Blue Army
The Blue Army, or Haller's Army, are informal names given to the Polish Army units formed in France during the later stages of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. The army was created in June 1917 as part of the Polish units allied to the Entente
Triple Entente
The Triple Entente was the name given to the alliance among Britain, France and Russia after the signing of the Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907....

. After the Great War ended, the units were transferred to Poland, where they took part in Poland's Eastern conflicts. During the Polish-Ukrainian War
Polish-Ukrainian War
The Polish–Ukrainian War of 1918 and 1919 was a conflict between the forces of the Second Polish Republic and West Ukrainian People's Republic for the control over Eastern Galicia after the dissolution of Austria-Hungary.-Background:...

 the Blue Army helped to break the stalemate between Polish and Ukrainian forces in Poland's favor. During the Polish-Bolshevik War, the Blue Army played a critical role in Poland's succesful defence against Soviet forces. While fighting in the East, soldiers from the Blue Army also engaged in antisemitic violence. The nicknames come from the soldier's French blue uniforms and the name of the army's commander, General Józef Haller de Hallenburg
Józef Haller de Hallenburg
Józef Haller de Hallenburg was a Lieutenant General of the Polish Army, legionary in Polish Legions, harcmistrz , the President of The Polish Scouting and Guiding Association , political and social activist, Stanisław Haller de Hallenburg's cousin.Haller was born in Jurczyce...


Formation and Service on the Western Front

The first units were formed after the signing of a 1917 alliance by French President Raymond Poincaré
Raymond Poincaré
Raymond Poincaré was a French statesman who served as Prime Minister of France on five separate occasions and as President of France from 1913 to 1920. Poincaré was a conservative leader primarily committed to political and social stability...

 and the Polish statesman Ignacy Jan Paderewski
Ignacy Jan Paderewski
Ignacy Jan Paderewski GBE was a Polish pianist, composer, diplomat, politician, and the second Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland.-Biography:...

. A majority of recruits were either Poles serving in the French army, or former prisoners of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

 from the German and Austro-Hungarian imperial armies (approximately 35,000 men). An additional 23,000 were Polish American
Polish American
A Polish American , is a citizen of the United States of Polish descent. There are an estimated 10 million Polish Americans, representing about 3.2% of the population of the United States...

s. Other Poles flocked to the army from all over the world as well — these units included recruits from the former Russian Expeditionary Force in France
Russian Expeditionary Force in France
The Russian Expeditionary Force was a World War I military force sent to France by the Russian Empire. In 1915 the French requested that Russian troops be sent to fight alongside their own army on the Western Front. Initially they asked for 300,000 men, an absurdly high figure, probably based on...

 and the Polish diaspora in Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 (more than 300 men).

The army was initially under French political control and under the military command of General Louis Archinard
Louis Archinard
Louis Archinard was a French Army general at the time of the Third Republic, who contributed to the colonial conquest of French West Africa. He was traditionally presented in French histories as the conqueror and "Pacifier" of French Soudan . Archinard's campaigns brought about the end of the...

. However, on February 23, 1918, political sovereignty was granted to the Polish National Committee
Polish National Committee (1917-1919)
Polish National Committee was formed in Lausanne on 15 August 1917 by Polish National Democracy politician Roman Dmowski. Its goal was to support Entente by creating the Polish Army fighting alongside of it in exchange of receiving support for independent Poland...

 and soon other Polish units were formed, most notably the 4th and 5th Rifle Divisions
Polish 5th Rifle Division
Polish 5th Siberian Rifle Division was a Polish military unit formed in 1919 in Russia during World War I. The division fought during the Polish-Bolshevik War, but as it was attached to the White Russian formations, it is considered to have fought more in the Russian Civil War...

 in Russia. On September 28 Russia formally signed an agreement with the Entente that accepted the Polish units in France as the only, independent, allied and co-belligerent Polish army. On October 4, 1918 the National Committee appointed General Józef Haller de Hallenburg as overall commander.

The first unit to enter combat on the Western Front was the 1st Rifle Regiment (1 pułk strzelców), fighting from July 1918 in Champagne
Champagne (province)
The Champagne wine region is a historic province within the Champagne administrative province in the northeast of France. The area is best known for the production of the sparkling white wine that bears the region's name...

 and the Vosges mountains
Vosges mountains
For the department of France of the same name, see Vosges.The Vosges are a range of low mountains in eastern France, near its border with Germany. They extend along the west side of the Rhine valley in a northnortheast direction, mainly from Belfort to Saverne...

. By October the entire 1st Rifle Division joined the fight in the area of Rambervillers
Rambervillers is a commune in the Vosges department in Lorraine in northeastern France.Inhabitants are called Rambuvetais.-Geography:The town is built on the banks of the Mortagne, some to the west of Saint-Dié and to the north-east of Épinal....

 and Raon-l'Étape
Raon-l'Étape is a commune in the Vosges department in Lorraine in northeastern France.Inhabitants are called Raonnais.-Geography:Raon-l'Étape is positioned at the mouth of the Plaine River at the point where it converges into the Meurthe, itself a tributary of the Moselle...


Transport to Poland

The army continued to gather new recruits after the end of The Great War on November 11, 1918, many of them ethnic Poles who had been conscripted into the Austrian army and later taken prisoners by the Allies. By early 1919 it numbered 68,500 men, fully equipped by the French government. After being denied permission by the German government to enter Poland via the Baltic port city of Danzig (Gdańsk
Gdańsk is a Polish city on the Baltic coast, at the centre of the country's fourth-largest metropolitan area.The city lies on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay , in a conurbation with the city of Gdynia, spa town of Sopot, and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the...

), transport was arranged via train. Between April and June of that year the units were transported together intact to a reborn Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 across Germany in sealed train cars. Weapons were secured in separate cars and kept under guard to appease German concerns about a foreign army traversing its territory. Immediately after its arrival the divisions were integrated into the overall Polish Army and transported to the fronts of the Polish-Ukrainian War, then being fought over control of eastern Galicia.

The perilous journey from France, through revolutionary Germany, into Poland, in the spring of 1919 has been documented by those who lived through it:

Captain Stanislaw I. Nastal

Preparations for the departure lasted for some time. The question of transit became a difficult and complicated problem. Finally after a long wait a decision was made and officially agreed upon between the Allies and Germany.

The first transports with the Blue Army set out in the first half of April 1919. Train after train tore along though Germany to the homeland, to Poland.
Major Stefan Wyczolkowski

On 15 April 1919 the regiment began its trip to Poland from the Bayon railroad station in four transports, via Mainz, Erfurt, Leipzig, Kalisz, and Warsaw, and arrived in Poland, where it was quartered in individual battalions;, in Chelm 1st Battalion, supernumerary company and command of the regiment; 3rd Battalion in Kowel; and the 2nd Battalion in Wlodzimierz.
Major Stanislaw Bobrowski

On 13 April 1919 the regiment set out across Germany for Poland, to reinforce other units of the Polish army being created in the homeland amid battle, shielding with their youthful breasts the resurrected Poland.
Major Jerzy Dabrowski

Finally on 18 April 1919 the regiment’s first transport set out for Poland. On 23 April 1919 the leading divisions of the 3rd Regiment of Polish Riflemen set foot on Polish soil, now free thanks to their own efforts.
Lt. Wincenty Skarzynski

Weeks passed. April 1919 arrived – then plans were changed: it was decided irrevocably to transport our army to Gdansk instead by trains, through Germany. Many officers came from Poland, among them Major Gorecki, to coordinate technical details with General Haller.

Fighting After World War I

Haller's Army changed the balance of power in Galicia and in Volhynia
Volhynia, Volynia, or Volyn is a historic region in western Ukraine located between the rivers Prypiat and Southern Bug River, to the north of Galicia and Podolia; the region is named for the former city of Volyn or Velyn, said to have been located on the Southern Bug River, whose name may come...

, and its arrival allowed the Poles to repel the Ukrainians and establish a demarcation line at the river Zbruch. on May 14, 1919. Haller's army was well equipped by the Western allies and partially staffed with experienced French officers specifically in order to fight against the Bolsheviks and not the forces of the Western Ukrainian People's Republic
Ukrainian Galician Army
Ukrainian Galician Army , was the Ukrainian military of the West Ukrainian National Republic during and after the Polish-Ukrainian War. -Military equipment:...

. Despite this obligation, the Poles dispatched Haller's army against the Ukrainians rather than the Bolsheviks in order to break the stalemate in eastern Galicia. The allies sent several telegrams ordering the Poles to halt their offensive as using of the French-equipped army against the Ukrainian specifically contradicted the conditions of the French help, but these were ignored with Poles claiming that "all Ukrainians were Bolsheviks or something close to it".

In July 1919 the Army was transferred to the border with Germany in Silesia, where it prepared defences against any possible German invasion.

Haller's well trained and highly motivated troops, as well as their airplane
Fixed-wing aircraft
A fixed-wing aircraft is an aircraft capable of flight using wings that generate lift due to the vehicle's forward airspeed. Fixed-wing aircraft are distinct from rotary-wing aircraft in which wings rotate about a fixed mast and ornithopters in which lift is generated by flapping wings.A powered...

s and excellent FT-17 tanks, formed part of the core of the Polish forces during the ensuing Polish-Bolshevik War.

Post-War History

After the war, the Polish-American volunteers who served within Haller's Army were not recognized as veterans by either the American or Polish governments. This led to friction between the Polish community in the United States and the Polish government, and subsequent refusal by Polish Americans to again help the Polish cause militarily.

The 15th Infantry Rifle Regiment of the Blue Army was the basis for the 49th Hutsul Rifle Regiment
49th Hutsul Rifle Regiment
The 49th Hutsul Rifle Regiment was a unit of the Polish Army, which belonged to the 11th Carpathian Infantry Division . Stationed in the interbellum in the garrison in Kolomyja, it participated in the Polish September Campaign, fighting in southern Poland...

 of the 11th Infantry Division (Poland)

As with most of the history related to the Polish-Soviet War, information on the Blue Army was censor
thumb|[[Book burning]] following the [[1973 Chilean coup d'état|1973 coup]] that installed the [[Military government of Chile |Pinochet regime]] in Chile...

ed, distorted and repressed by the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 during its communist oppression of the 1945-1989 People's Republic of Poland
People's Republic of Poland
The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...



Although the Blue Army is highly regarded by the Poles; many Ukrainians and Jews generally see it's actions in a negative light. From the Ukrainian perspective the army's arrival was a significant factor that that led to the eventual demise of the independent West Ukrainian People's Republic, and it's ultimate incorporation into the new Polish state. Those officers and soldiers from the Blue Army who targetted the local Jews believed that they were acting in Poland's defence, because they assumed that the victims were collaborating with Poland's enemies, either West Ukrainian forces, Bolsheviks, or Lithuanians even though many of the civilians killed were not hostile to the Polish military in any way.

After their arrival in Western Ukraine, Haller's troops engaged in acts of looting, violence and humiliation against the local populations. As a result of such actions, Jews perceived Haller's Army as particularly harmful. As the army traveled further East, Haller's soldiers in particular looted Jewish houses, pushing local Jews off moving trains, and with their bayonets cut off the beards of Orthodox Jews. The latter act was referred to by Haller's soldiers as "civilizing" the Jews. Among the worst offenders within Haller's army were the 23,000 Polish-American volunteers, who were relatively late in joining the unit, and thus poorly disciplined. In an effort to curb the abuses, Haller himself issued a proclamation demanding that his soldiers cease cutting off beards of elderly Orthodox Jews, and complained about the violent antisemitism of the Polish-American soldiers to an American envoy. Isolated reports also accuse Haller's soldiers of engaging in the rape of Jewish women and girls.

Haller's troops have also been accused of allegedly committing the Lwów Pogrom
Lwów pogrom (1918)
The Lwów pogrom of the Jewish population of Lwów took place on November 21–23, 1918 during the Polish-Ukrainian War. In the course of the three days of unrest in the city, an estimated 52-150 Jewish residents were murdered and hundreds injured, with widespread looting carried out by Polish...

 of 1918. Historian William W. Hagen
William W. Hagen
William W. Hagen is a prominent historian and Professor of History at the University of California-Davis. Hagen's focus is on Modern European History, primarily in relation to Germany and Eastern Europe. He obtained his B.A. from Harvard University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of...

 states that after helping to capture Lwów, some army units together with Polish civilians, engaged in three days of violence against the Jewish and Ukrainian inhabitants of the city, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths . But, the Blue Army's participation in the pogrom is highly disputed, and according to the Cambridge History of Poland, when the Lwów Pogrom actually took place the Blue Army was still in France fighting on the Western Front
Western Front
Western Front was a term used during the First and Second World Wars to describe the contested armed frontier between lands controlled by Germany to the east and the Allies to the west...

. Also, it is noted that the first units did not reach Poland until the spring of 1919, nearly five months after the actual pogrom happened. The Kronika Polski lists April 14th, 1919 as the start of the first troop transports form France to Poland, and historian Kay Lundgreen-Nielsen stated in that the first units of the army did not leave France until April 15th, 1919, its departure having been delayed by opposition from Britain and United States, requiring a special protocol before the Blue Army was allowed to return home.

Despite examples of antisemitic behavior exhibited by some troops within the ranks of the Blue Army, many Polish Jews enlisted and fought within its ranks, some even received a commission and were entrusted with leadership positions. Jews serving in the Blue Army's 43rd Regiment of Eastern Frontier Riflemen were listed as combat fatalities, and historian Edward Goldstein identified approximately 5% of the unit's battle casualties as being Jewish.

Order of battle

  • I Polish Corps
    • 1st Rifle Division
    • 2nd Rifle Division
    • 1st Heavy Artillery Regiment
  • II Polish Corps - formed in Russia
    • 4th Rifle Division
    • 5th Rifle Division
      Polish 5th Rifle Division
      Polish 5th Siberian Rifle Division was a Polish military unit formed in 1919 in Russia during World War I. The division fought during the Polish-Bolshevik War, but as it was attached to the White Russian formations, it is considered to have fought more in the Russian Civil War...

  • III Polish Corps
    • 3rd Rifle Division
    • 6th Rifle Division
    • 3rd Heavy Artillery Regiment
  • Independent Units
    • 7th Rifle Division
    • Training Division - cadre
    • 1st Tank Regiment

External links

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