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letter, with regard to Senate bill 2320, Seventy-third Congress, which is nearly identical with the bill which is the subject of this letter. Sincerely yours,
(Source: Russian Railway Service Corps, providing an honorable discharge for the members of, from the
military service of the United States. Hearing before the Committee on Military Affairs, House of Representatives, 67th Cong., 2d sess. on 8. 28., Tuesday, June 20, 1922; Friday, June 23, 1922: pt, 2. Govern. ment Printing Office, Washington, p. 32.)
"Mr. Quin. What is the objection to having the men in that corps, and who were in the service of the United States Government, given the status of any other soldiers that had on the uniform of the United States Government during the war?
"Mr. Poole. So far as the State Department is concerned, there is no objection. The attitude of the State Department, so far as I am authorized to speak for it, is this: The Department is fully appreciative of the service these men performed, and believes that they should receive every possible consideration, but as to whether this particular bill should be passed or not, is of course, a question that you must decide. As to the particular form that our appreciation of these men shall take, that is another matter.''
We disapprove of H. R. 4463, the Russian Railway Service Corps bill, because its officers seek now to be given a military status which they never had, were notified of this, and were upon notice of their status. Moreover, they were paid by the Russian Government at higher salaries than similar ranks in the United States Army and their promotion was not in the hands of the United States Government.
We believe that it is unwise to interfere in the proper administration of the United States Army and that such acts by Congress will be harmful to military discipline and expensive.
A copy of the letter sent to all applicants for the Russian Railway Service Corps shows: "The Russian Railway Service Corps was a semimilitary organization formed under the State Department for service on Siberian Railways. The members of the corps had the legal status of civilian employees of the State Department.” Their records were kept by the State Department, not the War Department, and are in the State Department today:
The notes of the conference, Washington, D. C., September 15, 1917, made the following statement: "Men sent from the United States must have corresponding military rank with the present officers of the Russian railways in order that no confusion or question of authority may arise.
"The Russian Government will pay the railway men from the United States salaries as may be determined by Mr. Felton for the rank they occupy, depositing the sums monthly in such bank as may be designated by the individual. In addition thereto, when in Russia, the Americans will be paid such additional allowances as may be necessary to enable them to meet their expenses and which allowances will be determined by Mr. Stevens, Chairman of the Railway Commission, in conference with the Russian Railway authorities in Russia.'
There were approximately 411 men designated in various ranks under the foregoing circumstances. They wore a uniform similar to the one worn by officers in the American Army as did others who belonged to semimilitary organizations, such as the American Red Cross, the Y. M. C. A., the Knights of Columbus, the Salvation, Army and others.
The following were pay schedules of the Russian Railway group as against officers in the United States Army:
In addition, expenses in Russia were to be granted to members of the Russian Railway Service Corps. Expenses of Army officers on foreign service, as on any other service, are paid by the individual officer.
The members of the Russian Railway Service Corps were not subject to military discipline and their promotion was in the hands of Colonel Emerson, the Commander of the Corps, who was not an officer in the Army of the United States.
There is no record in the War Department indicating that members of the Corps attended any training camp or received any course of instruction. They assembled for the first time in San Francisco, whence they sailed for Vladivostok on the United States Transport Thomas on November 9, 1917. Prior to such sailing there was considerable inquiry by the members in regard to whether or not warrisk insurance could be taken by them. It was decided that as they were not members of the United States Military Establishment they could not take advantage of such insurance. It would therefore seem that the nonmilitary status of these men should have been known to them before they departed for Russia.
The members of this corps were promoted by Colonel Emerson under whom the corps directly operated. The procedure followed was as follows: Colonel Emerson appointed the member to higher grade; he then notified Mr. Felton through the Secretary of State of such appointment and the Secretary of State transmitted the notification of appointment to the Secretary of War who in turn referred the notification of appointment to The Adjutant General so that the records of those members whose appointment to their original positions was confirmed by The Adjutant General might be changed. Thus, it is seen that the War Department acted merely as the keeper of records for this corps.
The evidence before the committee shows that these men were not in the military service of the United States, that the second paragraph of the application for appointment in the Russian Railway Service Corps read as follows:
It is understood that any commission held in this corps does not apply in the United States Army.
The commission which was given them was not on G. 0. form no. 650–6 or in any way similar to it.
The War Department is opposed to these men being granted the status of former soldiers because such action would only serve to encourage thousands of former members of semimilitary organizations to promote similar legislation. We agree that the position of the War Department is well taken and urge disapproval of the bill.
SAM L. COLLINS.
“The War Department's connection with the formation of the corps was entirely upon request of the State Department, and it is understood that the State Department request in turn was in compliance with a request from the Ruesian Government to furnish American operating personnel for the Trans-Siberian Railway, this railway being the only avenue of supply for the Russian Army then engaging Germany. Except for this connection, and the War Department's own desire to authorize the use of the American uniform and titles of rank for the purpose of protecting the persons and facilitating the performance of members of the corps, it is probable that members of the corps would have otherwise functioned as civilian employees of the Russian Government.
“After weighing all the evidence, the committee concludes:
“That the members of the corps rendered patriotic, loyal, and hazardous service under war conditions which were essential to American participation in the World War. That this service was rendered under essentially military conditions and requirements. That members of the corps believed themselves regularly appointed officers of the United States Army. That had they performed the same service with the American Army in France they would have been regularly commissioned in the Army. That through no fault of their own, they are now in the anomalous position of having rendered honorable war service, but are denied the sentimental and practical benefits of such service. That recognition of the honorable war service if the members of the Russian Railway Service Corps as provided in S. 2320 is justified, but should not constitute or be considered a precedent for similar action upon other claims which may be made for recognition of war service. “The War Department opposes this bill as set forth in the following letter:
Washington, January 24, 1934. Hon. MORRIS SHEPPARD, Chairman Committee on Military Affairs,
United States Senate. DEAR SENATOR SHEPPARD: Careful consideration has been given to the bill S. 2320 (73d Cong., 2d sess.), for the relief of the “officers of the Russian Railway Service Corps organized by the War Department under authority of the President of the United States for service during the war with Germany”, which bill was forwarded on January 16, 1934, with a request for the views of the War Departo ment relative thereto.
Bills substantially the same in purpose as S. 2320 have frequently been introduced in Congress. Accordingly, the War Department has given considerable study to the question from all viewpoints and has furnished information on this subject to committees of Congress from time to time. In every instance the War Department has recommended against the credit for military service asked in the present bill.
I shall briefly indicate the circumstances connected with the inception, nature of employment of, and status of this corps. The Russian Railway Service Corps was not a part of the United States Army but was a semiofficial unit composed of railroad men who were sent to Siberia at the request of the Russian Government to improve the operating condition on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The procurement of these men was undertaken by the Director General of the Military Railways and the Chief of Engineers at the request of the State Department and the organization was forwarded to Siberia in November 1917. Owing to the chaotic conditions existing at that time in Siberia it was deemed advisable to give the corps a semimilitary organization and to uniform the members thereof. For this reason the members were given military titles and were furnished with letters of appointment from The Adjutant General of the Army. A special uniform for the corps, together with original insignia, was furnished, both differing from those used by the American military forces. The corps consisted entirely of officers. There was no form of contract binding the members of the Russian Railway Service Corps to remain in the service against their will, the relationship being similar to that which obtains in cases of employees of a business firm who are free to resign at will, restrained only by the moral obligation not to leave their employer without due notice.
The War Department does not lack a full appreciation of the service of the members of the Russian Railway Service Corps and does not desire to detract from the credit undoubtedly due them. However, in viewing the World War, it is seen that the patriotism of our people brought forth service or sacrifice from practically every man, woman, and child in the country. There were innumerable letter, with regard to Senate bill 2320, Seventy-third Congress, which is nearly identical with the bill which is the subject of this letter. Sincerely yours,
(Source: Russian Railway Service Corps, providing an honorable discharge for the members of, trom the
military service of the United States. Hearing before the Committee on Military Affairs, House of Representatives, 67th Cong., 2d sess. on 8. 28. Tuesday, June 20, 1922; Friday, Juno 23, 1922: pt. 2. Govern. ment Printing Office, Washington, p. 32.)
“Mr. Quin. What is the objection to having the men in that corps, and who were in the service of the United States Government, given the status of any other soldiers that had on the uniform of the United States Government during the war?
“Mr. Poole. So far as the State Department is concerned, there is no objection. The attitude of the State Department, so far as I am authorized to speak for it, is this: The Department is fully appreciative of the service these men performed, and believes that they should receive every possible consideration, but as to whether this particular bill should be passed or not, is of course, a question that you must decide. As to the particular form that our appreciation of these men shall take, that is another matter.'"