|The Order of the Virtuti Militari and its Cavaliers 1792-1992, By Prof. Dr. Zdzislaw P. Wesolowski|
|Other polish military history books, By Prof. Dr. Zdzislaw P. Wesolowski|
|ARTICLE: THE POLISH MONTE CASSINO CROSS By Prof. Dr. Zdzislaw P. Wesolowski|
|ARTICLE: POLISH MILITARIA, Scarcity Contributes to Value By Prof. Dr. Zdzislaw P. Wesolowski|
|BLUE ARMY - AN APPEAL TO POLONIA AND FRIENDS OF POLAND|
|The Polish Naval destroyer ORP Blyskawica|
|OTHER POLISH RESOURCES ON THE INTERNET.|
THE POLISH MONTE CASSINO CROSS
By Prof. Dr. Zdzislaw P. Wesolowski
at Monte Cassino is one of the most famous abbeys in
Europe. It was founded by Saint Benedict of Nursia in 529
AD on a former site of the temple of Apollo. It is
located 75 miles southeast of Rome. The abbey stands at
an altitude of 1,700 feet, overlooking the town of
Cassino and the surrounding countryside. The abbey's
original buildings were destroyed by the Lombards in 580
AD and rebuilt in 720 AD. Monte Cassino was again
destroyed in 883 by the Saracens and restored in mid 900.
In 1349, it was damaged by an earthquake. It was rebuilt
again in 1600 only to be sacked by French troops who
invaded the Kingdom of Naples. It was again rebuilt and
would remain in beautiful condition until 1944.
The town of Cassino and its abbey stood in the way of allied forces in their objective to liberate Rome. The German troops surrounded the abbey. From this vantage point, they controlled air and ground fire against the Allies. American and British forces were unable to take Monte Cassino from the Germans and withdrew from the battlefield. The Polish 2nd Corps took their place and were victorious. It succeeded in taking Monte Cassino after three weeks of fierce fighting in mountain terrain which left the troops exposed to enemy snipers on the slopes. Upon taking the abbey, the Poles raised the white and red flag of Poland on top of the ruins of the monastery. The Battle of Monte Cassino is an eternal monument to the gallantry of the Polish soldiers. It surpasses Polish military heroism at Samo Sierra and the Charge at Rokitna.
At the conclusion of Polish military operations in and near Monte Cassino, the Polish government in Exile, (London) established a campaign cross to commemorate the battle. A total of 48, 498 crosses were awarded with accompanying award documents issued in the field to each soldier who took part in the battle. Today, original Monte Cassino crosses with award documents are scarce. Unfortunately, the High Command of the Polish 2nd Corps did not keep a master roll record of names of soldiers who received the crosses, either by cross number or by the name of the recipient. It is therefore impossible to determine whom a specific cross was issued to without the award document.
In recent years, a large number of original numbered Monte Cassino crosses have surfaced. These crosses have high numbers in the upper 48,500 to 49,999 range. After the conclusion of hostilities near Monte Cassino, the Polish 2nd Corps ordered 50,000 crosses from a manufacturer in Tel Aviv. Of this total, 48,498 were awarded and the rest remained at the headquarters of the Polish Government in London until 1989. The government decided to release the remaining 1,502 crosses since no further awards were being made. The crosses were sold to several dealers and auction houses, resulting in a flood of unawarded Monte Cassino crosses. Today, even these original unawarded crosses are scarce.
Official documentation to include a list of recipients will never be known. Records have been located which indicate blocks of crosses by serial number distributed to specific units. The statistical analysis shown below identifies these groups.
In closing, I must mention that at the foot of the Polish cemetery at Monte Cassino is an inscription in Polish which is worthy to mention for those who read the language. In translation it lessens its true meaning:
PRZECHODNIU, POWIEDZ POLSCE, ZESMY POLEGLI WIERNI W JEJ SLUZBIE, ZA WOLNOSC NASZA I WASZA, MY ZOLNIERZE POLSCY ODDALISMY-BOGU DUCHA, ZIEMI WLOSKIEJ CIALO, A SERCA, POLSCE
Passerby, tell Poland that we fell faithfully in her service, for our freedom and yours, we Polish soldiers gave our souls to God, our bodies to the soil of Italy, and our hearts to Poland.
SZCZESC BOZE KU CHWALE OJCZYZNY
Distribution of Awarded Monte Cassino Cross, 1944 by unit of assignment
On may 18th 1994, Poland commemorated one of its greatest victories during World War II against Nazi Germany. Ceremonies were conducted at the Polish Cemetery at Monte Cassino to honor the 1,100 Poles who died while storming the abbey (11-25 May 1944.) The ceremony also honored the living veterans of that historical battle. President Lech Walesa and other dignitaries placed wreaths at the cemetery at Monte Cassino and for the first time, the Armed Forces of a free and independent Poland served as honor guards during the ceremony. Five thousand Polish veterans and their families visited Monte Cassino from Poland and from around the world. Military representatives of allied nations also participated in the ceremony. The author had the honor of representing the South Carolina State Guard and the U.S. Armed Forces at this ceremony at the direction of the Pentagon.
|About the Author
Dr. Zdzislaw P. Wesolowski is a former officer of the United States Air Force, retiring at the rank of Captain. He is currently a Colonel in the South Carolina State Guard, attached to the reserves. He is a Professor of Aviation Management at Florida Memorial College in Miami and President of the Polish American Chamber of Commerce of Florida and the Americas.
He is the author of four books and twenty-five scholarly articles in business and economics.
As an amateur Polish military historian and collector of Polish militaria, He credits these interests to his fathers military service in the Polish Army and Navy. His father, Stefan P. Wesolowski, also served in the U.S.Army Transportation Corps as the commander (Captain) of the USAT Ganandoc, an auxillery aircraft carrier during the Invasion of Normandy in World War II. It is interesting to note that during his service with the U. S Army, his father was a Polish citizen. Few persons in American history ever commanded a naval ship during a war while being non-US citizens.
Wesolowski invites your comments or questions. You can
contact him via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org You
can also visit his web site and learn more about Polish
medals and decorations at
©copywrite Z. Wesolowski, 1997, & The Militaria Collector's Exchange