Trucks in Foreign Service: Ciężarówki Liberty z Polski!

Hello and happy holidays! I’ve been pretty busy lately in and out of the office but I’m excited to finally delve briefly into a topic that has always fascinated me; not that the truck didn’t fascinate me to begin with, but I have always loved seeing how far a given nation’s equipment can find itself. The Liberty truck was much the same as other US military items after WW1 which found its way in limited numbers into the arsenals of foreign armies. In this post, we will touch on the Truck’s service with one country in particular: Poland.

A big part of the story of the liberty truck in foreign service is rooted in the fact that so many trucks made it overseas after the Armistice of WW1 was signed. The first trucks didn’t make it to French shores until October 4th of 1918. That only left a little over a month for them to see any combat use. The long awaiting tool-up to produce and ship the completed trucks had finally caught up to demand…just in time for it to ramp up for the draw-down. We can assume then that while the war was over, hundreds of trucks were still enroute to Europe in late 1918/early 1919. So many began to pile up in storage yards across France that a September 1919 New York Times article outlined a case of several officers instructing soldiers to purposely dismantle, burn and cut-up trucks stored at a facility in Verneuil, France with the intention of selling the scrap for profit.

France, June 6, 1919
A storage yard in France ca. June 1919 stocked almost entirely with Class-B Standardized Liberty trucks.

We know that according to some demobilization figures, some 3,000 trucks left as surplus from the AEF were sold to “the Poles and some of the new Slavic nations” sometime prior to August 1919. These figures come from Benedict Crowell’s Demobilization; Our Industrial and Military Demobilization After the Armistice, 1918-1920. It is likely then, that this was the source of the trucks encountered in Polish service. Another Polish source elaborates just where they went. According to information obtained from Polish Army Vehicles: 1918-1939 by Jan Tarczynski, the Liberty truck saw extensive use in both the regular Army and Air forces of the interwar Polish state. Beginning in early 1920 at the height of Poland’s existential war for independence against the Bolshevik Red Army, “several dozens” of Liberty trucks were reportedly obtained by the Polish forces from western allies. While this could mean anywhere from 20 to 90 trucks in theory, it is unclear on a specific number aside from ‘several dozens’. Polish Army trucks by this time could very well have included other models of American, French or German vehicles included in the AEF’s surplus sold-off in 1919. What we do know for sure is that at least 15 Liberties were assigned to the Polish Airforce for the purposes of general equipment and aircraft movement. Following the end of the Polish-Bolshevik war in late 1921, all trucks were consolidated to the Air forces or support branches which were affiliated with it. Polish military records quoted in Tarczynski’s book show that as of June 1936 at least 3 trucks remained in service with the 1st Anti Aircraft regiment, two of which were scrapped in early 1939. It’s possible the last remaining Liberty truck was still in service when Germany invaded in September of the same year.

Polish AirForce truck, 1919
A First-series Liberty truck on a railcar ca.1920-21 with Polish Air Force markings on the side. One of an estimated 15 which were initially allocated to the Air Forces and remained in service with the Polish Army as late as 1939. This is one of the few known photos of the truck in service during the post-WW1 era with Poland. 

A special thanks to fellow reenactor and expert on all things Polish, Rafal Drwiega who provided me with a quick translation of the details of the Liberty’s service from Polish sources and Jan Taczynksi’s Pojazdy w Wojsku Polskim: 1918-1939 in particular! Thanks Ralph!