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A Question of Honor: The Kosciuszko Squadron: The Forgotten Heroes of World War II

by and

A Question of Honor: The Kosciuszko Squadron: The Forgotten Heroes of World War II Cover



Author's Note

We first found out about the Polish pilots flying for Britain about ten years ago, when we were doing research on the Battle of Britain for our first book, The Murrow Boys. Specifically, we watched an old British movie called The Battle of Britain which had a couple of scenes featuring Polish pilots. Neither of us had any idea that Poles had fought for the British, and Lynne tucked that little nugget of information in the back of her mind. A few years later, at a Washington dinner party, we met a woman whose father had been a Polish pilot with the RAF during the war. She told wonderful stories about her father and other Polish fliers, and we realized, in talking to her, that the Poles had continued playing a vital role in the war long after the battle. We thought then that their story very much deserved telling ? it was a wonderful adventure story, full of brave and dashing young men who had escaped from their own country to fight for the freedom of France and then England. But even more important was the fact that they played a crucial role in the Battle of Britain: many British officials credited the Poles, particularly the men of the Kosciuszko Squadron, with making the difference between victory and defeat .

But when we finally began doing serious research, we realized that the story of the Poles during World War II was far richer and more complicated than we had imagined. For one thing, the importance of the Poles? contribution to the Allied victory went far beyond what the pilots did. Nearly two hundred thousand Polish troops fought on the Allied side during the campaigns in North Africa, Italy, France, Belgium and Germany. In May 1944, Polish forces were responsible for storming and finally capturing Monte Cassino, which opened the road to Rome. Polish cryptographers were, to a large extent, responsible for the most important intelligence coup of the war: they were the ones who initially cracked the Germans? Enigma code and then turned over their findings to the British, paving the way for the legendary codebreaking system called Ultra. And that wasn?t all. In Nazi-occupied Poland, the Polish underground was spectacularly successful in sabotaging German supply and troop transports and in providing crucial intelligence to the Allies about the Germans? order of battle on the eastern front, as well as about German troop and ship movements, and armament and industrial production.

What the Poles did during the war, in short, was amazing ? and vital to the Allied victory. And yet, with all the attention paid to World War II in the past decade, almost nobody in this country (except Polish Americans) know what the Poles did, and what they suffered during the war. It?s really one of the great epics of the war, full of adventure and drama, triumph and glory, betrayal and tragedy ? and it?s been almost completely ignored. One main reason, we think, is because what happened to Poland during and after the war does not reflect well on its two major Western allies ? the U.S. and Britain. Regardless of the Poles? many contributions to victory, they did not get their country back, despite repeated promises by Winston Churchill guaranteeing Poland?s postwar independence. Instead, Churchill and Roosevelt, in effect, handed Poland over to the control of Joseph Stalin and the Soviets, who historically have been Poland?s most bitter enemy.

After the war, the story of Poland during World War II was defined by others?notably Russia, which had a long record of distorting Polish history, but now also by the West. In many of the most prominent memoirs and histories, Poland, the catalyst of World War II, was treated at best as a rather pitiful victim and at worst as little more than a footnote. The repeated failures of the Allies to come to Poland?s assistance were minimized, as were the important contributions of the Polish armed forces to winning the war.

The Allies owe an enormous debt to the Poles for their victory in World War II, a debt that has never been acknowledged. We have written our book to bring Poland out of the shadows, to give her people the enormous credit that is due them.

Product Details

The Kosciuszko Squadron: Forgotten Heroes of World War II
Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud
Olson, Lynne
Cloud, Stanley
New York
Eastern Europe - Poland
Military - Aviation
Military - World War II
World war, 1939-1945
Air pilots, Military
World War, 19
Eastern Europe - General
Great Britain History.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Forced repatriation.
Europe - Eastern
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Includes bibliographical references.
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9 x 6.4 x 1.9 in 2.05 lb

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Military » World War II » Europe » Aviation
History and Social Science » Military » World War II » Europe » General
History and Social Science » Military » World War II » General

A Question of Honor: The Kosciuszko Squadron: The Forgotten Heroes of World War II Used Hardcover
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$14.95 In Stock
Product details 512 pages Alfred A. Knopf - English 9780375411977 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A lively tale of Poland's famed WWII fighter wing, which contributed materially to the RAF's victory in the Battle of Britain.... A fine portrait, and a well-placed condemnation of a shameful episode in history: the betrayal of Poland."
"Review" by , "Following up the acclaimed The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Frontlines of Broadcast Journalism, the authors offer a solid addition to WWII aviation history."
"Review" by , "Exciting and compelling, a fine story too rarely told, a tribute to the Polish fighting spirit, and a well-written war history about a distant but very good neighbor."
"Review" by , "This book presents us with one of the most disgraceful ethical horrors of World War II?how, believing the need to support Stalin at all costs, we discredited, and later neglected, our oldest, bravest, and most trustworthy ally in order to conceal the truth of a revolting crime."
"Review" by , "The Polish airmen who had escaped their savaged country in 1939 made a major contribution to the Royal Air Force’s victory in the Battle of Britain in 1940. 303 Squadron, which they formed, was the most successful of all RAF units in shooting down German aircraft, attempting to bomb Britain into surrender. Their subsequent treatment by the British government including its refusal to let the survivors march in the Victory Parade of 1946, in craven deference to Stalin, was one of the most shameful episodes of the Cold War."
"Review" by , "A gripping account of personal gallantry and of political treachery. On a par with the recent best-sellers about the fighting men of World War II."
"Synopsis" by , "A Question of Honor" is the gripping, little-known story of the Polish fighter pilots who saved England during the Battle of Britain and of their stunning betrayal by the United States and Britain at the war's end. 55 photos & 2 maps.
"Synopsis" by , Includes bibliographical references (p. 467-475) and index.
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