Victimized by Nazi propaganda, even contemporary students of history
consider the Poles a backwards, anachronistic force of horsemen
assaulting modern armour. The fact that Poland held out longer than
France, Holland, Belgium and every other country prior to 1941 speaks
to the falseness of this belief.
Headquartered in the country that had so tragically failed to aid them the year before, Polish forces defended France on the ground and in the air. Despite being treated little better by their hosts than the invading Germans, Polish divisions made possible the evacuation of French and British forces across the Channel to fight another day.
Once safely transferred to England, Polish soldiers trained while her airmen took to the skies against the Luftwaffe. Still regarded as lacking in aviation terms upon their first flights, Polish crews soon helped the British correct glaring tactical shortcomings while accumulating the highest kill ratios of any squadron during the Battle of Britain.
Leading the Allies from their fortress at Tobruk, the Poles smashed the Italians in Libya as they marched across the North African desert and forced the surrender of the Axis garrison at Bardia. This same force was shipped to Italy shortly after to augment the stalled Allied offensive to open the road to Rome. This drive towards the Italian capital truly began once the Polish 2nd Corps had stormed the Abbey at Monte Cassino and finally broken the vaunted Gustav Line.
Held in reserve until the beachheads of Normandy were secure, the Polish 1st Armoured Division stormed ashore at the head of Operation Cobra in August. Pushing deep into, and in some cases behind, enemy lines, the armored might of a modern Polish army more than matched their SS tormentors from five years earlier.
The success of Polish armour was tempered by the failures of British command during Operation Market Garden. Despite raising the highest-level objections to the airborne drops into Holland, the paratroopers of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade dutifully boarded their aircraft for the star-crossed mission.
Perhaps most tragically, the Poles remaining in Warsaw once again depended on the help of “allies” when the time came to retake their city. With the Red Army rolling through Poland seemingly at will, the soldiers of the Polish Home Army rose up to time their liberation with the arrival of Stalin’s unstoppable wave. That wave crested on the eastern bank of the Vistula as the Soviets waited for their two enemies, the Nazis and the Polish partisans that Stalin foresaw opposing his puppet regime in Warsaw, tore each other apart within the city. The Polish people had been forsaken yet again.
Kenneth Koskodan has penned an engrossing history of the least acclaimed, and perhaps most deserving, of all the Allied nations during World War II. Tales of heroism and valour abound as individual chronicles are intertwined with the telling of a broader story that attempts, with soul-wrenching affect, to right the wrongs that history has heaped upon the Polish nation for seventy years.