Rear Admiral Austin M. Knight, Commander, Asiatic Fleet, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
[1 August 1918]
From: Flag BROOKLYN, Vladivostock
At conference Allied Naval and Military Representatives today. General Dietrich reported important information received from Lake Baikal front, developed fully situation Useuri front between Nikolsk and Habarosk and outlined his plan for immediate movement westward, explained necessity for this. Gave also much information about attitude Cossacks and Peasants. Whole situation discussed by conference. 4000 Czechs are holding line from south end Lake Baikal south to maintain range.
Communication with Irkuts over difficult mountain trails, tunnels have been destroyed. All enemy forces in region Baikal to Blagavestchenk concentrating against them, including those who withdrawn from Irkuts and several thousand who have been opposing Seminof and have recently defeated him. Czechs who have penetrated this region in disguise report force about 25000 well organized including 9000 mounted. Horses plenty that region. Force commanded by Major General Von Taube. Believed critical period of campaign approaching. Czechs feel urgent necessity hasten to assistance even though realizing that their force inadequate and that they leave Vladivostok imperfectly defended. Propose to send temporarily one battalion 750 men Ussuri front, one battalion Nikolsk, one battalion Vladivostok and withdraw one of these battalions when British arrive August 2d.
Czechs 6500 effective to their way from Manchurian border to Lake Baikal. One French battalion due here about August 6th will proceed Nikolsk or Ussuri, giving total force covering Vladivostok approximately 3000. Opposing force between Nikolsk. Habarosk known to be about 15,000 of whom 6000 are war prisoners all military representatives at conference believing that proposed movement by Czechs is hazardous and that local situation Vladivostok will be far from favorable but agree that Czechs have no choice. Evidence indicates sentiment population against Bolshevik and against Germany but peasants will not use and have no arms even if willing to fight. Cossacks wavering and unreliable. Many of them actually in ranks of enemy. Result of parley with Cossacks and peasants convinces Czechs that no help is to be expected from either class; that country will welcome release from Bolshevik rule but will not help secure it. In conclusion all evidence indicates that coming six weeks will probably decide issue and that help designated in insuring safety of Czechs should come immediately. If not all can be sent now, few Thousand dispatched immediately by transports now Manila, P. IL may avert disaster, as Czech movement west must occur 10 days before contact with enemy. Or regiment from Tieutain, China could be transported to Harbin by railroad in 3 days, marines from Peking taking their place. Urge this be done.
General Dieterich states it would be much easier to form his plans if he knew what help to expect and when. His opinion is that 10,000 men needed to clear Amur line and 25,000 men for safe advance Irkuts in this opinion all Naval and military representatives in conference agreed after carefully studying situation. Am confident it is minimum not maximum.
Many civilians from interior confirm view of checks [i.e. Czechs] that population can be expected to show friendliness but not active help until Bolshevikin and war prisoners eliminated, after which reenforcements may be expected, especially from former soldiers present possibility of new Russian army. Acknowledge. 18031.
Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Subject File, Roll 30. Addressed below close: “Op-19/Op-22/Op-28/Op-49/Op-46/State Dept. via Op-36/President [Woodrow] Wilson/General Staff via Gilpin.” Document reference: “X-7 IN 2406.”