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.

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General Bohusz-Szyszko Standing by a Map
General Bohusz-Szyszko is standing in front of a map planning the attack on Narvik, Norway.
General Bohusz-Szyszko among Polish soldiers in France
General Bohusz-Szyszko is standing in front of a crowd of soldiers.
General Bohusz-Szyszko with Soviet Officers
The photo shows general Bohusz-Szyszko talking to Soviet officers.
General Duch Decorates Soldiers (Scotland)
General Duch decorates Polish soldiers in Scotland. The Polish soldiers and officers are part of the First Grenadiers' Division and Armoured Divisions.
General Eisenhower Visiting the Polish Army in Scotland
Scotland, April 1944. General Eisenhower's inspection of the Polish Armoured Divsion before D-Day. The Supreme Commander and Major General Maczek, the Polish G.O.C, watch a tank column. Supreme Allied Commander Eisenhower and his Chief of Staff Gen. Smith get in touch with Polish officers.
General Haller awards Polish military decorations to wounded Canadian soldiers
Polish military officials visited a Canadian hospital in Southern England on April 4th, 1945. There, they invested Canadian army personnel with Polish awards for valour. General Józef Haller of Poland decorates Lieut. Louis Caron of Montreal with the Polish Cross of Valour at a Canadian Army Hospital in Southern England.
General Kopański and colonel Peszek on the Lybian Desert
General Commander in chief of the Polish Carpatian Brigade - Stanisław Kopański with colonel Peszek on the front line on The Lybian Desert.
General Kopański in the Officer's Legion in Egypt
General Stanisław Kopański in the group of soldiers, including: Colonel Eplen (?), Major Bastgen, Lieutenant Bieliński and Jaś Gliwicz.
General Kukiel Awarding Nowergian Paratroopers in a Parachute Brigade
General Marian Kukiel and Col. Sosabowski hang badges on the Norwegian Paratroopers trained in the Polish Brigade. The Polish brigade trained the French, Czech, Norwegian, Dutch, and Belgian paratroopers.
General Kukiel with Paratroopers (Scotland)
Gen. Kukiel, Commander-in-Chief of the First Polish Mechanized Corps in Scotland reviewing the Polish Parachute-battalions. Kukiel is accompanied by the chief of Army Staff of Norway. Many allied troops are being trained in the Polish Parachute Battalions.
General Pile's Inspection (Scotland)
Training Polish anti-aircraft gunners. Polish Gunners are being trained in the use of heavy and light A.A. guns. They will soon have their own mobile A.A. batteries. A demonstration of gun drill was watched by Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick Pile, Bart., G.O.C in C.A.A. Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick Pile, Bart., and General Kukiel inspect the Polish A.A. gunners. The two also watch a Bofor gun detachment at drill and chat to Scottish war correspondents.
General Sikorski Awards the Virtuti Militari to an Aviator's Wife
General Sikorski awards the Virtuti Militari to the wife of an aviator that is in German captivity.
General Sikorski Celebrating Christmas Eve in Scotland
General Sikorski accompanied by British and Polish officers celebrates Christmas Eve in a Scottish military training camp. The officers treat themselves to a Polish borscht.
General Sikorski Decorates Generals Duch, Maczek, and Bohusz-Szyszko
General Sikorski awards the Virtuti Militari to generals Bohusz-Szyszko, Duch, and Maczek. The generals are awarded in front of a crowd of soldiers.
General Sikorski Decorates M. Wisniewska
Maria Wiśniewska decorated by General Sikorski with the Cross of Valor for her bravery and courage. A crowd of women watch as the military decoration is presented to Wiśniewska.
General Sikorski Decorates Pilots with the Virtuti Militari Cross
Polish pilots decorated with the Virtuti Militari Cross by Gen. Sikorski. One of the pilots being awarded put a fire out, saved his crew, and landed the bomber safely to its base.
General Sikorski Speaks to the Aviators (England)
The photos show General Sikorski addressing a large group of soldiers.
General Sikorski Talking with the Aviators (Gabreski)
10 May 1943. General Sikorski talking with Capt. Gabreski. Both are among the aviators
General Sikorski Visiting the Polish Army in France
General Sikorski visits the Polish Army in France. Photo 001 shows General Sikorski talking to a soldier. General Sikorski is walking among soldiers at an airbase in photo 002. In photo 003, Sikorski visits a school for officers.
General Sikorski and President Raczkiewicz visiting the Polish Army in France
President Rackiewicz visits a Polish Army training camp in France. The President passes in front of the company of honor.
General Sikorski in Russia, talking to the polish A.T.S.
General Sikorski among the Polish ATS.
General Sikorski visiting an American armor unit in Ireland
General Sikorski with American armored troops in Ireland. Sikorski looks over the training and maneouvers of the American Expeditionary Forces in Ireland. On the second photo gen. Sikorski jumps off M3 Lee tank.
General Sikorski visiting the parachute brigade in Scotland
General Sikorski visits the Polish Parachute Brigade in Scotland. In the photos, Sikorski attends the maneuvers of the Polish paratroopers. He also reviews the paratroopers.
General Sikorski- Briefing of the Generals (Anders, Klimecki, Modelski)
The photos show Generals Sikorski, Modelski, Anders, and Klimecki at a military briefing.
General Sosnkowski at Headquarters
A badge from Poland from General Sosnkowski, Polish Commander-in-Chief. From an O.T.C. (clandestine) in German occupied Poland, organized by the Polish Boy Scouts.
General Sosnkowski in a parachute brigade
Commander in Chief General Sosnkowski inspecting Polish paratroop commandos. The photo shows General Sosnkowski talking and smiling with soldiers.
General Sosnkowski on the ORP Błyskawica
The Commander-in-Chief on the bridge of ORP "Błyskawica" talking with the Commanding Officer and the Naval Attaché in London, on the way to Normandy.
General Sosnkowski with Raiders (England)
Commander in Chief of the Polish Armed Forces talking with Polish paratroopers.
General Sosnowski Decorates the Norwegian Soldiers
The Polish Commander-in-Chief, General Sosnkowski, decorated two Norwegian Army Officers with the Polish Cross of Merit with Swords, at a ceremony on June 5th, 1944, at the Polish Army Headquarters in London. General Sosnkowski, with members of the Polish Armed Forces and the two Norwegian officers wearing their decorations after the ceremony.
General Spiechowicz in the Female Auxiliary Service
General Boruta-Spiechowicz chatting with the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service also known as the "Pestki."
General Zhukov at the Anders' Army training in the Soviet Union
Red Army General Zhukov testing out a heavy machine gun.
Generals Anders and Okulicki in Front of a Train
Buzuluk, USSR, Autumn 1941. Headquarters of the Polish Army in the USSR. Commanders: Gen. Władysław Anders and Colonel L. Okulicki.
Generals Anders and Zhukov in the USSR
General Anders, General Boruta-Spiechowicz, and Soviet General Zhukov having their meals during field training of the Polish Forces in U.S.S.R.
Generals Anders, Wiśniowski, and Devers
Spring 1945. US Army Commander General Devers being decorated with the War Order of Virtuti Militari.
Generals Kopański and Ritchie visit the Polish units in Dernie
First Battalion of the Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade visisted by the generals Stanisław Kopański and Neil Ritchie before the unit entered the action.
Generals Ujejski, Kukiel, Klimecki, and Kopański
From left to right: Gen. Ujejski, Gen. Kukiel, Gen. Klimecki, and Gen. Kopański. The generals are conducting a military briefing.
German Submarine in Polish Captivity
A U-Boat surrenders in Weymouth Bay. The crew under guard of Polish sailors. One of the first U-Boats to surrender to the Royal Navy-- the U 249, carrying a crew of 48, and believed to have been at sea for 40 days. She entered Weymouth Bay on May 11th, watched by holiday crowds on the beaches less than a mile away. The first photo shows the captured crew on the deck of their U-Boat, under guard of Polish sailors after the surrender. The second photo shows the Commander of the U-249, Oberlieutenant Kock (wearing a white cap top) with some of his officers under the guard of Polish sailors shortly after the surrender in Weymouth Bay. One of the Poles, Leon Blus (2nd from left) joined the Polish Navy after escaping from the German Army in which he was forced to serve in for a year.
German artillery at the port
German artillery shelling the harbor in Gdynia.
Girls Rescued from Exile with their Caretakers
The photo shows two girls talking with a Polish soldier. The older girl and the Polish soldier seem to be trying to cheer up the little girl. The soldier is holding an instrument.
Group Photos of the Polish Sailors
Polish sailors - former Russian prisoners - in Great Britain. Both photos are group shots of the Polish sailors.
Group Photos of the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service in the Soviet Union
Group photos of the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service in the Soviet Union. The first photo shows the singing trio in the Women's Auxiliary Service. The second photo shows the female volunteers dressed in winter coats. The women are dressed in their uniforms in the third photo.
Group of Children Being Taken Care of by Soldiers
Group photo of the children who are under the care of soldiers.
Group of Children in an Orphanage after Arriving in Iran
A group of Polish children, rescued by Anders' Army, already dressed and with their heads shaved.
Group of Polish Children Before Going to India
Polish children from Russia before leaving for India.
Group of Polish Children on the Streets of Jerusalem
1943. A group of Polish children is walking up the stairs of a street in Jerusalem. The children are dressed in uniform. An adult is leading them.
Group of Teachers from St. Rosa
Teachers from St. Rosa at the hot springs. January 1944. They are posing for a photo in front of a big cactus.
Heavy Italian cannons
Two large cannons on a stone desert described by a photographer as "heavy Italian cannons".
Henryk Pietrzak After Shooting Down the 500th Plane
Polish fighter pilots have been fighting incessantly since the very first day of the war. Lieut. Pietrzak brought the total of enemy planes shot down by the Polish Air Force to 500. The photos show him celebrating with fellow airmen.
Holy Mass For Polish Orphan Children on Board a Warship on the Way to New Zealand
These boys and girls are on their way through the Indian Ocean to an undisclosed Allied Port where they will find a new life, a new hope, and safety. Here we see them celebrating mass aboard the ship.


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