Polish Vets Take to TV, Thank the Americans who Fought for Poland’s Independence

For those who tune into the Fox Business Channel, a quite interesting commercial has been airing for the past handful of days. To be honest, it’s quite an emotionally moving message.

Funded by the Polish National Foundation (a Warsaw-based non-profit organization), a mix of retired Polish officers and senior enlisted literally thank the American people for the Yank pilots of the Air Service of the AEF (the forerunner of the US Air Force) who initially fought in World War I, then went to Poland in 1919 to help our heroic allies fight back the invading Bolsheviks from the Soviet Union.

A 221-year-old promise goes full circle.

As it turns out, the Polish vets in this particular ad simultaneously;

  • Graciously and heartfully wishes the United States a happy Veterans Day
  • Celebrates Poland’s 100th anniversary of her own independence
  • Thank the American fighters who a century ago that helped insure that the same Polish independence became a reality

Sadly, most Americans haven’t a clue of the importance Tadeusz Kościuszko and Kazimierz Pulaski have in our own War of Independence from Great Britain.

Gen. Kościuszko wearing Poland’s highest award for military heroism, the Virtuti Militari.

Initially commissioned a colonel in the Continental Army, Kościuszko was renown for his engineering skills. The colonel fought under the commands of noteworthy historical figures Major General Horatio Gates and Major General Nathanael Greene.

After seven years of service, to include many battles and once being bayonetted, the American Congress promoted Colonel Kościuszko to the rank of Brigadier General.

Returning to his homeland, the general led a fight for Polish independence against the hated Russians.

Unfortunately, his fight for Polish sovereignty was unsuccessful, but still went down in the hearts of his countrymen as a national hero.

Another little-known Polish officer who was a hero of American independence was Count Kazimierz Pułaski. A brigadier general in the Continental Army cavalry, the general was the founder of the famed Pulaski Cavalry Legion.

Endearing himself to the patriot cause, Pułaski was also credited with saving George Washington’s life during the Battle of Brandywine.

Mortally wounded during the Battle of Savannah, his close friend Colonial Army officer John Cooper managed to get the barely alive Pułaski aboard the USS Wasp.

Savior of Gen. Washington, BGen Kazimierz Pułaski.

According to the Aviationist.com, “When Pułaski was dying, Cooper made a promise to himself: America is going to pay the debt owed to Poles, for their effort and involvement in the US struggle for independence.”

Fast forward almost a century and a half, it was the United States who demanded at the Versailles Peace Conference that an independent Poland arise from the ashes of World War I.

On the heels of Poland declaring her independence, a massive Soviet army invaded the newly resurrected nation.

Capt. Merian Cooper and Maj. Cedric Fauntleroy, formerly of the AEF (American Expeditionary Force) that fought on the Western Front, were both commissioned as officers by General Tadeusz Rozwadowski (Chief of the Polish Military Mission in Paris) as pilots in the fledgling Polish Air Force.

Given plenty of leeway in recruiting pilots, Cooper and Fauntleroy founded Kościuszko’s Squadron, adding seven Americans and one Canadian to their ranks.

American fighter pilot Capt. Merian Cooper’s image painted in the tail of a modern-day Polish Air Force fighter-bomber.

And yes, Capt. Cooper “was a great grandson of John Cooper, the friend of Kazimierz Pułaski, made a promise to himself: America will reciprocate the Polish effort undertaken in the struggle for the US independence. Cooper was the person who paid the debt back.”

Capt. Cooper also had quite the interesting life. Among his milestones;

  • He was shot down and spent nine months in a Soviet POW camp
  • He was awarded Poland’s version of our Medal of Honor, the Virtuti Militari (Cross of Valor)
  • Eventually went to Hollywood where he produced such classics as King Kong, The Four Feathers, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Fort Apache, and The Quiet Man
  • He went back on active duty during World War II, where he served as the chief of staff for General Claire Chennault of the China Air Task Force, which was eventually re-named the Fourteenth Air Force.
  • As if his life wasn’t full enough, now Colonel Cooper was aboard the USS Missouri to witness the surrender of Imperial Japan
Unit emblem of the 7th Squadron of the Polish Air Force, also known as Kościuszko’s Squadron.

The Aviationist also notes that “Eliott Chess was the person who designed the distinctive emblem of the Squadron, so-called “scythes”. The emblem features a ‘rogatywka’ cap, which is a traditional Polish folk headwear. The background includes seven red stripes placed on a white background (six white stripes). Not a lot of people are aware of the fact that the emblem is derived from the US national flag. The whole layout is complemented by crossed scythes and thirteen stars, associated with the first 13 states of the United States of America. The ‘rogatywka’ and scythes refer to the Kościuszko uprising, when the Poles armed with scythes made an attempt to gain freedom for the country, fighting against Russia and Prussia. The emblem was placed on the aircraft flown by the American pilots.”

American fighter pilot Major Cedric Fauntleroy’s image painted in the tail of a modern-day Polish Air Force fighter-bomber.

Some things are worth fighting for.