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No Greater Ally: The Untold Story of Poland's Forces in World War II (Perfect Paperback)

jan peczkis|Monday, July 25, 2011

This is one of the most comprehensive works on this subject. It includes not only detailed descriptions of relatively well-known events (September 1939, the Battle of Britain, Monte Cassino, and Warsaw Uprising) but also lesser-known ones such as Poles fighting a large-scale guerrilla war at home (1939-1945), fighting as fliers in the anti-German Allied air war (1940-1945), and fighting as regular soldiers in 1940 western Europe, in 1942-1943 Africa, in post-1941 Soviet Union, in 1943-1945 Italy, and in 1944-1945 post-D-Day western Europe

In writing this book, the author uses a combination of previously-published sources (including little-known memoirs), interviews with aging participants, and unpublished information. For instance, his excellent, detailed chapter on the Polish Underground incorporates information from the AK (Armia Krajowa: Polish Home Army) archives located at Orchard Lake, Michigan, USA. Koskodan includes discussion of the Cichociemni (the Silent and Unseen), an elite guerrilla group consisting of specially-trained Polish commandos parachuted-in into German-occupied Poland.

Details are included about the multitudes of Poles deported into the Soviet Union to die slow deaths, and the crème of Polish society destroyed via direct genocide in the Katyn massacre. The author is clear about the unspeakable cruelties faced by the Poles in the hands of the German and Soviet invaders. He adds: "Desperate, starving civilians might betray an underground member for a reward of money or increased rations." (p. 71). [How many instances of Poles denouncing fugitive Jews were the results of the extreme circumstances rather than anti-Semitism?]

Koskodan summarizes the pivotal Polish involvement in the Battle of Britain as follows: "By revised accounts, 12 percent of all confirmed aircraft shot down was achieved by Polish pilots....At some of the most desperate points in the battle, the RAF had only 350 fighter pilots to scramble, of which nearly 100 were Poles. In conclusion, the Polish pilots downed over 200 enemy aircraft and lost only about 25 of their own. The British kill-to-loss ratio was about half of the Polish fliers." (p. 96).

Various interesting items of information are included. For instance, Polish engineers developed a 100-foot jump tower for parachutist training. "The tower design and training methods were so effective that they became the standard among Allied forces." (p. 155).

The Dutch in and near Arnhem remembered, and still honor, the Poles who gave their lives for the liberation of Holland in 1944. (p. 176). Sometimes, the German enemy showed greater respect for the fighting Poles than did the Allies. For instance, German ace Adolf Galland is quoted as praising the Polish fliers and instructing German fliers to learn from Polish ones. (p. 100). After the fall of the Soviet-betrayed Warsaw Uprising, a Waffen-SS officer saluted the surrendering Polish fighters. (p. 220).

In the Grand Victory Parade in London (June 1946), all the Allied nations (even nominal participants) were invited--except Poland. (p. 246-247). Even then, with the war long over, the British were more interested in not offending the Soviets than doing justice to Poland. Koskodan elaborates on the Teheran-Yalta betrayals of Poland and the Soviet-installed Communist puppet state. He suggests that Poles were naïve to believe in the goodwill of others [I agree], as evidenced by the "For Your Freedom and Ours" slogan. Apropos to the latter, and with evident reference to Britain's freedoms, Koskodan concludes: "Ours was achieved. Theirs was stolen from them in shameful and cowardly fashion...The world owes a debt of gratitude that has yet to be paid to the unknown soldiers of Poland." (p. 250).
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