Thaddeus Kosciusko

  • Published
  • By Col. Dale Andrews
  • 433rd Airlift Wing
From time to time one will hear the United States described as the 'Great Melting Pot', or in reference to President Kennedy, "A Nation of Immigrants". One need only go to any of a number of American cities and look around, especially along the eastern seaboard. Therein one will find ethnic enclaves from all over the world. Quite often some of those who grow up in these enclaves do quite well, and leave their mark on society by having some municipal building, a street, or occasionally a whole town named after them. One such eponymous individual is Thaddeus Kosciusko. (Before we go any further, I'll confess to throwing that 'eponymous' word in there to force you to look it up. Hey, I had to). Now, where was I? Oh, yes, Thaddeus Kosciusko. Well, there is a statue of Kosciusko in Washington D.C. There is a statue of him in Hamtramck, Michigan. There is a statue of him in 'Kosciusko Park' in Milwaukee. In fact over ten states have parks or streets named after him. Okay, so who is this guy? Glad you asked.

Andrew Thaddeus Bonaventure Kosciusko was an American Revolutionary War hero. The more traveled of you may have guessed that his name is of Polish origin. Kosciuscko was indeed Polish. As a matter of fact he was a member of the Polish nobility who was energized by the ideals of the American Revolution. He was so energized, in fact, that he paid his own way to the shores of America to offer his services to the Continental Congress. Kosciusko had been trained as a military engineer, therefore the Continental Congress, wisely as it turned out, offered him a commission as a Colonel of Engineers.

Kosciusko immediately made his presence felt by building fortresses around the Philadelphia area, frustrating British attempts to lay siege that town. He was next assigned to the Army of American General Horatio Gates in the North along the Canadian border. It was late 1777, and British General John "Pretty Boy" Burgoyne, a politically appointed General, had concocted a plan to remove the northern American colonies from the fight by a dual British attack launched from New York City, New York, and Canada. British troops in New York City would never get much further than there, and General Burgoyne would never get further south than Saratoga, New York. At Saratoga he was soundly defeated, and forced to surrender. General Gates gave direct credit for the American success to the fortifications built by Colonel Kosciusko around Saratoga. The American victory at Saratoga gave doubting French politicians the confidence they needed to form an alliance with the Americans against the British. With the powerful French fleet safeguarding American shores, and a renewed influx of French financial and material aid, American success in the Revolution was assured.

Colonel Kosciusko continued to serve in the American Revolution building many more fortifications. One notable set were those fortifications at West Point, New York (and yes, there's a statue of him there too). These were the same fortifications compromised when notorious traitor General Benedict Arnold attempted to betray the Americans. The Continental Congress promoted Kosciusko to Major General and granted him American citizenship. Kosciusko returned to Poland taking the ideals of the American Revolution with him. He would spend the rest of his life fighting to replicate them there.

The founding fathers had the foresight to recognize talent where they found it. Their outreach to an unknown entity of diverse origin brought them enviable returns. Like the founding fathers, the 433rd Airlift Wing Human Resource Development Council believes that excellence and courage are found in the most diverse of places and in the most diverse people. We too strive to find the best in all of those who like Thaddeus Kosciusko find themselves energized by our founding principles and offer their services to this country.