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political world

With Great Sacrifice and Bravery

jan peczkis|Sunday, August 28, 2011

This book is different from most other ones on the Battle of Britain in several respects. To begin with, it views the Battle through the experiences of one man (Lapkowski), devoting two chapters to this battle. It does not stop there. It continues describing Allied missions into German-held Europe into mid-1941, overlapping the start of the Germans' attack on their erstwhile Soviet ally.

 
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This book is quite atypical in that it includes a helpful glossary of aviation jargon, several reproduced combat report sheets, biographies of several different Polish pilots, etc. It also discusses postwar archeological dig-ups of fallen airplanes decades after the events. One of these was Lapkowski's Hurricane, out of which he had managed to bale out of, during the Battle of Britain. (p. 51).

It was in mid-1941 that Lapkowski was killed in combat. Up to that time, he had destroyed seven (shared-destroy another two) German planes, and damaged three more of them. (p. 139). Three of the total was in the 1939 war, one was in France, two were in the Battle of Britain, and six were in 1941 over German-occupied continental Europe. Lapkowski was repeatedly decorated for his achievements.

Contrary to the myth of the Polish Air Force (PAF) being largely destroyed on the ground during the first day of the 1939 War, the PAF (among them Lapkowski) flew 105 sorties that first day. (p. 30). As late as Sept. 8-9, Lapkowski's unit alone shot down three German planes over Lublin. (p. 32). Approximately 80% of PAF personnel managed to flee Poland before the German-Soviet conquest became completed. (p. 34).

This work provides insights into the 1940 German-French war. France, though much more powerful than Poland, [and, not mentioned, facing only one enemy] lasted only three more days than did 1939 Poland. The French did not even use much of their forces, and only a fraction of the available Polish pilots ever got to see action. (p. 41). After being evacuated to Great Britain, the Polish airmen remained there for the remainder of the war, and quite a few of them, unwilling to return to Soviet-ruled Poland, settled there permanently.
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