The Czech Legion was allied with the Russian Tsars just prior to the Russian revolution. After the Bolsheviks took power, they were unable to return via Europe. So they crossed the whole of Eurasia over a period of years, and eventually exited the country via Vladivostok. In the process, they played an important part in the Russian Revolution.

The question is simple: How did they get home?

In the article above, they say this:

The troops dispersed aboard a series of ships that carried them back to Europe via the Indian Ocean, others sailed across the Pacific and through the Panama Canal. Eventually, all were repatriated.

I find this to be kind of a tease; of course they crossed oceans on boats to get home.

Were these Czech ships? British ships? Were they just passenger ships? What kind of ships were having Vladivostok as a port of call at this time? Who paid for them to get home?

(Here's the link to the Wikipedia Page for Czech Legion )

( Previous SE History Mention of Czech Legion )


3 Answers 3


Indeed, as @TomAu has said, the evacuation of the Czechs (and Slovaks!) was handled by the US government, which also presumably paid for it.

I found a Romanian article about Victor Cădere, a Romanian diplomat operating at the same time and place with a similar objective: evacuation of Romanian nationals. This article provides some valuable information:

Meanwhile, the Allied Forces convened in Paris and decided that they first assess the means and the ways to meet the objective, i.e. prisoners' repatriation. The Convention between the United States and Great Britain, held at the end of 1919, decided that by collective effort of the two states some 64,000 people be repatriated. The United States were assigned the mission to deal with the Czechoslovak troops, i.e. some 35,000 people, whereas the British undertook to board the other troops, i.e some 28,500 people. According to a financial agreement concluded, Great Britain was to raise the amounts necessary to transport the people from the respective governments whose troops were fighting in Siberia. However, the United States benefited from different conditions – the amount of $12 million was lent to the Czechoslovak Government to ensure the transport of troops.

I don't quite understand the financial arrangements as detailed there, though: who was supposed to lend $12 million to the Czechoslovak Government?

Also, two ships that took part in the evacuation are identified there:

Indeed, wikipedia tells us about the former ship:

President Grant was transferred to the Army 6 October 1919. During the period January to November 1920, she served as the United States Army Transport Republic and made two voyages repatriating Czechoslovak troops from Siberia to Trieste.

Another ship I was able to find in wiki is USS Mount Vernon.

Finally, a master's thesis by Major Robert Dziak of the Czech army tells us that:

Totally, 36 transports were dispatched and over 67,700 people were transported through three main directions: First, around Asia, then via Suez Canal to Trieste; Second, across Pacific ocean, Panama canal, Atlantic ocean to Trieste or Hamburg; Third, through Pacific ocean to Canadian West coast, by rail road across Canada, then through Atlantic ocean to Hamburg. Many passengers were not members of the Legion. The transports took also care of the Legionaries’ family members, civilian personnel, and POWs.

  • 1
    I think that the U.S. conditions were that they put up the $12 million (the larger amount), unlike Britain (which operated on a "cash and carry" basis), meaning that the Americans extended credit, and the Czech government signed for the money.
    – Tom Au
    Sep 17, 2016 at 14:39
  • @TomAu But how would that be beneficial to the US? The text of the paper is not clear here, imho. Sep 20, 2016 at 0:14
  • 1
    I wonder who are the POWs mentionned in the last quote : red Russians ? And why would the Czechs bring prisonniers with them all around the world when they are not involved in the Russian Civil War anymore ?
    – Evargalo
    Apr 25, 2018 at 14:03
  • 1
    @Evargalo Great question. Do open one about this please! Apr 25, 2018 at 16:55
  • 1
    @FelixGoldberg: done ! history.stackexchange.com/questions/45850/…
    – Evargalo
    Apr 26, 2018 at 9:00

enter image description hereThe USS Grant was just one of the vessels took 2-3 times the Czech Legion soldiers home. They passed several important ports including Shanghai, Hong Kong and Colombo. Mostly were shipping on the route Vladivostok-Shanghai-Hong Kong-Singapore-Colombo-Suez-Port Said-and finally arrived at Trieste, then they took the railway back to Prague. I am now writing a historical paper on this.

According to the Czech records, there were totally around 38 transports in 1919-1920 taking the Czech Legions home. Follows are part of the details on hand right now:

  1. Transport
    Name of Ship: Roma
    Departure from Vladivostok: 15.01.1919
    Arrival to: Naples 10.03.1919
    Number of beds: 139 Officers and soldiers
  2. Transport
    Name of Ship: Madras
    Departure from Vladivostok: 14.02.1919
    Arrival to: Naples 13.04.1919
    Number of beds: 415 Officers and soldiers
  3. Transport
    Name of Ship: Sheridan
    Departure from Vladivostok: 14.04.1919
    Arrival to: Brest 07.07.1919
    Number of beds: 100 Officers and soldiers
  4. Transport Name of Ship: Nanking
    Departure from Vladivostok: 15.06.1919
    Arrival to: Brest 31.07.1919
    Number of beds: 1024 Officers and soldiers
  5. Transport
    Name of Ship: Archer
    Departure from Vladivostok: 24.06.1919
    Arrival to: Brest 15.08.1919
    Number of beds: 1903 Officers and soldiers
  6. Transport
    Name of Ship: Liverpool Maru
    Departure from Vladivostok: 09.07.1919
    Arrival to: Marseille 12.09.1919
    Number of beds: 587 Officers and soldiers
  7. Transport
    Name of Ship: Meinam
    Departure from Vladivostok: 04.08.1919
    Arrival to: Marseille 10.10.1919
    Number of beds: 399 Officers and soldiers
  8. Transport
    Name of Ship: Heffron
    Departure from Vladivostok: 13.08.1919
    Arrival to: Trieste 17.12.1919
    Number of beds: 875 Officers and soldiers
  9. Transport
    Name of Ship: Karachi Maru
    Departure from Vladivostok: 03.10.1919
    Arrival to: Trieste 27.11.1919
    Number of beds: 995 Officers and soldiers
  10. Transport
    Name of Ship: Capetown Maru
    Departure from Vladivostok: 27.10.1919
    Arrival to: Marseille 16.12.1919
    Number of beds: 1077 Officers and soldiers
  11. Transport
    Name of Ship: Italy Maru
    Departure from Vladivostok: 22.11.1919
    Arrival to: Trieste 06.01.1920
    Number of beds: 980 Officers and soldiers
  12. Transport
    Name of Ship: Scotland Maru
    Departure from Vladivostok: 25.09.1919
    Arrival to: Trieste 08.01.1920
    Number of beds: 943 Officers and soldiers
  13. Transport
    Name of Ship: Yonan Maru
    Departure from Vladivostok: 09.12.1919
    Arrival to: Trieste 27.01.1920
    Number of beds: 1036 Officers and soldiers
  14. Transport
    Name of Ship: Traz-Os-Montes
    Departure from Vladivostok: 18.12.1919
    Arrival to: Trieste 02.02.1920
    Number of beds: 1643 Officers and soldiers
  15. Transport
    Name of Ship: Shunko Maru
    Departure from Vladivostok: 24.12.1919
    Arrival to: Trieste 12.02.1920
    Number of beds: 1025 Officers and soldiers
  16. Transport
    Name of Ship: Hvah-Yih
    Departure from Vladivostok: 10.01.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 26.02.1920
    Number of beds: 1134 Officers and soldiers
  17. Transport
    Name of Ship: Nizhny Novgorod
    Departure from Vladivostok: 13.02.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 08.04.1920
    Number of beds: 664 Officers and soldiers
  18. Transport
    Name of Ship: Sheridan
    Odjazd from Vladivostok: 28.02.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 17.04.1920
    Number of beds: 1602 Officers and soldiers
  19. Transport
    Name of Ship: Madawaska
    Departure from Vladivostok: 12.03.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 16.04.1920
    Number of beds: 2175 Officers and soldiers
  20. Transport
    Name of Ship: Mount Vernon
    Departure from Vladivostok: 13.04.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 06.06.1920
    Number of beds: 2990 Officers and soldiers
  21. Transport
    Name of Ship: Titan
    Departure from Vladivostok: 15.04.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 04.06.1920
    Number of beds: 1222 Officers and soldiers
  22. Transport Name of Ship: America
    Departure from Vladivostok: 23.04.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 07.06.1920
    Number of beds: 5835 Officers and soldiers
  23. Transport
    Name of Ship: President Grant
    Departure from Vladivostok: 27.04.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 12.06.1920
    Number of beds: 4613 Officers and soldiers
  24. Transport
    Name of Ship: Crook
    Departure from Vladivostok: ?
    Arrival to: ?
    Number of beds: ?
  25. Transport
    Name of Ship: Keemun
    Departure from Vladivostok: 20.05.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 08.07.1920
    Number of beds: 945 Officers and soldiers
  26. Transport
    Name of Ship: Ixion
    Departure from Vladivostok: 23.05.1920
    Arrival to: Kuxhafen 17.07.1920
    Number of beds: 2853 Officers and soldiers
  27. Transport
    Name of Ship: Sherman
    Departure from Vladivostok: 24.05.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 03.07.1920
    Number of beds: 1546 Officers and soldiers
  28. Transport
    Name of Ship: M.With. Dollar
    Departure from Vladivostok: 06.06.1920
    Arrival to: Kuxhafen 20.07.1920
    Number of beds: 3289 Officers and soldiers
  29. Transport
    Name of Ship: Protesilaus
    Departure from Vladivostok: 08.06.1920
    Arrival to: Kuxhafen 01.08.1920
    Number of beds: 2665 Officers and soldiers
  30. Transport
    Name of Ship: Edellyn
    Departure from Vladivostok: 01.06.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 06.08.1920
    Number of beds: 1938 Officers and soldiers
  31. Transport
    Name of Ship: Teuger
    Departure from Vladivostok: 07.06.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 28.07.1920
    Number of beds: 1197 Officers and soldiers
  32. Transport
    Name of Ship: Thomas
    Departure from Vladivostok: 20.06.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 08.08.1920
    Number of beds: 1781 Officers and soldiers
  33. Transport
    Name of Ship: Logan
    Departure from Vladivostok: 21.07.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 09.09.1920
    Number of beds: 1789 Officers and soldiers

33a. Transport
Name of Ship: Himalaya
Departure from Vladivostok: 03.08.1920
Arrival to: Gruz, 10.09.1920
Number of beds: 47 Officers and soldiers

  1. Transport
    Name of Ship: Huntsend
    Departure from Vladivostok: 07.08.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 01.10.1920
    Number of beds: 974 Officers and soldiers

  2. Transport
    Name of Ship: President Grant
    Departure from Vladivostok: 24.08.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 13.10.1920
    Number of beds: 1944 Officers and soldiers

35a. Transport
Name of Ship: Legion
Departure from Vladivostok: 24.08.1920
Arrival to: Trieste 12.10.1920
Number of beds: 70 Officers and soldiers

  1. Transport
    Name of Ship: Heffron
    Departure from Vladivostok: 02.09.1920
    Arrival to: Trieste 11.11.1920
    Number of beds: 720 Officers and soldiers

The Czechs were evacuated on mostly American ships, such as could be made available from time to time. Which is why many of them went through the Panama Canal. Some went through the Indian Ocean on British or even Japanese ships (Japan was an Ally in World War I, and co-operated with America in securing Vladivostok).

This was a pet project of President Woodrow Wilson, who first wanted to redeploy the Czech troops on the Western front (until the war ended abruptly in 1918). Then, they became an important part of point 10 of his 14 points. This was self-determination for the peoples of Austria-Hungary, which in practice meant the creation of an independent Czechoslovakia, among other things.

The U.S. fronted $12 million to send the Czechs home, which the Czech government agreed to repay over time. The British received a smaller amount on a "cash and carry" basis.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.