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The Death of General Sikorski (Hardback)

The Polish Leader’s Last Flight in 1943 and The Tangled Web of Poland, the Allies, and the Soviets

Military > Frontline Books

By Peter Zablocki
Frontline Books
Pages: 312
Illustrations: 16 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399039222
Published: 30th June 2024

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The plane crash at the height of the Second World War which claimed the life of the Polish Prime Minister, General Władysław Sikorski, ranks among the most enduring mysteries of the conflict. It was a death that shifted European alliances and loyalties, brought Stalin into the Anglo-American camp, and sealed Poland's fate for the remainder of the twentieth century.

Poland and the Soviet Union’s historically precarious relationship had taken an even darker turn in September 1939 when the Third Reich’s Adolf Hitler and the Soviet Union's Josef Stalin divided the nation and forced its government to relocate first to France and then to Britain in 1940.

Sikorski’s Polish government-in-exile established a military, political, and personal relationship with Winston Churchill’s government, only to see it fractured by the United States’ entrance into the war and the Western Allies’ courtship of Stalin following Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union.

The Allies overall support of Stalin’s denials following the 1943 discovery of 20,000 bodies of Polish officers murdered and buried by the Soviets in Katyn Forest only made matters worse. Sikorski’s open protests against describing the Soviet dictator as a benevolent ‘Uncle Joe’ made him publicly and privately ‘difficult’ to the new Anglo-American-Soviet coalition.

As per reports of the British and Polish intelligence services, seemingly not doing enough to stand up to the Soviets had also strained Sikorski’s relationship with different Polish government factions.

Leaving from a layover stop at Gibraltar on 4 July 1943, having visited Polish Army units in Iran, Sikorski's RAF Liberator, AL523, crashed into the sea just sixteen seconds into its flight. Whilst Stalin privately blamed Churchill, the Germans were more public in accusing the British. Others pointed to the Soviets or even the Poles.

A British Court of Inquiry convened in 1943 presented an inconclusive report on the crash’s cause or foul play and locked up most of its files until 2043. Lacking a respected leader, Poland fell out of favour with the Allies, who allowed Stalin to redraw the Polish borders and establish a pro-communist puppet state in Poland until 1990.

Not only exploring what happened on that fateful day in 1943, but also the events leading up to it and those that followed, The Death of General Sikorski is more of a political thriller than a conspiracy book, telling an often complex, and enthralling story of a tragedy within a tragedy – that of a man and his nation.

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About Peter Zablocki

Peter Zablocki is a historian, author, and educator. Born in Poland, he emigrated to the United States as a child, eventually earning degrees in World History and American History. Zablocki currently teaches Western Civilization courses at a local college. He has written for numerous magazines, including the Smithsonian Magazine, Military History, and WWII Quarterly. In 2023, Zablocki received the Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Award for Journals and Magazines. He and his family live in New Jersey. For more information, please visit www.peterzablocki.com

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