Ex USAAF Aircraft 1945
It is refreshing to see a publication written on a topic that has never been treated in an historical context before, and this book certainly fits that description. After World War II, the United States Army Air Forces had thousands of airplanes in its custody throughout Western Europe, and while many were scrapped on the spot, or in the case of heavy bombers, flown back to the US, some were disposed of a surplus to various buyers.
One such buyer was the Polish government, and they bought approximately 131 Piper L-4’s of various models from USAAF storage depots in Germany, where about 2000 L-4’s remained. Others were sold to buyers in most of the Western European countries. A few were flown to Poland, but most were disassembled and shipped by rail. All were inspected, and while a few were nearly airworthy, after several years of storage, many required extensive rebuilding and recovering. They were issued to Polish flying clubs, and through their years of use, were modified as local circumstances dictated. Extra fuel tanks were sometimes added, and new components were added as the originals deteriorated. A few received Praga D engines, while other engines were fitted experimentally. One was even modified as a crop sprayer, and another as an air ambulance. A few found their way into private hands, and since the fall of the communist regime, some additional aircraft have been imported.
Another major American type to appear in Poland after the war was the Douglas C-47, of which about 30 were obtained, mainly from USAAF sources. Most went to the Polish Air Force, while others were operated by LOT Polish Airlines. They also had some Russian built Li-2’s, which had shorter range. Many of the C-47’s were sold abroad after service. The Poles also bought 21 Cessna UC-78’s, but only 14 of them were registered and flown, the rest serving as sources for spare parts. These were found to be uneconomical to operate, the same as in the US, and they didn’t last long. One survives in a Polish museum.
The only other types covered are one Taylorcraft L-2, a rare type in Europe, as there were very few, if any, used in the ETO. This plane was obtained in 1947, and was rebuilt and flown until about 1955. A fuselage of a Stinson L-5 somehow appeared in a Polish museum recently, and its origin is unknown. It is mentioned mainly because it still exists, although it is not known to have been used after the war.
One factor that the author mentions is that since Poland was a communist country, the emphasis was on Russian aircraft, not American, and the authorities tried to downplay the use of American types in favor of the Russian. Nevertheless, the ex-USAAF airplanes served well, and lasted a lot longer than most people expected. Of course, there is a parallel in this country, with ex military aircraft being sold on the civilian market, but here, the planes were used freely until they wore out.
Comments and Recommendations
This book covers a topic that has not been examined before. It is fascinating reading. It goes into great detail, explaining the history of each airplane, how it was used, and its final disposition. There is a profusion of photos and drawings, and I was impressed with the quality of the photography, especially since they were taken in a communist country where photography of anything near an airport must have been risky. The color drawings are of very high quality, and would be useful to any modeler interested in these types. If you have any interest in this area of aviation history, this book is well worth getting. Highly recommended.
Thanks to Dr. Roger M. Wallsgrove, Editor-In-Chief of Mushroom Model Publications, and John Noack of IPMS-USA for the review copy.