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Monday, December 26

Kosciuszko Squadron

"1919: Merian Cooper and six other former U.S. Army pilots offer their services to Poland in the 1919-1920 Soviet-Polish war. The Americans call themselves the Kosciuszko Squadron – a squadron that will live on in the Polish Air Force after the Americans go home.

At the end of WW I, a new independent Poland was created from territory previously held by Germany, Austria, and Russia. Poland thus regained the independence it had lost in 1795. Almost immediately the new Polish Republic was invaded from the east by the Bolsheviks.

In the spring of 1919, Merian C. Cooper, a former U.S. Air Service pilot in France, was visiting the Polish battle lines as the head of American relief work in southern Poland. When he saw the sacrifices being made by the Poles to defend their new nation, he thought of the possibility of an American volunteer squadron, similar to the Lafayette Escadrille of 1916, to assist them.

He immediately went to Paris where he met a friend, Cedric E. Fauntleroy, who had been a combat pilot during the war. Together, they received official permission to recruit former U.S. flyers for a Polish squadron.

Seventeen Americans volunteered their services to Poland and they formed the Kosciuszko Squadron, named in honor of tadeusz Kosciuszko, the Polish patriot who had fought so well in the American Revolution under George Washington.

These 17 men fought for Poland under difficult hardships. Repeatedly they flew bombing and strafing missions against hordes of Cossacks from the east. Also their supply of food, clothing, and equipment was seldom adequate. For example, the Polish Air Service had to use whatever airplanes it could obtain, so it was forced to purchase both Allied and German airplanes left over from WW I.

The Bolshevik invasion ended in May 1921 with victory for the Poles, and those members of the Kosciuszko Squadron still alive were discharged from further duty. "

From SAMWolf comment at The Freeper Foxhole (Free Republic's Daily History Thread) posted February 11, 2004

"The Kosciuszko Squadron was first used in the Kiev Offensive in April 1920, rebasing from Lwów to Polonne. Most of the Squadron's flights were directed against Semyon Budionny's First Cavalry Army. The Squadron developed a tactic of low-altitude machine-gun strafing runs. Polish land commanders highly valued the contribution of the Kosciuszko Squadron.

General Puchucki of the 13th Infantry Division wrote in a report: "The American pilots, though exhausted, fight tenaciously. During the last offensive, their commander attacked enemy formations from the rear, raining machine-gun bullets down on their heads. Without the American pilots' help, we would long ago have been done for."

Merian Cooper was shot down but survived. Budionny had put half a million rubles on Captain Cooper's head, but when he was caught by the Cossacks he managed to convince them that he was a mere corporal. A few months later he escaped from a POW camp near Moscow to Latvia.

In August 1920 the Kosciuszko Squadron took part in the defense of Lwów, and after the climactic Battle of Warsaw it participated in the epic Battle of Komarów which crippled Budionny's cavalry.

After the Polish-Soviet War, the 7th Kosciuszko Squadron was reorganized as the 121st Squadron and later as the 111th Squadron, each bearing the "Kosciuszko" eponym. The 111th Squadron fought in the Polish September Campaign. Perhaps the most famous successor to the original Kosciuszko Squadron would be the World War II No. 303 "Kosciuszko" Polish Fighter Squadron (Warszawski im. Tadeusza Kosciuszki), one of the most successful fighter squadrons in the Battle of Britain.

In 1920 the Kosciuszko Squadron made over 400 combat flights. Cedric Fauntleroy and Merian C. Cooper received Poland's highest military decoration: the Virtuti Militari. Another member of the Kociuszko Squadron to receive the Virtuti Militari was Mieczyslaw Garsztka (Posthumously)"

From Wikipedia
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