I grew up fiercely but indefinably proud of being Polish and living in America. Both to me were blessings, something to stand up for.
Today, I am going to list some Poles who shaped the face of American History, many of whom will be vaguely familiar to people, but the ethnic identity of these people before would have been a mystery, particularly in American public school history books. Don't feel bad, I didn't know much about these people as a child, either.
You've heard of Christopher Columbus. Genealogists believe he may have been Polish. Too bad he didn't plant the Polish flag when he "discovered America", then Poles today might not need a visa to come to the USA.
You've heard of Jamestown. Captain Smith invited several Poles onto the ships, Mary and Margaret, as they were well known for their glassmaking skills. They also dug the first well. Among them were a "Robert", "Matthew" and "Molasco", which is probably an English misspelling of "Miroslaw".
Sandusky, Ohio is named after an early Polish explorer, Anthony Sadowski.
George Washington's favorite Engineer was a Tadeusz Kościuszko, he was also a close friend of Thomas Jefferson, General Gates, and other prominent Revolutionary figures. His defense plans were the ones that General Benedict Arnold attempted to steal and sell to the British of West Point. His last will at his death freed his slaves, who he was known to never treat poorly but always respected, and stated that he wished that his estate be used to buy the freedom of black slaves. The reason perhaps that many do not know of him was several reasons, one being that his English was not as good as his French, and language was a barrier for him in some instances, another being that he did not constantly petition the still infantine Congress for ranking, money, and promotions, merely being content to do his job as best as possible for the good of our nation today, and his name was misspelled very often by famous figures, even Washington, himself. As he was not interested in silly politics of gentlemen badmouthing other gentlemen (in my words based on my own research), he was also friends with many individuals, some of whom were not looked upon favorably by others in influence. An interesting site I personally am a fan of is .http://www.thekf.org/ and I would highly recommend anyone interested in American history to read the book by Alex Storozynski "The Peasant Prince".
Casimir Pułaski is a famous figure in the Polonia community (the Polish community in the USA). He was friends with Benjamin Franklin, who personally wrote a letter to General George Washington, recommending Pulaski to our First President. He later also became close friends with Washington. In Brandywine, Pulaski
came to the aid of Washington, and again in the Battle of Germantown. Pulaski is known as the "Father of the American Cavalry".
Wlodzimierz Krzyzanowski was a Polish military leader and a Union general in the American Civil War.
"The Father of the Nuclear Navy" and Admiral in the US Navy was Hyman Rickover. Hyman was the first Director of Naval Reactors.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, US Army Office Matt Urban is the most decorated US Serviceman.
These are just a few and, by no means, the majority. Do a search of Polish Americans and see what you find! While you are at it, I encourage you to research your own family heritage and celebrate it. And remember, it wasn’t only the English who founded and developed America into the amazing country it is today. Our country was built on the blood, sweat, and tears of the English, Dutch, Polish, French, Finnish, Africans, Chinese, and many others.