Saturday, January 21, 2012

Poland - 1919 Oeffag D-III BA.253

Project Poland: Take Two

It has been a hectic week in the studio. I have been refining my file name schema, switching from shorter names to more descriptive ones including as much vital information as I can in the name to aid in archiving and web searches. It would drive me crazy when a profile for one aircraft type would be mislabeled by a search engine when pulling results. So far the new method seems to work fairly well. It means larger web documents, but improves search accuracy. (Which is always a good thing.)

I have been busy collecting research material and working up quite a few Polish aircraft profiles recently. The new work includes: Albatros C-class two seat types, Halberstadt CL.IIs, Hannover CL.IIIs, SPAD S.7s, AIRCO DH-9s and a large number of Oeffag D-III Series 253s. Since I have completed enough of them it seemed to be a good opportunity to post part 2 of the series on Polish aviation.

The Kościuszko Squadron

Poland's most famous aviation unit was the Kościuszko Squadron, named for the national hero Tadeusz Kościuszko. The pilots were mainly American ex-service pilots. Some were mercenaries, others volunteered. The Americans were joined by several regular French units. These contained (or were alleged to contain) substantial contingents of Polish personnel.

Tadeusz Kościuszko

Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko (born: February 12, 1746, died: October 15, 1817) was a Polish–Lithuanian and American general and military leader during the Kościuszko Uprising. He is a national hero of Poland, Lithuania, the United States and Belarus. Tadeusz Kościuszko fought in the American Revolutionary War as a colonel in the Continental Army. In 1783, in recognition of his dedicated service, he was brevetted by the Continental Congress to the rank of brigadier general in a mass promotion given to all officers who had served during the war. He lreturned to Poland and ed the 1794 Kościuszko Uprising against Imperial Russia and the Kingdom of Prussia as Supreme Commander of the Polish National Armed Force (Najwyźszy Naczelnik Siły Zbrojnej Narodowej).

The squadron usd a wide range of aircraft built by both sides of World War One. However the Kościuszko Squadron fielded a large percentage of Austro-Hungarian Oeffag D-III Series 253 with great effect.

This was the personal aircraft of the commander of the Kościuszko Squadron, Maj. Cedric E. Fauntleroy. The upper wing and tail plane surfaces are painted dark green as is the fuselage. The lower wings and tail plane are finished in yellow varnish. The forward section of the cowling and engine cover was painted red.

This is the personal plane of Kpt. Merian Cooper while in Kiev, May 1920. The upper wing and tailplane surfaces and the rudder are covered in "sworl" fabric. The red forward section is shown in some sources bearing a white border. As with many polish aircraft the wheels did not have a cover.

This example shares many of the elements of the previous profile. Once again we see the "sworl" camouflage being used. This example has covers on the wheels and the engine cover has been removed.

This is fairly typical paint scheme. The Polish insignia is the more complex version, and the rudder is yellow varnished, which was a fairly common practice. Once again there is no wheel covers.

History of the Kościuszko Squadron

Excerpt From Wikipedia Polish 7th Air Escadrille

The Polish 7. Eskadra Lotnicza (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 most active Polish squadrons in the war.

The unit was formed when Poland regained independence, on 7 November 1918 in Kraków, as the 3rd Air Escadrille, utilizing mostly bomber and reconnaissance aircraft left by Austro-Hungarian forces. On 25 November 1918 it was moved to Lwów (current Lviv), where it took active part in fighting of the Polish-Ukrainian War until June 1919. On 21 December 1918, after unification of Polish air units' names, its name was changed to the 7th Air Escadrille. It was commanded by Jerzy Boreysza, from April 1919 by Stefan Stec. Among pilots was World War I Ace Mieczysław Garsztka. Number of aircraft was variable, in May 1919 it possessed 3 fighters Fokker D.VIII (E.V), 3 reconnaissance Hansa-Brandenburg C.I and 1 LVG C.V. In June 1919 the escadrille was converted into fighter unit, then in September it was withdrawn into reserve. In October 1919 the commander became Ludomił Rayski.

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 (after the Polish American hero Tadeusz Kościuszko) 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. Meanwhile the Polish Air Force underwent reorganization. Even though most volunteers asked to be sent to the frontlines as soon as possible, the Polish high command delayed their deployment in view of the coming Polish offensive.

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 (Oef) 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.

In 1920 the Kościuszko Squadron made over 400 combat flights.


  1. Polish 7th Air Escadrille. (2011, November 19). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:00, January 20, 2012, from
  2. Wings Palette World War I/Fighters/Oeffag D.III/Ba.153/Ba.253/Poland
  3. Polish Albatros D.III Kościuszko Squadron scheme
  4. Tadeusz Kościuszko. (2012, January 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:21, January 21, 2012, from
  5. Merian C. Cooper, Faunt-le-Roy i jego eskadra w Polsce : dzieje Eskadry Kos'ciuszki, Wydawnictwa Pism Związkowych, Chicago, 1922.
  6. Kenneth Malcolm Murray, Wings Over Poland: The Story of the 7th (Kosciuszko) Squadron of the Polish Air Service, 1919, 1920, 1921, D. Appleton and Co.,1932.
  7. Janusz Cisek, Kosciuszko, We Are Here: American Pilots of the Kościuszko Squadron in Defense of Poland, 1919-1921, McFarland & Company, 2002, ISBN 0-7864-1240-2, Google Print

No comments: