Tag Archives: Smolensk

Presidential Airplane Wreckage Decays on Russian Tarmac

This video dated September 20 is taken at the site of the Polish president’s plane crash in Smolensk, Russia. The caption below the YouTube video suggests that the wreckage is exposed, unprotected and unguarded, laying on the tarmac like discarded refuse five months after the crash.

There were two especially poignant moments for me: First when the videographer realizes he can make out the words “epublic of P” on a piece of the wreckage – and zooms in on it (min 0:52). Second, when he realizes what the dark red stains at the bottom of the cracked window are (min 1:45). I’m sure this will unsettle some.


Official Statements on Smolensk Tragedy

Here are a few more excerpts from official statements issued by the Department of Defense in the wake of the deaths of Polish officials near Katyn earlier this year. One of Admiral Mullen’s Senior Advisors wrote this about General Gagor:

“In many ways, he was the model new, post Cold War Polish officer–steeped in peace-keeping, COIN and alliance operations in the Balkans, Iraq and AFG. He was a fluent English speaker, insisted his children learn English from an early age. NATO was his home.

Frank was the first ever foreign officer to graduate with distinction from the National War College–a huge achievement in itself and a shining testimony to his heartfelt desire to show to all that Polish officers are at least as good as NATO’s; they not only can lead – they deserve to lead! At NWC, we called them “Frank and Lucky, the all-American couple.
Most of all, he wanted Poland to contribute — to be seen as the “go to” ally — above and beyond the call of duty. No better, more reliable friend of the U.S. His legacy will live: a new, proud, respected Polish military. And, as CHOD he staked all on the future: allocating a huge portion of their budget to buy brand spanking new F16s. You should’ve seen the Chief Chaplain and a Bishop from Texas throw holly water on each missile at the transfer ceremony at Ft Worth, TX.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Gates offered the following:

“Poland is one of America’s closest allies, and our nations are united by a shared heritage and a shared commitment to defend the values of freedom and democracy. In this accident, Poland has lost some of its most brilliant and dedicated patriots and public servants — citizens who have transformed their country into a model of peace and prosperity at the center of the Euro-Atlantic community.
Many were spearheading the transformation of the Polish Armed Forces and attended U.S. military schooling. All served with great distinction in the proud military tradition of the Republic of Poland. The United States military mourns the loss of so many cherished Brothers in Arms.”

Admiral Mullen on Poland

The official statement Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen made after the tragic deaths of Polish leaders in Smolensk in April, is one of the more personal of any American official:

“I wish to make special note of the death of Gen. Franciszek Gagor, Chief of Poland’s Armed Forces, my counterpart and my good friend.
I greatly admired Frank as a man fiercely dedicated not only to the defense of his country but also to the lives and livelihoods of his troops and their families. He called his soldiers the “centerpiece” of everything he did, and everything he did, he did for their ultimate benefit.

During my last visit to Poland in June of 2009, Frank proudly detailed for me the important contributions that they had made in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially in the realm of training and mentoring. He was as proud of them and their achievements — if not more so — than he was of his efforts to modernize and transform the Polish military.

Indeed, Polish troops are now known throughout the NATO alliance and two theaters of war as experts in military training and education, a reputation that Frank personally spearheaded.

He grew up in the world of crisis response and Allied peacekeeping operations, writing prolifically about the need for flexibility, cultural understanding and multinational cooperation in the pursuit of such endeavors. The first foreign officer to graduate with distinction from the National War College in Washington, DC, he once noted that “it will be vital to conduct multinational operations at the lowest levels.” And today, we are doing just that, all the way down to the battalion level in some places.”

Adm. Mullen had planned on attending the State funerals that month in Poland, as had President Obama and many other American dignitaries, but was unable to because of the volcanic ash that shut down airspace over Europe.

Adm. Mullen reportedly added a one-page hand-written note to the official letter of condolences sent to Gen. Gagor’s family, and he stopped in Poland to pay his respects as soon as he was able. On returning from official business in another part of Europe last month, Admiral Mullen spent about five hours on the ground specifically to pay his respects to General Gagor’s widow, Lucy.

Adm. Mullen  and Gen. Gagor
(DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)