Friday, October 15, 2004

A Letter from a Reader: WWII and Polish Exile Forces

Kevin Kearney writes me an interesting note in response to my statement in "the Legend of the Squandered Sympathy" that in WWII, although the anti-Nazi coalition by D-day formally comprised some 30-odd member, "the bulk of the fighting continued to be born by the US, the UK and the USSR". Kevin says that this is "not quite accurate" and, more specifically, overlooks the contributions of the Polish exile forces. "Polish exiles ... provided the fourth largest armed forces in the Allied cause," Kevin writes, "Several hundred thousand Polish men and women fought in every European and North African campaign from the Battle of France to the Battle of Britain , to the Polish armies formed to fight on the Eastern Front , to the actions against the Afrika Korps. Polish air men accounted for over 20 % of all air victories over German aircraft during the battle of Britain , and the highest scoring Allied fighter squadron during the Battle of Britain was the Polish 303rd . Polish troops closed the Falaise Pocket after the Normandy invasion , and they captured the fortress at Monte Cassino in Italy. Polish Home Army fighters operating within occupied Poland tied up tens of thousands of German personnel in anti-partisan duties in Poland , troops which were badly needed by the Nazis elsewhere ." In a second note, Kevin mentions as well, "the contributions of the Polish Navy , much of which escaped the Nazis by sailing to Britain while under intense attack and the Polish cryptologists who first broke the German Enigma codes."

Well, I'm not sure if my formulation is exactly wrong. I imagine if you added up the troop deployments of the USSR, the UK, and the US, you would still get the "bulk" of the forces, that is, a substantial majority (though if there are military historians out there who know otherwise, by all means correct me). But that said, I certainly was not aware of just how massive the contribution of the Polish exile forces was. So, thanks for your e-mail, Kevin! And all honor to the contributions and sacrifices of the Polish exile forces and indeed to those of the forces of all the governments in exile!