News

The Polar Bear Expedition of 1918

The US Armed Forces and the Red Army only once met in battle. It was during the Russian Civil War that the Soviets and Americans fought each other directly. 

Soviet Russia signed a separate peace treaty with the Central Powers, ending participation in WWI. Immediately, the Allies organized an expedition intended to regroup the Imperial Russian Army and subdue the Bolshevik revolution. Several contingents of Allied troops deployed to Russia. 

The British regiment landed in Arkhangelsk, on the far northern tip of the Russian coast on August 2nd, 1918. The city held many supplies sent by the Allies to support the last Russian offensive against the Germans in 1917. Unfortunately, the supplies had already been seized by the Bolsheviks, who engaged the Allies in combat almost immediately upon their arrival. 

The Polar Bear Expedition of 1918
Polar Bear Monument, White Chapel, MI

The American contingent stationed in Arkhangelsk was dubbed the Polar Bear Expedition due to the position of the city near the Arctic circle. The freezing weather (as cold as 20 below zero) produced the nickname. Elements of the 85th division were sent by General Pershing to aid the British in Arkhangelsk. The principle U.S. combat unit so deployed was the 339th Infantry, comprised mostly of the Michigan National Guard, since dubbed The Polar Bears. 

A report dated October 1919 stated that there were 210 American casualties; 110 KIA, 30 MIA, and 70 deaths from disease, mostly Spanish Flu. 305 were wounded. 

The August issue of VFW Magazine contains an excellent, more complete account of this action by Earl Rickard, a Brown Water Navy veteran of Vietnam and freelance writer. 

New Post Member Directory Proposed

Post 8870 commander Rose Gilliland has announced her intention to prepare a Post photo directory of the membership and has arranged with a photographer, Kurt Nickle, to attend our meetings and take photos of the members. If the following candid shots from the July meeting are any indication, it would appear the we will have some high quality portrait work. 

We will have our photographer on hand at future meetings to shoot individual portraits for our Post Directory. If you are not a regular attendee, we urge you to make an appearance to have your photo taken, so that you can be included in the directory. 

$ Post 8870 General Fund Depleted $

Post 8870 General Fund

Member’s Urged to Consider Donations 

At the monthly staff meeting, Quartermaster Dennis Peterson reported that the Post’s general fund, the money we use for operational expenses such as postage, web site maintenance, new member expenses over and above dues received, etc, etc. has become severely depleted going into the new 2019-20 VFW year. 

No doubt you are all aware that most of the money in our bank accounts is that generated by donations received at our twice yearly poppy drives, dedicated funds that are and must be committed to the Veteran and Community Service functions the post performs and cannot be used for operating expenses. 

If you can kick in a few dollars to help get the fund back to a healthy condition please give your cash or check to Quartermaster Peterson, or drop it in the mail to VFW Post 8870, PO Box 701, Edmonds, 98020. Our QM is also happy to process your credit card. 

If you are employed by an organization with a charitable match program, don’t forget to ask for the match, to double your donation. Our in house CPA, Past Commander Traner, asks us to remind you that all donations to the post are tax deductible. 

Commander’s Corner

The Commander’s Corner

Members of Post 8870 can now join live meetings via video conferencing. 

Our July Post meeting was our first trial using Zoom, a video conferencing app. We had two members join the meeting using Zoom. Fred Agpar from St. Louis, Missouri and Jay Hansen from Mukilteo. These members were able to participate fully in the Post meeting. At the end of the meeting Fred said that even though he was in Missouri he felt like he was home. 

Members who can’t physically be with us on meeting nights, can now still be part of the team by joining with the Zoom app. If you would like to join the meetings this way please contact the Commander or Jim Traner for further information. Information is also in the monthly meeting reminder emails. 

Reboot Military Family Program

By Dan Doyle 

Reboot Military Family Program

Last year, Steve Swanson of the Reboot Military Family Program came to one of our monthly meetings to speak to the membership of VFW Post 8870 about this program that is helping veterans dealing with the effects of combat and multiple deployments. We decided at that time to support two of the veterans who were enrolled in the program. 

I attended the last year’s graduation ceremonies and was impressed by the graduates and their families. The classes are small, maybe 12 veterans and their families, and are structured in the manner of a 12 step program with a strong faith component. What I saw in these veterans, all of whom were from the post 9/11 era, was humility and a recovered sense of self-confidence. They were very appreciative of the program and the tools it gave them to deal with their PTS issues and how it was very positive for their family relationships. 

We have been asked again to support a couple of students for this year’s class. The tuition is $250 per student for the course. We are going to support 2 students again this year with a $500 contribution from Post 8870. This is a direct and positive way for us to support fellow veterans. For more information check the REBOOT website at https://rebootrecovery.com/. 

You can also touch base with Post 8870 Chaplain Dan Doyle. 

3 million more people to get military shopping benefits

3 million more people to get military shopping benefits
Defense Commissary Agency

As about 3 million more people will soon be eligible to shop at military stores, officials are working to make sure these new customers will have access to bases, and that the shelves will be stocked. 

Starting Jan. 1, all service-connected disabled veterans, Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war and primary veteran caregivers will be eligible to shop at commissaries and exchanges, and officials from three federal agencies are preparing the way. 

The newly eligible customers will also be able to use certain morale, welfare and recreation activities. You will find further details at the link to Military Times below. 

https://www.militarytimes.com/pay-benefits/2019/07/22/heres-how-3-million-more-people-will-getmilitary- shopping-benefits/

Independence Day Parade 2019!

“An Edmonds Kind of 4th”

Independence Day Parade 2019!
Vietnam vet Terry Crabtree drives WWII vet Norm Goldstein as Norm hands a flag to a young patriot.
Independence Day Parade 2019!
Ready to go! Photo by Jim Traner

 For many years, it has been the honor and privilege of our local veterans organizations, VFW Post 8870 and American Legion Post 66 to provide the opening color guard and lead the annual “Edmonds Kind of 4th” parade. 

Below we see VFW members (left to right) Dick Simmons, with the National Ensign, a well hidden Jim Murdock with the American Legion Flag, Post 8870 Sr. Vice Commander Carl Kurfess carrying the VFW colors and John Shelton holding the POW/MIA flag. Somehow it seems appropriate for John, a combat wounded Marine sniper to be aided by Fleet Marine Corps corpsman Dan Doyle. We had a good turnout from both posts and a wonderfully responsive crowd lining the street of Edmonds to cheer on the 90 parade entries. The parade announcers were also veterans and members of both posts, in the persons of VFW Post 8870 Past Commanders Jim Blossey and Mike Denton. 

Independence Day Parade 2019!
Independence Day Parade 2019!
100 year old WWII vet Buck Weaver waves to the crowd from an antique jeep.
Independence Day Parade 2019!
American Gold Star Mothers honor their fallen sons and daughters with a large group of volunteers, each carrying a banner with the photo of an individual fallen service member.
Independence Day Parade 2019!
Don Stapleton, handing out some of the more than 2000 flags distributed along the parade route.


Never Forget

Independence Day Parade 2019!

VFW/American Legion Joint Picnic/Barbecue

VFW/American Legion Joint Picnic/Barbecue
Grill Masters Sr. Vice Commander Carl Kurfess, left and on the right, Alden Gilliland wield their spatulas.

Following the parade on July 4, another of our traditions has been to hold a picnic/barbecue at the Legion Hall. This year, close to 100 Veterans of Post 66 and Post 8870 including family and friends, gathered to enjoy great food and comradeship. A few of us who arrived a bit late had to hunt for a place to sit among all the early arrivals. 

VFW/American Legion Joint Picnic/Barbecue
Forming the chow line. Are we back in the service?

Among those in attendance, was an honored guest, District 1 Commander Doug White. It is always good to have Commander Doug with us. 

VFW/American Legion Joint Picnic/Barbecue

The menu included grilled hamburgers and hot dogs and pulled pork sandwiches. To accompany all of that delicious barbecued meat, members brought a variety of salads and side dishes and for dessert lots of cookies and a variety of cakes. 

It would be difficult to individually thank all of the folks who brought and cooked food and who stayed after the event to clean up, but we certainly thank everyone who participated in whatever manner. It only works if everyone pitches in. 

VFW/American Legion Joint Picnic/Barbecue

Now all that was needed was fireworks to end a perfecr Independence Day celebration on a perfect July day. 

June 2019 Post Meeting

June 2019 Post Meeting

At the June post meeting 2019-20 Commander Rose Gilliland took over from 2017-19 Commander Mike Denton in a brief hand-off of the gavel. Past Commander Denton began the meeting and conducted the ceremony of draping the charter for recently deceased comrades Benton Webb and Russ Pitner. (Obits for Webb and Pitner appeared in the May newsletter) The appropiate prayer for departed Comrades was read by Chaplain Dan Doyle. 

June 2019 Post Meeting

Commander Rose Gilliland then began the business portion of the meeting during which Post 8870 Surgeon Charles Gaul led some discussion of guidelines for our Hospital and Community Service reports, for which we ask members to submit their activities monthly. 

The latest instruction received from Department regarding Hospital reporting are pretty clear; the key being the word “hospital”. If it doesn’t happen in the hospital or nursing home or transport to and from these facilities, it doesn’t get reported in the Hospital Report (with the exception of blood donations). 

We are however, seeking clarification as to what is reportable and what is not for the Community Service Report. In the meantime, members may want to continue reporting as we have been and leave it to your Post Officers to judge reportablity. 

Much of the remainder of the meeting was devoted to plans and preparations for participation in the “Edmonds Kind of 4th” Independence Day parade and picnic/barbecue to follow. 

2019 Department of Washington Convention

The annual VFW Department of Washington Convention took place in Vancouver, WA June 19-22. Representing our post were Commander Rose Gilliland and Past Commander/Department Trustee Jim Traner. Jim and Rose were present for two particularly notable events. First, the presentation of the Department Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award to Post 8870 LEO Detective Nicole Stone of the Mukilteo Police Department. Commander Rose received the certificates and “White Covers” of an Allstate Post on behalf of Post 8870, representing the results of the hard work put in by our members in a wide variety of VFW and community service endeavors. Congratulations are in order to each and every post member who participated during the 2018-19 VFW year. Above left, Rose and Jim congratulate Detective Stone on her Award, shown being presented at right by VFW Department of Washington Commander Linda Fairbank and Past VFW Commander in Chief Paul A. Spera. Rose and Jim join other District 1 representatives at the Award Luncheon.

The annual VFW Department of Washington Convention took place in Vancouver, WA June 19-22. Representing our post were Commander Rose Gilliland and Past Commander/Department Trustee Jim Traner. 

2019 Department of Washington Convention
Rose and Jim congratulate Detective Stone on her Award

Jim and Rose were present for two particularly notable events. First, the presentation of the Department Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award to Post 8870 LEO Detective Nicole Stone of the Mukilteo Police Department. Commander Rose received the certificates and “White Covers” of an Allstate Post on behalf of Post 8870, representing the results of the hard work put in by our members in a wide variety of VFW and community service endeavors. 

2019 Department of Washington Convention
Detective Stone, her Award being presented by VFW Department of Washington Commander Linda Fairbank and Past VFW Commander in Chief Paul A. Spera

Congratulations are in order to each and every post member who participated during the 2018-19 VFW year. 

2019 Department of Washington Convention
Rose and Jim join other District 1 representatives at the Award Luncheon.

Fred Apgar Remembers Erv Schmidt

Fred Apgar Remembers Erv Schmidt
Erv, left, with Fred Apar

Ervin Schmidt was a 25 year old barber from Marshfield, Wisconsin when he enlisted in the United State Navy in August of 1940. After completing basic training, Erv was assigned to the battleship USS California and participated in numerous training cruises in the Pacific Ocean. In December of 1941, the USS California was docked in what has become known as “battleship row” at Pearl Harbor. Erv was asleep in his bunk when the first of two torpedoes hit the California. After a second torpedo struck, the Captain issued the order to abandon ship. 

Erv was then assigned to the heavy cruiser, USS Chicago and the ship deployed to serve as reinforcement to the Australian and New Zealand forces in the vicinity of the Coral Sea. In the confusion after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Erv was listed as Killed in Action, and his family was so notified. Six weeks after his family held a funeral service for him, they learned that Erv had survived the attack. 

Fred Apgar Remembers Erv Schmidt
Erv at sea aboard Torsk

In January 1943, the Chicago engaged the Japanese in the Solomon Islands, and the ship sustained severe battle damage. Once again, Erv heard the command to abandon ship. Thinking he might be safer under water, Erv volunteered for submarine duty. He was assigned to the USS Saury as a radio and sonar operator, and during his five patrols on the Saury, a total of 9 Japanese ships were sunk. 

Fred Apgar Remembers Erv Schmidt
USS Torsk

After some well-deserved shore duty in Portsmouth, New Hampshire he was assigned to another submarine, the USS Torsk, which conducted patrols against enemy shipping, first in Tokyo Bay and then the Sea of Japan. On August 11 and then on August 13, 1945, the Torsk sank two Japanese Naval ships, which were the last two ships sunk by the US Navy in World War II. On August 14, 1945, hostilities in the South Pacific ended. During his 2012 Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., Erv had the opportunity to visit, for the last time, his beloved USS Torsk, which now serves as a memorial in Baltimore Harbor. 

Thanks, Fred for reminding of us our late comrade. 


Fred Apgar moved away to the mid-west a few years ago, but he has remained in close touch with the Post and has been kind enough to contribute to this newsletter from time to time. Disappointed with the local posts near his new home, Fred recently re-affiliated with Post 8870.