Biography and History

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1893, Clinton A. Decker served as part of the American Advisory Commission of Railway Experts to Russia beginning in May 1917. The Commission, led by John F. Stevens, was created by President Woodrow Wilson to assist Russia's Provisional Government by improving the Trans-Siberian and Chinese Eastern Railways. Coming to power after the February Revolution and amidst the fighting of World War I, the Provisional Government needed to supply the troops on the front to demonstrate that it was able to defend Russia from the German threat. In his memoirs John F. Stevens commented that the Commission was “at least a year too late.” The Provisional Government was unable to maintain its position, and the Bolshevik Party came to power in November 1917 under V. I. Lenin. Lenin's main goal was to get Russia out of the war, which he accomplished by signing the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The Commission dissolved when the Bolshevik government ended Russian involvement in World War I.

Several Commission members, including Decker, then went to Japan to await the arrival of the Russian Railway Service Corps (RRSC), an Army Reserve unit of railway experts invited by the Provisional Government to assist Russian railway operations. Stevens was to be the Director General of all the railways, but with the fall of the Provisional Government, American role in the region was ambiguous. Alarmed by Russia's withdrawal from the war, many countries, including the United States, refused to recognize the new Bolshevik government.

The Inter-Allied Technical Board was then formed under the aegis of the U.S. State Department to place the RRSC along the railway to protect Allied interests. The Board consisted of representatives from every Allied nation, with troops in Siberia at its disposal. Stevens was made president of the Board and Decker the Board's secretary. Decker returned to the United States in November 1919 and became the U.S. representative of the Technical Board in Washington, D.C. The Board dissolved after the last Allied troops left Siberia in 1922.

Source: From the finding aid for MC043

  • Clinton A. Decker Papers. 1917-2008 (inclusive), 1917-1922 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC043

    Clinton A. Decker traveled to Russia as part of the American Advisory Commission to Russia of Railway Experts (1917) and later became a member of the Inter-Allied Technical Board (1919-1922). The collection contains personal and business correspondence and photographs documenting Decker's travels in Russia, China, and Japan.