The specifics of Private Wotruba’s military career are not known. However, there’s a very good chance he might have been one of those who played a fascinating (and often overlooked) part in the World War I Eastern Front.
The 62nd infantry served in Europe (reaching France as the armistice was signed). During the latter part of August, 1918, some five thousand men and nearly one hundred officers were transferred from the 8th Division to the American Expeditionary Force in Siberia (AEF).
The AEF had two purposes: rescue 40,000 Czech Legion soldiers attempting to make it through Bolshevik lines to Vladivostok and to protect the military supplies originally sent to assist the now-toppled Czarist monarchy. Another part of the AEF was sent to protect the ports of Murmansk and Archangel in what’s known as the Polar Bear Expedition.
Was Wotruba one of these soldiers? Perhaps, but without knowing his career details we can only guess. Two possible factors do lend credibility. Wotruba is either a Byelorussian or Bohemian name and he may even have spoken some Russian. If this was the case, he would have contributed authenticity to a high risk expedition wandering around the inhospitable Siberian steppes. Again, this is only speculation, but it’s interesting to wonder.
History and movies do their best to portray the miserable existence of Western Front trench warfare but forget about the terrible Eastern Front where soldiers were forced to function in sub-zero temperatures. Below is some video footage on the Czech Legion fighters.