Hey (Fly) White Eagle!

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In 1917, Jan Ignacy Paderewski composed and wrote the words of the song "Hej, Orle Biały!" (Hey White Eagle!) The song was to be the battle anthem of the Polish Army in France, known as the Blue Army. On the New York first edition of the song from 1918, the composer ordered a note reading: "all proceeds from the sale of this anthem are intended for national purposes".

Another anniversary of the arrival of the most modern part of the Polish Army - the Blue Army - has passed silently. The return order of April 15, 1919, signed by General Haller, read:

The longed-for moment of the march of the Polish Army from Italian, French and American lands to Poland has come. Just like a hundred years ago, we are returning to Poland today, happier than those ... Polish Divisions are going to the country, created in foreign lands by the efforts of the entire Polish nation, and especially thanks to the bravery and vigor of its exiles in both Americas, North and South; thanks to the persistent work of Polish statesmen such as: Ignacy Paderewski and Roman Dmowski, thanks to the brave act of the Head of the Republic of Poland, Józef Piłsudski.

"Hej Orle Bialy!" (Hey White Eagle!), cover of the first edition of Ignacy Paderewski's songs, 1918 (Source: Polish Museum of America)

The first transport left France on April 16. The last of the 383 trains arrived in Poland in mid-June. General Haller arrived in Warsaw on April 21, 1919. He was greeted as a national hero, and the magistrate awarded him the title of honorary citizen of the city.

The Blue Army was, for those times, very well equipped and trained. It had 120 of the latest Renault FT-17 tanks, aviation - seven squadrons, a total of 98 aircraft, engineer troops, instructors, cavalry, artillery, communications troops, 7 field hospitals and very high morale of soldiers. Already in May, it was sent to the eastern front, the front of the Polish-Ukrainian struggle, the greatest threat from Soviet Russia.

Transport of troops of General Józef Haller's army from France to Poland. Soldiers standing on the track next to a train transporting military equipment. 1919. (Source: National Digital Archives)

Despite his strategic successes, or perhaps because of them, General Haller did not find the approval of the Chief of State, Józef Piłsudski. In June 1919, he was recalled as commander of the Blue Army and sent to the Polish-German borderland to take command of the South-Western Front. On September 1, 1920, the Blue Army was completely disbanded. Individual formations became part of other national military units. Volunteers from the United States were demobilized, which irritated the Polish American community.

The situation of the demobilized soldiers of the Blue Army was very bad. The matter was discussed at the highest levels of American authorities. Julius Kahn, Congressman from California, and Congressman Kleczka from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, took care of it. The issue of the return of demobilized volunteers was raised in the House of Representatives in the early 1920s. The House authorized Secretary of War Baker to transport demobilized Hallerians - also American citizens - on American transport ships. These were to be returning ships bringing supplies to American soldiers stationed in the occupied Rhineland. Demobilized at various times, the soldiers waited for transport in overcrowded camps in Skierniewice and Grupa near Grudziądz.

Soldiers on a railway platform carrying a Renault FT-17 tank. (Source: National Digital Archives)

Observers from the American Red Cross later reported that Poland returned its defenders in very poor physical and mental condition, emaciated, hungry, lice-infested, without money, without underwear. The first cases of typhus were recorded among the soldiers.

In total, 12,546 Haller soldiers returned to the United States. Roman Dmowski, in a letter to Jan Smulski dated October 12, 1920 and published in "Dziennik Związkowy", thanked for the contribution of the Polish community to the work of regaining independence. Apart from the recognition and awarding them with the Cross of American Volunteers, the veterans were left to fend for themselves. They themselves began to organize help for needy colleagues.

In May 1921, they established SWAP - the Association of Veterans of the Polish Army in America. Its first president was Col. Dr. Teofil Starzyński, president of the Polish Falcon Association in America. A tireless organizer of the recruitment campaign, faithful to the falcon oath, he went with his friends to the front as a doctor. The list of people like him is long.

The SWAP fund was supported in 1926, with the sum of $10,000, by the greatest of Falcons, I.J. Paderewski. It is thanks to people like THEM that the powerful Blue Army was created.

The Blue Army and the political game around it are completely ignored in Polish historiography. The fact is that Haller's Army was the best trained and best armed tactical unit of the Polish army and represented very high morale and combat capabilities. As a whole, under the command of General Haller, it could pose a serious threat to the emerging legend of Marshal Piłsudski. In 1919, he began to systematically replace the "blue" commanders with his own, legionnaires. The demobilization of volunteers from the United States, the best part of this army, in the face of the threat from the Soviet army was something astonishing.

The taking of command by General Józef Haller. Maurycy Zamoyski (fifth from the right) appoints Józef Haller (third from the left) as commander-in-chief. (Source: National Digital Archives)

It was not surprising, however, that when in June 1920, in the face of the Bolshevik threat, a volunteer army began to be organized, demobilized Hallerians flocked to it en masse.

Today, in the Polish consulates in the United States, on the anniversary of Poland regaining independence, the song "My First Brigade" still resounds. Perhaps it is worth realizing that the basis of the identity of the American Polonia are these volunteers from the Blue Army and their neglected graves. Maybe after 100 years, it's time to start fixing the mistakes of history.


  1. Cornebise, Alfred E., Typhus and Doughboys: The American Polish Typhus Relief Expedition, 1919-1921, Associated University Presses, Inc., 1982
  2. Ruskoski, David Thomas, The Polish Army in France: Immigrants in America, World War I Volunteers in France, Defenders of the Recreated State - in Poland, Georgia State University, Digital Archive @ GSU, Department of History, 2006
  3. Biskupski, B., Canada and the Creation of a Polish Army, 1914–1918, Polish Review (1999) 44/3 pp 339–380
  4. Hapak, Joseph T., Selective service and Polish Army recruitment during World War I, Journal of American Ethnic History (1991) 10#4 pp 38–60[38]
  5. Valasek, Paul, Haller's Polish Army in France, Chicago, 2006
  6. Walter, Jerzy, Czyn zbrojny Wychodźstwa Polskiego w Ameryce - zbiór dokumentów i materiałów historycznych, Wydawnictwo Stowarzyszenia Weteranów Armii Polskiej w Ameryce, Nowy Jork/Chicago, 1957
  7. Hej Orle Biały, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, YouTube/Andrzej Rozbicki, 2021-07-06

The Life and Works of Ignacy Paderewski
Prof. dr hab. Kazimierz Braun

Paderewski was deliberately forgotten by the ruling camp in the interwar period, and after the war, actively suppressed by the communists. Also today, there is a lot of incorrect or incomplete information about him on the Internet. To this day, there is no complete, objective monograph of him.


On June 17th, 2023, at 2 PM, a ceremonial dedication of the graves of veterans of the Blue Army will take place at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield, Michigan.


Do Poles today remember about the huge sacrifice and participation of the American Polonia to make Poland appear again on the world map as a sovereign and independent state? It is difficult to answer this question today. The rapidly changing geopolitical reality brings many new and unfavorable circumstances for our homeland, which make us reconsider the fate of Poland.


Poland’s rebirth as an independent nation in 1918 is one of the most remarkable events of modern history. One of the forgotten elements of Polish independence is the role played by Polish Americans in Poland’s restoration. Polonia’s contribution was overlooked due to the passage of time, interwar political divisions, and the impact of World War II and the subsequent communist takeover.


Although there are no witnesses to this history anymore, substantial American archives remain, however, which allow to extract the truth about the great patriotism of over 20,000 soldiers and the entire army of involved civilians, Polish community activists who, together with the volunteers, devoted themselves to creating a great and strong, free and independent Poland, and for whom we should also ensure a worthy place in our historical memory.


The celebration of Independence forces us all to reflect. It forces us to analyze the facts: what has been done to fix Poland and what has not. Many activities after 1989 are still in doubt.

The Memory of Paderewski
Prof. dr hab. Kazimierz Braun

"Polonia Christiana" published (June 4, 2019) an interview by Tadeusz Kolanek with Dr. Teodor Gąsiorowski, entitled How the myth of Haller's Blue Army was killed. It is very good that we return to the figure of the great Pole and the great commander, General Józef Haller, and recall the Blue Army. It is a pity that, at the same time, the same text is part of the plot to kill the memory of, the destruction and concealment of the figure of another great Pole, Ignacy Paderewski. His name is never mentioned in this interview, which is a poignant "abandonment" — hard to believe, and impossible to justify. I will focus here on the "Paderewski Case" - and rather than on Paderewski's "myth", on the truth about Paderewski.


During World War I, the political direction for Polish emigration was simple - Poles should co-operate with the Entente [countries]. After many meetings with government officials, special hopes were placed on the Canadian government, which agreed to accept a group of Falcons into the Toronto military school. On January 1, 1917, 23 candidate officers secretly arrived in Toronto. On May 21, 1917, they received officer ranks. The top five became instructors at the Cadet School in Cambridge Springs.


The celebration of the 100th anniversary of the victorious Battle of Warsaw is still ongoing. We defended not only our own country, but also the European Latin civilization.