The Wojsko Polskie, military of Poland. Historically, the geography and politics of Eastern Europe resulted in ways of warfare much different than in the West. In the earliest era of Polish history, the core of the military force consisted of the ruler's personal retainers, aided by footman levies, but over the course of several centuries this model was replaced by more typical feudal military. For some time, the Polish military didn't differ by much from their Western counterparts, but as Poland's attention turned eastward, so did change the ways of waging war. Most notable among Polish military quirks is the peculiar brand of Hussars, which traded being light cavalry for wings strapped to the back. From the late medieval to The Partitions Polish army was composed predominantly of cavalry that was usually formed of nobles and their retainers (and thus resembling medieval army model which became obsolete in Europe somewhere around mid-17th century). The noble cavalry wasn't the only tool of a Commonwealth general — due to the diversity of fighting styles preferred by its enemies, there was a need for variety, and his host could include commoner infantry, all manner of Western-style mercenaries, and Tatar or Cossack auxiliaries, and little known as it is, Poland had its artillery developed very well. Still, the general model resulted in very well-trained but unruly and poorly organized forces. The loss of independence in the late XVIII Century (between 1795 and 1918 Poland was divided between Russia, Prussia/Germany and Austria/Austro-Hungarian Empire) didn't exactly turn Poles into pacifists, either. This period saw the infatuation with Sinister Scythe in several uprisings, and Poles (and with them, once more, the Polish cavalry which shone on many battlefields of the time) were amongst the most loyal allies of Napoleon Bonaparte. After regaining independence in 1918, Polish Army faced the task to integrate organization, tactics and equipment from the three different armies. This proved quite a task, but after several years their army was well unified and organized, and it was more than able to resist a Bolshevik invasion - Stalin and Trotsky were humiliated in a Curb-Stomp Battle outside Warsaw in 1921. Contrary to popular belief, Polish pre-war army was not obsolete (on the contrary, it quickly adapted most modern technologies) but was underfunded and military industry was no match for the industry of other countries. Even then, Poland held out for nearly as long as France did. The whole "charging at tanks" story is Nazi propaganda - what actually happened was the tanks charged at the cavalry, after ambushing them before they got a chance to dismount and engage them with anti-tank rifles. While the Poles still used horses in war (as did the Germans), and still had mounted cavalry, the horses were, at best, used as a fast and cheap method of transport for squads who would then dismount and fight on foot. Mounted recon troops were also common. Indeed, horse mounted Polish troops scored some notable successes in Poland and abroad. The Polish military were "The First to Fight" in World War II, playing a major role in the Battle of Britain and having their own version of La Résistance (counting as much as a million people, several hundred thousands at once at its peak and maintained a whole functioning government, complete with postal and tax services, in form of the Polish Secret State, well, in secret, under the noses of the occupying Germans). They also gave a great deal of Intelligence support having some of the best field agents in Europe, and cryptographers who were Good with Numbers (they actually broke the merchant version of the Enigma code and thus greatly contributed to the joint effort of breaking the military one). It is worth noting that a large part of the Polish La Résistance consisted of soldiers and officers (many of them veterans of the First World War) who decided not to surrender and continued to fight as partisans. Polish troops that had successfully withdrawn from occupied territory were later formed into many units fighting along the Allies, usually British. Among the best known are the 1st Independent Parachute Brigade (Market-Garden), 303 Squadron (the highest-scoring squadron in the Battle of Britain), the Polish Independent Highland Brigade (Narvik Campaign), the Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade (Siege of Tobruk), the 1st Armored Division (Falaise pocket) and the Polish II Corps (Italian Campaign). During the communism years, the Soviet way of doing things was imposed on Warsaw Pact member Poland. Since the end of communism, Poland is now moving to NATO standards. It has just abolished conscription and is moving towards a post-modern volunteer force. The Polish military still uses a lot of Soviet-built equipment, but is rapidly acquiring American stuff (which the Americans are happy to sell rather than send to some junkyard). Recently, Poland agreed to host part of the U.S. missile shield (a move that has angered Russia). It has one Soviet-built destroyer, patrol boats, and two U.S.-built Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, and has bought a number of F-16 fighters. Personal weapons (assault rifles, pistols) and most land vehicles are of Polish design, though. Poland made quite a fuss over the Bush administration's idea of an anti-missile shield. The Polish reasoning was that American forces on Polish soil would ensure that the Americans would be more likely to move in case anybody threatens Poland (similar to how American forces stationed in South Korea would be forced to respond to a North Korean attack). Seeing what happened to Poland throughout the 20th century, it's at least understandable. The Polish Armed Forces have served in Iraq (where the Polish elite commando unit, GROM, did a nice job at securing Iraqi oil rigs early during the war) and still serve in Afghanistan in the province of Ghazni. The Cub Scout salute originates from the Polish one.
Some minor facts:
Poland's military in fiction: