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(i) (i) (i) (i) (i)

Decisive German and Soviet victory

* Beginning of World War II
World War II

Territorial changes Polish territory divided among Germany, the Soviet Union, Lithuania
Lithuania
and Slovakia. Free City of Danzig
Free City of Danzig
annexed by Germany.

BELLIGERENTS

* Germany
Germany
* Free City of Danzig
Free City of Danzig
* Slovak Republic (see details )

Soviet Union
Soviet Union
(After 17 September, see details ) Poland
Poland
1

COMMANDERS AND LEADERS

* Fedor von Bock ( Army Group North ) * Gerd von Rundstedt
Gerd von Rundstedt
( Army Group South )

Ferdinand Čatloš (Army Bernolák )

* Mikhail Kovalyov (Belorussian Front ) * Semyon Timoshenko (Ukrainian Front )

* Edward Rydz-Śmigły ( Marshal of Poland ) * Wacław Stachiewicz (Chief of the General Staff ) * Tadeusz Kutrzeba ( Army Poznań ) * Juliusz Rómmel
Juliusz Rómmel
( Łódź Army , Warszawa Army )

UNITS INVOLVED

Axis armies

* ARMY GROUP NORTH 3rd Army 4th Army ARMY GROUP SOUTH 8th Army 10th Army 14th Army Bernolák Army BELORUSSIAN FRONT 3rd Army 4th Army 10th Army 11th Army Cavalry-Mechanized Group UKRAINIAN FRONT 5th Army 6th Army 12th Army

Polish armies

* Karpaty Army Kraków Army
Kraków Army
Lublin Army
Lublin Army
(Improvised) Łódź Army Modlin Army Pomorze Army Poznań Army
Poznań Army
Prusy Army Warszawa Army (Improvised)

STRENGTH

GERMANY: 60 divisions, 6 brigades, 9,000 guns, 2,750 tanks, 2,315 aircraft SLOVAKIA: 3 divisions JOINED ON 17 SEPTEMBER: SOVIET UNION: 33+ divisions, 11+ brigades, 4,959 guns, 4,736 tanks, 3,300 aircraft

------------------------- TOTAL: 1,500,000 Germans, 466,516 Soviets, 51,306 Slovaks GRAND TOTAL: 2,000,000+

POLAND: 39 divisions (some of them were never fully mobilized and concentrated), 16 brigades, 4,300 guns, 880 tanks, 400 aircraft

------------------------- TOTAL: 1,000,000

CASUALTIES AND LOSSES

GERMANY: 16,343 killed, 3,500 missing, 30,300 wounded SLOVAKIA: 37 killed, 11 missing, 114 wounded

-------------------------

SOVIET UNION: 1,475 killed or missing, 2,383 wounded or: 5,327 killed, missing and wounded ------------------------- TOTAL CASUALTIES: 59,000 POLAND: 66,000 dead 133,700 wounded 660,000–690,000 captured 859,700–889,700 TOTAL CASUALTIES

1 The United Kingdom
United Kingdom
and France
France
declared war on Germany
Germany
on 3 September, but their assistance to Poland
Poland
was very limited

* v * t * e

Invasion of Poland
Poland

* BATTLE OF THE BORDER

* Chojnice * Krojanty * Lasy Królewskie * Mokra * Pszczyna * Grudziądz * Mława * Jordanów * Fraustadt * Węgierska Górka * Tuchola Forest * Częstochowa * Mikołów * Bukowiec * Slovak invasion

-------------------------

* BALTIC COAST

* Westerplatte
Westerplatte
* Danzig * Danzig Bay * Worek Plan
Worek Plan
* Gdynia * Hel * Kępa Oksywska

-------------------------

* 4–10 SEPTEMBER

* Tomaszów Mazowiecki * Wizna * Łódź * Borowa Góra * Piotrków * Różan * Pułtusk
Pułtusk
* Radom * Łomża * Barak * Wola Cyrusowa

-------------------------

* NORTHERN FRONT

* Siege of Warsaw
Warsaw
* Bzura
Bzura
* Kałuszyn * Węgrów * Wilno * Modlin * Kobryń * Brześć * 2nd Tomaszów Lubelski * Wólka Węglowa * Kampinos Forest * Krasnystaw * Łomianki * Krasnobród * Kock

-------------------------

* SOUTHERN FRONT

* Przemyśl * Jarosław * 1st Tomaszów Lubelski * Jaworów * Janów Forest * Cześniki * Lwów

-------------------------

* SOVIET INVASION OF POLAND

* Sarny * Wilno * Husynne * Grodno * Władypol * Szack * Wytyczno * Parczew, Jabłoń and Milanów

* v * t * e

Soviet invasion of Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland

* LWóW (September 17–22) * WILNO (September 18–19) * GRODNO (September 21–24) * SZACK (September 28) * PARCZEW, JABłOń AND MILANóW (September 29–30) * WYTYCZNO (October 1)

* v * t * e

Campaigns of World War II
World War II

EUROPE Poland
Poland
Phoney War Winter War
Winter War
Denmark & Norway France font-size:115%">

* v * t * e

The invasion was referred to by Germany
Germany
as the 1939 Defensive War since Hitler proclaimed that Poland
Poland
had attacked Germany
Germany
and that "Germans in Poland
Poland
are persecuted with a bloody terror and are driven from their homes. The series of border violations, which are unbearable to a great power, prove that the Poles no longer are willing to respect the German frontier."

Poland
Poland
participated with Germany
Germany
in the partition of Czechoslovakia that followed the Munich Agreement , although they were not part of the agreement. It coerced Czechoslovakia to surrender the region of Český Těšín by issuing an ultimatum to that effect on 30 September 1938, which was accepted by Czechoslovakia on 1 October. This region had a Polish majority and had been disputed between Czechoslovakia and Poland
Poland
in the aftermath of World War I. The Polish annexation of Slovak territory (several villages in the regions of Čadca , Orava and Spiš ) later served as the justification for the Slovak state
Slovak state
to join the German invasion.

By 1937, Germany
Germany
began to increase its demands for Danzig, while proposing that an extraterritorial roadway, part of the Reichsautobahn system, be built in order to connect East Prussia
East Prussia
with Germany
Germany
proper , running through the Polish Corridor. Poland
Poland
rejected this proposal, fearing that after accepting these demands, it would become increasingly subject to the will of Germany
Germany
and eventually lose its independence as the Czechs had. Polish leaders also distrusted Hitler. Furthermore, Germany's collaboration with anti-Polish Ukrainian nationalists from the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists , which was seen as an effort to isolate and weaken Poland, weakened Hitler's credibility from the Polish point of view. The British were also wary of Germany's increasing strength and assertiveness threatening its balance of power strategy. On 31 March 1939, Poland formed a military alliance with the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
and France
France
, believing that Polish independence and territorial integrity would be defended with their support if it were to be threatened by Germany. On the other hand, British Prime Minister
Prime Minister
Neville Chamberlain and his Foreign Secretary
Foreign Secretary
, Lord Halifax , still hoped to strike a deal with Hitler regarding Danzig (and possibly the Polish Corridor). Chamberlain and his supporters believed war could be avoided and hoped Germany
Germany
would agree to leave the rest of Poland
Poland
alone. German hegemony over Central Europe was also at stake. In private, Hitler said in May that Danzig was not the important issue to him, but pursuit of _ Lebensraum _ for Germany.

BREAKDOWN OF TALKS

With tensions mounting, Germany
Germany
turned to aggressive diplomacy. On 28 April 1939, Hitler unilaterally withdrew from both the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact of 1934 and the London Naval Agreement
London Naval Agreement
of 1935. Talks over Danzig and the Corridor broke down and months passed without diplomatic interaction between Germany
Germany
and Poland. During this interim period, the Germans learned that France
France
and Britain had failed to secure an alliance with the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
against Germany, and that the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
was interested in an alliance with Germany
Germany
against Poland. Hitler had already issued orders to prepare for a possible "solution of the Polish problem by military means" through the Case White scenario.

In May 1939, in a statement to his generals while they were in the midst of planning the invasion of Poland, Hitler made it clear that the invasion would not come without resistance as it had in Czechoslovakia:

With minor exceptions German national unification has been achieved. Further successes cannot be achieved without bloodshed. Poland
Poland
will always be on the side of our adversaries... Danzig is not the objective. It is a matter of expanding our living space in the east, of making our food supply secure, and solving the problem of the Baltic states. To provide sufficient food you must have sparsely settled areas. There is therefore no question of sparing Poland, and the decision remains to attack Poland
Poland
at the first opportunity. We cannot expect a repetition of Czechoslovakia. There will be fighting. Vyacheslav Molotov signs the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact , a German–Soviet non-aggression pact.

On August 22, just over a week before the onset of war, Hitler delivered a speech to his military commanders at the Obersalzberg :

The object of the war is … physically to destroy the enemy. That is why I have prepared, for the moment only in the East, my \'Death\'s Head\' formations with orders to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of Polish descent or language. Only in this way can we obtain the living space we need.

With the surprise signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact
on 23 August, the result of secret Nazi-Soviet talks held in Moscow
Moscow
, Germany
Germany
neutralized the possibility of Soviet opposition to a campaign against Poland
Poland
and war became imminent. In fact, the Soviets agreed not to aid France
France
or the UK in the event of their going to war with Germany
Germany
over Poland
Poland
and, in a secret protocol of the pact, the Germans and the Soviets agreed to divide Eastern Europe, including Poland, into two spheres of influence; the western ⅓ of the country was to go to Germany
Germany
and the eastern ⅔ to the Soviet Union.

The German assault was originally scheduled to begin at 04:00 on 26 August. However, on 25 August, the Polish-British Common Defense Pact was signed as an annex to the Franco-Polish Military Alliance . In this accord, Britain committed itself to the defence of Poland, guaranteeing to preserve Polish independence. At the same time, the British and the Poles were hinting to Berlin that they were willing to resume discussions—not at all how Hitler hoped to frame the conflict. Thus, he wavered and postponed his attack until 1 September, managing to in effect halt the entire invasion "in mid-leap". Planned and actual divisions of Poland, according to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact , with later adjustments

However, there was one exception: on the night of 25–6 August, a German sabotage group which had not heard anything about a delay of the invasion made an attack on the Jablunkov Pass and Mosty railway station in Silesia
Silesia
. On the morning of 26 August, this group was repelled by Polish troops. The German side described all this as an incident "caused by an insane individual" (see Jabłonków Incident ).

On 26 August, Hitler tried to dissuade the British and the French from interfering in the upcoming conflict, even pledging that the _Wehrmacht_ forces would be made available to Britain's empire in the future. The negotiations convinced Hitler that there was little chance the Western Allies would declare war on Germany, and even if they did, because of the lack of "territorial guarantees" to Poland, they would be willing to negotiate a compromise favourable to Germany after its conquest of Poland. Meanwhile, the increased number of overflights by high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft and cross-border troop movements signaled that war was imminent. The map shows the beginning of World War II
World War II
in September 1939 in a European context.

On 29 August, prompted by the British, Germany
Germany
issued one last diplomatic offer, with _Fall Weiss_ yet to be rescheduled. That evening, the German government responded in a communication that it aimed not only for the restoration of Danzig but also the Polish Corridor (which had not previously been part of Hitler’s demands) in addition to the safeguarding of the German minority in Poland. It said that they were willing to commence negotiations, but indicated that a Polish representative with the power to sign an agreement had to arrive in Berlin the next day while in the meantime it would draw up a set of proposals. The British Cabinet was pleased that negotiations had been agreed to but, mindful of how Emil Hácha
Emil Hácha
had been forced to sign his country away under similar circumstances just months earlier, regarded the requirement for an immediate arrival of a Polish representative with full signing powers as an unacceptable ultimatum . On the night of 30/31 August, German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop read a 16-point German proposal to the British ambassador. When the ambassador requested a copy of the proposals for transmission to the Polish government, Ribbentrop refused, on the grounds that the requested Polish representative had failed to arrive by midnight. When Polish Ambassador Lipski went to see Ribbentrop later on 31 August to indicate that Poland
Poland
was favorably disposed to negotiations, he announced that he did not have the full power to sign, and Ribbentrop dismissed him. It was then broadcast that Poland
Poland
had rejected Germany's offer, and negotiations with Poland
Poland
came to an end. Hitler issued orders for the invasion to commence soon afterwards.

On 30 August, the Polish Navy
Polish Navy
sent its destroyer flotilla to Britain, executing the Peking Plan . On the same day, Marshal of Poland Edward Rydz-Śmigły announced the mobilization of Polish troops. However, he was pressured into revoking the order by the French, who apparently still hoped for a diplomatic settlement, failing to realize that the Germans were fully mobilized and concentrated at the Polish border. During the night of 31 August, the Gleiwitz incident , a false flag attack on the radio station, was staged near the border city of Gleiwitz in Upper Silesia
Silesia
by German units posing as Polish troops, as part of the wider Operation Himmler . On 31 August 1939, Hitler ordered hostilities against Poland
Poland
to start at 4:45 the next morning. Because of the earlier stoppage, Poland
Poland
managed to mobilize only 70% of its planned forces, and many units were still forming or moving to their designated frontline positions.

OPPOSING FORCES

See also: Opposing forces in the Polish September Campaign , Soviet order of battle for invasion of Poland
Poland
in 1939 , and Slovak invasion of Poland
Poland
(1939)

GERMANY

See also: German order of battle for Operation Fall Weiss

Germany
Germany
had a substantial numeric advantage over Poland
Poland
and had developed a significant military before the conflict. The _Heer _ (army) had some 2,400 tanks organized into six _panzer _ divisions, utilizing a new operational doctrine . It held that these divisions should act in coordination with other elements of the military, punching holes in the enemy line and isolating selected units, which would be encircled and destroyed. This would be followed up by less-mobile mechanized infantry and foot soldiers. The _ Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
_ (air force) provided both tactical and strategic air power , particularly dive bombers that disrupted lines of supply and communications. Together, the new methods were nicknamed "_Blitzkrieg _" (lightning war). While historian Basil Liddell Hart claimed "Poland was a full demonstration of the _Blitzkrieg_ theory", some other historians disagree.

Aircraft
Aircraft
played a major role in the campaign. Bombers also attacked cities, causing huge losses amongst the civilian population through terror bombing and strafing. The _Luftwaffe_ forces consisted of 1,180 fighters , 290 Ju 87 _Stuka_ dive bombers , 1,100 conventional bombers (mainly Heinkel He 111s and Dornier Do 17s ), and an assortment of 550 transport and 350 reconnaissance aircraft. In total, Germany
Germany
had close to 4,000 aircraft, most of them modern. A force of 2,315 aircraft was assigned to _Weiss_. Due to its earlier participation in the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
, the _Luftwaffe_ was probably the most experienced, best-trained and best-equipped air force in the world in 1939.

POLAND

See also: Polish army order of battle in 1939 Polish Infantry

Between 1936 and 1939, Poland
Poland
invested heavily in the Central Industrial Region . Preparations for a defensive war with Germany
Germany
were ongoing for many years, but most plans assumed fighting would not begin before 1942. To raise funds for industrial development, Poland sold much of the modern equipment it produced. In 1936, a National Defence Fund was set up to collect funds necessary for strengthening the Polish Armed forces. The Polish Army
Polish Army
had approximately a million soldiers, but less than half were mobilized by 1 September. Latecomers sustained significant casualties when public transport became targets of the _Luftwaffe_. The Polish military had fewer armored forces than the Germans, and these units, dispersed within the infantry, were unable to effectively engage the Germans.

Experiences in the Polish-Soviet War shaped Polish Army organizational and operational doctrine. Unlike the trench warfare of World War I
World War I
, the Polish-Soviet War was a conflict in which the cavalry 's mobility played a decisive role. Poland
Poland
acknowledged the benefits of mobility but was unable to invest heavily in many of the expensive, unproven inventions since then. In spite of this, Polish cavalry brigades were used as a mobile mounted infantry and had some successes against both German infantry and cavalry. Polish PZL.37 Łoś medium bombers with a four-man crew

The Polish Air Force
Polish Air Force
(_Lotnictwo Wojskowe_) was at a severe disadvantage against the German _Luftwaffe_, although it was not destroyed on the ground early on as is commonly believed. The Polish Air Force lacked modern fighters, but its pilots were among the world's best trained, as proven a year later in the Battle of Britain , in which the Poles played a major part.

Overall, the Germans enjoyed numerical and qualitative aircraft superiority. Poland
Poland
had only about 600 aircraft, of which only 37 P-37 _Łoś_ bombers were modern and comparable to its German counterparts. The Polish Air Force
Polish Air Force
had roughly 185 PZL P.11
PZL P.11
and some 95 PZL P.7 fighters, 175 PZL.23 _Karaś_ Bs, 35 _Karaś_ As, and by September, over 100 PZL.37s were produced. However, for the September Campaign, only some 70% of those aircraft were mobilized. Only 36 PZL.37s were deployed. All those aircraft were of indigenous Polish design, with the bombers being more modern than fighters, according to the Ludomił Rayski air force expansion plan, which relied on a strong bomber force. The Polish Air Force
Polish Air Force
consisted of a 'Bomber Brigade', 'Pursuit Brigade' and aircraft assigned to the various ground armies. The Polish fighters were older than their German counterparts; the PZL P.11 fighter—produced in the early 1930s—had a top speed of only 365 km/h (227 mph), far less than German bombers. To compensate, the pilots relied on its maneuverability and high diving speed. Polish 7TP
7TP
light tanks in formation during the first days of the invasion

The tank force consisted of two armored brigades, four independent tank battalions and some 30 companies of TKS
TKS
tankettes attached to infantry divisions and cavalry brigades. A standard tank of the Polish Army
Polish Army
during the invasion of 1939 was the 7TP
7TP
light tank. It was the first tank in the world to be equipped with a diesel engine and 360° Gundlach periscope . The 7TP
7TP
was significantly better armed than its most common opponents, the German _Panzer_ I and II , but only 140 tanks were produced between 1935 and the outbreak of the war. Poland
Poland
had also a few relatively modern imported designs, such as 50 Renault R35 tanks and 38 Vickers E
Vickers E
tanks.

The Polish Navy
Polish Navy
was a small fleet of destroyers , submarines and smaller support vessels. Most Polish surface units followed Operation Peking , leaving Polish ports on 20 August and escaping by way of the North Sea
North Sea
to join with the British Royal Navy
Royal Navy
. Submarine
Submarine
forces participated in Operation Worek , with the goal of engaging and damaging German shipping in the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
, but they had much less success. In addition, many merchant marine ships joined the British merchant fleet and took part in wartime convoys .

DETAILS OF THE CAMPAIGN

GERMAN PLAN

Dispositions of the opposing forces on 31 August 1939 with the German order of battle overlaid in pink.

The September Campaign was devised by General Franz Halder , chief of the general staff , and directed by General Walther von Brauchitsch , the commander in chief of the upcoming campaign. It called for the start of hostilities before a declaration of war , and pursued a doctrine of mass encirclement and destruction of enemy forces. The infantry—far from completely mechanized but fitted with fast-moving artillery and logistic support—was to be supported by _Panzers_ and small numbers of truck-mounted infantry (the _Schützen_ regiments, forerunners of the _panzergrenadiers _) to assist the rapid movement of troops and concentrate on localized parts of the enemy front , eventually isolating segments of the enemy, surrounding, and destroying them. The pre-war "armored idea" (which an American journalist in 1939 dubbed _ Blitzkrieg _)—which was advocated by some generals, including Heinz Guderian
Heinz Guderian
—would have had the armor punching holes in the enemy's front and ranging deep into rear areas; in actuality, the campaign in Poland
Poland
would be fought along more traditional lines. This stemmed from conservatism on the part of the German high command, who mainly restricted the role of armor and mechanized forces to supporting the conventional infantry divisions. Polish Infantryman, 1939

Poland's terrain was well suited for mobile operations when the weather cooperated; the country had flat plains with long frontiers totalling almost 5,600 km (3,500 mi), Poland's long border with Germany
Germany
on the west and north—facing East Prussia
East Prussia
—extended 2,000 km (1,200 mi). Those had been lengthened by another 300 km (190 mi) on the southern side in the aftermath of the Munich Agreement of 1938. The German incorporation of Bohemia
Bohemia
and Moravia
Moravia
and creation of the German puppet state of Slovakia meant that Poland's southern flank was also exposed.

Hitler demanded that Poland
Poland
be conquered in six weeks, but German planners thought that it would require three months. They intended to fully exploit their long border with the great enveloping manoeuver of _Fall Weiss_. German units were to invade Poland
Poland
from three directions:

* A main attack over the western Polish border. This was to be carried out by Army Group South commanded by General Gerd von Rundstedt , attacking from German Silesia
Silesia
and from the Moravian and Slovak border: General Johannes Blaskowitz 's 8th Army was to drive eastward against Łódź ; General Wilhelm List 's 14th Army was to push on toward Kraków
Kraków
and to turn the Poles' Carpathian flank; and General Walter von Reichenau 's 10th Army, in the centre with Army Group South's armor, was to deliver the decisive blow with a northeastward thrust into the heart of Poland. * A second route of attack from northern Prussia
Prussia
. General Fedor von Bock commanded Army Group North, comprising General Georg von Küchler 's 3rd Army, which was to strike southward from East Prussia, and General Günther von Kluge 's 4th Army, which was to attack eastward across the base of the Polish Corridor . * A tertiary attack by part of Army Group South's allied Slovak units from Slovakia. * From within Poland, the German minority would assist by engaging in diversion and sabotage operations through _Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz _ units prepared before the war.

All three assaults were to converge on Warsaw
Warsaw
, while the main Polish army was to be encircled and destroyed west of the Vistula
Vistula
. _Fall Weiss_ was initiated on 1 September 1939, and was the first operation of Second World War in Europe .

POLISH DEFENSE PLAN

Deployment of German, Polish, and Slovak divisions immediately before the German invasion.

The Polish determination to deploy forces directly at the German-Polish border, prompted by the Polish-British Common Defense Pact , shaped the country's defence plan, " Plan West ". Poland's most valuable natural resources, industry and population were located along the western border in Eastern Upper Silesia
Silesia
. Polish policy centred on their protection especially since many politicians feared that if Poland
Poland
were to retreat from the regions disputed by Germany, Britain and France
France
would sign a separate peace treaty with Germany
Germany
similar to the Munich Agreement of 1938. The fact that none of Poland's allies had specifically guaranteed Polish borders or territorial integrity didn't help in easing Polish concerns. For these reasons, the Polish government disregarded French advice to deploy the bulk of its forces behind natural barriers such as the Vistula
Vistula
and San rivers, even though some Polish generals supported it as a better strategy. The West Plan did permit the Polish armies to retreat inside the country, but it was supposed to be a slow retreat behind prepared positions and was intended to give the armed forces time to complete its mobilization and execute a general counteroffensive with the support of the Western Allies . A camouflaged Polish P-11 fighter at a combat airfield

The Polish General Staff
Polish General Staff
had not begun elaborating the "West" defence plan until 4 March 1939. It was assumed that the Polish Army, fighting in the initial phase of the war alone, would be compelled to defend the western regions of the country. The plan of operations took into account, first of all, the numerical and material superiority of the enemy and, consequently, assumed the defensive character of Polish operations. The Polish intentions were: defence of the western regions judged as indispensable for waging the war, taking advantage of the propitious conditions for counterattacks by reserve units, and avoidance of being smashed before the beginning of Franco/British operations in Western Europe. The operational plan had not been elaborated in detail and concerned only the first stage of operations.

The British and French estimated that Poland
Poland
would be able to defend itself for two to three months, while Poland
Poland
estimated it could do so for at least six months. While Poland
Poland
drafted its estimates based upon the expectation that the Western Allies would honor their treaty obligations and quickly start an offensive of their own, the French and British expected the war to develop into trench warfare much like World War I. The Polish government was not notified of this strategy and based all of its defence plans on promises of quick relief by their Western allies.

Polish forces were stretched thinly along the Polish-German border and lacked compact defence lines and good defence positions along disadvantageous terrain. This strategy also left supply lines poorly protected. One-third of Poland's forces were massed in or near the Polish Corridor , making them vulnerable to a double envelopment from East Prussia
East Prussia
and the west. Another third were concentrated in the north-central part of the country, between the major cities of Łódź and Warsaw. The forward positioning of Polish forces vastly increased the difficulty of carrying out strategic maneuvers, compounded by inadequate mobility, as Polish units often lacked the ability to retreat from their defensive positions as they were being overrun by more mobile German mechanized formations. Peking Plan : Polish destroyers evacuate the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
en route to the United Kingdom.

As the prospect of conflict increased, the British government pressed Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły to evacuate the most modern elements of the Polish Navy
Polish Navy
from the Baltic Sea. In the event of war the Polish military leaders realized that the ships which remained in the Baltic were likely to be quickly sunk by the Germans. Furthermore, the Danish straits were well within operating range of the German _ Kriegsmarine _ and _Luftwaffe_, so there was little chance of an evacuation plan succeeding if implemented after hostilities began. Four days after the signing of the Polish-British Common Defense Pact , three destroyers of the Polish Navy
Polish Navy
executed the Peking Plan and consequently evacuated to Great Britain.

Although the Polish military had prepared for conflict, the civilian population remained largely unprepared. Polish pre-war propaganda emphasized that any German invasion would be easily repelled. Consequently, Polish defeats during the German invasion came as a shock to the civilian population. Lacking training for such a disaster, the civilian population panicked and retreated east, spreading chaos, lowering troop morale and making road transportation for Polish troops very difficult.

PHASE 1: GERMAN INVASION

Map showing the advances made by the Germans, and the disposition of all troops from 1 to 14 September

Following several German-staged incidents (like the Gleiwitz incident , a part of Operation Himmler ), which German propaganda used as a pretext to claim that German forces were acting in self-defence , the first regular act of war took place on 1 September 1939, at 04:40, when the _Luftwaffe_ attacked the Polish town of Wieluń , destroying 75% of the city and killing close to 1,200 people, most of them civilians. Five minutes later, the old German pre-dreadnought battleship _Schleswig-Holstein _ opened fire on the Polish military transit depot at Westerplatte
Westerplatte
in the Free City of Danzig
Free City of Danzig
on the Baltic Sea . At 08:00, German troops—still without a formal declaration of war issued—attacked near the Polish village of Mokra . The Battle of the Border had begun. Later that day, the Germans attacked on Poland's western, southern and northern borders, while German aircraft began raids on Polish cities. The main axis of attack led eastwards from Germany
Germany
through the western Polish border. Supporting attacks came from East Prussia
East Prussia
in the north, and a joint German-Slovak tertiary attack by units (Field Army "Bernolák" ) from the German-allied Slovak Republic in the south. All three assaults converged on the Polish capital of Warsaw. _ The city of Wieluń destroyed by Luftwaffe_ bombing

France
France
and the UK declared war on Germany
Germany
on 3 September, but failed to provide any meaningful support . The German-French border saw only a few minor skirmishes , although the majority of German forces, including 85% of their armoured forces, were engaged in Poland. Despite some Polish successes in minor border battles, German technical, operational and numerical superiority forced the Polish armies to retreat from the borders towards Warsaw
Warsaw
and Lwów . The _Luftwaffe_ gained air superiority early in the campaign. By destroying communications, the _Luftwaffe_ increased the pace of the advance which overran Polish airstrips and early warning sites, causing logistical problems for the Poles. Many Polish Air Force
Polish Air Force
units ran low on supplies, 98 of their number withdrew into then-neutral Romania
Romania
. The Polish initial strength of 400 was reduced to just 54 by 14 September and air opposition virtually ceased. Hitler watching German soldiers marching into Poland
Poland
in September 1939.

By 3 September, when Günther von Kluge in the north had reached the Vistula
Vistula
River (some 10 km (6.2 mi) from the German border at that time) and Georg von Küchler was approaching the Narew
Narew
River, Walther von Reichenau 's armor was already beyond the Warta river; two days later, his left wing was well to the rear of Łódź and his right wing at the town of Kielce
Kielce
. On 7 September the defenders of the Polish capital had fallen back to a 48 km (30 mi) line paralleling the Vistula
Vistula
River where they rallied against German tank thrusts. The defensive line ran between Płońsk and Pułtusk
Pułtusk
, northwest and northeast of Warsaw, respectively. The right wing of the Poles had been hammered back from Ciechanów
Ciechanów
about 40 km (25 mi) northwest of Pułtusk
Pułtusk
pivoting on Płońsk. At one stage in the struggle the Poles were driven from Pułtusk
Pułtusk
and the Germans threatened to turn the Polish flank and thrust on to the Vistula
Vistula
and Warsaw. Pułtusk, however, was regained in the face of withering German fire. A considerable number of German tanks were captured after a German attack had pierced the line but the Polish defenders outflanked them. By 8 September, one of Reichenau's armored corps—having advanced 225 km (140 mi) in the first week of the campaign—reached the outskirts of Warsaw. Light divisions on Reichenau's right were on the Vistula between Warsaw
Warsaw
and the town of Sandomierz
Sandomierz
by 9 September while List—in the south—was on the San River north and south of the town of Przemyśl . At the same time, Guderian led his 3rd Army tanks across the Narew, attacking the line of the Bug River
Bug River
, already encircling Warsaw. All the German armies made progress in fulfilling their parts of the _Fall Weiss_ plan. The Polish armies were splitting up into uncoordinated fragments, some of which were retreating while others were launching disjointed attacks on the nearest German columns. Cheerful German and Slovak soldiers posing with a group of civilians in Komańcza
Komańcza
, September 1939.

Polish forces abandoned the regions of Pomerelia (the Polish Corridor ), Greater Poland
Poland
and Polish Upper Silesia
Silesia
in the first week. The Polish plan for border defence was proven a dismal failure. The German advance as a whole was not slowed. On 10 September, the Polish commander-in-chief—Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły —ordered a general retreat to the southeast, towards the so-called Romanian Bridgehead. Meanwhile, the Germans were tightening their encirclement of the Polish forces west of the Vistula
Vistula
(in the Łódź area and, still farther west, around Poznań
Poznań
) and also penetrating deeply into eastern Poland. Warsaw—under heavy aerial bombardment since the first hours of the war—was attacked on 9 September and was put under siege on 13 September. Around that time, advanced German forces also reached the city of Lwów , a major metropolis in eastern Poland. 1,150 German aircraft bombed Warsaw
Warsaw
on 24 September. A bombed Polish Army
Polish Army
column during the Battle of the Bzura

The Polish defensive plan called for a strategy of encirclement : they were to allow the Germans to advance in between two Polish Army groups in the line between Berlin and Warsaw-Lodz, at which point Armia Prusy would move in and repulse the German spearhead, trapping them. In order for this to happen, Armia Prusy needed to be fully mobilized by 3 September. However, Polish military planners failed to foresee the speed of the German advance and assumed that Armia Prusy would need to be fully mobilized by 16 September.

The largest battle during this campaign—the Battle of Bzura
Battle of Bzura
—took place near the Bzura
Bzura
river west of Warsaw
Warsaw
and lasted 9–19 September. Polish armies _Poznań_ and _Pomorze_, retreating from the border area of the Polish Corridor, attacked the flank of the advancing German 8th Army, but the counterattack failed after initial success. After the defeat, Poland
Poland
lost its ability to take the initiative and counterattack on a large scale. German air power was instrumental during the battle. The _Luftwaffe_'s offensive broke what remained of Polish resistance in an "awesome demonstration of air power". The _Luftwaffe_ quickly destroyed the bridges across the Bzura
Bzura
River. Afterward, the Polish forces were trapped out in the open, and were attacked by wave after wave of _Stukas_, dropping 50 kg (110 lb) "light bombs" which caused huge numbers of casualties. The Polish anti-aircraft batteries ran out of ammunition and retreated to the forests, but were then "smoked out" by the Heinkel He 111
Heinkel He 111
and Dornier Do 17s dropping 100 kg (220 lb) incendiaries. The _Luftwaffe_ left the army with the task of mopping up survivors. The _Stukageschwaders_ alone dropped 388 t (428 short tons ) of bombs during this battle.

The Polish government (of President Ignacy Mościcki ) and the high command (of Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły) left Warsaw
Warsaw
in the first days of the campaign and headed southeast, reaching Lublin
Lublin
on 6 September. From there, it moved on 9 September to Kremenez, and on 13 September to Zaleshiki on the Romanian border. Rydz-Śmigły ordered the Polish forces to retreat in the same direction, behind the Vistula and San rivers, beginning the preparations for the defence of the Romanian Bridgehead area.

PHASE 2: AFTER SOVIET UNION INVASION FROM THE EAST

For more details on this topic, see Soviet invasion of Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland
. Disposition of all troops following the Soviet invasion .

From the beginning, the German government repeatedly asked Vyacheslav Molotov whether the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
would keep to its side of the partition bargain. The Soviet forces were holding fast along their designated invasion points pending finalization of the five-month-long undeclared war with Japan
Japan
in the Far East. On 15 September 1939, the Ambassadors Molotov and Shigenori Tōgō
Shigenori Tōgō
completed their agreement ending the conflict, and the Nomonhan cease-fire went into effect on 16 September 1939. Now cleared of any "second front" threat from the Japanese, Soviet premier Joseph Stalin ordered his forces into Poland on 17 September. It was agreed that the USSR would relinquish its interest in the territories between the new border and Warsaw
Warsaw
in exchange for inclusion of Lithuania
Lithuania
in the Soviet "zone of interest".

By 17 September, the Polish defence was already broken and the only hope was to retreat and reorganize along the Romanian Bridgehead. However, these plans were rendered obsolete nearly overnight, when the over 800,000-strong Soviet Red Army
Red Army
entered and created the Belarusian and Ukrainian fronts after invading the eastern regions of Poland
Poland
in violation of the Riga Peace Treaty
Riga Peace Treaty
, the Soviet-Polish Non-Aggression Pact , and other international treaties, both bilateral and multilateral. Soviet diplomacy had lied that they were "protecting the Ukrainian and Belarusian minorities of eastern Poland
Poland
since the Polish government had abandoned the country and the Polish state ceased to exist".

Polish border defence forces in the east—known as the _Korpus Ochrony Pogranicza _—consisted of about 25 battalions. Edward Rydz-Śmigły ordered them to fall back and not engage the Soviets. This, however, did not prevent some clashes and small battles, such as the Battle of Grodno , as soldiers and local population attempted to defend the city. The Soviets executed numerous Polish officers, including prisoners of war like General Józef Olszyna-Wilczyński . The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists rose against the Poles, and communist partisans organized local revolts, robbing and killing civilians. Those movements were quickly disciplined by the NKVD
NKVD
. The Soviet invasion was one of the decisive factors that convinced the Polish government that the war in Poland
Poland
was lost. Before the Soviet attack from the east, the Polish military's fall-back plan had called for long-term defence against Germany
Germany
in the south-eastern part of Poland, while awaiting relief from a Western Allies attack on Germany's western border. However, the Polish government refused to surrender or negotiate a peace with Germany. Instead, it ordered all units to evacuate Poland
Poland
and reorganize in France. Red Army enters the provincial capital of Wilno during the Soviet invasion, 19 September 1939

Meanwhile, Polish forces tried to move towards the Romanian Bridgehead area, still actively resisting the German invasion. From 17–20 September, Polish armies _Kraków_ and _Lublin_ were crippled at the Battle of Tomaszów Lubelski
Battle of Tomaszów Lubelski
, the second-largest battle of the campaign. The city of Lwów capitulated on 22 September because of Soviet intervention; the city had been attacked by the Germans over a week earlier, and in the middle of the siege, the German troops handed operations over to their Soviet allies. Despite a series of intensifying German attacks, Warsaw—defended by quickly reorganized retreating units, civilian volunteers and militia —held out until 28 September. The Modlin Fortress north of Warsaw
Warsaw
capitulated on 29 September after an intense 16-day battle . Some isolated Polish garrisons managed to hold their positions long after being surrounded by German forces. Westerplatte
Westerplatte
enclave's tiny garrison capitulated on 7 September and the Oksywie
Oksywie
garrison held until 19 September; Hel Fortified Area was defended until 2 October. In the last week of September, Hitler made a speech in the city of Danzig in which he said:

Meantime, Russia felt moved, on its part, to march in for the protection of the interests of the White Russian and Ukrainian people in Poland. We realize now that in England and France
France
this German and Russian co-operation is considered a terrible crime. An Englishman even wrote that it is perfidious – well, the English ought to know. I believe England thinks this co-operation perfidious because the co-operation of democratic England with bolshevist Russia failed, while National Socialist Germany's attempt with Soviet Russia succeeded.

Poland
Poland
never will rise again in the form of the Versailles treaty . That is guaranteed not only by Germany
Germany
, but also guaranteed by Russia . — Adolf Hitler, 19 September 1939

Despite a Polish victory at the Battle of Szack , after which the Soviets executed all the officers and NCOs they had captured, the Red Army reached the line of rivers Narew
Narew
, Bug River, Vistula
Vistula
and San by 28 September, in many cases meeting German units advancing from the other direction. Polish defenders on the Hel peninsula
Hel peninsula
on the shore of the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
held out until 2 October. The last operational unit of the Polish Army, General Franciszek Kleeberg
Franciszek Kleeberg
's _Samodzielna Grupa Operacyjna "Polesie" _, surrendered after the four-day Battle of Kock near Lublin
Lublin
on 6 October marking the end of the September Campaign.

CIVILIAN DEATHS

A girl cries over the body of her 14-year-old sister who was strafed by the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe

Hundreds of thousands of Polish civilians were killed during the September invasion of Poland
Poland
and millions more were killed in the following years of German and Soviet occupation. The Polish Campaign was the first action by Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
in his attempt to create Lebensraum (living space) for Germans. Nazi propaganda was one of the factors behind the German brutality directed at civilians which had worked relentlessly to convince the German people into believing that the Jews and Slavs were _ Untermenschen
Untermenschen
_ (subhumans).

Starting from the first day of invasion, the German air force (the _Luftwaffe_) attacked civilian targets and columns of refugees along the roads to terrorize the Polish people, disrupt communications, and target Polish morale. The _Luftwaffe_ killed 6,000–7,000 Polish civilians during the bombing of Warsaw
Warsaw
.

The German invasion saw atrocities committed against Polish men, women, and children. The German forces (both SS and the regular _Wehrmacht_) murdered tens of thousands of Polish civilians (e.g. The 1st SS Panzer
Panzer
Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
throughout the campaign was notorious for burning villages and committing atrocities in numerous Polish towns, including massacres in Błonie , Złoczew , Bolesławiec , Torzeniec
Torzeniec
, Goworowo
Goworowo
, Mława , and Włocławek ).

During Operation Tannenberg , an ethnic cleansing campaign organized by multi elements of the German government, tens of thousands of Polish civilians were shot at 760 mass execution sites by the _ Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen
_.

Altogether, the civilian losses of Polish population amounted to about 150,000–200,000. Roughly 1,250 German civilians were also killed during the invasion (and an additional 2,000 died fighting Polish troops as members ethnic German militia such as Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz which constituted a fifth column during the invasion).

AFTERMATH

Poland's defeat was the inevitable outcome of the Warsaw government's illusions about the actions its allies would take, as well as of its over-estimation of the Polish Army's ability to offer lengthy resistance. Erich von Manstein , Chief of Staff of the German Army Group South

Poland
Poland
was divided between Germany
Germany
and the Soviet Union. Slovakia gained back those territories taken by Poland
Poland
in autumn 1938. Lithuania
Lithuania
received the city of Vilnius and its environs on 28 October 1939 from the Soviet Union. On 8 and 13 September 1939, the German military districts of _"Posen"_ (Poznan)—commanded by General Alfred von Vollard-Bockelberg (de)—and _"Westpreußen"_ (West Prussia)—commanded by General Walter Heitz —were established in conquered Greater Poland
Poland
and Pomerelia , respectively. Based on laws of 21 May 1935 and 1 June 1938, the German _ Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
_ delegated civil administrative powers to " Chiefs of Civil Administration " (_Chefs der Zivilverwaltung, CdZ_). German dictator Adolf Hitler appointed Arthur Greiser to become the CdZ of the Posen military district, and Danzig 's _ Gauleiter _ Albert Forster
Albert Forster
to become the CdZ of the West Prussian military district. On 3 October, the military districts Lodz and Krakau (Krakow) were set up under command of _Generalobersten_ (Colonel-Generals) Gerd von Rundstedt
Gerd von Rundstedt
and Wilhelm List , and Hitler appointed Hans Frank and Arthur Seyss-Inquart as civil heads, respectively. At the same time, Frank was appointed "supreme chief administrator" for all occupied territories. On 28 September, another secret German-Soviet protocol modified the arrangements of August: all of Lithuania
Lithuania
was shifted to the Soviet sphere of influence; in exchange, the dividing line in Poland
Poland
was moved in Germany's favour, eastwards towards the Bug River
Bug River
. On 8 October, Germany
Germany
formally annexed the western parts of Poland
Poland
with Greiser and Forster as _ Reichsstatthalter
Reichsstatthalter
_, while the south-central parts were administered as the General Government
General Government
led by Frank. German and Soviet troops shaking hands following the invasion

Even though water barriers separated most of the spheres of interest, the Soviet and German troops met on numerous occasions. The most remarkable event of this kind occurred at Brest-Litovsk on 22 September. The German 19th _Panzer_ Corps—commanded by General Heinz Guderian —had occupied the city, which lay within the Soviet sphere of interest. When the Soviet 29th Tank
Tank
Brigade—commanded by S. M. Krivoshein—approached, the commanders negotiated that the German troops would withdraw and the Soviet troops would enter the city saluting each other. At Brest-Litovsk, Soviet and German commanders held a joint victory parade before German forces withdrew westward behind a new demarcation line. Just three days earlier, however, the parties had a more hostile encounter near Lwow (_ Lviv
Lviv
, Lemberg_), when the German 137th _Gebirgsjägerregimenter_ (mountain infantry regiment) attacked a reconnaissance detachment of the Soviet 24th Tank Brigade; after a few casualties on both sides, the parties turned to negotiations. The German troops left the area, and the Red Army
Red Army
troops entered Lviv
Lviv
on 22 September.

The Molotov–Ribbentrop pact and the invasion of Poland
Poland
marked the beginning of a period during which the government of the Soviet Union increasingly tried to convince itself that the actions of Germany
Germany
were reasonable, and were not developments to be worried about, despite evidence to the contrary. On 7 September 1939, just a few days after France
France
and Britain joined the war against Germany, Stalin explained to a colleague that the war was to the advantage of the Soviet Union, as follows:

A war is on between two groups of capitalist countries ... for the redivision of the world, for the domination of the world! We see nothing wrong in their having a good hard fight and weakening each other ... Hitler, without understanding it or desiring it, is shaking and undermining the capitalist system ... We can manoeuvre, pit one side against the other to set them fighting with each other as fiercely as possible ... The annihilation of Poland
Poland
would mean one fewer bourgeois fascist state to contend with! What would be the harm if as a result of the rout of Poland
Poland
we were to extend the socialist system onto new territories and populations? Polish troops withdrawn to Hungary
Hungary
in September 1939

About 65,000 Polish troops were killed in the fighting, with 420,000 others being captured by the Germans and 240,000 more by the Soviets (for a total of 660,000 prisoners). Up to 120,000 Polish troops escaped to neutral Romania
Romania
(through the Romanian Bridgehead and Hungary
Hungary
), and another 20,000 to Latvia
Latvia
and Lithuania, with the majority eventually making their way to France
France
or Britain. Most of the Polish Navy
Polish Navy
succeeded in evacuating to Britain as well. German personnel losses were less than their enemies (c. 16,000 killed). German soldiers removing Polish government insignia

None of the parties to the conflict—Germany, the Western Allies or the Soviet Union—expected that the German invasion of Poland
Poland
would lead to a war that would surpass World War I
World War I
in its scale and cost. It would be months before Hitler would see the futility of his peace negotiation attempts with the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
and France, but the culmination of combined European and Pacific conflicts would result in what was truly a "world war". Thus, what was not seen by most politicians and generals in 1939 is clear from the historical perspective: The Polish September Campaign marked the beginning of a pan-European war, which combined with the Japanese invasion of China in 1937 and the Pacific War
Pacific War
in 1941 to form the global conflict known as World War II.

The invasion of Poland
Poland
led Britain and France
France
to declare war on Germany
Germany
on 3 September. However, they did little to affect the outcome of the September Campaign. No declaration of war was issued by Britain and France
France
against the Soviet Union. This lack of direct help led many Poles to believe that they had been betrayed by their Western allies .

On 23 May 1939, Hitler explained to his officers that the object of the aggression was not Danzig, but the need to obtain German _ Lebensraum _ and details of this concept would be later formulated in the infamous _ Generalplan Ost
Generalplan Ost
_. The invasion decimated urban residential areas, civilians soon became indistinguishable from combatants, and the forthcoming German occupation (both on the annexed territories and in the General Government
General Government
) was one of the most brutal episodes of World War II, resulting in between 5.47 million and 5.67 million Polish deaths (about 20% of the country's total population, and over 90% of its Jewish minority)—including the mass murder of 3 million Polish citizens (mainly Jews as part of the final solution ) in extermination camps like Auschwitz
Auschwitz
, in concentration camps, and in numerous ad hoc massacres, where civilians were rounded up, taken to a nearby forest, machine-gunned, and then buried, whether they were dead or not.

According to the Polish Institute of National Remembrance , Soviet occupation between 1939 and 1941 resulted in the death of 150,000 and deportation of 320,000 of Polish citizens, when all who were deemed dangerous to the Soviet regime were subject to sovietization , forced resettlement, imprisonment in labor camps (the _Gulags _) or murdered, like the Polish officers in the Katyn massacre .

Since October 1939, the Polish army that could escape imprisonment from the Soviets or Nazis were mainly heading for British and French territories. These places were considered safe, because of the pre-war alliance between Great-Britain, France
France
and Poland. Not only did the government escape, but also the national gold supply was evacuated via Romania
Romania
and brought to the West, notably London and Ottawa. The approximately 75 tonnes (83 short tons) of gold was considered sufficient to field an army for the duration of the war.

EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT

_ From Lemberg to Bordeaux
From Lemberg to Bordeaux
_ ('Von Lemberg bis Bordeaux'), written by Leo Leixner , a journalist and war correspondent, is a first-hand account of the battles that led to the fall of Poland, the low countries, and France. It includes a rare eye-witness description of the Battle of Węgierska Górka . In August 1939, Leixner joined the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
as a war reporter, was promoted to sergeant, and in 1941 published his recollections. The book was originally issued by Franz Eher Nachfolger , the central publishing house of the Nazi Party.

MISCONCEPTIONS

_ German cavalry and motorized units entering Poland
Poland
from East Prussia
Prussia
during 1939.

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There are several common misconceptions regarding the Polish September Campaign.

COMBAT BETWEEN POLISH CAVALRY AND GERMAN TANKS

The Polish Army
Polish Army
did not fight German tanks with horse-mounted cavalry wielding lances and swords. In 1939, only 10% of the Polish army was made up of cavalry units. Polish cavalry
Polish cavalry
never charged German tanks or entrenched infantry or artillery, but usually acted as mobile infantry (like dragoons ) and reconnaissance units and executed cavalry charges only in rare situations against foot soldiers. Other armies (including German and Soviet) also fielded and extensively used elite horse cavalry units at that time. Polish cavalry
Polish cavalry
consisted of eleven brigades , as emphasized by its military doctrine , equipped with anti tank rifles "UR" and light artillery such as the highly effective Bofors 37 mm
Bofors 37 mm
anti-tank gun . The myth originated from war correspondents' reports similar to that of the Battle of Krojanty , where a Polish cavalry
Polish cavalry
brigade was fired upon in ambush by hidden armored vehicles, after it had mounted a successful sabre-charge against German infantry. There have also been cases when Polish cavalry dashing between tanks trying to break out of encirclement gave an impression of an attack.

POLISH AIR FORCE

The Polish Air Force
Polish Air Force
was not destroyed on the ground in the first days of the war. Though numerically inferior, it had been moved from air bases to small camouflaged airfields shortly before the war. Only some trainers and auxiliary aircraft were destroyed on the ground. The Polish Air Force, significantly outnumbered and with its fighters outmatched by more advanced German fighters, remained active until the second week of the campaign, inflicting significant damage on the _Luftwaffe_. The _Luftwaffe_ lost 285 aircraft to all operational causes, with 279 more damaged, and the Poles lost 333 aircraft.

POLISH RESISTANCE TO THE INVASION

A common but false belief is that Poland
Poland
offered little resistance and surrendered quickly. In the first few days, Germany
Germany
sustained very heavy losses: Poland
Poland
cost the Germans 993 tanks and armored vehicles as campaign losses of which 300 tanks were never recovered, thousands of soldiers, and 25% of its air strength. As for duration, the September Campaign lasted about a week and a half less than the Battle of France
Battle of France
in 1940 even though the Anglo-French forces were much closer to parity with the Germans in numerical strength and equipment. Furthermore, the Polish Army
Polish Army
was preparing the Romanian Bridgehead , which would have prolonged Polish defence, but the plan was cancelled by the Soviet invasion of Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland
on 17 September 1939. Poland
Poland
also never officially surrendered to the Germans. Under German occupation, several guerilla troops continued to fight such as Henryk Dobrzański 's one guerilla troops or organised Armia Krajowa and other underground organisations, or forest partisans: Leśni . Polish soldiers with anti-aircraft artillery near the Warsaw
Warsaw
Central Station in the first days of September 1939.

FIRST USE OF _BLITZKRIEG_ STRATEGY

It is often assumed that _ Blitzkrieg _ is the strategy that Germany first used in Poland. The ideas of _Blitzkrieg_ and mobile warfare had already been used in Spain, China and Siberia. Many early post-war histories, such as Barrie Pitt's in _The Second World War_ (BPC Publishing 1966), attribute German victory to "enormous development in military technique which occurred between 1918 and 1940", and cite that "Germany, who translated (British inter-war) theories into action... called the result _Blitzkrieg_". That idea has been repudiated by some authors. Matthew Cooper writes:

Throughout the Polish Campaign, the employment of the mechanized units revealed the idea that they were intended solely to ease the advance and to support the activities of the infantry.... Thus, any strategic exploitation of the armoured idea was still-born. The paralysis of command and the breakdown of morale were not made the ultimate aim of the ... German ground and air forces, and were only incidental by-products of the traditional manoeuvers of rapid encirclement and of the supporting activities of the flying artillery of the _ Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
_, both of which had as their purpose the physical destruction of the enemy troops. Such was the _ Vernichtungsgedanke _ of the Polish campaign. — Cooper

_Vernichtungsgedanke_ was a strategy dating back to Frederick the Great , and it was applied in the Polish Campaign, little changed from the French campaigns in 1870 or 1914. The use of tanks

...left much to be desired.… Fear of enemy action against the flanks of the advance, fear which was to prove so disastrous to German prospects in the west in 1940 and in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
in 1941, was present from the beginning of the war. — Cooper

John Ellis, writing in _Brute Force _, asserted that

...there is considerable justice in Matthew Cooper's assertion that the _panzer_ divisions were not given the kind of _strategic_ mission that was to characterize authentic armoured _blitzkrieg_, and were almost always closely subordinated to the various mass infantry armies. — Ellis (emphasis in original)

Zaloga and Madej, in _The Polish Campaign 1939_, also address the subject of mythical interpretations of _Blitzkrieg_ and the importance of other arms in the campaign. Western accounts of the September campaign have stressed the shock value of the _panzers_ and _Stuka_ attacks, they have

...tended to underestimate the punishing effect of German artillery on Polish units. Mobile and available in significant quantity, artillery shattered as many units as any other branch of the _Wehrmacht_. — Zaloga and Madej

SEE ALSO

* Eastern Front (World War II) * Polish resistance movement in World War II
World War II
* History of Poland
Poland
(1939–1945) * Horses in World War II
World War II
* List of Polish divisions in World War II
World War II
* Occupation of Poland
Poland
(1939–1945) * Oder-Neisse line * Phoney War * Polish cavalry
Polish cavalry
brigade order of battle in 1939 * Polish contribution to World War II
World War II
* Siege of Warsaw (1939)
Siege of Warsaw (1939)
* Timeline of the invasion of Poland
Poland
* War crimes of the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
* Western betrayal

NOTES

* ^ Various sources contradict each other so the figures quoted above should only be taken as a rough indication of the strength estimate. The most common range differences and their brackets are: German personnel 1,490,900 (official figure of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs) – or 1,800,000. Polish tanks: 100–880, 100 is the number of modern tanks, while the 880 number includes older tanks from the World War I
World War I
era and tankettes . * ^ The discrepancy in German casualties can be attributed to the fact that some German statistics still listed soldiers as missing decades after the war. Today the most common and accepted numbers are: 8,082 to 16,343 KIA, 320 to 5,029 MIA, 27,280 to 34,136 WIA. For comparison, in his 1939 speech following the Polish Campaign Adolf Hitler presented these German figures: 10,576 KIA, 30,222 WIA, and 3,400 MIA. According to early Allied estimates, including those of the Polish government-in-exile, the number of German KIA casualties was 90,000 and WIA casualties was 200,000 Equipment losses are given as 832 German tanks of with approximately 236 to 341 as irrecoverable losses and approximately 319 other armored vehicles as irrecoverable losses (including 165 Panzerspähwagen – of them 101 as irrecoverable losses) 522–561 German planes (including 246–285 destroyed and 276 damaged), 1 German minelayer (M-85) and 1 German torpedo ship ("Tiger") * ^ Soviet official losses – figures provided by Krivosheev – are currently estimated at 1,475 KIA or MIA presumed dead (Ukrainian Front – 972, Belorussian Front – 503), and 2,383 WIA (Ukrainian Front – 1,741, Belorussian Front – 642). The Soviets lost approximately 150 tanks in combat of which 43 as irrecoverable losses, while hundreds more suffered technical failures. However, Russian historian Igor Bunich estimates Soviet manpower losses at 5,327 KIA or MIA without a trace and WIA. * ^ Various sources contradict each other so the figures quoted above should only be taken as a rough indication of losses. The most common range brackets for casualties are: Poland: 63,000 to 66,300 KIA, 134,000 WIA. The often cited figure of 420,000 Polish prisoners of war represents only those captured by the Germans, as Soviets captured about 250,000 Polish POWs themselves, making the total number of Polish POWs about 660,000–690,000. In terms of equipment the Polish Navy
Polish Navy
lost 1 destroyer (ORP _Wicher_ ), 1 minelayer (ORP _Gryf_ ) and several support craft. Equipment loses included 132 Polish tanks and armored cars 327 Polish planes (118 fighters) * ^ P-11c (+43 reserve), 30 P-7 (+85 reserve), 118 P-23 Karaś light bombers, 36 P-37 Łoś bombers (armed in line, additionally a few of the total number produced were used in combat), 84 reconnaissance RXIII Lublin, RWD14 Czapla (+115 reserve) * ^ Other treaties violated by the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
were: the 1919 Covenant of the League of Nations (to which the USSR adhered in 1934), the Briand-Kellogg Pact
Briand-Kellogg Pact
of 1928 and the 1933 London Convention on the Definition of Aggression. * ^ Snidner takes issue here with this contention on at least one occasion. Seidner,_Marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz Rydz and the defence of Poland_ * ^ Polish to Germany
Germany
forces in the September Campaign: 1,000,000 soldiers 4,300 guns, 880 tanks, 435 aircraft (Poland) to 1,800,000 soldiers, 10,000 guns, 2,800 tanks, 3,000 aircraft (Germany). French and participating Allies to German forces in the Battle of France: 2,862,000 soldiers, 13,974 guns, 3,384 tanks, 3,099 aircraft 2 (Allies) to 3,350,000 soldiers, 7,378 guns, 2,445 tanks, 5,446 aircraft (Germany).

REFERENCES

* ^ Danzig: Der Kampf um die polnische Post (in German) * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The 1939 Campaign Archived 11 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine . Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs , 2005. * ^ ER Hooton, p. 85 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Кривошеев Г. Ф., _Россия и СССР в войнах XX века: потери вооруженных сил. Статистическое исследование_ (Krivosheev G. F., _Russia and the USSR in the wars of the 20th century: losses of the Armed Forces. A Statistical Study_ Greenhill 1997 ISBN 1-85367-280-7 ) (in Russian) * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ (in Russian) Переслегин. Вторая мировая: война между реальностями.— М.:Яуза, Эксмо, 2006, с.22; Р. Э. Дюпюи, Т. Н. Дюпюи. Всемирная история войн.—С-П,М: АСТ, кн.4, с.93. * ^ Internetowa encyklopedia PWN , article on 'Kampania Wrześniowa 1939' * ^ Website of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs – the Poles on the Front Lines * ^ _A_ _B_ _Wojna Obronna Polski 1939_, page 851 * ^ _A_ _B_ "Polish War, German Losses". The Canberra Times. 13 October 1939. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2009. * ^ "Nazi Loss in Poland
Poland
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FURTHER READING

* Böhler, Jochen (2006). _Auftakt zum Vernichtungskrieg; Die Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
in Polen 1939 (Preface to the War of Annihilation: Wehrmacht in Poland)_ (in German). Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-596-16307-2 . * Gross, Jan T. (2002). _Revolution from Abroad: The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine
Ukraine
and Western Belorussia_. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-09603-1 .

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