Pilsudski Institute of America, Photographs of Polish Soldiers and Civilians During WWII (1939-1945)
This collection of photographs displays Polish Armed Forces in the West with a focus on the Polish Armed Forces in the United Kingdom (1940-1944), the formation of the Polish Army in the USSR (under the command of General Władysław Anders), and the life of soldiers of the Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade in Africa (1940-1942). The formation of the Polish Armed Forces in the West took place at the outbreak of WWII when, on September 1, 1939, German troops crossed the Polish border. The Polish Army, alone in combat, could not effectively resist Germany's aggression in addition to the Soviet invasion on Eastern Polish territories on September 17, 1939. As a result, Poland was partitioned for the fourth time by Hitler and Stalin, and its government fled into exile to France and later on to Great Britain. At the same time, in the autumn of 1939, the formation of regular troops was ordered by the Polish authorities in exile. This was possible due to prior war agreements with France and Great Britain. Polish Armed Forces in the West were initially formed in France and Syria and later in Great Britain and Palestine. Land army units, the Polish Navy and Polish pilots were organized and sent to function under British forces, and participated in various Allied military operations, including the Battle of Britain, the Norwegian campaign in Narvik, the Siege of Tobruk, and D-Day in France. In February of 1940, Soviets began the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Polish civilians to Siberia and other parts of the Soviet Union, where they were imprisoned or put to work in Gulags. Following the outbreak of the Soviet-German War in 1941 and the signing of the Sikorski-Mayski Agreement, Polish citizens were free to join the Polish Army in the USSR under the command of General Władysław Anders. In the Spring and Summer of 1942, after consultation with the Soviet authorities, approximately 78,000 Polish soldiers and about 35,000 civilians were evacuated to Iran. The civilians were then transported to refugee camps in Africa, New Zealand and Mexico, while the Polish soldiers remained in Iraq where they were fed and trained. On September 12, 1942, the Polish Armed Forces in the Middle East were established from the merging of the Polish Army in the Middle East and the Polish Armed Forces in the USSR. In 1943 the Polish Army in the East, renamed the Polish II Corps, participated in the liberation of Italy and the Battle of Monte Cassino. As the war continued, the now 200,000-strong Polish Army in the West fought faithfully for Poland’s legacy and freedom until 1945, when WWII ended.Learn More About the Collection
- A moment before the decoration of officers with badges of the 303rd squadron known as the "Tadeusz Kosciuszko-Squadron" (after the famous Polish hero). The photo shows General V.H. Strahm, Chief of Staff, Ninth Air Force, Major Thomas J. Cummings, IX Air Force Service Command, and Captain Elliot Chess of the 316th Troop Carrier Group Ninth Air Force.
- Both photos show squadron leader Horbaczewski who was awarded the Cross of Valour with 3 Bars, Distinguished Service Order, and Distinguished Flying Cross. In the first photo, Horbaczewski stands with his Mustang Mk. III bearing markings indicating the number of shot down Nazi airplanes and V-1 rockets. The second photo shows Horbaczewski talking with the youngest pilot in his squadron.
- Soldiers build fortifications on the Scottish coast. Photos 001 and 004 show the soldiers carrying wood up a hill. In photo 002, the men are digging a trench for the fortifications. Photo 003 shows the soldiers building parts of the fortification. The soldiers are standing next to the newly built fortifications in photo 005.
- Since the accident, captain Skubała has spent the last three months at a Polish military hospital in Edinburgh, where he had already undergone three operations on his injured arm. He is scheduled to have the fourth one. Meanwhile, in recognition of what the official citation calls the "heroism reflecting the highest credit upon his valiant devotion to duty," General Samuel E. Anderson, Commanding IX. Bomber Command, 9th Air Force, flew especially to Scotland to decorate Skubała with the Soldier's Medal.