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7th Air Escadrille - American Pilots Against Red Cavalry

Discussion in 'Prelude to War & Poland 1939' started by wm., Oct 5, 2016.

  1. wm.

    wm. Active Member

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    This is from Red Cavalry and Other Stories by Isaac Babel. Brutal and realistic, set in the Soviet-Polish war, it was immensely popular in the USSR. Even today is considered a masterpiece of Russian literature.

    Earlier in the story, Trutnov - a wounded young Soviet commander wantonly kills two Polish POWs. Fearing execution he decides to commit suicide.

    The sqaudron leader showed us four dots in the sky, four bombers sailing through the radiant, swan-like clouds. These were planes from the air squadron of Major Faunt Le Roy, large armoured planes.
    'To horse!' the platoon commanders shouted, at the sight of them. They led the squadron over towards the forest at a trot, but Trunov did not go with his squadron. He remained near the station building, leaned against the wall and fell silent. Andryushka Vosmiletov and two machine-gunners, two barefoot lads in crimson riding-breeches, stood beside him, fussing anxiously. [...]
    In gigantic muzhik letters Trunov wrote on an obliquely torn-out sheet of paper: 'It being my duty to perish this day,' he wrote, 'I find it my duty to add two dead to the possible defeat of the enemy and at the same time give command to Semyon Golov, the platoon commander...'
    He sealed the letter, sat down on the ground and, putting his back into the job, pulled off his boots. 'Make good use of them,' he said, giving the machine-gunners the dispatch and the boots. 'Make good use of them, those boots are new...'
    'Good luck to you, commander,' the machine-gunners muttered back to him, shifting from leg to leg and delaying their departure. 'And goad luck to you,' said Trunov, 'one way or the other, lads,' and he walked towards the machine-gun that stood on a hillock near the station hut. There waiting for him was Andryushka Vosmiletov, the rag-and-bone man.
    'One way or the other,' Trunov said to him, proceeding to aim the machine-gun, 'are you going to stay with me for a bit, eh, Audrey?.' 'Oh Lord Jesus,' Andryushka replied fearfully, uttered a sob, turned white and began to laugh, `by the banner of the mother of Lord Jesus!...' And he began to aim the second machine-gun at the planes.
    But the planes had begun to climb ever more steeply above the station, they crackled fussily in the heights, descended, described arcs, and the sun lay, a pink ray, on the yellow lustre of their wings. By now we, the fourth squadron, were in the forest. There in the forest we waited for the end of the unequal battle between Pashka Trunov and the American air-force major, Reginald Faunt Le Roy.
    The major and his three bomb-throwers displayed great ability in this battle. They descended to three hundred metres and blasted first Andryushka and then Trunov with their machine-guns. None of the many cartridges discharged by our men caused the Americans any harm; they flew off to the side without noticing the squadron that was hidden in the forest. And so, after half an hour's wait, we were able to go and collect the corpses. The body of Andryushka Vosmiktov was picked up by two relatives of his who served in our squadron, while Trunov, our dead commander, we took to Gothic Sokal and buried him in a ceremonial spot there, in the public gardens, in a flower-bed, in the middle of the town.



    This story, unlike many of the others is not literary fiction. From Europe by Norman Davis:

    In Squadron Leader Trunov Babel' tells the story of a macho Cossack commander who went out one day to shoot down one of the American volunteer pilots who were fighting for the Poles.
    The memoirs of the American ‘Kościuszko Squadron', under Col. Cedric E. Fauntleroy, agree exactly with Babel''s account. They relate how a foolhardy Soviet machine-gunner kept firing at the American planes from an unprotected clearing, and how one of them peeled off, executed a low-level run, and shot him to pieces.
     
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  2. wm.

    wm. Active Member

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    From Wikipedia:
    Polish 7th Air Escadrille, better known as the Kościuszko Squadron, was one of the units of the Polish Air Force during the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1921. Formed in late 1918, it was re-formed in late 1919 from US volunteers. It was one of the most active Polish squadrons in the war.
    In late 1919 eight American volunteers, including Major Cedric Fauntleroy and Captain Merian C. Cooper, arrived in Poland from France where in September 1919 they had been officially named the Kościuszko Squadron with Major Fauntleroy as its commander.

    After reaching Poland the men from Kościuszko Squadron joined the 7th Squadron. More pilots arrived during the following weeks - in all, there served 21 American pilots, along with several Polish pilots, including Ludwik Idzikowski, the ground crew was all Polish. In November 1919 Major Fauntleroy took the command and on 31 December 1919 the escadrille took the name Kościuszko Squadron.
    The Kościuszko Squadron was the first air squadron to use a railway train as a mobile flying base with specially designed railroad cars that could transport their aircraft as the front moved and developed. The train also included the squadron's operational headquarters, aircraft spares and repair workshops and living quarters.

    The Kościuszko Squadron was first used in the Kiev Offensive in April 1920, rebasing from Lwów to Połonne. Its aircraft were Albatros D.III fighters, supplemented by Ansaldo A.1 Balilla. Since there were no air encounters, primary missions became reconnaissance and ground attack. 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 Kościuszko 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 corporal. A few months later he escaped from a POW camp near Moscow to Latvia.

    In August 1920 the Kościuszko Squadron took part in the defense of Lwów, and after the Battle of Warsaw it participated in the Battle of Komarów which crippled Budionny's cavalry. Most active days were August 16 and 17, when Escadrille, reduced to 5 uninjured pilots, fulfilled 18 ground attack missions each day.

    Colonel Cedric E. Fauntleroy and Lt.- Col. Merian C. Cooper received Poland's highest military decoration: the Virtuti Militari. Other Kociuszko Squadron recipients of the Virtuti Militari included Major George M. Crawford, Captain Edward C. Corsi, Captain Władysław Konopka, 1st Lieut. Elliot W. Chess, 1st Lieut. Carl H. Clark, 1st Lieut. E. H. Noble, 1st Lieut. H. C. Rorison, 1st Lieut. K. O. Shrewsbury, 1st Lieut. Jerzy A. Weber and 2nd Lieut. A. Senkowski. Mieczyslaw Garsztka was to be awarded the Virtuti Militari posthumously.
     
  3. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    Interesting the name Kosciuszko - Australia's highest mountain is Mount Kosciuszko - Named after Tadeusz Kosciuszko - Who played a part in the American revolution apparently...and a Pole.
     

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