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Monday 17 April 2017

Guest Blog by Howard Weinert: Captain Prince at the American Embassy in Vologda 1918

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The envelope shown above is stationery of the Office of the Military Attaché, American Embassy, Petrograd. The enclosed letter, typewritten in Vologda on 14 April 1918, is embossed with the Great Seal and “Embassy of the United States of America”. Sent via diplomatic pouch and postmarked in Washington in August. The sender, Eugene Prince, affixed 21 kopecks in postage stamps to pay the 20 kopeck international letter rate, but the rate had increased to 30 kopecks on 10 March. Inscribed “Capt. E. Prince U.S.A.” on front and “Captain E. Prince. U.S.N.A., Asst. to Amer. Military Attaché Petrograd” on back. Fearing that the Germans would occupy Petrograd, the American Embassy left the city on 27 Feb. and moved to Vologda.

Prince [1890 – 1981] was born in St. Petersburg to an American father and a Russian mother. In 1911 he was working in the Moscow sales office of International Harvester Co. In that year he went to the USA to study manufacturing methods at International Harvester in Chicago and Milwaukee. He returned to Russia in 1913 as IH representative, came back to the USA in 1916, and returned to Russia in August 1916 as representative of Willys-Overland an American automobile and jeep manufacturer. In 1917 he served as interpreter for the Root Mission, sent by President Wilson after the abdication of Tsar Nicholas, and the Stevens Railway Mission, and then was appointed Captain with the American Military Mission and Asst. Military Attaché at the American Embassy in Petrograd. He returned to the USA in 1919, and afterward continued to represent Willys-Overland in Europe. He was a member of the Rossica Society.

In his letter, Prince says, “When we left Petrograd we had fairly good hopes of going straight on to Vladivostok and then to Japan and the States, but now I am certain it will be quite some time before we get home. The situation here is getting all the time more and more complicated. As usual I am in the thick of most everything. When I shall see you again I shall be able to tell you a lot of interesting incidents, of which now I have to be silent. Vologda where we are now is a dirty small town, it is continuously raining and the mud on the streets is so deep, it is impossible to walk”.

Prince was in charge of identifying routes of Allied occupation and getting copies of German and Bolshevik battle plans. He worked to sabotage property taken over by the Germans and to funnel money to the Czechs fighting the Reds along the Trans-Siberian railway.

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