This is indeed a tale of heroism, camaraderie and glory. The dashing, gallant, impetuous Poles became the darlings of British high society and were lionized by the press in Britain and America. The authors vividly recreate the airmen's daily bouts with death and nights of partying, their lost lives and loves, and their frustrations with English fastidiousness and idiosyncrasies -- everything in the British planes seemed to be the opposite of where it was in Poland.
John Whiteclay Chambers II
Following up the acclaimed The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Frontlines of Broadcast Journalism, the authors offer a solid addition to WWII aviation history. The first all-Polish squadron in the Royal Air Force, the Kosciuszko Squadron was formed from experienced Polish Air Force pilots who had fled their fallen country by way of Romania and France to England. Its members, according to the authors, needed little instruction in combat flying but some in the English language. When they took to the air, the squadron's pilots, along with Poles serving elsewhere in Fighter Command, made a large (possibly indispensable) contribution to victory in the Battle of Britain. That battle is the dramatic high point of the book, which from 1941 on shifts its focus to the sorry fate meted out to Poland as a nation and Poles in particular, especially in the infamous Katyn Massacre and the Warsaw Uprising. The authors document how this mistreatment took place with the acquiescence of the Western Allies, grossly misjudging Stalin's ambitions in Eastern Europe. Despite the same extraordinarily fluent writing and thorough research found in The Murrow Boys, readers might still be left wanting to know more about the fate of some of the Polish aviators after the Battle of Britain. Even so, the political balance they bring to telling the political story is noteworthy. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
One of the lesser-known tales of the Second World War concerns the young Polish pilots who managed to escape their ravaged country after Hitler's invasion. Some had been in the outclassed Polish air force, others were civilians, but all were determined to fight against the Nazis, anytime and anywhere. Most of them ended up in England, where the British initially were slow to recognize their fighting ability. However, none doubted their zealbordering on hatredto punish Germany for what it did to their families and their nation. Fortunately, the skeptical Brits gave a few of them permission to show their skill in slow training planes. That was all that the expatriates needed. They proceeded to fly the pokey craft as if they were Spitfires, and in a very short time they found themselves organized into squadrons, equipped with the latest fighters, and thrown into the Battle of Britain. This book is about one of these fighting units, Royal Air Force 303 Squadron, named for one of the Polish heroes of the American Revolutionary War, Tadeusz Kosciuszko. The stunning exploits of those "Polish Eagles" alone would have been enough to justify a bookthe refugees shot down 40 German planes during their first eight days of combat, and went on from there. Brave to the point of recklessness, their casualties were as high as their accomplishments. This title, however, is a great deal more than simply another undemanding tale of combat derring-do. Instead, co-authors Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud go behind the scenes to unearth a more significant story, a seamier account of military and political mistreatment that ranged from casual ingratitude to near-betrayal at the highest levels. Asthe end of the war neared, the Polish warriors gradually became something of a hot potato. They became a diplomatic embarrassment to President Roosevelt and to their British hosts after Stalin annexed their battered country. The squadron that ended the war as the highest-scoring unit in the RAF suddenly had no place in the post-war air force, or even in the victory parades that followed V-E Day. Being professional journalists, Olson and Cloud tell the Kosciuszko squadron's saga in a gripping style, through the eyes and exploits of five of its young pilots. Exciting aerial action is deftly interspersed with enough solid political and military history to make the book a valuable one for high schoolers as well as satisfying to the average adult reader. KLIATT Codes: SARecommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Random House, Vintage, 495p. illus. notes. bibliog. index., Ages 15 to adult.
Raymond Puffer, Ph.D.
Olson and Cloud (coauthors, The Murrow Boys) tell the fascinating story of the Polish fighter pilots who helped defend England during World War II's Battle of Britain and the Allies' shameful ignoring of the Poles at war's end. Beginning with their heartbreaking barring, for fear of offending Stalin, from the 1946 London "parade of honor" to commemorate Allied victory, this consistently dramatic and detailed history chronicles the German blitzkrieg into Poland and the desperate attempt to evacuate so that the fight could be carried on from England. The book ends with extensive revelations about the Allied betrayal of the Poles when the Russians later absorbed Poland. Using unofficial diaries and letters of Kosciuszko Squadron pilots and interviews with survivors and their families, the authors bring to life these courageous men as they struggled to reclaim their national heritage. Readers will also enjoy the broader story of the Polish armed forces, which fought with the Allies against both Hitler and Stalin; the collapse of their struggle during the "peace"; and the ultimate end of World War II for the Poles, which came only with liberation in the Gorbachev era. This powerful history belongs in World War II collections in all academic and larger public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/03.]-Dale Farris, Groves, TX Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A lively tale of Poland’s famed WWII fighter wing, which contributed materially to the RAF’s victory in the Battle of Britain. Founded after WWI by American adventurers who had "come to Poland to volunteer in a nasty little war that the newly independent Poles were having with newly created Soviet Russia," the Kosciuszko Squadron transferred the Polish military’s renowned cavalry skills into the arena of the air. Prized by allies and feared by enemies, many members of the wing managed to escape Poland following the Nazi conquest and, a year afterward, found themselves in England at the service of a government in exile. Among the 17,000 Poles who fought alongside the British, the young men of the squadron were of an impulsive bent, fond of pulling out of formation to attack Nazi aircraft on their own; though British flightmasters despaired of bringing their allies into line, they came to value the Poles for their bravery and flying ability alike. The British nation took a similar view after the Battle of Britain, during which "the Kosciuszko Squadron compiled a brilliant overall record"; as Polish pilots marched in the streets, "cheered by passersby and bathed in shouts of ‘Long Live Poland!’ ", and as later they flew bravely in support of the Warsaw Uprising, they had every reason to think that their service would be remembered after the war. Alas, write Olson and Cloud (The Murrow Boys, 1996), it would not be so; though the sworn mission of the squadron was to fight in defense of a free Poland, the British and American governments were busily conspiring with the Soviet Union to turn Poland into a satellite state; whereas Franklin Roosevelt professed that he took "a distant view of thePolish question," Winston Churchill, by the authors’ account, seems to have been bent on giving Stalin whatever he wanted. Though some may take issue with Olson and Cloud’s political assessments, the fact stands that the squadron became stateless as Poland was conquered anew; only two of them ever returned home. A fine portrait, and a well-placed condemnation of a shameful episode in history: the betrayal of Poland. First printing of 75,000. Agent: Gail Ross
“Exciting. . . . A tale of heroism, camaraderie and glory. The authors vividly re-create the airmen’s daily bouts with death and nights of partying, their lost lives and loves.” —The Washington Post Book World
“An impassioned, riveting account of Poland’s betrayal by Britain and the United States, which quickly forgot the Poles’ heroism in their rush to appease the Soviet Union.” —Newsweek
“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.” —Alan Furst