The Polar Bears
Hello, I think I have identified another name to
add to your “Veteran’s of Valley Head” web
I should probably begin by explaining a bit
about myself and how I came to this conclusion.
My name is Michael V. Grobbel and I live in
Shelby Township, which is north of Detroit, MI.
My wife of 32 years, the former Kathy Yancy,
was born in Ft. Payne, AL in 1952, and moved
to the Detroit area with her parents in 1963.
My hobby is researching my family’s history,
including their military service (fortunately, my
sister-in-law has taken on the task of
Yancy/Townsel/Culpepper/White family lines
in the Sand Mountain area).
My grandfather, Clement Grobbel, was born in
Warren Township, Michigan in 1895. He was
drafted into the US Army’s 339th Infantry
Regiment in June of 1918 and received his
basic training at Camp Custer, near Battle
Creek, Michigan. The 339th was sent to
England in August of 1918, but instead of going
to France, they were assigned to the American
North Russia Expeditionary Force (ANREF).
The 5,000 men of the ANREF were placed
under British command, and together with
Allied French, British and White Russian forces,
they fought the Communists in the region
surrounding Archangel, North Russia, from
September 1918 until June of 1919. They
were considered to be World War One
veterans, even though they continued fighting
for more than 7 months after the Armistice.
Upon their return to the USA, the ANREF
veterans began calling themselves “Polar
Bears”, since they had fought in the sub-arctic
region during the dead of winter.
Most (80% or so) of the Polar Bears who were
drafted and inducted into the 339th Infantry
came from Michigan and the other Great Lakes
states, however almost all the other states in
the Union were represented in their ranks.
Recently, while browsing through an on-line
database listing of Polar Bears arranged by
geographic location, I noticed that there were
nine men from different places in Alabama.
What particularly caught my eye was the
location “Valley Head, AL” in the database,
which I knew to be just down the road from my
Clicking on the “Valley Head, AL” location in the
database, I saw the name White Ralph name
and information of this “Polar Bear”:
White, Ralph L.
company: United States. Army. Infantry,
hometown: Valley Head (Ala.)
Hmmmm, I thought – could my dear wife also
have a relative who was a “Polar Bear” ? I
quickly checked my sister-in-law’s genealogy
database, but he was not listed in there. Next, I
did a Google search and I found a White, Ralph
L. on page 138 of your PDF document which gave this
information about him:
White, Ralph L.
b. Feb 1892 in AL
occupation: Helper mill
d. Sept 1943
bur. Valley Head, AL
His birth date is in the correct range of years for
these Polar Bear veterans and the middle
initials match, so I am quite sure this is the
same person mentioned in the Polar Bear
database. Unfortunately, I cannot find any
mention of his rank in the Polar Bear
information. If you decide to add his name to
your Veteran’s page, I would identify him as a
member of Supply Company, 339th Infantry
Regiment, US Army, WW I American North
Russia Expeditionary Force, 1918-1919. Here
is a “http://polarbears.si.umich.edu/index.pl
photo of Supply Company, but their members are not identified.
I should also add that I am the President (and
webmaster) of the “Polar Bear Memorial
Association”. In addition to the
otos/polarbear.htm” we maintain, we also conduct an annual
service for the Polar Bears. Most people
in the USA are not aware that US troops fought
the Soviet Communists on Russian soil and our
Association’s purpose is to make sure that their
service, sacrifices and deaths are not
Contact me at:
Visit my webpages at: “http://grobbel.org”
Contributed by -Mike Grobbel-