ZAGAN, Poland — Soldiers from 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, participated in a display of U.S. Army equipment at the Museum of Prisoner of War Camps, Zagan, Poland, Oct. 21.
The museum invited the unit to participate in order to support the community's education of the Stalag Luft III Prisoner Camp, World War II and Polish- American relations.
The 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, is currently in Europe to support Atlantic Resolve. Atlantic Resolve is a U.S. endeavor to fulfill NATO commitments by rotating U.S. -based units throughout the European theater and training with NATO Allies and partners.
Outside the museum, the unit displayed a M113 Armored Personnel Carrier, M1 Abrams tank and M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Also in the display were a Polish Medium Tank T-34/85 and a Polish BA-64 light armored car with detachable 45 mm anti-tank gun model 1937.
Volunteers from the Historical Association Big Red One Poland were present at the display, wearing reproductive clothing from the unit appropriate for the WWII period.
The association aims to preserve the memory, history and legacy of the Fighting First, the famous Big Red One, said Michal Kowalski, member of the association. The association presents the history of the unit to the public, searches to uncover and preserve Polish-American relations and shares stories of Soldiers and prisoners.
"For me, it's a matter of past years because during communist times, people don't know anything about Polish-American cooperation during these conflicts like World War II and World War I," Kowalski said. "Now, these are times we can freely speak about it, we can do research about it.”
The association has been active for 13 years, with its members visiting various historical locations like Normandy in France, Aachen in Germany and other sites in Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Italy. The volunteers sometimes even portray World War II era Big Red One Soldiers for small t.v. or movie productions.
The participation of the 1st Infantry Division Soldiers was welcomed with joy.
"I'm very satisfied that finally, we have an opportunity to get an interaction with real Big Red One Soldiers," Kowalski said. "I find it very educating and I'm proud, also, that I can meet Soldiers of the division which we are partial to."
Soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division surprised by the association's presence in the event, relayed Lt. Col. John Donlin, battalion commander, 1st Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.
Members of the association were impressively knowledgeable about the unit's history and activity, he said. It's exciting and encouraging to see how much the Polish people acknowledge and understand what the American military has done in the past.
The museum managed to educate the public about a conflicting time in world history and make those connections relevant to recent times.
"This really ties into our history of an alliance and support of the Polish people and the Polish military," Donlin commented. "It really shows that true alliance and partnership we've had, going back to our revolution. It displays that to the community as well, and ties those bonds even tighter."