King Albert's Heroes: How four hundred young Belgians fought in Russia and conquered the United States

Lecture | September 25 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 201 Moses Hall

 August Thiry

 Institute of European Studies, BENELUX Studies Program, Dutch Studies, Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ISEEES)

August Thiry, writer-lecturer at Thomas More College, Mechelen, Belgium, focuses on the worldwide adventures of the Belgian army’s first armored car unit during the Great War. This unit, known as ACM (Autos Canons Mitrailleuses - Armored Cars with Cannons and Machine Guns), was organized in Paris at the end of 1914. Trench warfare made it impossible for the ACM armored cars to be of any use on the Western Front. So, after negotiations with the High Command of the Russian armed forces, Albert I, King of the Belgians, decided to transfer the ACM to the Eastern Front in Russia.

The ACM-Belgians crossed the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s imperial capital, by the end of 1915. The next year, the ACM combat cars were deployed on the Galician Front (western Ukraine) against Austrian and German troops. One year later, the Belgians witnessed the great changes caused by the Russian Revolution. They took part in the last Russian offensive and got stuck in Kiev when the city was occupied by Bolshevik troops.

In early 1918, the ACM-men traveled by train through Siberia. They had to ward off Bolshevik attempts to stop them and finally reached northern China. An American ship picked them up in Vladivostok. They crossed the Pacific Ocean and disembarked in San Francsico on May 12, 1918. This was the start of their grand tour through the USA, with military parades in big cities like San Francisco, Chicago and New York. This amazing story ends with the homecoming of these remarkable Belgians and concludes with the subsequent fate of the most important ACM-veterans.

August Thiry uses a large set of original 1915-1918 photos, most of them taken by ACM-Belgians, to illustrate his lecture which is based on his book King Albert’s Heroes –A Belgian Armored Corps in Russia and the USA, published in September 2018.

 heike@berkeley.edu, 510-643-4558