Sosabowski and the Polish position after Operation Market Garden

Sosabowski and the Polish position after Operation Market Garden

The cultural differences between the Polish and British military can be explained through the ‘Rhineland’ and ‘Anglo-Saxon’ models. These two corporate representations also provide a useful insight in extremis about the -generalized- values of leaders and soldiers in the two countries. In short, the Anglo-Saxon military values encompasses: hierarchical relations, external discipline, control, planning, individualism and obedient soldiers. This model is mostly found in countries such as Great Britain and the United States. In contrast, the Rhineland military values embraces: equality, internal discipline, trust, situational action, group cohesion and initiative.

Normally, the Rhinelanders can be found in most Northern and Western countries in continental Europe; the German military culture was also an exponent of the Rhineland principle. The German Auftragstaktik to inform subordinate levels on the common end goal in an operation is an example of this principle model. Any omission of hierarchy made continuation of the operation possible. The military personnel had to rely on mutual trust and freedom to act. It gave more responsibility to subordinate (non-commissioned) officers to let them judge the overall situation and act accordingly. One would be punished for not taking the initiative. Rhinelanders recognize their fellow cultural affiliates, they never underestimate them, because the opponent is just as unpredictable as they are (due to responding to changing situations, instead of planning). Sosabowski is a clear example of a Rhinelander, whereas Montgomery and Browning are followers of the Anglo-Saxon model.

Therefore, any remarks by Anglo-Saxon generals pointing the finger and naming others ‘incapable’, should be aware of the cultural differences in military leadership. A direct and hierarchical approach does not work for Rhinelanders, as it does for Anglo-Saxons. Such a claim is always biased and is only applicable within one’s own culture, but does not say anything about the quality of leadership in other cultures. In World War II, leadership was perceived as something that was an isolated feature, that some had and others did not. After the war, more extensive research was done about leadership and, ironically, Rhineland elements were propagated as signs of modern leadership in Anglo-Saxon countries.

After Operation Market Garden, the Polish position within the alliance of the ‘Big three’ further deteriorated. The Prime Minister Mikołajczyk was dealing his cards in a different political arena than his predecessor Sikorski. The British disapproved the actions taken by the Polish government-in-exile, not to give in to the Soviet demands. For the London Poles, making alterations in the Eastern frontier was not negotiable, nor could they forget the Katyn massacre. At the Moscow Conference (9-19 October 1944), a turning point came in the Anglo-Polish relationship.

On Churchill’s request, the Polish delegation arrived in Moscow on 12 October 1944. Upon arrival, Churchill told them to be present at the discussions between himself, Stalin and the -communist- Polish Lublin committee. Consequently, the British Prime Minister coerced Mikołajczyk to cooperate with Stalin’s disciples or lose Britain’s support for the remainder of the war. From the British perspective, any news that could be beneficial to their coercion tactics would be welcome. The information came on 16 October in a telegram to Sir Alan Brook, who was present in Moscow as Churchill’s military advisor.

The message stated that Sosabowski’s brigade performed badly. Churchill could use this ‘piece of evidence’ to put more pressure on Mikołajczyk to cooperate, because his valuable asset, Sosabowski’s elite troops, were no longer useful to the allied war effort. Montgomery’s telegram is exceptional to his behavior in that timeframe. Two days prior to the telegram he was praising the Polish contribution to the war and not even six weeks later he was honoring Maczek and his Poles by giving them a Distinguished Service Order. In addition, war correspondents spoke highly of the Polish contribution to Operation Market Garden in the same period as Montgomery was expressing his negative experiences, via Sir Alan Brooke, to Churchill.

Due to President Roosevelt’s sudden death his successor, Harry Truman, chose to keep diplomat Harry Hopkins in office, because of his good personal relationship with Stalin. The new president wanted to solve the Polish problem right at the start of his term. The Americans attempted to apply some extra pressure, which they assumed would be a feasible move due to the succesful American offensive in the Pacific. Therefore, Hopkins confronted Stalin on 24 May 1945 and told him that Poland formed an obstacle for the American-Soviet relationship, due to the positive stance of the public opinion in the United States regarding a democratic Polish state. The Soviet dictator came up with a compromise, stating that the British and American government could nominate a quarter of the new ministers in the Polish communist government.

In post-war America the compromise was not satisfactory for the Polish American community. The Repulicans blamed the Democrats in the 1940s and 1950s for being too lenient towards Moscow and selling out on democratic principles. During the Cold War, the Poles in the West and the CIA created subversive elements in Poland, which was dominated by communists by that point in time. These activities were abandoned, for the most part, with the creation of the Peoples Republic of Poland in 1952.


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