Book Review: The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War


by Halik Kochanski

Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 2012. Pp. xxxii, 734. Maps., illus., appends., notes, biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN: 0674068149

Although Polish soldiers, sailors, airmen, and partisans fought in all fronts of the European war, aside from the events of September of 1939, when Hitler’s hosts overran their country, or when they stormed Monte Cassino in May of 1944, the role of the Poles has been largely neglected. 

In The Eagle Unbowed, British historian Kochanski gives us a comprehensive look at the role of Poland and of the Poles in the war.  She opens with some brief background on the rebirth of Poland following World War I and an overview of the history of the country through the outbreak of the Second World War.  Kochanski takes a good look at the campaign and fall of Poland in September of 1939, and its subsequent division between Hitler and Stalin, and then follows the fate of the Poles and their nation through the war.  She passes very smoothly back and forth from between different aspects of the Polish experience of the war.  Several chapters discuss the oppression and slaughter of Poles by both occupiers and the rise of the Polish underground.  Others look at the actions of the revived Polish military forces in the West, first in France, then in Britain, and later, after the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, in Russia.  Kochanski follows the operations of Polish forces on all fronts, from Norway in 1940 through the Fall of France and the Battles of Britain and the Atlantic.  She then looks at the Poles in the Western Desert, in Italy, notably in their gallant assault on Monte Cassino, and from Normandy into the heart of the Third Reich.  Kochanski is particularly valuable for her treatment of Polish forces under Soviet command and the Resistance in occupied Poland.  She also looks at the role of overseas Poles in sustaining the fight, and the complex politics, diplomacy, and strategies that caused Poland to fall under Soviet domination for nearly a half century after the war. 

The Eagle Unbowed will prove useful and informative reading for anyone interested in the Second World War.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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