Cardboard tanks and fake news

“Przybyli Ulani pod okienko” (priz-buli oo-lah-nee o-key-en-ko) Translation is literally: The Uhlans came to the house, or Came the Uhlans. It’s the title of a Polish song that has historical significance. I looked up the lyrics that were accompanied by great illustrations of the magnificent Polish cavalry, the Uhlans. It was heart breaking to anyone acquainted with history, the sad episode of how these proud warriors were betrayed by “fake news.”

After World War I, Germany was not supposed to re-arm but hedged quite a bit by saying they should be allowed to defend themselves. In secret, Germany made a deal with the Russians to build tanks across the border so they could claim they were not building tanks. To prove to the world that they were sticking to the Armistice agreement, their propaganda arm made sure that photos of German soldiers training for tank maneuvers were shown carrying cardboard replicas of tanks. The German “war training” was a joke as far as most of the rest of the world was concerned.

Old-fashioned Polish generals still stuck with 19th century ideas could not believe that when the Germans poured over the border during the Blitzkrieg that they were facing real tanks. So they sent the Uhlans to their doom charging the tanks with lances. The beautiful horses and brave young riders, the pride of the Polish nation, were mowed down like so much grain by 20th century hardware and ruthless German tactics.

The lesson here is that no matter what your bias is, weigh each bit of “news” you get, search for the truth, and then decide. Sometimes the news you don’t get can shape your opinions. An example: During the beginning of World War II, folks on the Gulf Coast could see the explosions out on the ocean as the German submarines treated American shipping as if it was their own private shooting gallery. Yet, our own government forbade the news media from reporting on any of that activity. It was only after the successes of our PBY sub-killer activity was the American public made aware. “Need to know” and “national security” took precedence over freedom of the press.

So much of what the American public thinks it knows, traditionally labeled “common knowledge” could be “cardboard tanks,” or not.

Mike Kuzara