What was Kościuszko’s Squadron

Introduction

The Kościuszko Squadron was a Polish Air Force fighter squadron established in late 1919 by Merian C. Cooper, an American aviator who would go on to direct the film King Kong in 1933.

The unit was named after Tadeusz Kościuszko. Its insignia was designed by Elliot William Chess (1899-1962), an American pilot serving with the Polish Army during the Polish-Soviet War. To encourage the recruitment of Americans of Polish descent, the Polish military set up a unit called the Polish-American Air Group.

Formation

First formed after Poland regained independence following World War I, it consisted of a small group of American volunteers independent of the United States State Department or the American Expeditionary Forces. The fliers came from a number of militaries. Members included Ludomił Rayski (commander and of the Turkish Air Force), Jerzy Weber (of the Imperial Russian Air Service), Władysław Konopka , Aleksander Seńkowski (of the Austrian Air Service), and Ludwik Idzikowski (of the Imperial Russian Air Service).

One of the most famous pilots was Merian C. Cooper, producer of the 1933 movie King Kong, who was decorated for valour by Polish commander-in-chief Józef Piłsudski with the highest Polish military decoration, the Virtuti Militari. During World War II the Kościuszko Squadron was formed by refugee Polish pilots who joined the Royal Air Force and played an essential role during the Battle of Britain.

The Kościuszko Squadron emblem depicts the distinctive four-cornered rogatywka (red cap of traditional Polish style) set against a field of seven red vertical stripes on a white background (forming six white stripes as a result) from the flag of the United States, red and white also being two colours contained in both the Polish and American flags. Behind the red cap is a pair of crossed scythes. Thirteen blue stars encircle the badge, representing the thirteen original American states. The rogatywka cap and scythes commemorate the Kościuszko Uprising of 1794: ten years after General Tadeusz Kościuszko returned to Poland from America, and led the Polish people, many armed only with scythes, in an attempt to liberate Poland from Russia and Prussia.

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