Forgotten American heroes who fought for Polish freedom

Discussions on all aspects of Poland during the Second Polish Republic and the Second World War. Hosted by Peter K
User avatar
Posts: 209
Joined: 24 Nov 2003 09:22
Location: Poland, Torun

Forgotten American heroes who fought for Polish freedom

Post by Fredd » 05 Jun 2004 12:23

It was early spring of 1919 when American Relief Administration (ARA) sent young captain American Air Service, Merian C. Cooper to Lvov with transport of flour. However due of hostilities between Poles and Ukrainians rail was destroyed. So captain Cooper decided to help fighting Poles. After few days of fight rails to the city was reestablished.

He wrote afterwards:

‘I found Lvov was indeed a town starving, the Polish inhabitants' spirit unbroken’

I Lvov he decided to join to struggle against Bolsheviks (he hated Commies). So at this point we should say something about Cooper himself. He was Scottish origin. His ancestors settled in St. Mary’s River on border between Floryda and Georgia. His grand grand father colonel John Cooper himself carried wounded gen. Kazimierz Pulaski away during the battle of Savannah. They were close friends.

So having such ancestor…..

But back to captain Cooper, he was born 24th November 1894 in Jacksonville (FL) died in 1973.
In 1915 quited (a year before graduation) from US Naval Academy Annapolis. He was disappointed how the Navy treated the aviation (to be exact he had problems with military discipline, either). Later for short period of time he served in Georgia National Guard. But joined a fly school in Long Island, NY. Graduated 1917. Eventually landed with American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in Europe. Shortly afterwards shot down behind enemy lines. His planes burned. He was seriously injured moreover his family received letter he was KIA. Fortunately last weeks of the war spent in a POW’s hospital.

After the armistice he refused Distinguished Service Cross saying:
"...There was absolutely nothing more courageous in my conduct that in that of the dead and living of my comrades ..."

In may 1919 he along with general Rozwadowski met marshal Pisludski and offer his service saying he were ready to quit USAF and join Polish Army. At first Pilsudski fought he wanted to become a mercenary so was very displeased. Bur Cooper, as later wrote:

"I jumped to my feet and told him I would accept no promotion in rank until I earned it in battle, and that I would never accept one cent over and above what a Polish officer received. The fiery, piercing eyes of the Marshal looked at me for a second; then he stood and clasped my hand."

The proposition was accepted by Poles. So he went to Paris to discharge. There he met his friend major Maj. Cedric R. Fauntleroy. Who just signed a contract as an adviser with the Polish government. He met gen. Rozwadowski in Paris and started to form unit consisting of US soldiers who volunteer to fight against communist.

Eventually he pick up eight of them:
Lt. George M. Crawford Pennsylvania, Lt. Kenneth O. Shrewsbury West Virginia, Cpt. Edward C. Corsi Brooklyn, NY, Lt. Carl Clark Kansas, Lt. Edwin L. Noble in Massachusetts i Cpt. Arthur H. Kelly from Virginia.

None of them had Polish origin nor spoke word in Polish. In Ritz they met Polish prime minister at Igacy Paderewski and presented himself and Fauntleroy spoke:

"We are all Americans, none of Polish blood, we came willingly to fight in the armies of new sister republic of the United States against all enemies of Poland."

Paderewski replied (visibly touched):
"Nothing has ever touched me so much as the offer of you young men to fight and, if necessary, to die for my country."

24th September 1919 they arrived Warsaw in train they changed plain clothes to Polish officers uniform (imagine consternation of co - passengers).

The main obstacle to overcome was lack of planes. Division consisted of 8 Americans and three Polish aviators received old post – 12 Austrian Albatross D.III. 23rd October another flyer joined the division Lt. Harmon Rorison (3 confirmed German Fokkers).

Division consisted of two wings – the first “Kosciuszko” and the second “Pulasky” . First action took place 28 January 1920 – dropping messages to the line of front (in order to avoiding interception very important messages mustn’t be delivered by radio).

First ‘real’ action took place 5th march 1920 when Lt. Rorison gunned soviet’s units and dropped one 50 kg bomb.

To be continued……

PS. PolAntek, Mushasi, Liluh and whoever speaks Polish I would be most greatful if you helped me out with translating parts of an article I am shortening here
Those guys are worth mentioned, that's for sure.

Text of the cited article are based on:
Robert F. Karolevitz, Ross S. Fenn, Flight of Eagles, Brevet Press, Inc. Sioux Falls, SD, 1974

Check this out :wink:

User avatar
Posts: 403
Joined: 11 May 2004 15:49
Location: Poland

Post by Liluh » 08 Jun 2004 14:34

Very interesting, I`m on it.

I think we could dig a little about other people from other countries joining polish army during soviet-polish war.

User avatar
Posts: 403
Joined: 11 May 2004 15:49
Location: Poland

Post by Liluh » 08 Jun 2004 15:55

History of Kosciuszko Squadron sounds like it was totally cut out from somekind of adventure book. If any of you seen "Gunbus" sf-comedy movie, taking place during WWI, it`s basicly, how these american pilots acted and lived. Their deeds had crucial meaning for the curse of polish-soviet war.

So continuing from the point where Fredd stopped.

28 yers old maj. Fauntleroy, by Poles written as "Fount le Roy" (from French - had his family roots with French Hugenots) made it to create and organize the squadron in a very short time. It wasn`t a simple task, since none of Americans spoke polish, and showing what you mean by moving your hands wasn`t enough. Furthermore, Americans thinking was more like "just do it" instead of moving along the military discipline. First of all, they had to get familiar with old and pretty used Albatros plane by cautiously doing some test flights. The design problem of that plane, regarding troubles with lower wing was pretty well known (In 1917 it almost cost life of Red Baron von Richthofen). Unfortunately, precisely this issue caused death of Lt. Graves during airshow on 22.XI.1919, when the first anniversary of liberating Lvov was celebrated. Graves, former acrobat instructor in RAF, tried to make a double turnover but failed and crashed on the roof of Potocki palace. He was burried on the Defenders of Lvov Cementary.

On the next day, new volounteer arrived - Lt. Harmon Rorison who already succesfully shoot down 3 german Fokkers in 1918. Mjr. Fauntleroy divided his 'division' into two squadrons. "Kosciuszko" commanded by Cpt. Corsi and "Pulaski", commanded by Cpt. Cooper (it worth mentioning that as well as their logo, the names were taken from American Independence War and it`s connection to Poland and Poles of that time. The whole idea of the squadron was to "pay" for the Polish help in that war). In the same time periond, Lt. Chess designed divisions logo, which was placed next to polish red-white checkboard.

Winter of 1920 was pretty boring for pilots of Kosciuszko Squadron, being drawned in the snow and mud of Lewandowka airport. War actions were suspended, so they made training flights whenever the weather allowed for that. Fauntleroy sent Crawford and Shrewsbury to Kamieniec Podolski (south of Lvov) for some air-supplies left there by retreating Austrian troop. The also made recon flights searching for possible air-bases in the east which could be used after possible Polish offensive. Beside that they were getting dead bored, arguing and visiting other Americans from Red Cross in Lvov.

On 28th Jan squadron recieved an order to drop very important orders to the Polish troops on frontline. Fredd didn`t mention here that Chess crashed one Albatros while trying to land on ice, Cooper damaged another one and finally Corsi delivered these orders but due to lack of gasoline he had to hard-land on polish positions :) Bad luck I`d say.

On 28th Feb, Maj. Fauntleroy wrote a letter to american War Secretary Baker, asking for delivery of american planes and parts. He said, that "bolscheviks are enemy to everyone except theirselves, and they are going to overthrow the world order, including United States goverment". War Department passed the letter to State Department with a note, that it`s a diplomatic matter. In the end the letter was thrown into... archives of close east department.

Frustrated with the lack of action, not knowing about the preparing Polish offensive, Cooper and Fauntleroy sent a letter, excluding the normal way of reporting by special courier, to Marshall Pilsudski asking for a transfer to the hottest part of the front line. Before the answer arrived on 5th March 1920, Lt. Rorison, flying from Tarnopol, noticed a large settlement of bolschevik forces plus three panzer trains around Bar. With his two machineguns mounted on Albatros and a bomb dropped by hand, "Little Rory gave the Communists hell". That was their first war action.

On 3rd April, squadrons were transfered to new air base in Polonny, near Rowny in Wolyn area, where it was incorporated into Second Group of Polish Airforce. Air base itself was placed near railway, which was important for further transfers in the frontline direction (important, becouse their planes longest flight couldn`t last more than 2hours). On 9th April they recieved order to attack and bomb bolschevik HQ`s and troops camp in Chudow, 50km to the east from Polonny. Squadron started under command of Rorison, whose plane as the only, had the mounting for single 12kg bomb. Followed by Fauntleroy, Cooper, Senkowski and Crawford (just to remind, except Senkowski there were two other polish pilots). The attacked and bombed (with that single bomb) bolscheviks using over 1000 bullets. Soviets got completly suprised and terrified by this sudden attack, so Fauntleroy with his men made another attack in the evening.

On the same day message from the command arrived, that they have few fresh and new Italian planes - Ansaldo Bollila, waiting for them in Warsaw. Fauntleroy and Chess left by train to pick it up, while Cooper took the command. During next few days Cooper launched several attack missions on Soviets in Chudnow and Zytomierz.

On 21st April 1920, in Warsaw, ukrainian-polish treaty with Petluras mission was signed. Polish forces were about to walk into Ukraine and help estabilish Ukrainian forces, protecting the land from Bolscheviks. On 25th April the offensive was launched.

Kosciuszko Squadron, without 5 men who were away testing Balila`s in Warsaw, without gasoline and ammo supplies, having nothing more than few old, worned and damaged planes, was suppoused to give air-cover and scout the terrain for the frontline of 2nd and 3rd Army (gen. Listowski and gen. Smigly-Rydz). Just two days before that, Cpt. Cooper sent Weber (Pole) to Nowogrod Wolynski for gasoline saying "Travel night and day. Don't stop to sleep. Take rest in your wagon. Take turns driving. Kill the horses if you have to. But the oil must be back here in 48 hours.". The gasoline arrived on time.

On sunday of 25th April, 5.30 in the morning, Cooper, Clark, Konopka and Shrewsburry took off in direction of Mirapol where the soldiers of 2nd Army already marched. They returned without engaging enemy. During next flight on 9.40 am, Cooper and Noble attacked bolschevik cavarlymen scout patrol, railway depot and a 'bolos' unit. "Bolos" was their private term for the word "Bolscheviks" which was obviously too hard to spell. On the next day Shrewsbury was responsible for giving cover of field HQ of Marshal Pilsudski who was supervising the frontline in Nowogrod Wolynski. Clark attacked machine gun sites and cavarly unit. He came back with 9 bullet holes in his plane, while the rest of squadron flew over Berdyczow.
Noble was wounded badly during attack on retreating soviet panzer train. He got hit in his right elbow. He managed to return to the airfield, but it was the end of his flight carrier. He suffered infection in the field hospital which had to be treated in Red Cross hospitals in Warsaw and Paris. For his desperate attack Noble was honored with the first in the squadron, Virtuti Militari Cross. Corsi destroyed the locomotive of the same train later on, which being immobilized, had been captured by advancing polish troops. Berdyczow was conquered on 26th April and Cooper picked freshly abondoned bolos airfield as their new base (from which Soviets evacuated their six planes without fighting). Bolscheviks were retreating on the whole frontline so Cooper and Shrewsbury made scout flight attacking retreating troops from time to time.

To be continued...

User avatar
Posts: 3089
Joined: 13 Mar 2002 17:29

Post by sylvieK4 » 08 Jun 2004 16:23

By chance I recently posted a few photos of these soldiers in the "Polish Uniform Portraits" thread.

The story of these brave and selfless men is well worth remembering. Thanks to Fredd for this informative post.

User avatar
Posts: 403
Joined: 11 May 2004 15:49
Location: Poland

Post by Liluh » 08 Jun 2004 21:46

Meanwhile, in Warsaw, five pilots tested new Ansaldo Balila planes. They
weren`t modern, had some significial lacks in design, but were faster,
had Vickers guns mounted and, most importantly, could reach twice the
distance made by Albatros without refueling. Maj. Fauntleroy, former
mechanic, improved engines carburetors.On the way back to base in Luck,
Chess hit Fauntleroys plane (who left it on the airfield in haste) with
his, destroying both machines (sic!). Luckily, Chess wasn`t hurt. On 2nd
May, Squadron was finally reunited. 3rd May - Polish troops without
meeting much resistance took Kijev and Shrewsburry estabilished new
airbase in Biala Cerkwia village, close from Kijew.
Soviet forces retreated behind Dniepr river. Polish offensive halted,
without succeding in the primary goal of destroying Bolschevik army.

While Ukrainian troops formed slowly, time worked in Bolschevik favour.
Squadron pilots made several recon flights around Chernobyl and
Czerkasow. On 10th May Crawford sunk transport ship, carrying Soviet
troops, on Dniepr river and damaged two others. On 25th May morning
Crawford flew on patrol mission behind Dniepr and noticed a vast cloud of
dust on the horizon. He knew, this cloud mean only one thing, moving
bolos cavarly. Infact, he was right, he estimated the numbers to about
6000 men! This was one of four divisions of Budionny Horsearmy (cavarly)
moving towards west. Crawford emptied his ammo packs on Cossacks and
returned informing the HQ that Soviets started their counterattack.
Polish 3rd Army had been cut off in Kijev. Course of war changed.
On 26th May Kosciuszko Squadron was ordered to recon and if possible,
attack Budionny cavarly. The idea was to have decent and recent info on
enemy movements (cavarly moved fast), and to buy some time for
retreating Polish troops. Bolscheviks fired at the planes from ground,
Senkowski got wounded in his leg, Chess and Weber fired on the cavarly,
but Weber crashed his plane in the bushes after his fuel ran out.
Fauntleroy evacuated his base by railway from Biala Cerkwia to Kazatyn,
near Zytomierz, then after one day to Berdyczow, willing to be quicker
than the cavarly. Pilots were exhausted due to effort and lack of sleep.
Cooper, Corsi and Clark stayed in Kijev and made flights covering and
supporting five polish Breughet bombers. On Dniepr river, near Tripolia,
bombers sunk a steamship with troops and fighters shoot at soldiers on
the coast.


Railway lines had crucial importance, as it was the only quick way in
meaning of transport, so there was a big dilema wheter to bomb it or not.
During a patrol mission Fauntleroy noticed a big group of bolos mining
the railway, preparing an ambush, while few miles away before forest,
polish train with troops approached. He didn`t attack, deciding to
instead, get back to the train to warn them. Although he tried very hard
with waving and showing signs while flying along the train, to warn the
troops, nobody really understand him. Soldiers just waved back and
greeted him smiling. Only at the second attempt someone in the train
pulled emergency brake and it stopped. Fauntleroy landed on a nearby
field and rushed to the train. He found one officer who knew english a
bit, so he warned him about the situation/ambush ahead of them. Troops
were quickly formed and Fauntleroy took off to support them from air
(with his 400 bullets). Cossacks were totally suprised and got wiped out.
Few months later, colonel (pplk - someone help me with precise
translation) recieved Virtuti Militari Cross from Mashall Pilsudski hands
for this deed.

Fauntleroy called back Cooper, Corsi and Clark from Kijev to airbase.
Attacking and bombing missions (just 2 bombs in one flight for each
Balile) lasted from dusk to dawn. Despite of their heroic attempts,
Polish lines were unable to hold their positions. Fauntleroy had to,
again, evacuate his airbase, as it had to be made with great haste, he
gave orders by just flying over the base and giving signs. On 7th June,
base was transfered to Nowogrod Wolynski. Crawford had to burn his
Balille, as it couldn`t take off. Zytomierz and Berdyczow collapsed
simultaneously, in the last one, Horsearmy burned field hospital togheter
with 600 wounded Polish soldiers inside. 3rd Army was in danger of being
encircled in Kijev. Then, from unknown causes, Budionny stopped his
offensive and didn`t close the ring around Kijev, instead, he retreated
back to the east to support railway crossing from Kijev to Kazatyn.
Fauntleroy was the first, who on 9th June noticed the suprising movement
of enemy and reported it to HQ. 3rd army of gen. Smigly-Rydz made it to
retreat with Kijev-Korosten railway, which was left open by Budionny.
Frontline had been stabilized for some time.

Day before retreating from the frontline, on 12th June, Konopka and Corsi
attacked big group of bolos cavarly, stopping their movement for several
hours. Dotted with bullet holes plane of Corsi didn`t reach the home
base, instead, it landed on near field crashing. Konopka who was landing
nearby to help (supposedly) crashed into a tree. Fortunately, both get
out unharmed. Similiar attack was made by Crawford and Senkowski shortly after.
Squadron base was transfered to Szepietowki, from which for a week,
few remaining planes flew as an air support for polish cavarly of
gen. Romer. Food shortage was pretty disturbing and they feed mainly
with wild berries. During 10 days, squadron`s base was transefered
5 times. On 23th June squadron was back in Lewandowka under Lviv,
where some new and fresh Balille`s awaited.


To be continued... hopefully by someone else as I`m lacking time ;)

User avatar
Benoit Douville
Financial supporter
Posts: 3184
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 01:13
Location: Montréal

Post by Benoit Douville » 10 Jun 2004 23:28

That's very interesting indeed. Poland and the United States have always been friends for a long time. We can also talk about the great Tadeusz Kosciuszko who fought with the Americans for their independance.


Posts: 179
Joined: 25 Dec 2003 00:55
Location: Western Europe

Post by Leutnant » 11 Jun 2004 12:49

Yeah, always good friends, especially under the cold war

User avatar
Posts: 3089
Joined: 13 Mar 2002 17:29

Post by sylvieK4 » 11 Jun 2004 13:47

Yeah, always good friends, especially under the cold war

Warsaw Pact wasn't really Warsaw's choice.

User avatar
Posts: 403
Joined: 11 May 2004 15:49
Location: Poland

Post by Liluh » 11 Jun 2004 14:36

Actually, Leutnant, President Reagan spent milions of $ supporting Solidarnosc in 80`s. Despite the communistic authorities, Americans were always welcomed with sympathy.

Posts: 179
Joined: 25 Dec 2003 00:55
Location: Western Europe

Post by Leutnant » 11 Jun 2004 21:39

He would have supported any anti-communist group.

User avatar
Christoph Awender
Forum Staff
Posts: 6695
Joined: 10 Mar 2002 17:22
Location: Austria

Post by Christoph Awender » 12 Jun 2004 22:12

Let´s stay on topic please.


Posts: 1215
Joined: 09 Jul 2002 17:02
Location: USA

Post by Durand » 23 Aug 2004 23:07


Reading this thread caused me to find a copy of "Flight of Eagles" and read it. The book is excellent and the story is absolutely fascinating. As I believe someone mentioned earlier, it is somewhat surprising that Hollywood has yet to put the story on the big screen.

After reading "Flight of Eagles" I found a more recent book on the Kosciuszko squadron with the title "Kosciuszko, We are Here! American Pilots of the Kosciuszko Squadron in Defense of Poland, 1919-1921" by Jausz Cisek. Has anyone read this book?



Return to “Poland 1919-1945”