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Item:
ON3269

Original U.S. WWI Russian Revolution M1917 AEF Siberia "Polar Bears" Helmet - 31st Infantry Regiment

Regular price $295.00

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This fine extremely RARE example offered without liner or chinstrap has wonderful original period white paint. This is a neat example of a genuine USGI Great War helmet from a well known infantry regiment of the US army. The best feature of all is the original hand painted insignia of the American Expeditionary Force Siberia 31st Infantry Regiment known as the "Polar Bears"! This helmet has no dings or dents and maintains approximately 75% of its original finish and texture. The inside of the helmet shell is pitted.

The 31st Infantry Regiment ("Polar Bears") of the United States Army was formed on 13 August 1916. The unit is rare in that it was formed and has spent most of its life on non-American soil. During the Russian Revolution, on 13 August 1918, the 31st moved from Manila's tropics to the bitter cold of Siberia as part of the American Expeditionary Force Siberia. Its mission was to prevent allied war material left on Vladivostok's docks from being looted. The 31st moved from Fort William McKinley to Manila, and there set sail for Vladivostok, Siberia, arriving on 21 August. The regiment was then broken into various detachments and used to guard the Trans-Siberian railway, as well as 130 km of a branch line leading to the Suchan mines.

For the next 2 years, the 31st and its sister, the 27th Infantry Regiment, fought off bands of Red revolutionaries and White counter-revolutionaries that were plundering the Siberian countryside and trying to gain control of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. They also dissuaded their 40,000 Japanese allies from taking control of Russian territory.

The regiment suffered its first battle casualties on 29 August 1918, in action near Ugolnaya. During the Siberian deployment, 30 soldiers of the 31st Infantry were killed and some 60 troops were wounded in action. In addition, a large number of troops lost limbs due to frostbite. During this deployment, the regiment recommended one Medal of Honor and 15 Distinguished Service Crosses. For its service in Siberia, the 31st Infantry became known as "the Polar Bear regiment", adopting a silver polar bear as its insignia.

In April 1920, the regiment returned to Fort McKinley and, in December, was moved to the Post of Manila.

The M1917 was the US Army's first modern combat helmet, used from 1917 and during the 1920s, before being replaced by the M1917A1. The M1917A1 helmet was an updated version of the M1917 and initially used refurbished WW1 shells.

The M1917 is a near identical version of the British Mk.I steel helmet, and it is important to note that when the US joined the Great War in 1917 they were initially issued with a supply of around 400,000 British made Mk.Is, before production began state side. The M1917 differed slightly in its lining detail, and exhibited US manufacture markings.

M1917 helmet liners typically show a paper label at the crown and the dome rivet head. The liner is set up as on the British versions, with an oilcloth band and net configuration, attached to a leather strap, riveted to the shell. The chinstrap is leather with steel buckle.

Hisotry of the 104th in World War One:

Regarding the United States in WWI, on 10, 12 and 13 April 1918, the lines being held by the troops of the 104th Infantry Regiment, of the 52d Infantry Brigade, of the 26th "Yankee" Division, in Bois Brule, near Apremont in the Ardennes, were heavily bombarded and attacked by the Germans. At first the Germans secured a foothold in some advanced trenches which were not strongly held but, thereafter, sturdy counterattacks by the 104th Infantry—at the point of the bayonet and in hand-to-hand combat—succeeded in driving the enemy out with serious losses, entirely re-establishing the American line. For its gallantry the 104th Infantry was cited in a general order of the French 32nd Army Corps on 26 April 1918. In an impressive ceremony occurring in a field near Boucq on 28 April 1918, the 104th Infantry's regimental flag was decorated with the Croix de Guerre by French General Fenelon F.G. Passaga. "I am proud to decorate the flag of a regiment which has shown such fortitude and courage," he said. "I am proud to decorate the flag of a nation which has come to aid in the fight for liberty." Thus, the 104th Infantry became the very first American unit to be honored by a foreign country for exceptional bravery in combat. In addition, 117 members of the 104th Infantry received the award, including its commander, Colonel George H. Shelton.

According to the The New York Times, in July 1918 "it was the lot of the Americans"—which involved the 104th Infantry Regiment—"to drive the Germans back in the region lying north of Chateau-Thierry." The offensive operations of the U.S. 26th Division and 104th Regiment at Chateau Thierry were complicated—the problem being to transition at once from defensive to offensive warfare. "This involved continuous movement under the most hazardous and confusing conditions and included every unit of the [104th] regiment. In the eight days from July 18 to July 25, 1918, the 104th Infantry was to pass through a crucible of fire and steel. Its men were to write sagas of sacrifice, devotion and heroism. In the stress of one of the great, decisive battles in world history, many of these acts failed of proper recognition. It is safe to say that almost without exception, every man of the [104th] regiment was deserving of mention for meritorious conduct during those terrible July days."

"By July 4 [1918], the entire [26th] Division moved up to the front in the area also known as the Pas Fini Sector ('Unfinished Sector'), where the 52nd Infantry Brigade * * * relieved the U.S. Marine Brigade from the area of Belleau Wood and Torcy as far to the northwest as Bussiares on the left side of the line. The relief was completed on July 9 [1918] following delays due to defensive preparations for an expected German attack. * * * [The] 52nd Brigade HQ was established at La Loge Farm, and the 26th Division HQ was moved up to Chamigny. There were no trenches in the area of the front, little wire and no shelters (dugouts). Rather, defenses were designed for open warfare and consisted of shallow fox-holes covered with brush, positioned to provide mutually supporting fire along with numerous machine gun positions. The outpost line and principal resistance line were separated by a 1,000 yard artillery barrage zone designed to break up any attack that overran the outposts. Occupants of the outposts had the usual mission of fighting to the last man with no hope of reinforcement. At all hours, troops of the outpost line were fired on by machine guns and artillery of the German 7th Army. Food and water had to be carried to the forward troops by ration details through machine gun fire under cover of darkness. The troops suffered a high number of casualties due to heavy gas exposure. Belleau Wood itself was a forest of horror from the hard fighting earlier in June [1918] involving the Marines; equipment, unburied bodies and severed limbs were found still strewn everywhere and hanging in trees with the smell of death and decay heavy in the air."

"From July 9–14 [1918], 10,350 high explosive shells fell on the 52nd Brigade sector killing 14 and wounding 84 * * *. In rain and fog at midnight on July 14 [1918], the entire 26th Division front was heavily shelled with a combination of high explosive and gas * * *. Another day-long enemy bombardment occurred across the entire Divisional sector on July 15 [1918], drenching it with mustard gas. * * * On July 16–17 [1918] another 7,000 rounds of high explosive fell in the Divisional sector. Despite the relentless bombardments by German artillery, no major infantry engagements occurred * * * ."

On 17 July 1918, "the 26th Division was the only thing between the Boches and the open road to Paris. * * * The position of the Twenty-sixth Division was as follows: the extreme right was held by the 101st Infantry, facing north. The 102d Infantry lay along a roll of hills, its line extending a little beyond Bouresches; the regiment facing almost east. The 104th was in the Belleau Wood, facing east and northeast, and the 103d Infantry, north of Lucy de Bocage, faced north and northeast on [the Americans'] extreme left. One battalion of artillery was in position in the fields right and left of the Paris-Metz road; another, out on [the Americans'] left flank, was on the line Champillon-Voie du Chatel. * * * [T]he attack was ordered for 4:35 a.m. [of July 18, 1918]. Only six hours was given to make out Division orders, get them to the various regiments, and get the units in position for the jumping-off hour. * * *" Shortly after H-hour sounded, "[a] severe fire dropped by the enemy artillery on the [104th in Belleau Wood]. * * * Nobody dreamed that the encounters [beginning on July 18, 1918] had marked a turning-point of the war—that with the forward rush on that brilliant morning * * *."

"Also known to historians as the Second Battle of the Marne, the Aisne-Marne Offensive began on July 18, 1918, with a combined French and American attack on the German forces (7th Army) inside the St. Mihiel Salient. The 52nd Infantry Brigade [including the 104th Infantry Regiment] attacked along the 26th Division’s line from Bouresches to the left of the Division sector. The 52nd Brigade's initial objective was to take the Torcy-Belleau-Givry Railroad from Givry to Bouresches." "* * * the days succeeding July 18th showed us how deadly our fire had been. Lucy-le-Bocage and Vaux were laid flat by the Boche, Belleau Woods was a shattered, stinking horror, and all the traveled roads were hell . ..."

"The advance continued on July 21 [1918] as the German Army fell back across a broad front in a general retreat. [There was] stiff German resistance along the "Berta Line" in the area of Epieds * * *, which included orders for enemy artillery to contaminate the front line with mixed gas of all types."[9] "Epieds is reached by a valley from the south through which runs the main road. North of Epieds is a wooded hill, and to the west similar hills at the lower end of the Bois de Chatelet, and to the east other hills up to the northern end of the Boise de Trungy."

The entire 52nd Brigade, including the 104th Regiment, attacked Epieds twice on 22 July 1918, only to be pushed back both times with heavy casualties from German machine gun fire. "Overnight more than 1,000 artillery shells fell on the 52nd Brigade's Command Post and the next day the 52nd was again repulsed in a third attack against Epieds, the vigorous defense of which proved to be * * * a rear-guard holding action by the enemy while the main German forces withdrew."[11] During the afternoon of 23 July 1918, the 104th Regiment went up the ravine by the side of the road into the village. "They were swept by fire from more than a hundred machine guns the Germans placed on the hills about the village. [The 104th] got into the village. Soon the Germans got the range and began heavily shelling Epieds and [the 104th] withdrew to the hills, the Germans taking possession of the village under the protection of artillery fire and bringing in more machine guns."

On the morning of 24 July 1918, the 104th Regiment again faced the task of retaking Epieds. "While a small force stayed in front, drawing the fire of the Germans from the village and hills, [the other troops of the 104th] moved against the machine gunners from the rear. The troops [of the 104th] in front of the village and on both sides attacked together, forcing the Germans to evacuate quickly."[12] "Of the fighting here the French Communique [of the evening of July 24, 1918] said: 'Fierce combats were fought in the sector of Epieds * * *. Those combats, bloody and severe, were fought by Americans whose indomitable energy the Germans fell back [on the afternoon of July 24, 1918] giving [the Americans] an average advance of three kilometers'. While the actual advance was not marked by such bitter fighting, it was the fierce combats up to [the morning of July 24, 1918] which resulted in the advance * * * ". The New York Times, in a caption for its related news article, proclaimed that the "Capture of Epieds [was] a Test of Fighting Quality Under the Hardest Conditions."[12] "In a week of fighting the 26th Division had captured 17 kilometers of ground in the first real advance made by an American division as a unit, but at a cost of 20% casualties (the greatest number of battle casualties it would experience in a single operation). Counted among the Division’s casualties were 1,930 gas cases * * *." "The fight for Epieds was one of the most severe and costly in which the Americans have engaged."

"The 104th continued to fight with courage and valor until the end of the war. It had taken part in six major campaigns: Chemin Des Dames, Apremont, Campagne-Marne, Aisne Marne, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne". While "Over There" in France, the men of the 104th Infantry Regiment experienced some of the heaviest fighting and suffered the greatest number of casualties of the U.S. 26th Division. "With the end of the war, the men of the 104th returned home and became citizen-soldiers once again."

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