A TRIBUTE: General Jozef Haller & The Blue Army



About General Haller

The Blue Army


Portrait Gallery

The Riflemen's Assoc.


Campaign Maps

Haller's Army Video

Real Audio Clips

Help Build This Page

About Us

Text Box: Overview

Haller’s Army

 A Brief Overview

by Robert Tarwacki

      Prior to the First World War, Poland had ceased to exist as a nation. Poland was “partitioned” into sections under the influence of her neighbors, Prussia, Austria and Russia. However, the people struggled to maintain a sense of national identity in their hearts and minds. Contemporary personalities, such as Jan Ignacy Paderewski and emerging leaders like Jozef Pilsudski, knew that a sense of national identity would have to be maintained if Poland was to re-emerge as a nation someday. It was during this period of time that Paderewski is said to have popularized the saying, “Jeszcze Polska nie zginela poki my zyjemy” This is loosely translated as, “There is still a Poland, as long as we live.”

      Although both Paderewski and Pilsudski dreamed of a Poland reborn and both knew that the active presence of a Polish Army in the World War would be a crucial factor in achieving this goal, the two men had very different plans for the implementation of their dream. Eventually, a number of different “Polish” armies would be engaged in battle on both the side of the Entente and the Central powers. Russia would field an army known as the Lancers. Austria would provide the training ground for Pilsudski’s creation, the Legions. France, however, would provide the support for the creation of a well trained, well equipped, modern army, the equal of any army afield in those days. It would come to be know as the Polish Army in France. This was the fruits of Paderewski’s labors.

      Although France was the nation that provided the first opportunities for this Polish Army, both Canada and the United States were invaluable in its creation. The Polish government-in-exile was domiciled in France. Negotiations between the two governments resulted in France’s political and financial support for 2 divisions of a Polish Army to be mustered. A third division was eventually approved and financed. A certain number of emigrees were also available for enlistment there, but not nearly enough to fill the needed ranks.

      Paderewski, touring in the United States, had developed the idea of recruiting Polish American volunteers to help fill the ranks of the Polish Army in France. He believed that 50,000 men could be enlisted for the cause. He was eventually introduced to Colonel House, who influenced President Woodrow Wilson to approve the executive orders necessary to allow the active recruitment of persons on American soil for duty in a foreign army. Although President Wilson would not allow a foreign army to stand on or be trained on American soil, he did allow for an officers’ training camp to be formed. The Canadians agreed to provide the training camp for the main body of the army in a town called Niagara on the Lake, close to where the officers would train. This camp became known as Camp Kosciusko. President Wilson eventually came out strongly in support of Poland, and called for the creation of a free Polish state as one of his famous  “Fourteen Points.”

      Meanwhile, in France, the search for a suitable Polish commander of this new Army was under way. Pilsudski’s Polish Legions were busily fighting as allies of the Axis forces when a major falling out occurred. Three Legions had been formed and were actively taking part in battle. When Germany demanded that they sign an oath of loyalty, they refused. Two of the Legions (I & III Legion) remained behind, Pilsudski among them, and were interred for the duration of the war. The third legion, (II Legion,) under the command of General Jozef Haller, abandoned the Central powers and went over to the Russian side. However, before General Haller could successfully extract his Legion from the battlefield, a German attack took a heavy toll on his forces. Haller and the remnants of his group made their way to eastern Russia and eventually to France. It was then, that he was asked to take command of the fledgling Polish Army in France. Among the French advisors assigned to train the Polish forces was a young Captain named Charles DeGaulle.

      It is estimated that the United States eventually provided almost 100,000 Polish American volunteers to this army. The first campaign fought by Haller’s Army was at Champagne in France in 1918. By the war’s end in November of 1918, Paderewski had realized his dream of establishing a Polish Army and thus had helped to guarantee the rebirth and just as importantly, the long term survival, of a new Polish Republic.

      The story of the Polish Army in France does not end here. Haller’s Army went on to play a critical role in the shoring up of the new Polish Republic in the turbulent years following the War. Haller’s Army fought throughout the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1920 and provided valuable support on the northern front during the battle known as “Miracle on the Vistula,” when the Red Army’s advance was halted at the gates of Warsaw. Though many of the American volunteers who had formed the army and fought in France were sent home by this time, new volunteers from Poland were recruited and trained to fill their ranks. Thus, the army became known as "the Volunteer Army," which General Haller continued to command.

      Paderewski thought that it was a fitting tribute to Americans, that they volunteered to fight for Polish independence in much the same way as Kasimir Pulaski and Tadeusz Kosciusko had volunteered in the American fight for independence so many years earlier.    


February 3, 2001