Next time you are in Warsaw, visit the Tomb of the Unknown Solider near Victoria Hotel and then walk across the parade ground to the Marshal Jozef Pilsudski’s Monument. In the back of the monument there is a dedication plaque with the names of two Americans, General Oliver Peacock and Prof. Zdzislaw P. Wesolowski. You may wonder why and how their names were inscribed on it?
In 1994 South Carolina State Guard was designation by the Pentagon as the WWII Commemorative Community for Poland. This assignment made the South Carolina State Guard the focal point of all WWII veterans and commemoration activities between Poland and the United States. The Guard under the leadership of its deputy commander, General Oliver Peacock was very well acquainted with Poland and its role during WWII. In the late 1950s General Peacock, then a young captain on active duty with the US Army in Germany commanded the Polish Guard. The Polish Guard was former Polish WWII veterans who were employed by the US Army and the U.S Air Force as a security detachment on US military bases in Europe after the war.
By a strange coincidence, Colonel Zdzislaw P. Wesolowski reserve officer in the South Carolina State Guard was appointed project officer for all United States WWII commemorative activities with Poland on behalf of the United States. The first project was the assignment of Colonel Wesolowski to represent the United States at the 50th Anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising and assist in an official visit to Poland by Vice President Al Gore.
The second was the 50th Anniversary of the Polish Victory at Monte Cassino in May of 1994. It was envisioned by the Commanding General of the South Carolina State Guard, that President Clinton or Vice President Gore would accompany Col. Wesolowski for this important commemoration of the most important Polish Victory during WWII. Efforts were made by the Guard and Col. Wesolowski, who was then the first President of the Polish American Congress of Florida to insure a high level American presence at that ceremony.
By March 1994 it became apparent that these two high level persons were unable to participate because of prior commitments.
Photo: Prof.Dr.Zdzislaw P. Wesolowski;Colonel, South Carolina State Guard, Ret.
It was decided that Col. Wesolowski would try to arrange General Shalikasvilli who like Col. Wesolowski had a Polish background and would be the person to represent the United States at the ceremony. Col. Wesolowski visited Gen Shalikasvili at the Pentagon and presented his request.(interesting to note that General Shalikasvili and Colonel Wesolowski were both born in Poland) This too was not successful but Col. Wesolowski was informed that the Commanding General of the US Forces in Europe would be the most logical person because he is in Europe already and it would be no problem for him to visit Monte Cassino and that Col. Wesolowski would be informed who the general will be accompanying him.
By the first week of May the general informed Col. Wesolowski that he would not be able to go and that he would have to represent the United States at the 50th Anniversary of the Polish Victory at Monte Cassino. Arrangements were made for Col. Wesolowski with the American Embassy in Rome and with the Polish General Zaremba, highest ranking Polish WWII veteran of the Battle for Monte Cassino.
Col. Wesolowski never in his wildest dreams anticipated such an honor to represent the American Armed Forces at such an important Polish Victory commemoration.
May 16, 1994 will be remembered forever by Col. Wesolowski. Early in the morning on that day over 5,000 veterans and family members from around the world stood in a rainy day as Pope John Paul celebrated mass with the presence of dignitaries from NATO countries and President Lech Walesa. Standing near President Walesa, Prof. Wesolowski noticed a familiar face nearby of a Polish veteran from Poland who informed Col. Wesolowski that he was a member of the Pilsudski’s Monument Committee in Warsaw. He asked Col. Wesolowski if he would help raise funds for the monument. Prof. Wesolowski said that he would try after his return to the United States.
Upon his return, he gave a report to General Oliver Peacock and by chance mentioned the Pilsudski’s Monument. Gen Peacock inquired how much the monument will cost. He said that he will think about it and let Col. Wesolowski know in a few days. Three days later, Gen. Peacock informed Prof. Wesolowski that he will be pleased to fund the monument and where should he send the money. Col. Wesolowski informed the monument committee that the funds have been found and the Pilsudski’s statue would be made in the Gdynia shipyard, Col. Wesolowski home town.
In May of 1995, the 3rd and final participation of the South Carolina State Guard was in the Polish Victory Parade in Warsaw. Col. Wesolowski came to Poland with a delegation of 50 persons including generals and enlisted veterans. The American delegation marched in the Polish WWII Victory Parade passing in review before President Lech Walesa with Col. Wesolowski leading the group.
In September of 1996, Gen Peacock and Col. Wesolowski were invited by President Lech Walesa to be present at the unveiling ceremony of the Marshal Pilsudski’s Monument. Standing on the reviewing stand near President Walesa, the two Americans were very proud that they made a contribution in honoring the founder of modern Poland, Marshal Jozef Pilsudski’s, a man that they both admire. So next time you are in Warsaw, please polish the plaque. Gen. Peacock’s admiration and respect for Poland and Poles motivated him to fund the monument. Being very familiar with Poland and its history, Gen. Peacock wanted in some small way to repay Poles for all their sacrifices and for Their Freedom and Ours. It is interesting to note that Professors Wesolowski’s father, Stefan P. Wesolowski served under the command of Marshal Pilsudski’s from 1918 to 1935, both in the Polish Army and in the Polish Navy as well as the Merchant Marine.
Prof. Dr Zdzislaw P. Wesolowski
PO Box 291465
Davie, Fl., 33329
E-mail, [email protected]