100th Anniversary, WWI Haller’s Polish Army Officer Training Academy in CS
2017 – the 100th Anniversary of World War I Haller’s Polish Army
Officer Training Academy in Cambridge Springs
by David Matejczyk
This year marks the 100th Anniversary of a unique army that fought along side the United States and its allies in World War I. Known both as “Haller’s Army” and the “Blue Army” this force with ties to the former Alliance College and Cambridge Springs fought courageously with United States troops and its allies in World War I.
An announcement in Poland that 2017 will mark a year of honoring General Jozef Haller for his role in fighting for a free and independent Poland, and specifically for his heroics on the battlefield has resulted in a new found appreciation for Haller’s Army.
In a recent “Heard and Seen” article by Janet Beanland of The Meadville Tribune, the reporter had a column reviewing what was “making news” in Cambridge Springs in 1917. Among the items was a notation that on March 23, 1917, there was a “gathering at the Polish National Alliance College welcoming Polish Falcons who were training for active duty in World War I.”
The Polish Falcons of America formally opened a training academy for future officers of the Haller’s Army at the Polish National Alliance College in Cambridge Springs 100 years ago this month, on March 19, 1917.
Over the next two years over 400 future officers and enlistees in Haller’s Army were housed in the old Rider Hotel, and trained on the Ross Avenue field and throughout the Alliance College campus. They were eager to fight for their new country the United States, and at the same time be fighting for independence of their homeland of Poland.
During last year’s Cambridge Springs Sesquicentennial Celebration, photographs and a history of the training of future officers in the Polish army who would serve in Europe during World War I were shown and discussed during the Alliance College History Night. Many of the photographs and materials were from the archives of the Cambridge Springs Heritage Society.
At a presentation during the Alliance College Reunion Weekend, the history of Haller’s Army and its connection to Alliance College and Cambridge Springs were presented. Included in the photographs of the troops was a striking photograph of soldiers training on Ross Avenue field in the shadow of the former Rider Hotel (then known as the Polish National Alliance College). Helen Dziob, an Alliance alumnus who was the daughter of one of General Jozef’s Haller’s closest aides, Captain Frank Dziob was introduced. Captain Dziob was the Polish Falcons director of the officer training program held in Cambridge Springs. He was also instrumental is establishing a very large training camp at Niagara-on-the-Lake in Canada.
It was recently announced that in the coming months Polish Public Television will be filming a documentary in the United States and Canada on Haller’s Army, focusing on the military actions of Polish Americans in 1917 and 1918. Over 20,000 troops were recruited in the United States and Canada for service in Haller’s Army. A recent press release noted the film crew will visit various cities in the United States and Niagara-on-the Lake, Canada. A large commemorative marker is in the downtown of the Canadian town. Each year a memorial service is held in the community.
It is not known if the Polish film crew will visit Cambridge Springs, which played a unique role in Haller’s Army.
Unfortunately, the role and connection of Cambridge Springs and Alliance College to this historic army are often overlooked, and long forgotten.
Some history is in order. The formation of Haller’s Army paralleled the entry of the United States into World War I in 1917. Future Polish Prime Minister Ignacy Paderewski had formed a warm relationship with United States President Woodrow Wilson. Paderewski submitted a proposal to the President calling for the acceptance of Polish-American volunteers for service on the Western Front.
In 1917, President Wilson would issue formal approval: “That recruitment to the Polish Army all those who do not fall in the category of potential recruitment into the United States forces is hereby approved without impediments.” The soldiers were mostly recent Polish immigrants who were not yet American citizens.
Paderewski the year before was in Cambridge Springs. He believed the Polish National Alliance College was a natural choice for the training academy. He stayed on campus at the former Rider Hotel and addressed the 1916 graduates of the college.
Haller’s Army would first see battle in France while relieving the Tennessee “Wildcat” 81st Division at the front in the Battle of Champaign. It would become the first time the colors of the United States and Poland would fly together in battle in World War I.
The New York Times in a dispatch on the war noted that the French Military Mission in Washington received notification of the first casualty of Haller’s Army, Lieutenant Lucyien Chwalkowski. The New York Times noted Lieutenant Chwalkowski was a 30 year old Polish immigrant who was a military instructor at the Polish Falcons officer training camp in Cambridge Springs. He would be the first of many casualties from Haller’s Army.
One of the recruiters for Haller’s Army was Stanley Luter. Residents of Cambridge Springs, and virtually all alumni of Alliance College fondly remember “Mr. Luter.” Luter served with distinction as a lieutenant in Haller’s Army. An expert swordsman, he engaged in some of the fiercest battles of the war. Luter in 1925 returned to Cambridge Springs, and worked at the college for the next several decades. Unfortunately, the college’s museum which included Luter’s sword, medals and other items relating to Haller’s Army were destroyed in the Rider Hotel fire in 1931. In 1934, General Haller visited Cambridge Springs where he was a guest of honor at Alliance College.
Ironically, Cambridge Springs would play one last coincidental side note as to Haller’s Army. One of the World War I Polish Army’s Chaplain, Father Jozef Jaworkski visited Cambridge Springs in January of 1962. While visiting the college the 81 year old priest fell ill and died.
At the last Alliance College reunion it was noted that at one time a memorial to Polish Americans who trained in Cambridge Springs and fought along American troops in Haller’s Army existed at the top of Thomas Street. It was removed when the college closed. A discussion at the alumni presentation focused on the possibly of locating the World War I memorial to Haller’s Army (or creating a new plaque) and returning it to Cambridge Springs.
# # #
Photographs (located in the photo gallery):
-Polish Army Training on Ross Avenue Field – 1917.
-Officers at the PNAC (Rider Hotel) entrance.
-Polish Statesman Ignacy Paderewski at the Rider Hotel, Cambridge Springs, Pa.
-General Jozef Haller and Captain Francis Dziob. Dziob was the director of the training academy in Cambridge Springs.
-Canadian Government Granting Passage of Troops Document to Captain Francis Dziob.
-New York Times Article noting the First Casualty, Lucyien Chwalkowski, who trained in Cambridge Springs.