Conclusions and Epilogue

Overall Conclusion

The overall conclusion about the ethical characteristics of Polish military operations in Western Europe, and the Netherlands can be summarized in three features, initiative, courage and sense of justice.

The first feature, initiative, was a consequence of mutual trust that generally existed amongst military personnel. The military hierarchy was, although existing, of a different order than in the Anglo-Saxon culture. The continental Europeans operated on a more horizontal level, which resulted in an ability to respond quickly to a changing environment. The Polish commanders, like their German adversary, possessed a great deal of freedom to act independently.

As a consequence, both groups were more capricious in their modus operandi than the Anglo-Saxon armies, which followed more detailed planning. The freedom to act for subordinate commanders lead to the crossing of the Dives river in Normandy, the entry of Breda and the crossing of the Rhine. However, the same characteristic initiative also comes with a side that can be perceived as negative.  A prerequisite for initiative is freedom of speech, ‘a common agreement to disagree’.

However, in some organizational cultures, it is not desirable to express any criticism. This explains why Sosabowski was on a ‘ramming course’ with the British military generals, whereas Maczek was praised and awarded by the same group. The latter did not directly take part in their organizational structure and was given substantial freedom on his part of the battlefield. In contrast to Sosabowski, Maczek was fighting under the command of -the more lenient- Canadians, who identified that the Poles were more ‘horizontal’ than they were, but tended to be less judgmental about this cultural difference.

The second feature of the Polish was determination. Sosabowski and Maczek showed this trait when they: maintained the parachute training requirements, kept the Germans at bay in Oosterbeek and Driel and held their position at Maczuga. In general, the Germans had more trouble eliminating any Polish threat than those of the Anglo-Saxons, because they resembled their own way of conducting warfare, strong ‘group cohesion’ and ‘determination’.

Subsequently, Sosabowski created unity through his high level of training; any lowering of the standard would result in lack of group cohesion and steadfastness. Furthermore, the Germans had trouble eliminating the Polish threat, due to these two factors. The Polish soldiers in Western Europe did not have a monopoly on firmness against superior German forces in World War II. American and British units also displayed these qualities during the Normandy and Ardennes campaigns. However, it can be argued that the Polish forces at Maczuga and Driel have shown, at least, the same fortitude as their Anglo-Saxon counterparts. The only difference is the lack of media exposure in mostly Anglo-Saxon films and books.

The final characteristic was ethical consciousness. In general, Polish liberators showed a correct attitude, despite the humiliation suffered by the Poles at the hands of the Germans in 1939. Although they fought aggressively, the Polish liberators in the West did not resort to grave inhumane behavior against German soldiers during (or the civilian population after) the war. Also, Maczek and Sosabowski often referred to ethical issues that motivated their actions. The commander of the 1st Polish Armored Division did not want to bomb Breda and create bloodshed among the local population or destroy historic monuments. His soldiers were willing to accept more danger, which was unusual when compared with the Anglo-Saxons’ modus operandi. The British would rather neutralize the German threat with fire support to get rid of it than unnecessarily expose their soldiers.

In addition, at Valburg Sosabowski critized the British generals for expressing a lack of concern about the lives of their fellow British soldiers at Oosterbeek. The Polish general disliked the lack of will and defeatist behavior of the British. Subsequently, Sosabowski could not understand why his Anglo-Saxon counterparts were not resorting to situational action, but instead needed a -new plan-, before they could help their own countrymen at Oosterbeek.

The title of this research indicates that the Poles fought fearlessly and without rancor. The implication being that although their quest for an independent Poland failed and they were forced to accept the new balance of power during the Second World War. The Polish forces did not publically display resentment regarding their country’s inevitable fate. Despite the wartime shifts in power, the Polish military kept its head high and remained steadfast in their beliefs.

Now that the Cold War is over and Sosabowski and Polish veterans were honored on 31 May 2006, it would adorn the Dutch government to take one last step. The granting of a posthumous retirement provision to General Stanisław Sosabowski, based on the period 1950-1967.  It is only reasonable to assume that the ‘equality principle’ applies to this case. Both generals, Maczek and Sosaboski fought for the liberation of the Netherlands and only one was rewarded by the Dutch government. Through a posthumous compensation, the Dutch government could send a clear signal to the Polish community that both generals were equally important. Finally, it also could show the modern democratic Polish government that the Dutch are still willing to remember a common history.