A Question of Honor
The Kosciuszko Squadron: Forgotten Heroes of World War II
by Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud
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A Question of Honor is the gripping, little-known, and brilliantly told story of the scores of Polish fighter pilots who helped save England during the Battle of Britain and of their stunning betrayal by the United States and England at the end of World War II.
Centering on five pilots of the renowned Kościuszko Squadron, the authors show how the fliers, driven by their passionate desire to liberate their homeland, came to be counted among the most heroic and successful fighter pilots of World War II. Drawing on the Kościuszko Squadron’s unofficial diary — filled with the fliers’ personal experiences in combat — and on letters, interviews, memoirs, histories, and photographs, the authors bring the men and battles of the squadron vividly to life. We follow the principal characters from their training before the war, through their hair-raising escape from Poland to France and then, after the fall of France, to Britain. We see how, first treated with disdain by the RAF, the Polish pilots played a crucial role during the Battle of Britain, where their daredevil skill in engaging German Messerschmitts in close and deadly combat while protecting the planes in their own groups soon made them legendary. And we learn what happened to them after the war, when their country was abandoned and handed over to the Soviet Union.
A Question of Honor also gives us a revelatory history of Poland during World War II and of the many thousands in the Polish armed forces who fought with the Allies. It tells of the country’s unending struggle against both Hitler and Stalin, its long battle for independence, and the tragic collapse of that dream in the “peace” that followed.
Powerful, moving, deeply involving, A Question of Honor is an important addition to the literature of World War II.
“Exciting. . . . A tale of heroism, camaraderie and glory. The authors vividly re-create the airmen’s daily bouts with death and nights of partying, their lost lives and loves.”
–The Washington Post Book World
“Olson and Cloud use the [Kosciuszko Squadron] pilots’ story as the centerpiece of an impassioned, riveting account of Poland’s betrayal by Britain and the United States, which quickly forgot the Poles’ heroism in their rush to appease Stalin’s Soviet Union.”
–Adam Nagorski, Newsweek
“Exciting and compelling, a fine story too rarely told, a tribute to the Polish fighting spirit, and a well-written war history about a distant but very good neighbor.”
“A wonderful story, wonderfully told. Heroism and betrayal make for heady reading, and this book is long overdue.”
“An astonishing achievement! Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud give us a fascinating account of the extremely well documented heroic and daring struggle of a group of Polish military pilots and through it they present us a glimpse of the harrowing history of Poland and Europe during the Second World War.”
“This book presents us with one of the most disgraceful ethical horrors of World War II — how, believing the need to support Stalin at all costs, we discredited, and later neglected, our oldest, bravest, and most trustworthy ally in order to conceal the truth of a revolting crime.”
“The Polish airmen who had escaped their savaged country in 1939 made a major contribution to the Royal Air Force’s victory in the Battle of Britain in 1940. 303 Squadron, which they formed, was the most successful of all RAF units in shooting down German aircraft, attempting to bomb Britain into surrender. Their subsequent treatment by the British government including its refusal to let the survivors march in the Victory Parade of 1946, in craven deference to Stalin, was one of the most shameful episodes of the Cold War.”
–Sir John Keegan
“A gripping account of personal gallantry and of political treachery. On a par with the recent best-sellers about the fighting men of World War II.”
Published by Vintage
paperback / 512 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780375411977