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Northern Russia WIA Certificate (Columbia) -- 339th Infantry "Polar Bears"


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bertmedals

I keep telling myself I’m not going to buy any more WW1 “Columbia” WIA and KIA certificates.  I must have 10 of them already.  But, invariably, I see another interesting one and end up purchasing it.  I did that again last week.  Actually, I bought a pair of them that were being offered as a “buy it now” principally to get the one shown below.


This WIA certificate is for Pvt. William E. Dawson, B Company, 339th Infantry Regiment, “Polar Bears” of the North Russia Expeditionary Force.  William Edgar Dawson appears on the roster for B Company (sources: “Detroit’s Own Polar Bear Memorial Association”; Bentley Historical Library) and on an outgoing passenger roster for B Company on The USS Plattsburg (source: Fold 3).   His rank is listed as a bugler on one of the rosters. In my preliminary research I was able to find a William Edgar Dawson from Detroit who was born June 18, 1892 (one source says 1893), died March 31, 1969, is listed as a WW1 Vet, and is buried in the Los Angeles National Cemetery, Section 129 Row Z Site 9.


From the “Detroit’s Own Polar Bear Memorial Association” website, B Co was in action along the Dvina River Front (south of Archangel) at Seltso, 19-20 Sep (offensive with C & D companies – 8 WIA total apparently all from B Co) and 10-14 Oct (defensive – 2 WIA all from B Co); and at Tuglas (Touglas), 11-14 Nov (defensive with C & D companies – 70 WIA).  From the information available, it appears that Pvt Dawson was wounded in one of those actions.

 

Here are the summaries of those actions from the Association website:


“Summaries - Dvina River Front


19 Sept 1918 - On Sept 7th, the 1st Battalion of the 339th Infantry (Companies A, B, C & D) were sent up the Dvina River to Beresnik. From there on Sept 13th, Cos. B, C & D began to chase the Bolos [Bolsheviks] further upstream to the southeast, with the ultimate goal of taking Kotlas and joining up with Czech forces who were approaching it form the east.. On the 19th, the Bolos halted their retreat at Seltso and began attacking the ANREF units with machine guns and heavy artillery bombardment from their gunboats. An unsuccessful flanking attempt by B Co. on the 20th resulted in 3 deaths and 8 injured. With the White Russian artillery having finally caught up with the 339th late in the day on the 20th, coupled with the Bolshevik decision to withdraw upstream, the ANREF was able to easily take Seltso. The town was left in the hands of White Russian and Royal Scottish troops and the 339th moved on to the Vaga River Front.”
“10-14 Oct 1918 - In response to increased Bolshevik pressure on the garrison at Seltso, B Co. was sent to assist in the defense of the town. On Oct 10th, B Co. attacked the Bolos who were entrenched on the southern outskirts of Seltso, killing 29, while sustaining only 2 injured. With cold weather setting in, their British gunboat withdrew downstream and the Bolshevik forces took the opportunity to attack Seltso on Oct 14, forcing the Allied troops to retreat to Toulgas.”


“11-14 Nov 1918 - Having given up on reaching Kotlas, the Allied forces began setting up a fortified garrison in Toulgas, which by now included B, C and D Cos. of the 339th. On the morning of Nov 11th, the Bolsheviks staged a diversionary attack on the south end of Toulgas, which was shortly followed by the attack of their main forces from the swampy ravine on the west. Heavy machine gun resistance by the Allies forced the main body to pull back and regroup for an attack on the north edge of the village. Here they were prevented by the fine work of the Canadian Artillery from taking anything more than the ANREF field hospital, which had been left undefended. The Bolo infantry fell back and their artillery shelled the village during the night. The next morning, the Bolo artillery focused on the Allied blockhouse that was protecting the bridge at the southern approach to the village. Once it was hit, their infantry attempted to cross the bridge, but without success against the deadly machine gun fire from B Co. While this was happening, the Royal Scots stormed the field hospital and routed the Bolos who were holding the patients as prisoners. On the 13th, the situation worsened for the surrounded Allied garrison in Toulgas when the Bolos changed tactics and mounted a continuous bombardment of the village. By nightfall, with their ammunition running low and no outside communications, the Americans decided to try and break the seige by staging a surprise flank attack on the Bolshevik forces south of the village. In the pre-dawn of the 14th, B Co. managed to sneak through the swamps west of the village and at daylight, they charged the surprised Bolsheviks. Thinking that Allied reinforcements had arrived from the north, the Bolos retreated and due to the worsening weather, their gunboats retreated upstream, leaving Toulgas in the hands of the Allies.”


As shown in the pictures, the certificate has been trimmed probably for framing.  It has some surface soiling and a water stain but is in good condition overall.  The seller told me she had no other material belonging to Pvt Dawson.


I’m continuing to research Pvt Dawson.  Appreciate any insights any of you may have on him or the B Company actions.


Thanks.
Dennis 
 

Dawson WIA 11.jpg

Dawson WIA 31.jpg

Dawson William E Outgoing Passenger List_Final.pdf

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That's a scarce Accolade!

 

I too have a few of these and don't need more - but keep finding interesting ones worth keeping.  My most recent was to a 3rd Division artilleryman who received the DSC posthumously. An ebay BIN that came out of a goodwill in Arizona (you better believe I asked the seller to revisit that store daily for a few weeks looking for a DSC document or medal).  

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bertmedals
17 minutes ago, AustinO said:

That's a scarce Accolade!

 

I too have a few of these and don't need more - but keep finding interesting ones worth keeping.  My most recent was to a 3rd Division artilleryman who received the DSC posthumously. An ebay BIN that came out of a goodwill in Arizona (you better believe I asked the seller to revisit that store daily for a few weeks looking for a DSC document or medal).  

Good catch on that 3rd Division certificate.  I figured the 339th was scarce but I'm not sure how many wounded the Regiment had. I try to focus on the AEF in France and Belgium but I'm somewhat unsuccessful in that.

 

I also picked one of these certificates off eBay many years ago to a Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) who was awarded the DSC.  I was not familiar with him but it turned out he played a significant role during and after the war. I'm sure the rest of his stuff is out there somewhere too.

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I've had a 339th and a 332nd long ago.

 

Wish I'd kept the 332nd, as they only had 10 or so men wounded (if memory serves).

 

 

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bertmedals
3 hours ago, MAW said:

I've had a 339th and a 332nd long ago.

 

Wish I'd kept the 332nd, as they only had 10 or so men wounded (if memory serves).

 

 

I share your views on the 332nd.  As an Ohioan I would love to have one in my collection.

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