No Greater Ally
ISBN: 978 1 84603 365 0
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 11 Jun 2009
Full Title: No Greater Ally: The Untold Story of Poland's Forces in World War II
Because of the relative quick fall of Poland at the onset of the European War and the because Poland was shrouded behind the Iron Curtain immediately after the war's end, Polish contribution to the Allied war effort became inadequately understood and under-appreciated. At times, the West's knowledge of the Polish defensive campaign of 1939 even drew from Nazi German news, such as the notion of Polish horse-mounted cavalry charges against German tanks seen in Nazi propaganda. Accurate accounts of civilian experiences were perhaps even harder to come by, for the post-war Soviet era suppressed some of the hardships that in many ways caused by Russian policy. The new book No Greater Ally by Kenneth Koskodan is a work that presents brand new information about the WW2-era Poland.
Without a doubt the book's greatest achievement could be found in the numerous first-hand accounts collected by the author which painted vivid pictures of the lengths some Polish people went through in order to contribute their small part to the defense and liberation of their country. The book covered every inch of ground in both Western and Eastern Europe, with mentions of Polish participation in major engagements such as Battle of Britain, Operation Market Garden, and the Warsaw Uprising. Stories of civilians were aplenty and perhaps much more memorable than their military counterparts. One of such story was from Zygmunt Kornas, who was imprisoned by the Russian occupiers and became a forced laborer building defense structures at Moscow. He managed to escape from his guards and sneak away by tying himself under a rail car. For the following two months, he walked south, surviving on raw grains, stolen food, and essentially whatever he could manage to find. To him, all he wanted to was to find one of the Polish Army camps in Kazakhstan so he could enlist in the effort to free his home country, but when he finally reached the camp he was so weak that he was found unfit for service (he did, however, eventually regain his health, and entered service in 1942). Anna Dadlas, a teen who embarked on a similar journey as Kornas, recalled that she traveled south with a small group of refugees searching for the Polish camps. A mother of two young children would tell her children to keep walking otherwise they might not survive. Tragically, as Dadlas watched in horror, as they had a Polish camp in sight, she and her children were so relieved that they slipped into a sleep so deep from the over exhaustion that they never woke.
Unfortunately, while the book provided many stories previously unjustly unheard, it also appeared to me that the author was bent on a political agenda. Although collectively the people of Poland suffered tremendously and fought valiantly for the Allies, the book only very briefly brushes upon any topic that might display any shortcoming of Poland, and at times at the expense of the image of Poland's allies. For example, in the chapter that spoke of the German invasion of France, it was rather strongly hinted that the French military leadership was entirely unenthusiastic about the defense of their own country, while the Polish forces in France responsibly fought for their Allies as if they were defending their own country. Was everything so black-and-white? Were there really so few brave French soldiers and so few Polish cowards? If Russia wanted to raise Polish divisions in the fight against Germany, could it really be Moscow policy to send Polish refugees to Siberian camps and left to starve to death? Could the war really be defined in absolute terms as Koskodan had done?
Despite of my warnings that some of the ideas presented in this book seem to carry a political agenda and should be taken with a grain of salt, No Greater Ally definitely provides valuable new accounts of Polish efforts in WW2, some of which rather exciting and the inspirational. The author noted that
Despite the seemingly one-sided nature of the information he had presented, Koskodan undoubtedly succeeded to remedy, in part, the general lack of knowledge about the WW2-era Poland in the West. This book should prove to be interesting to any WW2 history enthusiast who yearns to learn more about Poland and the Polish people in the war.
Please also check out John Radzilowski's review of No Greater Ally.
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