He also wanted to create Polish armed forces loyal to the Soviet Union. A year earlier, the Soviets had begun a deception policy in which a number of their officers learned to speak and write Polish and developed cover stories about their birthplaces and backgrounds. These officers cast aside their Red Army uniforms and were outfitted as Polish officers. By Stalin’s direct order, the Soviet 6th Air Force Army became the Polish Air Force.
“In October 1944, our air force army was told that from the next day we would be called the air force of the Polish army. It wasn’t only me, it was a lot of other people too, Soviet people who had overnight become Polish. Our planes were Polish, the stamps on our documents were Polish, and the documents themselves were in Polish.”– Georgy Dragunov, Soviet 6th Air Force Army
Stalin not only created new Polish officers, he also created a new Polish government that would do his bidding. Poland now had two completely different governments: the government-in-exile in London, recognized by Great Britain and the United States, and the new government created with Stalin’s approval.
By autumn, the Western Allies’ advance had not gone as quickly as planned. The U.S. First Army was bogged down fighting in Germany’s Huertgen Forest, a dense, impenetrable woods, covered with mines and booby traps, and other Allied operations were facing tough German resistance. On December 16, the Germans staged a surprise counterattack in Belgium’s Ardennes forest. In this battle, now known as the Battle of the Bulge, 80,000 Americans were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. Eisenhower was wrong–the war would not end by Christmas.
While the Western Allies fought in the Ardennes, the Red Army continued to make good progress on the eastern front, entering Warsaw on January 17, 1945. Locals cheered as the Polish units in the Red Army passed. They did not know that some of the officers they applauded were only pretending to be Poles.