07 April 2012

1944waw.pl (book review)

1944waw.pl is the third part of the story (chronologically, though it was released as part 2 for some reason) written by Polish Author Marcin Ciszewski about the Polish independent reconnaissance battalion from 2007 sent back to Poland during world war 2.

The story shifts focus back to colonel Grobicki who was wounded and evacuated to the United States at the end of the first book. He and his friends from the battalion, along with his wife (a US marines intelligence officer – also from the first book) come up with a solution on how to put the destroyed time travelling device back together, power it up and perhaps be able to travel back to modern times. The year is 1944, and the small group of Polish officers and soldiers who had spent 5 years in the US travel back to Poland, through Italy.

They arrive in their occupied home country and by accident bump into Major Wojtynski, the GROM special forces officer who took command over the remainder of the time travelling soldiers and who had been guarding the remains of the time travelling device, training soldiers for the home army and preparing for the imminent Warsaw Uprising.

A situations occurs, which drags the group from the US along with Colonel Grobicki into the plans for the Uprising despite their only wish being to travel back home. The area outside of Warsaw held the remaining vehicles from modern times which had survived the September campaign and the Polish capitulation in 1939. 4 Polish modernized T-72 tanks (PT-91), half a dozen of Rosomak army transports with 20mm guns and one AMOS self propelled 120mm mortar system. All MiG helicopters had been lost in the fight back in 1939.

Wojtynski had painted all the Polish vehicles in German colors and added the Balkenkreuze markings so they looked German enough and sets off with his elite troops and colonel Grobicki towards Warsaw. Germans look at them scratching their heads, but they carry German markings so no one stops them. They even manage to move together with a German army column heading towards the closing Eastern front. After a Sturmovik attack the Polish armored column reaches Warsaw just in time for the Uprising.

As Major Wojtynski explains to his American exiles, he could not persuade the Polish command enough to change the turns of history. The time travelling troops were acting mostly on their own within the home army, having their independence to army and train new soldiers to modern standards and manufacture enough modern weapon replicas and ammunition to be able to take part in the upcoming Uprising. The only thing Wojtynski could hope for was that the added strength, information and organization of his troops during the Uprising itself would change the course of history for the better – and hopefully avoid the 63day long historical counterpart with disastrous outcome. The biggest bargain chip for the Poles now was the time travelling device, for which they had bartered promise of increased allied help during the Uprising with ammunition and weapon drops – and also having the allies send the Polish independent airborne brigade under General Sosabowski to join them once the Uprising started.

All in all this third installment of the story is very exciting and interesting. Again the author expertly avoids the pitfalls of juggling a time travelling story with hall that it means. We get a fair amount of information on how the Poles hoped to gain politically from having the time travelling device in their custody (hoping to avoid ending up in the Soviet sphere of influence after the war ended). Major Wojtynski is also a seriously cool badass character that you can’t get enough of. A guy pretty much living for his job – which happens to be to make war with the enemy. All the preparations, training and details provided in the book “Major” comes into play in this story, and it is really cool to read about the city fight between the home army and the German garrison. Having tank duels with Tigers and Hetzers exchanging fire with modern Polish tanks. Again the author balances the modern technology against numerical superiority of the Germans, having Panzerfausts and Tiger tanks taking T-72 tanks and Rosomak transports out of action with lucky shots. The house to house fighting, and overall battle descriptions with enemy airplanes and mortar barrages blowing up barricades and the crazy mayhem of total war is very well written. A fair share of main characters end up getting killed in this book, which is fair enough as it makes it a bit more realistic than having all the heroes survive.

The only thing I missed in this book was the German and Soviet perspectives from the “Major” book. This third installment focuses solely on the Polish commanders Wojtynski and Grobicki. The ending is pretty good as well. And while there is one last book in the series taking place in modern times – I read that it was really awful and pretty much thrown together by the author. As such I think I will stop the story with this book while it is all still pretty damn good. Really recommended for those who like historical fiction.

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