a complete cordon around it. A partisan force of about six thousand men is operating around Nikolsk at present, but avoiding encounters with the Japanese under orders from the central government.
The criticism of Andreev among the Russians is quite severe. Considering the recent happenings in Nikolaevsk, they think he should have been more foresighted and sent his military supplies out into the hills where they would be safe from capture. As it was almost everything fell into the hands of the Japanese.
During the attack, the Japanese rushed into the military hospital, located in the fortress area, and slashed around indiscriminately. Six of the hospital staff were killed, including one of the doctors, and several cut up. One nurse was stabbed in the back with a bayonet and others [were] severely beaten. The patients in the ward for eye trouble, being apparently in good health, were driven out and confined with the prisoners of war. Three shells exploded in the hospital, [and] it was generously besprinkled with machine gun fire and shrapnel.
The above is on the authority of one man only: an employee of the hospital, who was an eye witness and was himself cut in the head with a bayonet.
The 1,500 odd prisoners were confined in one of the barracks of the Jaeger Cavalry Regiment. They were so crowded that they could not lie down. A part would take their turn sleeping while the remainder sat crowded up together to give them sufficient room. The diet consisted of one loaf of bread a day for twenty-five persons and water--for those who were fortunate enough to get hold of a cup to get it in. Two days later, tea was added and the prisoners were allowed to go outside for an airing and talk with their friends, as the result of the visit of a Japanese officer. The bread was some stale bread that had been lying in the barracks for some time and was extremely hard. The Japanese guards cut it for the prisoners by putting it on the floor and using their bayonets. Member of the Japanese guard made a practice of eating in front of the prisoners, apparently with the intention of annoying them, and then throwing the remains of their meal in a dirty corner for the prisoners to pick up. Kolchak, or more accurately speaking, Kalmykov officers, who had been in hiding in the Japanese staff came and taunted the prisoners, especially the officers, with some of whom they were personally acquainted. Prisoners were very often refused exit to the water closet by sentries who could not get their meaning. In the first three days there were six deaths from typhus. Those wounded in the barracks were imprisoned with the rest. Russian Red Cross workers were not allowed to enter. A Japanese sanitary came and looked at them, then went away without doing anything. One man with a serious wound in the abdomen, roughly bandaged by his fellow soldiers, had lain for two days unconscious and in a fever. Fifty officers were crowded in a room about ten feet square with only a fortochka (a moveable pane of glass about a foot square) open.
The above I have only on the authority of one person: a young officer, formerly with Kolchak, who escaped from confinement on the third day.
Several proclamations were issued by the Japanese command to the effect that the partisans brought on the engagement by first attacking the Japanese, that hostilities only existed between them and the partisans, and that the people should return peacefully to their former occupations. The railroad men have absolutely refused to work. Those of the electric light station were forced to work under guard and threat of being turned out of their railway quarters.
The Japanese turned over the city government to the former municipal organization, complying with the demand of the mayor that he be given complete civil control and not hampered by activities of the former Kalmykov officials. The militia has not yet been re-armed, however, and two armed Kalmykov officers were thus enabled to enter the militia office, collect all the secret records, and take them to the Japanese staff. The mayor informed me confidentially that agents of his at work in the Japanese staff had ascertained that Kalmykov officers were endeavoring to get the Japanese to consent to his removal by execution or murder. The fear entertained by the populace regarding the Kalmykov officers is intense, but as yet the Japanese have given them very little rein, having only conducted a few arrests and searches under their direction.
A few civilians and two or three Chinese soldiers were killed accidentally, and some of the delegates to the Provincial Assembly staying in the barracks are reported to have been wounded. Some of the latter were arrested by mistake but subsequently freed. Others are in hiding.
In the battle zone, during and immediately following the fighting, plundering was rife. The Japanese soldiers took money and jewelry off the persons of captives and passers-by. One Russian lady was relieved of one ear-ring, and not being able to work the catch on the other, the Japanese soldier in question tore it out. Except for the above, cases of plundering and rape brought to our attention were exceptional and no more than could be expected.
Czech officers of long experience who watched the engagement were not much impressed by Japanese tactics. They advanced in column of squads over open stretches that could easily have been swept by the enemy.
The feeling among all foreigners and over 99% of the Russian population was that the action taken by the Japanese was unwarranted and dastardly. Their subsequent actions seem to have been judged, insofar as they are able, with the intention of reconciliating [sic] all concerned.
The Russians I talked with stated that if Japan did not accept the demands of the Provisional Government in their entirety, they would go to the hills and fight to the last man. The accompanying circumstances and the tone it was said did not give me the impression that it was an idle boast. From conversation with Soviet and Russian delegates one gained the distinct impression that if compromising cannot succeed and Japan throws down the gauntlet, the Moscow Soviet will come to the aid of the partisans. The Japanese are having a rather annoying time chewing Shantung. [A wave of boycotts and large public demonstrations began in mid-1919 in Shanghai, Peking and other Chinese cities to protest Japan's annexation of Shantung Province.] Will Siberia prove more than annoying?
A well-informed Japanese states the present Japanese force in Nikolsk to be as follows: 2 infantry battalions, 1 engineer battalion, 1 battery [of] light artillery, 2 companies [of] machine guns, 1 troop cavalry, and some railroad troops. Altogether the above would total about two thousand men.
(signed) H. Van Vechten Fay

Legacy of the Offensive
Chaos reigned throughout the Maritime Province for two or three days, and, when the dust settled, Japanese flags flapped mockingly atop captured revolutionary headquarters in Nikolsk-Ussuriisk, Khabarovsk, Olga, Shkotovo, Spassk and other towns. Korean émigré communities had been terrorized, and, after a brief taste of urban comfort, Red partisans had returned to the forests again. In Nikolsk, Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, former officers of Semenov, Kalmykov and Rozanov walked the streets flaunting White insignia and decorations that had been outlawed by Vladivostok's zemstvo government. 21 General Oi apologetically explained in an April 5 proclamation that his forces were simply responding to concerted Russian attacks on Japanese installations the night before, although no such attacks took place. As Captain Fay explained, the Japanese had simply advanced upon Red positions until the Russians were forced to fire or be effortlessly overrun, thus allowing Oi and Japanese diplomats to insist with a straight face that the Russians had attacked first. Oi and other Japanese spokesmen cynically painted the whole powerful offensive as a misunderstanding. 22
The offensive broke the accelerating momentum of Red power in the Far East and gave Japanese generals a chance to lean back and consider their increasingly bleak options in the Transbaikal, Amur and Maritime Provinces, while milking them of their last drops of economic benefit. The Japanese negotiated an agreement to coexist with the "Red-Pink Vladivostok government of Medvedev" before the end of April 1920, by which time Aleksandr Krasnoshchekov had proclaimed the creation of the Far Eastern Republic (F.E.R.) in Verkhne-Udinsk (modern Ulan Ude), a buffer state ordered by Lenin to shield Moscow's struggling Soviet government from the wrath and voracity of the Japanese Army.
The offensive allowed the Japanese to strengthen their hold over the Chinese Eastern Railway and to take control of the Trans-Siberian in the Maritime Province. Subsequently, the Japanese Army made every effort to delay its' day of reckoning with the Reds by impeding the evacuation of the Czechoslovak Legion. In brazen contravention of the Inter-Allied Technical Agreement, General Hoshino made everyone get written permission from the Japanese headquarters in Nikolsk for movement through that city. In late April the Japanese began holding back Czech trains at Nikolsk with the baseless explanation that the Vladivostok railyard was too congested. After an abbreviated workday, the Japanese would lock all the switches in the busy yard at Nikolsk at 5 p.m., leaving only one main track clear and freezing all traffic in place until the next morning. 23
Japan's military control of the Chinese Eastern Railway was complemented by a firm hold on the Trans-Siberian between Nikolsk and Vladivostok, leaving only the segment between Pogranichnaya and Nikolsk to be mastered. Most employees refused to work, and the few that did refused to run a train unless it was flying the Czechoslovak flag. "So terrified were the railway workers on the Ussuri Railway when they heard the Japanese forces were coming, that they took all the belongings they could, as well as telegraph instruments from the stations, burnt the wooden bridges on the line, and fled to the forests," reported American intelligence sources. 24
During the first half of June 1920, Commissar Andreev was kidnapped by a death squad of kalmykovtsy, former O.K.O. personnel, operating secretly out of a railcar attached to the Russo-Japanese Commission echelon. He was executed. 25
Publicly the Japanese promised to restore zemstvo government in the Maritime Province, but few Russians believed them. After the fall of Semenov's Transbaikalia in October 1920, thousands of kappel'evtsy (survivors of White General Vladimir Kappel's army) settled around Nikolsk, particularly after the December 12 resignation of Medvedev's Maritime Zemstvo Board in favor of Krasnoshchekov's F.E.R. (now at Chita), which spurred a westward exodus of job-seeking Reds and an influx of destitute Whites into the Maritime Province. 26 On May 23 and 24, 1921, a long-awaited White coup d'etat began materializing at Razdolnoe and Nikolsk-Ussuriisk, where kappel'evtsy disarmed revolutionary militias and captured the train stations. Spiridon and Nikolai Merkulov established a White enclave that they named the Provisional Priamur Government, even though it only extended from Vladivostok to Spassk, 125 miles north. Moscow immediately ordered a formidable rescue expedition into the F.E.R.: a Siberian division of the Red Army, 100 military-political zealots, a number of armored trains and General Vasilii Blyukher. 27
On August 15, 1922, General Tachibana announced the phased withdrawal of the Japanese Army. The Whites initiated a desperate offensive to try to clear out the partisans once and for all, and at the end of September even mobilized children, sending many of them to the front to be slaughtered by experienced Red soldiers. The "last White stand, a useless shedding of blood," occurred midway between Spassk and Nikolsk during October 10 through 14. 28 Ten days later the final White refugees departed Russian soil, filing numbly past the great stockpiles of weapons in Vladivostok that their allies, even the Japanese, had denied to them, and boarding a motley fleet of rusty freighters, gunboats, trawlers, scows, and rafts to Wonsan, Korea, the nearest foreign port. By noon the next day the Japanese Army had vacated Vladivostok. 29
Nikolsk turned to reconstruction and volatile social experimentation with communism. Harold Fay returned to New York three days before Christmas 1920, got married there in 1923, and apparently moved to Switzerland shortly thereafter. He attended a "great world conference" at Geneva in May 1927 where Cordell Hull and other visionaries tried in vain to steer post-war commercial policy towards a reduction in trade restrictions, and, later that year, Fay co-authored a book about the conference with Allyn Abbot Young, one of America's most renowned monetary economists. 30 By 1930, Fay was living in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Bethesda, Maryland, where he had given up his journalism aspirations and become an investor with a trust company to better support his wife and daughter. 31
1 U.S. Senate Committee on Education and Labor, Deportation of Gregorie Semenoff: Hearings Relative to the Deporting of Undesirable Aliens , April 12-18, 1922, Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1922 (reprint by Beamur International Limited, Hong Kong, 1972). p. 5. Major General Graves informed the Committee of the killings of 5 former doughboys in Siberia by Ataman Semenov during summer 1920.
2 Kaufman, Linda Fay, "Harold Van Vechten Fay," Fay Family [Genealogy] Page, http://www.fayfamily.org, April 2003. Harold V.V. Fay was the son of Fred H. Fay, born February 1857, the son of Edwin R. Fay, who was born about 1828, both in New York.
3 According to New York Passenger Arrival Records, Fay arrived on the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse from Bremen in July 1909, on the Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm from Bremen in August 1910, and on Oscar II from Copenhagen in December 1916.
4 "File 238" actually designates several boxes of uncataloged files, and many descriptions of RG 43 do not even mention the presence of the R.R.S.C. papers. RG 43 is a catch-all repository for classified and unclassified U.S. State Department documents dating back to 1826.
5 Moi Gorod: Narodnaya entsiklopediya gorodov i regionov Rossii (http://www.mojgorod.ru). The area was settled in 1866 by migrants from Astrakhan and Voronezh; the city was founded in 1898, and was called Voroshilov from 1935 until 1957, when it was renamed Ussuriisk. The 1920 population estimate is based upon the 1926 population of 35,300. The longer Amur route to Karymskaya was 1,248 miles (1,997 kilometers) long, compared to less than 1,000 miles on the Chinese Eastern route.
6 Bell, James Mackintosh, Side Lights on the Siberian Campaign, Ryerson Press, Toronto, 1922, p. 73; Morley, James William, The Japanese Thrust into Siberia, 1918, Columbia University Press, NY, 1954, pp. 247-249; and Ginzton, Edward L., Times to Remember: The Life of Edward L. Ginzton, Blackberry Creek Press of Berkeley, 1995. Author Ginzton was a boy in the Maritime Province when his father was chief health officer for the Reds' Ussuri Front command.
7 Bell, p. 72, Morley, pp. 248 and 251.
8 Bell, p. 75.
9 Bell, p. 73.
10 Ginzton, August 15 diary entry and Communiqué No. 14, General Nakajima, Japanese General HQ, Bureau of Information, Vladivostok September 2, 1918 (National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) RG 165, M917). A newspaper at Iman, behind the Red lines, claimed that Bolshevik forces numbered 15,000.
11 Ivanov, V.D. and Sergeev, O.I., "Ussuriiskoe Kazachestvo b Revolyutsiyakh 1917 goda u Grazhdanskoi Voine na Dal'nem Vostoke," Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography of the People of the Far East, DVO RAN, 1999; and Graves, Major General William Sidney, America's Siberian Adventure 1918-1920, Jonathan Cape & Harrison Smith, NY, 1931, p. 128.
12 January 28, 1920 Russian Railway Service Corps Report on the Taking of Nikolsk, A.E.F.S. Intelligence Section.
13 Graves, p. 317; and Smith, Canfield Ferch, Vladivostok Under Red and White Rule 1920-1922, University of Virginia, 1972. Rozanov and his fellow high-ranking Whites were either put aboard the steamer Orel and shipped to Japan on or before February 4 (according to Smith) or secluded in the Japanese headquarters until mid-February and shipped to Japan aboard a transport that ominously deposited 500 new Japanese troops in Vladivostok.
14 February 27, 1920 A.E.F.S. Intelligence Section Newspaper Summary (NARA RG 165, M917) and Ivanov & Sergeev. Karpinskii was also given a St. George's award banner of the Ussuri Division to pass on to Semenov.
15 February 27, 1920 A.E.F.S. Intelligence Summary No. 58 (NARA RG 165, M917).
16 February 27, 1920 Interview between Lt. Col. R.L. Eichelberger and Mr. Loots, A.E.F.S. Intelligence Section (NARA RG 165, M917).
17 February 17, 1920 A.E.F.S. Intelligence Summary No. 48 (RG 165, M917).
18 March 6 & 8, 1920 A.E.F.S. Intelligence Summaries No. 66 & 68 (NARA RG 165, M917). No. 68 cited a telegram sent to the Chinese Consul in Vladivostok and the Governor of Kirin Province from Lu Lu Cheo, Town Chief of Sopki, and "Iochosyan, Adjutant Assistant Commander of Troops-Spassk-Iman Semenov," stating, "[Kalmykov's] arms dispatched to Fugdin... Tumanov arrived at Norti, demands arms. Request you [Consul] ask Kirin if arms may be surrendered or not. Reply urgently." A March 8 London Times report of Kalmykov's capture (datelined February 25 in Harbin) "on the Manchurian border" seems to have been premature.
19 March 21, 1920 Intelligence Summary No. 81, A.E.F.S. Intelligence Section, Vladivostok (RG165).
20 March 26, 1920 Intelligence Summary No. 86, A.E.F.S. Intelligence Section, Vladivostok (RG165).
21 Smith, p. 127.
22 Gutman, Anatoly Gan, The Destruction of Nikolaevsk-on-Amur: An Episode in the Russian Civil War in the Far East, 1920, Limestone Press, Fairbanks, 1993. pp. 96-98. Similarly, Medvedev and Commissar Yakov Triapitsyn had shrugged off Red butchery at Nikolaevsk-on-Amur in early March as a dreadful intercultural misunderstanding.
23 April 21, 1920 Letter from R.R.S.C. Col. B.O. Johnson, Harbin, to John Stevens (RG43, file 238).
24 April 23, 1920 Military Attache China (HA) Reports No. 2531 and "Conditions in Siberia and Manchuria," (RG165, Microfilm M1444 Roll 6).
25 Bragin, A.P., "Krovavoe prestuplenie zhido-bol'shevikov na rekov Khor," Nashe Otechestvo, Sankt Peterburg, No. 73-74, August-September 2001.
26 Tsypkin, S., Oktiabrskaya Revolutsia i Grazhdanskaya Voina na Dal'nem Vostokye: Khronika Sobitii 1917-1922, Dal'giz, Moscow & Khabarovsk, 1933., p. 205; Smith, pp. 102, 104, 110-111, 114-116 and 118; Semenov, G. M., O Sebe, Harbin, 1938; reprinted by Izdatyelstvo AST, Moscow, 2002, pp. 257-259.
27 Smith, pp. 132-138, 141, 143, 149, 151 and 162; Dvornichenko, Nikolai Egorovich, Putevodit'el' po Chitye, Vostochno-Sibirskoye Knizhnoye Izd-vo, Irkutsk, 1981, pp. 106-107; and Bragin, p. 3. Vasilii Antonov's administration lasted from December 11, 1920 until May 1921.
28 Smith, p. 241.
29 Gutman believed that Japan's Siberian expedition cost 6,000 men killed, wounded and dead from disease and one billion gold yen (p. 84).
30 Fay returned to New York via Great Britain on the Olympic, arriving December 22, 1920. He married Katharyn Beadle in June 1923. His associate Allyn Young died in a 1929 influenza epidemic in London, only 18 months after taking up a prestigious appointment at the London School of Economics. Fay, Harold V.V. and Young, Allyn A., The International Economic Conference, Commercial Policy in Post-war Europe, World Peace Foundation, Boston, 1927.
31 Population Schedule, Fifteenth Census of the United States: 1930, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Bethesda, Maryland, April 21, 1930.