POLAND'S POSITION AND GERMANY'S PREPARATIONS FOR THE ATTACK
The Polish State and the Armed Forces
Poland had made considerable progress in the short period of its existence as a modern state.4-1 The Polish State in 1939 was a republic, organized under the constitution of 23 April 1935. The President was chosen indirectly by an assembly of electors, who were themselves elected by popular vote. The legislature consisted of a senate and Sejm, or lower house. Elections to the legislature were held every five years except for one-third of the senate seats, filled by Presidential appointment.
The President served for a term of seven years, and nominated his own ministers. As Chief of State, the President controlled the usual executive organs of government. In practice, the Polish President was a strong figure, mainly due to the influence of Marshal Pilsudski, who had been the power behind the government almost continuously from the time of its founding until the new constitution was written and put into force a month before his death on 12 May 1935.
Ignace Moscicki, a close personal friend of Pilsudski, was President in 1939. Jozef Beck was Foreign Minister and Marshal Edward Rydz-Smigly was the Inspector General of the Armed Forces. These three and a few others controlled what was essentially an authoritarian form of government, wherein the executive branch of the government dominated the legislature. Despite their own National Socialist form of dictatorship, the Germans took full advantage of the opportunity to criticize the Polish form of authoritarianism in their propaganda campaign.
As of the beginning of 1939 the Polish State had a total population of 343/4 million, of whom 22 million were ethnic Poles. The larger minorities were the Ukrainians (31/4 million), Jews (23/4 million), Ruthenians (21/4 million), and Germans (3/4 million). Smaller numbers of Russians, Lithuanians, Slovaks, and other Slavic groups comprised the remainder of the minorities resident within Poland's borders.
Population and Economy
Sixty-five percent of this population was engaged in agriculture, producing large quantities of grain, potatoes, sugar beets, and dairy products for export. With 23 percent of its area covered by forests, chiefly in the east and Carpathian Mountains regions, lumber was likewise an important item for export. Some coal was also shipped abroad, from the mining region southwest of Cracow.
Poland's mineral deposits included substantial reserves of coal, lignite (brown coal), oil, potassium salts (important in the manufacture of gunpowder and fertilizers), and zinc. Poland produced approximately 11/2 million tons of steel yearly, forty million tons of coal, and one-half million tons of petroleum products.
Poland's chief export customer as well as the source of most of Poland's imports was Germany. In exchange for foodstuffs and lumber, Germany shipped to Poland large numbers of motor vehicles and machines, as well as textiles, finished metal goods, and chemicals. A favorable rate of exchange for the German mark prompted many Germans in the border areas to buy leather goods and other consumer products in Poland. The low wage level of its workers gave Poland some advantage in competing in the world's markets.
The Polish merchant marine in 1939, according to Lloyd's Register, comprised 63 vessels and 121,630 gross tons. Poland's sole port, Gdynia, had been built into a center of commerce from the small fishing village of 1919, and Poland had free access to the excellent facilities of the harbor at Danzig.
Within Poland itself, there were over 3,800 miles of navigable rivers and canals, including 1,534 miles of the Vistula. These supplemented the 12,000 miles of government-operated railway lines for moving heavy freight. Poland also possessed 37,000 miles of improved highways. Commercial air transportation was not significant by western European standards.
Poland forms a vast land bridge from the North German Plain in the west to the marshy lowlands of Byelorussia (White Russia) and the rich steppe of the Ukraine in the east. The country possesses no
good natural defense lines, except to a limited degree in the Carpathian Mountains in the south, and along the course of the Narew, Vistula, and San Rivers, which bisect Poland in a general north-south line. Operations by any but small infantry forces would be almost impossible in the vast Pripyat Marshes in the east. As of August 1939 the area of Poland comprised 150,470 square miles, slightly smaller in extent than the state of California.
Along the southern frontier, the Carpathians reach their greatest altitude in the High Tatra, with peaks up to 8,700 feet. The passes through the mountains are limited in number, but the most difficult areas to traverse lie on the Czech side and several roads and rail lines give direct access to the industrial region in southwestern Poland. However, infantry, preferably mountain infantry, would still be necessary to force many of the passes into Poland if they were defended.
North of the mountains, the Carpathian Plain merges into the southern upland area of Poland, which extends from Cracow in a northeasterly direction to Lublin and includes the rich plateau of Galicia. The uplands reach altitudes of 2,000 feet in some places, though their average elevation is much less. The area is gene-rally well suited to the conduct of military operations by motorized and armored units as well as by infantry.
North of this upland region is the extensive Central Polish Plain, extending from Poznan to Warsaw and the east, and merging into the Pripyat Marshes, which continue into White Russia. The Central Plain is the largest area of the country and has come to be regarded as typical of Poland's geography; it has long been the center of Polish national life. The terrain and the road and rail network of this area offer excellent opportunities for military operations, in particular the use of armor.
To the north of the Central Polish Plain is another belt of uplands extending from German Pomerania to East Prussia, Lithuania, and White Russia. These uplands on Poland's northern border reach elevations of 600-700 feet, but form no natural boundary with East Prussia. In the Polish Corridor, the low hills west of the Polish port of Gdynia form little obstacle to north-south or east-west movement.
The climate of Poland becomes increasingly continental from west to east, with correspondingly wider ranges in daily and annual temperatures. In the more easterly regions of the country, summers are quite warm and the winter season cold, with heavy snowfall. Poland generally has abundant rain, causing frequent flooding of the rivers in the more level portions of the country. These floods could form a serious obstacle to the conduct of extensive military operations.
The chief river is the Vistula, which rises just inside the Polish frontier southwest of Cracow, wends its way through the west central part of Poland, bisects the capital, Warsaw, and empties into the sea at Danzig. Other major rivers of Central Poland are the Bug, San, and Narew, all of which flow into the Vistula. In the west, the Warta (Wartha) flows into Germany and becomes a tributary of the Oder. In the southeast the Dniester flows into Romania and the Soviet Union. In the east central portion of Poland a number of smaller rivers flow into the Pripyat Marshes. In the northeast the Niemen flows from east to west across that extension of Poland bordered by White Russia and Lithuania, to flow into the latter country, and the Dzisna flows across the frontier to the east to become the Soviet Union's Dvina. With their bridges destroyed, all of these rivers could form obstacles to the movement of troops, particularly armored and motorized units. With the rivers in flood, the obstacles in some places would be all but insurmountable.
The weather remained warm and dry in late August 1939, with no immediate prospect of the heavy rains that would cause the rivers to flood and turn the countryside into a muddy morass. Instead, the Polish plains offered excellent opportunities to German military operations, and the movement of armored and motorized units.
The Armed Forces
GeneralThe Polish concept of national forces considered only two services, the Army and Navy. There was no separate air force; air units formed part of both Army and Navy. The President of the Polish Republic was the nominal commander in chief, but delegated the actual exercise of command to the Inspector General of the Armed Forces and the Minister of War. In peacetime the Inspector General prepared mobilization plans, supervised training, made recommendations on matters pertaining to national defense, and controlled the administrative areas and tactical commands of the Army; in time of war he would become the commander in chief. The Minister of War represented the services in the President's cabinet, more as a representative of the Inspector General than as civilian head of the armed forces, and was responsible for a number of diverse functions, including some personnel matters and industrial mobilization. The Navy was supervised by the Minister of War; its size relegated the naval service to a very subordinate role in the Polish Armed Forces Establishment.4-2
Chart 3--The Polish Ground and Air Force (Peacetime Establishment)
The industrial base to support the Polish Armed Forces was still in the process of expansion and modernization in 1939, with the major mining and industrial complex centering about Cracow in southwestern Poland. In addition to this, another industrial region had grown up in the Lublin-Radom area of south central Poland. The total production of both areas in munitions and other military supplies was still limited, and stockpiles had to be built up throughout the country in peacetime. This worked to the disadvantage of the Poles in that the relatively immobile stocks of ammunition, fuel, and other critical supplies would be vulnerable to capture in war and could not be replaced from current production.
However, there was little doubt of the Polish willingness to fight. The fate of Czechoslovakia had not been forgotten, and considerable reliance was placed on the assistance of Britain and France. More trust was placed in the effectiveness of Polish infantry and horse cavalry than was justified by later events, and the traditional Slav resentment of German expansion eastward played its part in strengthening Polish determination to resist.
The Army [See chart 3.]Poland was divided into 10 corps areas for purposes of military administration and tactical units were attached to the corps area commands for logistical support. Army and army group headquarters did not exist in peacetime. Instead, the Army maintained three higher headquarters known as inspectorates and commanded by senior general officers, at Torun (Thorn), Wilna, and Lwow (Lemberg). From time to time, e.g. for annual maneuvers, these inspectorates would be assigned tactical divisions and functions as army headquarters. In time of war, the inspectorates would become army or task force commands. Available records make no mention of tactical corps headquarters in wartime; these presumably would be drawn from the corps area commands.
The peacetime Army was authorized 30 infantry divisions and several small mountain infantry brigades, 14 horse cavalry brigades, 1 mechanized cavalry brigade, and 2 air divisions. A number of separate engineer, artillery, and other supporting units also existed, but many were assigned a training rather than tactical mission. The personnel ceiling of this peacetime force was set at 280,000, making it necessary to maintain the divisions and brigades at a much reduced strength.
The 30 active divisions were distributed 3 to each of the 10 corps areas as of early 1939. The divisions were numbered 1 through 30, and were identical save for the 21st and 22d Divisions, which were classified as mountain divisions and assigned to that part of Poland
bordered by the Carpathian Mountains. Only 11 active horse cavalry brigades appear to have been in existence, disposed at the rate of 1 or more to 8 of the 10 corps areas. Elements of the mechanized cavalry brigade were assigned to several corps areas. Unlike the numbered infantry divisions, the cavalry brigades were designated by the name of the area in which they had their home stations.4-3
Supporting (army) troops were distributed throughout all 10 areas, each of which had 1 medium artillery regiment and 1 or more separate tank battalions (of a total of 13). Most of the corps areas also had antiaircraft units (from the Polish Army's 5 regiments and several separate battalions), and engineers (a total of 14 separate battalions). A signal regiment maintained radio contact between Polish Army Headquarters and major commands in the field, and telephone communication outside the divisions and cavalry brigades was maintained by 4 separate signal battalions.4-4
Poland's universal conscription program, modeled on that of France, had 204,600 conscripts and volunteers in Army service in 1939. The period of active service varied from 11/2 years for infantry trainees to 221/2 months for those of the cavalry, artillery, signal troops, and engineers. The average soldier was hardy and willing to learn, but a lack of modern equipment restricted technical training.
The active noncommissioned officers corps of 30,000 was regarded as well qualified despite its lack of training with modern weapons and techniques. The majority of this group were long-term volunteers and thoroughly schooled. The situation with the 16,300 active officers was somewhat more complex. Junior officers were carefully selected and given uniform training, but field and general officers in most cases had acquired their background in the diverse German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and other services, and varied widely in their methods and abilities.
As of 1939, 1,500,000 reservists of the classes 1898-1915 (men 24 to 42 years of age) could be called up on mobilization. An additional 560,000 reservists of the 1888-97 period would also be available if necessary, but their age (43 to 52) would restrict the use of these troops to security duties and work in the rear areas.4-5 The peacetime divisions and army troops would be brought to full strength on mobilization, some 15 reserve divisions and supporting units called into service, and the Air Force and Navy expanded.
A National Guard (Obrona Narodowa) also existed, to supplement the active Army and reserve units. The National Guard consisted of men who had completed their training but were without mobilization assignments, men who had not received the prescribed conscript training for one reason or another (including a large number who had been surplus to the draft quotas), and volunteers not yet subject to conscription (21 years of age). The weapons and uniforms issued the National Guard were retained in their homes, and ammunition at the local depots of the active units. Training on a part-time basis was carried on, and units up to brigade level were organized.
The Polish National Guard brigade consisted of two regiments of four battalions each, and a total strength of from 2,500 to 4,000 men. Brigades and regiments were commanded by active officers; most of the other officers were from the reserve. In all, 11 brigades were formed, one in each corps area and a naval brigade in Gdynia. In the event of war the National Guard brigades would come under the control of local military commanders.
The active Polish infantry division had three infantry regiments, an artillery regiment, a reconnaissance battalion, an antiaircraft company, a signal company, and rear trains and services. It was planned that each division would have its own engineer battalion and antitank company. As of 1939, this had progressed only to the point where some divisions had small engineer detachments. Transportation in the infantry division was horse drawn.4-6
The infantry regiments each comprised three battalions, of three rifle companies and one heavy weapons company each, an antitank company, a cannon platoon, signal platoon, engineer platoon, and small replacement and service detachments. The rifle companies each had 9 light machine guns (similar to the United States Army's Browning automatic rifle, but classified as a machine gun) and three 46mm mortars of Polish manufacture. The weapons companies had 12 heavy machine guns and two 81mm mortars of French origin. The antitank company had nine 37mm guns, and the cannon platoon had two 75mm field pieces of Russian manufacture. The total strength of the regiment, unless it was assigned to border security duties, was 1,450 officers and men. Regiments assigned a border security mission were increased in strength to 2,350 men.
The artillery regiment had two battalions of 75mm guns of French or Polish manufacture, and one battalion of 100mm howitzers of Czech or Polish origin; most of the fire control equipment was obsolete. The replacement of foreign artillery pieces with Polish-made 105mm and 155mm howitzers was making progress as of 1939 but was still far from complete. The authorized strength of the artillery regiment was
780 officers and men. In many cases, the artillery regiment lacked one or more of its battalions or the battalion one battery. Few except artillery units in border areas had their authorized allocation of transportation.
The cavalry brigade consisted of three or four cavalry regiments, and one squadron each of pack artillery, signal troops, and engineers. Each regiment had four line squadrons armed with rifles, light machine guns, sabers, and lances; a machine gun squadron with 12 heavy machine guns; an antitank platoon with four 37mm guns; and a small remount and replacement detachment.4-7 The authorized strength of the brigade varied from 720 officers and men to a total of 875, depending upon the brigade's mission.
The two air divisions and their air regiments (six in all) had administrative functions only. The tactical unit was the group (three to six per regiment), with two to four squadrons, each with 10-12 aircraft of similar type. In peacetime the air divisions received technical direction from the Air Department in the Ministry of War. Upon mobilization, the Air Force would be reorganized to provide air support for the ground forces and would operate under the tactical control of the army.
Ten reconnaissance, seven fighter, five fighter-bomber, and six groups of liaison aircraft were in existence in mid-1939. There were also two additional air regiments in the process of activation in eastern Poland. The total number of aircraft was 935, including 350 reconnaissance type, 300 fighters, 150 fighter-bombers, and 135 liaison planes. However, a large number of these were obsolete or obsolescent, and suitable only for training purposes.4-8 Total personnel strength of the Army Air Force was 6,300 officers and men.4-9
The NavyThe surface fleet of the Polish Navy in 1939 was built around the four destroyers Blyskawica (Lightning), Grom (Thunderbolt), Wicker (Hurricane), and Burza (Squall). The first two vessels each displaced 2,144 tons; the latter two, 1,540 tons. The heaviest armament comprised 5.1-inch guns and all four destroyers were based at Gdynia. The submarine force consisted of the Orzel (Eagle), Sep (Vulture), Rys (Lynx), Wilk (Wolf), and Zbih (Wildcat), based at Hela; all five were the long-range type, displacing from 980 tons to 1,473 tons. The shore defenses of Gdynia and Hela were manned by Navy personnel. Two naval infantry battalions also existed, one
at Gdynia and the other a few miles inland, and two additional battalions were in the process of organization. Air support for the Navy consisted of three reconnaissance squadrons, three fighter squadrons, and two torpedo-bomber squadrons, with a total of 85 aircraft.
The Polish Navy was also responsible for the Vistula River, and for this purpose maintained 16 river gunboats and two reconnaissance squadrons of 10 aircraft each. The total peacetime strength of the Polish Naval Force was approximately 3,100 officers and men.4-10
Defense Plan and DispositionsThe Polish defense plan was based on a study originally prepared in 1938 and revised as the Reich gained additional territories surrounding Poland. According to Plan "Z", as it was called, the Poles estimated in March 1939 that the Germans would make their main attack from Silesia in the direction of Warsaw. An attack from southern Silesia and Slovakia would secure the right flank of the main German attack force. Meanwhile, other German attacks would be launched from Pomerania and East Prussia, to cut the Corridor and support the main drive on the Polish capital. It was estimated the Germans would be able to mobilize 110-120 divisions in all, of which 70-80, including all 5 panzer, 4 light, and 4 motorized infantry divisions would be available for operations against Poland.4-11
Permanent defensive works already existed along the Narew River, at Torun, about Bydgoszcz (Bromberg) and south to the Warta, west of Lodz (Lodsch), about Czestochowa, and west of Katowice (Kattowitz) and Cracow; some of these fortifications had been built prior to World War I. Additional fortifications were built or in the process of construction at Mlawa and along the approaches from East Prussia, west of Bydgoszcz at the base of the Corridor, west of Poznan (Posen), and along the frontier south to Slovakia. These fortifications, some of them only field type, would be used to form the first Polish line of defense.
The field fortifications constructed were far less formidable than might be expected. In the main, they consisted only of earthen entrenchments; barbed wire obstacles, and tank traps. Their construction was entrusted to local military commanders, with the result that there was little uniformity and the extent of the work depended largely upon the initiative of the individual officers. Moreover, many of the works were delayed until the harvest and were not ready when needed. The blocking of smaller rivers to make possible later flooding
was unsuccessful due to the dry weather which held all through the summer.
Orders deploying the Polish Army according to Plan "Z" were issued on 23 March 1939. The deployment was an obvious attempt to hold the entire country, and probably based on the belief that the intervention of Britain and France in the west would force a number of German divisions to withdraw. The deployment was faulty from a military standpoint, since the Corridor was indefensible and troop units in that area would be in constant danger of encirclement from East Prussia and Pomerania. Polish forces deployed in the Poznan area would be situated in a salient flanked on the north and south by German territory, and units in the Cracow area would be threatened by encirclement from Slovakia and southern Silesia, However, the Corridor and Poznan areas contained a large part of Poland's agricultural resources, and Cracow the country's mines and heavy industry. In addition to these economic aspects, the psychological effect of the surrender of these vital areas without a struggle had to be considered.
Temporary bridges were built along the Vistula and the Warta, to facilitate the movement of reserves to threatened points. Several infantry divisions and smaller units were transferred from their garrison areas in eastern Poland to the central and western parts of the country. A number of individual reservists were called up for service and several reserve divisions mobilized and assigned to defensive missions with the active divisions. National Guard units in the Corridor and Poznan areas were mobilized for frontier defense service.
In the north, a special force of two infantry divisions and two cavalry brigades, under Maj. Gen. C. Mlot-Fijalkowski, was disposed along the Biebrza and Narew Rivers and assigned the mission of holding that part of the Polish frontier north of the Grodno-Warsaw rail line and the frontier with Lithuania (Narew Group). On the left of the Narew Group, a similar force of two infantry divisions and two cavalry brigades, under Brig. Gen. E. Przedzymirski-Krukowicz, was assigned the defense of the Mlawa area and the direct route to Warsaw (Modlin Army). Another force of five infantry divisions and a cavalry brigade (Pomorze Army), under the command of Maj. Gen. W. Bortnowski, held the Corridor to a junction with the command of Maj. Gen. T. Kutrzeba, assigned four infantry divisions and two cavalry brigades for the defense of the Poznan salient (Poznan Army).
Five infantry divisions and two cavalry brigades, under command of Maj. Gen. J. Rommel, held the Lodz area (Lodz Army) and southward to a junction with the force of Brig. Gen. A. Szylling, assigned seven infantry divisions and a cavalry brigade for the defense of the
Map 4: The Polish Defense Plan and Estimate of German Strength in the Frontier Area, 31 Aug 39
vital Cracow region (Cracow Army). Temporarily, light forces would hold the crossings from Slovakia. The general reserve force, centered about Warsaw and in two concentrations to the northeast and northwest of the capital, consisted of twelve infantry divisions, the mechanized cavalry brigade, and one horse cavalry brigade. These concentrations of the general reserve would counterattack major German penetrations in the direction of Warsaw and provide the force necessary if the Poles were eventually to go over to the offensive. The port area of Gdynia also organized a defense force the strength of a small division by combining the naval infantry force, reservists, and seamen assigned to shore installations.
The ground defensive organization involved most of the active and several reserve (infantry) divisions, all the active cavalry brigades, and the bulk of the naval personnel assigned to shore duties. In addition, the Pomorze, Lodz, and Cracow Armies and the general reserve force were assigned reserve divisions which would be called up on mobilization. Where possible, troops were retained in garrison areas and the units assigned defensive missions. In some cases units had to move to areas better situated for defense. In the Corridor area these moves aroused the resentment of the German part of the population and formed the basis for German charges of war preparations on the part of the Poles.
The Polish commands formed had no standard corps organization and few other units except infantry divisions and cavalry brigades. However, reference is generally made to them as armies, except for the Narew Group, with the name of the geographic area they were assigned to defend.
Some changes were made in the dispositions of these Polish forces during the several months preceding the German attack. The Carpathian Army was formed under Maj. Gen. K. Fabrycy to defend the southern frontier of Poland. The Carpathian Army was allocated only three mountain infantry brigades, but an additional force formed for the general reserve and consisting of one active division and a partially mobilized reserve division was stationed in the area in the immediate rear of Fabrycy's force. The mechanized cavalry brigade was transferred to the Cracow Army, an infantry division of the Lodz Army was transferred to the general reserve, and a provisional tank brigade was organized and attached to the general reserve. This was the force, not fully mobilized, with which Poland was to confront the bulk of Germany's 102 divisions, supported by a total of 3,000 tanks and more than 4,000 aircraft. [See map 4.]
The German Plan and Preliminary Movements
Headquarters OKW began to draft the timetable of preparations for the concentration against Poland immediately following the issue on 3 April of the second part of the annual armed forces directive. The timetable would form the master schedule for the movements, security measures, and other steps necessary to enable the German forces to launch an attack at the time and in the manner directed by Hitler should the Fuehrer decide to settle his differences with Poland by war. Its completion, however, would have to await the recommendations of the three services, which began their planning and prepared recommendations for the deployment of forces on the basis of the instructions contained in Plan WEISS.
Each service selected one or more major commands to direct operations in the field. Some deviation from the mobilization plan of the Army was found to be necessary in the case of the higher ground commands, as OKH directed the organization of two army group headquarters. The peacetime Heeresgruppenkommomdo 1, under Generaloberst Fedor von Bock, that would normally have become Second Army on mobilization, was designated to form the headquarters of Army Group North. Headquarters OKH also directed the organization of a provisional headquarters under Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt, then in retirement at Kassel; this headquarters would become Army Group South, with a staff composed largely of VII Corps personnel who would have been assigned to form Twelfth Army on mobilization. The Luftwaffe selected its First and Fourth Air Forces. The Navy designated Naval Command East (Marinegruppenkommando Ost), the naval equipment of the Heeresgruppenkommando, as the headquarters for fleet units to be committed to the campaign.
Bock's chief of staff was Generalleutnant Hans von Salmuth and his operations officer was Colonel Wilhelm Haase at the time. The provisional headquarters was to be known as Arbeitsstdb Rundstedt (Working Staff Rundstedt) temporarily. As his chief of staff,
Map 5: The German Concept of Ground Operations
Rundstedt was assigned Generalleutnant Fritz Erich von Manstein, commander of an infantry division. Col. Guenther Blumentritt, chief of training at OKH, was to become Rundstedt's operations officer. The provisional headquarters had no peacetime counterpart, and almost all of the Arbeitssbab Rundstedt planning had to be carried on by the three officers originally assigned and by two General Staff officers detailed to the project in the course of the summer. Rundstedt remained much of the time at his home, while Manstein and Blumentritt continued as division commander and OKH staff officer, respectively, working on the plans as an additional duty. Blumentritt's dual position in operational planning and normal training made it possible to camouflage many of the preoperational movements of troops as part of the annual training and maneuver program.
The Army, Navy, and Air Force drew up three separate but coordinated campaign plans. As a point of interest, the Army plan included the commitment of two regiments and several smaller separate units of the SS Verfuegungstruppen, the armed affiliate of the National Socialist Party. The SS military force was still in the process of development, and only four regiments and a few separate small units were in existence in 1939,
Hitler was briefed on the Army's plan on 26-27 April. The Fuehrer approved the OKH concept of an attack by two army groups, from north and south, destroying the Polish armies in the western part of the country and capturing Warsaw. On the northern front, Fourth Army would cut the Corridor at its base and take Grudziadz (Graudenz). The establishment of contact between the Reich proper and East Prussia by Fourth Army would be followed by a Third Army attack from East Prussia in the direction of Warsaw. On the southern front Rundstedt's army group would advance on Warsaw on a broad front, diverting sufficient forces to hold any Polish attack on its right flank from Galicia and the southeast. [See map 5.]
A directive embodying the Army's campaign plan was sent by OKH to Rundstedt and Bock on 1 May for comment and elaboration, and initiated detailed planning by Heeresgruppenkommando 1 and Rundstedt's staff. Both sent appropriate orders to the peacetime commands that would form their army headquarters to initiate planning at the next lower level. As the recommendations of these headquarters were received, they were incorporated into the plans of Rundstedt and Heeresgruppenkommando 1. Bock and Rundstedt submitted their comments and recommendations to OKH late in May.5-1
One attempt was made about this time to discourage Hitler from precipitating a major war by a rash move. As his OKW planners viewed the situation, a war involving the British and French and other western powers could end only in disaster. Therefore, members of the planning staff proposed a war game to consider all features of Germany's strategic situation. Keitel transmitted the request to the Fuehrer, and was refused on the grounds that security and diplomatic negotiations might be endangered. Hitler was firmly convinced that there would be no war with the west over Poland.5-2 Meanwhile, OKH revised its campaign plan and OKL and OKM continued with their own planning work.
The first OKH operation order directed Bock's and Rundstedt's headquarters to pursue their planning under their original designations as Heeresgruppenkommando 1 and Arheitsstab Rundstedt. The target date by which the two headquarters were to have worked out all details on coordination with the Air Force (and with the Navy, in the case of Army Group North) was set for 20 July. Both army groups had attached to them the commands of the active Army that would form army headquarters on mobilization, and the corps, divisions, and supporting troops considered necessary to accomplish their missions. Direct communication with subordinate headquarters was authorized for planning purposes. Orders directing specific preparations could also be issued by the two headquarters scheduled to become army groups, cutting across normal administrative channels. The movement of troops to the frontier areas would be directed by OKH.
The OKH Operation Order of 15 June 19395-3
The plan of campaign was expressed in detail, adhering to the general concept of operations, with two army groups attacking from north and south in the direction of the Polish capital. The operation order added one change in directing Third Army to attack simultaneously with Fourth Army and send a strong force to assist Fourth Army in seizing crossings on the Vistula. The major force of Third Army, meanwhile, would attack in the direction of Warsaw without waiting for Fourth Army to establish land contact between the Reich proper and East Prussia. The Polish Army would be destroyed in the western part of Poland, and reserves would be prevented from mobilizing or concentrating to resist the German advance.
This plan of attack, with the German striking power on the north and south, would leave the German center open to Polish counterblows.
frontier guard units and some reservists would take up defensive positions east of the Oder River at Frankfurt-am-Oder, securing the vital river crossings into the interior of Germany. Local attacks would be launched by these frontier guards and reservists to deceive the Poles and tie down Polish units that might otherwise be moved to oppose the drives of the northern and southern army groups.
Army Group North was to control the Third and Fourth Armies, under command of General der Artillerie Georg von Kuechler and General der Artillerie Guenther von Kluge. The headquarters for Third Army would be formed from Kuechler's I Corps in East Prussia; the Fourth Army, from Kluge's Group Command 6. While Third Army commenced operations from East Prussia, Fourth Army would make its attack from North Germany's Pomerania.
Third Army would be composed of 8 infantry divisions, a Panzer brigade, and a cavalry brigade. Fourth Army would comprise 4 standard infantry divisions, 2 motorized infantry divisions, and a Panzer division. Two infantry divisions would be the army group reserve. Army Group North would thus include 14 standard infantry divisions, 2 motorized infantry divisions, a Panzer division, a Panzer brigade, and a cavalry brigade, together with army group, army, and corps troops.
The attack in the direction of Warsaw would form Third Army's major effort. The force of Third Army that would attack to the southwest and assist Fourth Army in securing crossings along the Vistula would be smaller. Fourth Army would attack to the east and south, cutting off the Polish forces in the northern part of the Corridor and securing the communication and transportation lines between Germany proper and East Prussia. The force of Third Army that attacked to the southwest and the Fourth Army would join in the attack toward Warsaw when their mission in the Corridor area was completed. The capture of Danzig would be accomplished by German reservists already in the city.
Army Group South, the stronger of the two major German ground forces, would include the Eighth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Armies, under General der Infanterie Johannes Blaskowitz, General der Artillerie Walther von Reichenau, and Generaloberst Wilhelm List, in that order. Eighth Army would be formed from Blaskowitz's Group Command 3; Tenth Army, from Reichenau's Group Command 4; Fourteenth Army, from List's Group Command 5. The Eighth and Tenth Armies would attack from northern Silesia; Fourteenth Army, from southern Silesia and the satellite state of Slovakia.
Eighth Army would comprise four infantry divisions. Tenth Army would be composed of 6 infantry, 2 motorized infantry, 2 Panzer, and
3 light divisions. Fourteenth Army would include 5 infantry, 1 light, and 2 Panzer divisions. Three mountain and 6 infantry divisions would be the army group reserve. Army Group South thus would have 21 infantry, 4 Panzer, 2 motorized infantry, 4 light, and 3 mountain divisions.
The main effort would be made by Tenth Army, strongest of the three, striking toward Warsaw. Eighth Army would move on Lodz and secure the left (north) flank of Tenth Army against strong Polish forces known to be in the Poznan-Kutno area and capable of interfering with Tenth Army's mission. The situation as it developed in the area of Army Group South would determine the further employment of Eighth Army. On the right (southeast) flank of Army Group South, Fourteenth Army would take Cracow and push to the east to protect the right flank of Tenth Army from attack by Polish forces moving into western Galicia from Lwow and the east. The junction of Army Group North and Tenth Army at Warsaw would seal off Polish units in western Poland and prevent their escape to the area east of the Narew-Vistula-San River line.
The future army group commanders held several dissenting opinions concerning the OKH plan. Rundstedt believed that Tenth Army should move first to destroy the Polish forces on its front, diverting some units if necessary from the drive on Warsaw. This was resolved when Rundstedt was ordered to move directly on the Polish capita] with the Tenth Army. Rundstedt also desired more cavalry to screen his left flank. Accordingly, OKH allocated the motorized SS Regiment Adolf Hitler to the Eighth Army.5-4 For his part, Bock questioned the advisability of a heavy attack on Warsaw from the west. Instead he favored strengthening Third Army at the expense of Fourth Army, once the Corridor had been cut, and executing a deep drive east of the Polish capital to prevent the escape of Polish forces into the vast Pripyat Marches. Smaller German forces could be used to tie down the Poles west of Warsaw, but the major effort would be in the east. Bock was granted some additional latitude in directing his campaign, but his major objection to the OKH concept was not resolved until operations were under way.5-5
Troop movements to begin the implementation of the OKH plan would be carried out in three series. The first of these would involve the movement of a number of infantry divisions and supporting units to Germany's eastern frontier area and to East Prussia. Maneuvers had been scheduled, including armored exercises in central Germany, and the Reich had announced the intention of strengthening its eastern
frontiers, so the first troop movements would not necessarily appear as a hostile gesture toward Poland. Troops from the Reich were also scheduled to participate in the Tannenberg Memorial ceremonies in East Prussia in August, to commemorate the victory of Hindenburg's Eighth Army over the Russian Narew Army in the Allenstein area in August 1914. The second and third series of movements would involve the headquarters staffs and their supporting troops; the armored, light, and motorized infantry divisions; and the remaining elements of the infantry divisions. The day all preparations would be completed for the attack was designated as Y-day. Final preparations were to be scheduled as Y-3, Y-2, etc., as soon as Hitler specified the exact date for Y-day.
The timetable of preparations was issued to the Army, Navy, and Air Force on 14 July and scheduled the movement of forces as recommended by the services to enable them to execute their attack plans. The movement of some Army units for the purpose of working on the Ostwall, or eastern counterpart of the Westwall, had already begun, so the timetable contained the schedule for the remainder of the movements in the first series of troop shifts. Notations in the timetable called for decisions by Hitler prior to the undertaking of successive major steps planned, thereby enabling the Fuehrer to exercise close control over the entire undertaking. The timetable itself did not constitute an order. Rather, it provided only a schedule, and orders for movements or measures to be taken had to be given by OKW or the service directly concerned. Where political or diplomatic considerations were involved, OKW reserved decision or gave specific authorization to one of the services to order appropriate action. Orders to various departments of the Reich government, as the transportation and postal services, were also to be given by OKW.
The OKW Timetable5-6
In addition to the movement of active units to the east, the timetable provided for the mobilization of a number of reservists for the Army and Air Force prior to the attack. A total of 386,000 Army and 55,000 Luftwaffe reservists would be ordered to report for active duty, ostensibly for maneuvers.
The timetable provided for securing the Fuehrer's decision regarding Y-Day by 23 August. With this decision, the "Y" or final movement would be ordered, and units in concentration areas would begin their moves to assembly areas for the attack. On Y-l, Hitler's order for the attack was to be given by 1200, after which the "X" mobilization
would be directed (calling up the reserve divisions without public proclamation), and the code word setting the precise time for the attack was to be communicated to the headquarters of the three services.
Hitler's order of Y-l setting the exact time for the attack was to be followed by the implementation of Plan WEST. The first westward movement would involve seven active divisions, several of which were already training in the western frontier area. The frontier commands were to be absorbed into the First, Fifth, and Seventh Armies, and Army Group C would be assigned responsibility for the defense of the Westwall.
The Reichsbahn (German Federal Railways) would transport the bulk of the troops and their equipment to the frontier area. Movements to mid-August, carefully scheduled, required no mobilization of the German railroad system. As of 16 August, however, there was to be a curtailment of traffic and as many special trains as possible (excursions, etc.) would be cancelled. On 18 August precautions were to be taken to safeguard rail lines and installations.
On Y-2 the Reichsbahn would make the necessary arrangements preliminary to its mobilization. On Y-1 the security of rail lines and installations was to be strengthened by additional railway police and the Reichsbahn, with the rest of the German transportation system, would go on a wartime basis. Foreign rail traffic in Germany was to be kept under observation and preparations made to halt it if necessary.
The Autobahn highway system was to be inspected effective 17 August. Stops for motor columns would be kept available, and obstructions to traffic repaired immediately. On Y-l the special telephone system of the Autobahn was to be tied in with the rest of the German telephone communications system. The trucks and other motor vehicles necessary for military use would be requisitioned from government agencies, industry, and private owners.
The Reichspost (German Postal Service), which controlled the telephone and telegraph systems as well as the mails, held available special lines for long-distance military traffic even in peacetime. On Y-2 all telephone and telegraph installations would be secured. On Y-1 the special nets for military traffic were to be opened. Regular telephone and telegraph traffic would be kept to the minimum, and communications traffic to foreign countries was to be monitored or held up. All telephone and telegraph communications to Poland and Lithuania were to be cut off at midnight of the day preceding Y-day.
Enormous stocks of rations, ammunition, gasoline, spare parts for a wide range of vehicle types, bridging equipment, and hay and
forage for the animals of the infantry and mountain divisions were to be made available. Provisions would also have to be made for moving depots forward as the units advanced. It was estimated the fuel problem would be particularly acute with the armored columns, moving through a primarily agricultural country.
The food supplies required by the troops prior to the attack would be provided by the local Wehrkreise. Eighth and Tenth Armies were to be supplied with rations by Wehrkreis VIII, with headquarters in Breslau. Fourteenth Army would draw upon Wehrkreis XVII, in Vienna. Third Army was to be supplied by Wehrkreis I, in Koenigsberg (East Prussia), and Fourth Army by Wehrkreis II, at Stettin (Pomerania).
Rations for the troops were to be secured in advance of operations from the Wehrkreise and stored in depots by each army. According to German practice, the divisions, corps, and army troop units would draw directly on these depots. Initial stocks were to consist of a 10-day supply of field rations and one emergency ration. A 10-day supply of oats and sufficient hay for the animals for 2 days would be stored in the same depot and issued with the rations. A notation in the OKH field order that biscuits would be provided in place of bread for the last 3 days of the 10-day period, since the issue bread would remain fresh for approximately one week only, may perhaps serve as an example for the completeness of preparations. Should further rations, hay, and forage not be available for issue after the start of operations, e.g. if the units overextended their supply lines or army ration installations were unable to maintain the rate of advance of the combat units, the divisions might permit local requisitioning down to battalion.
A total of four times the basic load of ammunition (a specified amount to be carried by the troops or in unit transportation) was to be made available. One load would be carried by individuals (pistol, rifle, and submachine gun ammunition) and in the trucks, wagons, and trains of the unit (machine gun, mortar, and artillery ammunition). A second load would be available for issue from the army ammunition depot, and two more loads would be stored on rail sidings and moved forward as the situation necessitated. Every rifleman required 90 rounds, every light machine gun 3,750 rounds, and every division artillery piece 300 rounds, for each of the four loads. Third Army, drawing on depots in East Prussia and separated from the Reich, was to have a total of six loads available, and would store four extra loads for those Fourth Army units Bock planned to move to East Prussia once a junction was effected across the Polish Corridor.
Gasoline and oil sufficient to drive each vehicle a total of 750 kilometers (approximately 450 miles) under normal operating conditions was to be provided units in assembly areas. All gasoline tanks were to be filled and the surplus carried in cans on each vehicle, on unit supply trucks, or in the regimental and division trains. Stocks equal to this initial issue of fuel were to be kept in tank cars along the rail lines, ready to move ahead for issue as the units advanced. Army Group South, with its heavy concentration of armored vehicles, was to have an additional allocation of 1,500 tons of fuel, to be held on trucks in the vicinity of Breslau and ready to move on short notice to units where it was needed.
The various armies were to draw replacement vehicles, tires, and spare parts from specified motor pools and tire depots in the Zone of the Interior. Major repairs would also be effected by the repair shops of these motor pools. In the Army Group North area, Third Army would use the motor pool in Koenigsberg and Fourth Army that in Stettin. In the Army Group South area, Eighth Army would use the motor pool in Breslau, Tenth Army the motor pools in Breslau and Oppeln, and Fourteenth Army the motor pool in Vienna. The tire depots, for the most part, were in the general vicinity of the motor pools or in nearby cities. All motor pools and their supply warehouses were to receive special issues of spare parts by 20 August.
It was presumed that the Poles would destroy a large number of bridges, particularly those across the Vistula and the broader rivers. Rail lines and terminal installations might also be damaged by bombing, artillery fire, or demolitions. Many of the Polish roads would not stand up well under sustained pounding by trucks, the artillery's prime movers, and tanks. In anticipation of these contingencies, bridging equipment was to be stored in each army group area, and a number of engineer bridging units attached to each army group and army. In addition to the bridging units, each army group and army was to receive road building, general service, and construction engineer battalions. Special engineer staffs would be attached to the army groups and armies to provide technical direction for all engineer work within the army group and army areas. Railway engineer personnel would be available for putting captured rail lines back into operation.
Sick and wounded personnel requiring hospitalization would be sent to available garrison or civilian hospitals, pending the organization of general hospitals in the army rear areas. Veterinarians were to use civilian facilities whenever military installations for the care of sick and injured animals were not available, until such time as veterinary service in the army rear areas could be established.
Temporary executive power (vollziehende Gewalt, a form of martial law) in designated areas of Silesia would be granted to the
commander of Army Group South, and in portions of Moravia and Slovakia to the commander of Fourteenth Army. Since the two armies of Army Group North would be operating from either side of the Polish Corridor, the Commanders of each were to be granted temporary executive power over designated areas of Reich territory. The time such authority should take effect would in each case be directed by OKH. With this authority, the respective army group and army commanders, in the event of emergency, could utilize civilian manpower and installations, and control the police and local public officials. This authority was to devolve upon the army commanders once the German forces crossed the border into Poland.
Arrangements were also to be made for evacuation of prisoners taken. In the Army Group North area, Fourth Army's captives would be evacuated to a central collecting point at Stargard; Third Army's would go to collecting points to be set up by Wehrkreis I. In the area of Army Group South, prisoners of war taken by Eighth and Tenth Armies would be evacuated to collecting points in Silesia. Fourteenth Army would erect such detention centers in Slovakia as it deemed necessary. With the exception of those sent to Slovakia, all prisoners of war would come under the control of the Replacement and Training Army (Ersatzheer) upon arrival at the collecting point. The collecting points themselves were not considered as camps for final disposition, but rather as temporary holding points pending further evacuation or exchange.
Radio silence was to be observed by all units in their concentration and assembly areas, but normal traffic of garrison troops maintained to avoid arousing the suspicions of the Poles. Land cables and telephone lines for use by the incoming headquarters staffs were to be installed by garrison troops and special signal personnel. These advance preparations could be made only within the Reich, however. Those units of Fourteenth Army that would concentrate in Slovakia would be moving into an area not occupied by German garrison troops and any overt activity would be certain to draw the attention of the residents of the region and quite possibly their Polish neighbors. Thus Fourteenth Army was to plan lines to be installed hastily when the units to concentrate in Slovakia moved into their assembly areas. Special signal troops would be assigned the army groups to put captured Polish signal installations and facilities back into operation as the attack progressed.
The APO number system would go into effect with the arrival of troops in concentration areas. No mail was to be delivered or collected for a period of five days following the start of operations.
The role of the Navy in the Polish Campaign was outlined in Admiral Raeder's annual directive on 16 May.5-7 Naval units would participate in operations to the extent of destroying or capturing the small Polish naval and merchant fleets, keeping clear the sea lanes to East Prussia, blockading Danzig and Gdynia, bombarding Polish shore installations, and rendering Army Group North such assistance as it might require in the course of its operations. Marinegruppe Ost, under command of Generaladmiral Conrad Albrecht, would control 3 cruisers, 2 flotillas of destroyers (8 or more ships), 14 submarines, and a number of torpedo boats and other light craft. These naval units were to be so deployed in the Baltic area so as to be able to reach their assigned battle stations before hostilities were begun. The naval units assigned to missions against Poland were assured of a 48-hour advance warning period to reach these assigned stations. The bulk of the fleet, including most of the operational U-boats, would take up battle stations in the North Sea and the Atlantic, ready to engage the British and French in the event of Allied intervention.
The Navy and Air Force
An operation order was issued on 21 August by Naval Command East, giving the latest estimates of Polish naval strength and assigning specific missions to units designated to participate in the attack on Poland.5-8 The training ship (formerly battleship) Schleswig-Holstein was to be sent on a visit to Danzig shortly before the outbreak of hostilities, and was to anchor in the harbor there; its mission was the bombardment of Polish shore installations. Other surface units would proceed out of sight of land to Gdynia and Hela (a Polish fort on the Hela Peninsula in the Bay of Danzig) and destroy their coastal batteries.
Fire was to be opened on Hela at H-hour and on Gdynia one hour later, to prevent losses to German aircraft scheduled to make a feint attack at first light to cover the approach of the surface craft. Neutral ships would be given 10 hours to clear the ports, after which both Danzig and Gdynia were to be blockaded by mines, surface craft, and submarines. The property of neutrals was to be scrupulously respected to prevent incidents, and German warships would not enter neutral waters. Special care was to be taken to avoid damage to the city of Danzig. The Navy would be instructed to commence hostilities by a system of code words and numbers disguised as radio traffic of the merchant marine.
Luftwaffe issued its first directive for operations against Poland in mid-May. The First and Fourth Air Forces, designated to direct the air effort, were commanded at that time by General der Flieger Albert Kesselring and General der Flieger Alexander Loehr, respectively. The First Air Force would operate in the area of Army Group North and give close support to the Third and Fourth Armies. The Fourth Air Force was to operate in the area of Army Group South and support the Eighth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Armies. Air force planning proceeded in much the same manner as planning by the Army.5-9
As major subordinate headquarters, the First Air Force would control the 1st Air Division, commanded by Generallieutenant Ulrich Grauert, operating from bases in Pomerania, and the Luftwaffe Training Division (consisting of picked squadrons formerly assigned to experimental work), commanded by Generalleutnant Helmuth Foerster, operating from bases in East Prussia. For its major subordinate headquarters, the Fourth Air Force was to control the 2d Air Division, under Generalleutnant Bruno Loerzer, with headquarters 25 miles southeast of Breslau in German Silesia, and a provisional command known as the Richthofen Air Division. (The German term for General major Wolfgang Freiherr von Richthofen's position was Fliegerfuehrer z. b. V., or Air Commander for Special Employment, and his force consisted of approximately one air division.) The Richthofen Air Division was to establish its headquarters approximately 70 miles southeast of Breslau, enabling the division to support Fourteenth Army.
The OKL reserve was to consist of the 7th Air Division at Liegnitz in Silesia. The 7th Air Division included the 1st Parachute Infantry Regiment and several air transport groups. (Parachute troops were part of the Luftwaffe under the German concept of organization. Goering had forced this arrangement for paratroop units and antiaircraft units already formed by the Army at the time the armed forces had been expanded.)
The two air forces assigned to direct the air effort against Poland would control 36 groups and approximately 1,400 offensively armed aircraft. All of the Luftwaffe's dive bomber force, 70 percent of its bombers, and 50 percent of the fighter force would be committed to operations, and the two air forces deployed to meet an attack in the west would be weakened by the diversion of combat units to the air effort in the east.
The Air Force plan of operations gave first priority to the destruction of the Polish Air Force in the air and on the ground. The
12 major Polish air bases and 75 smaller air fields and landing strips were known to the Luftwaffe, and the first few days should suffice to eliminate any Polish threat from the skies. The German Air Force would then be able to turn its attention to bombing and strafing Polish columns moving to the front, and bombing marshalling yards and rear areas where Polish reserves would be gathering.
To maintain close contact with Army units it was to support, the Air Force detailed liaison officers to the major ground commands. A Luftwaffe commander for all air reconnaissance and flak units supporting the Army was also detailed to each of the two army group headquarters.
The first troop movements to the east, from late June to mid-August, involved a number of infantry divisions, some of the corps headquarters, and many of the service units required to establish communications and supply installations that would be needed by the troops to follow. The first movement occurred between 26 June and 15 July, when four infantry divisions were dispatched to Pomerania and Silesia. Five more infantry divisions followed between 15 July and 4 August. In some cases troop units dispatched to the frontier areas were rotated back to their home stations once again before their final move to concentration areas shortly before the attack. This measure helped allay Polish fears about an imminent invasion.
The Concentration of Forces
An infantry division and panzer brigade arrived in East Prussia during the first week of August. A possible Polish attack against East Prussia in the event of hostilities made it essential that this easternmost German area be secured while troops were concentrating in Pomerania and Silesia. Part IV of the annual military directive provided for the organization of Third Army by I Corps in East Prussia in the event of mobilization. Unlike the other army headquarters that would be formed from existing group commands and corps, Third Army in peacetime had a small permanent staff and could organize rapidly for defense. The exposed province of East Prussia, surrounded on its land sides by Poland and Lithuania, made necessary such preparation for a quick transition from a peace to a war footing.
The concluding movements in the first phase of deployment eastward were completed in early August. A signal regiment arrived in Pomerania to set up the communications net for Army Group North headquarters, and a corps headquarters and two infantry divisions arrived in the Fourth Army area. A corps headquarters, engineers and military police, and an infantry division moved into Eighth
Map 6: The Concentration of German Forces
Army's area. A corps headquarters, a signal regiment, construction engineers, and two infantry divisions moved into the Tenth Army's area. Two corps headquarters, a signal regiment, and three infantry divisions moved into the area of the Fourteenth Army. A signal regiment and military police units also arrived as the forward echelon of Army Group South's army group troops.
The second series of transfers was designated as the "A" movement, and set in motion in mid-August with Hitler's decision to continue with the build-up of forces. In the north, the personnel assigned to form the army group staff moved to Bad Polzin and established headquarters. Personnel to form Fourth Army established headquarters at Jastrow. Units scheduled to become army group and army troops and moved in at the same time included engineers, signal units, artillery, and air units directly attached to the ground forces for observation and courier purposes. On 16 August four reserve divisions composed of personnel resident in East Prussia were called up for training. A corps headquarters, a panzer division, and elements of two motorized divisions were shifted into the Fourth Army area. [See map 6.]
In the south, the headquarters of Rundstedt's army group was established at Neisse. Eighth Army headquarters assembled at Breslau, Tenth Army at Oppeln, and Fourteenth Army headquarters at Neutitschein. All of these headquarters, as well as those of the army group and armies in the north, would become operational on OKH order. The corps headquarters and divisions deployed in the "A" movement to the Army Group South area included elements of three Tenth Army corps, with two Panzer, two motorized infantry, and three light divisions. One corps headquarters moved into Fourteenth Army's area.
The "Y" movement followed immediately upon the "A" movement and was set in motion with Hitler's decision of 23 August setting 26 August as Y-day, when all preparations were to be complete. The remaining elements of the divisions and corps which redeployed only part of their forces in the "A" movement were brought up, together with army group, army, and corps troops, and additional corps, divisions, and separate units were moved in. The remaining elements of two divisions closed into the Fourth Army area in the north. In the south, the remainder of three corps and their divisions moved into Tenth Army assembly areas; one light and two panzer divisions arrived in the area of the Fourteenth Army. For security purposes, a number of the armored and motorized units moved in organic transportation by night from maneuver areas in central Germany.
Concurrent naval movements from mid-August brought fleet units and attached air elements within striking range of Poland or into position to counter British and French attempts at intervention. On 19 August 14 long-range submarines left their home bases at Wilhelmshaven
Kiel for Atlantic war stations and the British Isles area. The Graf Spee departed on 21 August to rendezvous with the supply ship Altmark, and take up position as a commerce raider in the South Atlantic. Two more submarines left for the Atlantic area on 22 and 23 August.
Naval Command West (Marinegruppe West) was organized on 23 August to control fleet units sent on interception missions against the British and French. The Deutschland left Wilhelmshaven for a rendezvous with the supply ship Westenwald, and the mission of raiding Allied commerce in the North Atlantic. The Scharnhorst and Gneisenau took up positions in the North Sea. The Admiral Scheer, the cruisers Hipper and Leipzig, 3 divisions of destroyers (6 or more ships), 24 of the smaller submarines, approximately 100 naval aircraft, and a number of light vessels for patrol purposes, minesweeping, and local defense missions completed the naval units assigned to meet any Allied attack from the west.
Naval Command East was assigned the Nuernberg as flagship for the direction of operations against the Polish Navy, merchant marine, and port defenses. The cruisers, 2 flotillas of destroyers, 14 submarines, and other naval vessels and aircraft to be committed against Poland were in the Baltic area and prepared for active operations on short notice.
The First Air Force headquarters moved to East Prussia and the Fourth to Breslau. The First Air Force comprised 800 aircraft, including 500 bombers, 180 dive bombers, and 120 fighters. The Fourth Air Force controlled 590 aircraft, including 310 bombers, 160 dive bombers, and 120 fighters. The bomber aircraft were mostly Messerschmitt Ill's and Dornier 17's. The dive bombers were Junkers 87's, more popularly known as Stukas. The fighters were mostly Messerschmitt 109's and 110's. The OKL reserve had a few additional bombers and two air groups with approximately 250 Junkers 52 transports for paratroop operations. Air units unable to mount their first strikes against Poland from home bases because of range moved to permanent air bases in eastern Germany first, then to landing strips in the vicinity of the frontier on Y-l.
The codeword Befehlsuebernahms ("assume command") was sent out by OKH upon Hitler's decision setting Y-day, and Army Groups North and South and Army Group C and their armies became operational on the 23d. Naval and air force headquarters designated to participate also become operational at the same time as the army commands.
With the build-up of forces complete Hitler set dawn on Y-day, 26 August, as the time for the attack, knowing the Russians would not intervene. As General Halder noted in his diary, there would be no
further orders--everything would proceed according to plan.5-10 The divisions and other units moved to their final concentration areas as scheduled.
Within the Keich Zone of the Interior, the remaining second, third, and fourth-wave divisions were mobilized. A number of Luftwaffe reserve units were also called up for service. No reinforcement was considered necessary for the Navy, which would mobilize only if Britain and France entered the war.
Hitler rescinded his order to attack late on 25 August when the British and French refused his overtures and Chamberlain guaranteed support to the Poles. Some German units were already moving toward their final assembly areas, and officer messengers, and in some cases commanders themselves, had to intercept the attack forces personally and relay the order to halt the opening of hostilities. In a few cases small German units crossed the frontier and engaged in clashes with Polish border guards before they could be recalled. Apparently, these skirmishes were considered only an additional provocation by the Poles and part of the German war of nerves.
The Period of Indecision
While the Polish and German forces waited under arms, both reported numerous violations of the frontier and occasional shootings, although none was sufficiently sharp to precipitate hostilities. The Germans still hoped to achieve another bloodless conquest; the Poles thought the firm attitude of the Allies would discourage Hitler from starting what must surely develop into a general war.
The delay in the attack allowed sufficient time for the 10th Panzer Division, just formed in the Protectorate, to move into the area of Fourth Army. (There were no Panzer divisions 6 through 9 at this time. These numbers were to be assigned to the Panzer divisions to be formed from the four light divisions.)
The Navy dispatched two more submarines to Atlantic stations. On 30 August OKM received a report from a radio intercept unit that the Polish destroyers Grom, Blyzkawica, and Burza had left Gdynia. The Polish vessels were kept under observation until it was apparent that they were enroute to the British Isles area. Orders were then issued transferring the cruisers, three of the destroyers, and a number of torpedo boats of the Naval Command East force to Naval Command West. Orders already issued for the mining of the Gdynia Bay area were cancelled. The striking units of Naval Command East would be reduced to the Schleswig-Holstein, a few destroyers, 14 submarines, a number of smaller surface craft, and attached Luftwaffe units.
Meanwhile, Hitler had regained his determination. Warning orders to the Army, Navy, and Air Force on 30 August instructed the participating headquarters of all three services to prepare for operations on 1 September. In the course of the afternoon of 31 August, they were directed to proceed with the attack: the time for the commencement of hostilities was set for 0445.
As of 31 August the German ground force arrayed against Poland comprised a total of 55 divisions; its composition and dispositions varied in a number of details from the original plan of operations. Plan WEISS had provided for the commitment only of active units to the initial attack; a number of reserve corps and divisions had been added by the mobilization that had proceeded after Hitler postponed the time of attack on 25 August. Several new organizations formed over the preceding few months were also ready for operations, and a number of provisional commands had been formed. [See chart 4.]
A provisional corps, called Wodrig after its commander, had been created in Third Army control to control two divisions moving south on Warsaw from East Prussia. The XXI Corps, a Wave II command, had also been added to Third Army. The XIX Corps, an active command formed in the course of the summer, was under General der Panzertruppen Heinz Guderian, former chief of Mobile Troops, and would control the Panzer and motorized infantry divisions of Fourth Army. (As the XIV, XV, and XVI Corps, it had no corresponding Wehrkreis organization.) The Panzer brigade sent to East Prussia had been raised to the status of a provisional division and would be committed to operations as Panzer Division Kempf. The 10th Panzer Division had been added to Army Group North. The Kuestrin Frontier Command had been redesignated the 50th Infantry Division. No major changes were made in the order of battle or dispositions of Army Group South but a Wave II corps and several divisions on the right flank of Fourteenth Army would be able to complete their concentration and enter the campaign sooner than would have been the case had operations commenced on 26 August as scheduled.
The frontier commands were also to play a more important part in operations than had first been planned. The three frontier commands along the Westwall were a part of the active Army, but those in the east were police forces under the Reich Ministry of the Interior in peacetime and came under Army control for security duties in the event of war. For the campaign against Poland, the frontier commands in several cases would fill a combat role.
Chart 4--German Order of Battle 1 September 1939
On its extreme left Third Army in East Prussia assigned a small provisional corps of limited combat potential to secure the frontier with Lithuania and the exposed salient of German territory extending into Poland in the direction of Grodno. This force, named Brand, had only two brigades of border and local defense troops. On the Third Army right XXI Corps would cross the frontier with two infantry divisions in a southwesterly direction, with the immediate task of establishing contact with the Fourth Army near Grudziadz. In the center of the Third Army line the I Corps and Corps Wodrig were to attack with one Panzer and four infantry divisions in a drive south toward Warsaw. The 1st Cavalry Brigade was to secure the left flank of the force moving on the Polish capital. One infantry division would form the army reserve. Troops of the XI Frontier Command would be available to hold the rear areas and gaps between Army units as the front moved forward. Third Army would also control the force at Danzig, designated as the Eberhard Brigade and assigned the capture of the city from within. [See map 7.]
Fourth Army in Pomerania had the preponderance of armored and motorized troops in Army Group North. Opposite Gdynia and Danzig, the 1st Frontier Command would sever the upper part of the Corridor. South of the 1st Frontier Command, the XIX Corps, with its one Panzer and two motorized divisions, was to form the major striking force of Fourth Army and cut the Corridor at its base. To the right of the XIX Corps, II Corps would commit two infantry divisions. The III Corps would control one infantry division and a provisional brigade to the south of II Corps. The II and XII Frontier Commands, the latter holding the heavily fortified region east of the junction of the Wartha and Oder Rivers, would complete the Fourth Army front to a junction with Rundstedt's Army Group South. Two infantry divisions would form the army reserve, disposed behind the center of the Fourth Army line.
Army Group North reserves would comprise one infantry division in East Prussia, and one Panzer and two infantry divisions in Pomerania. The division in East Prussia was concentrated in the area immediately adjacent to the junction of the Lithuanian, Polish, and German frontiers. The divisions in Pomerania were concentrated behind the center and right of the Fourth Army line.
On the left, Eighth Army, the smallest of the three armies of Army Group South, would have on its right XIII Corps with two infantry divisions. The X Corps with two infantry divisions would be committed in the center of the army front. The XIII Frontier Command would be disposed to the left of X Corps and extend the army group front northward to a junction with the XII Frontier Command of Brock's Army Group North. Eighth Army would have no divisions
its own in reserve, but an infantry division of the army group reserve would be disposed in its area.
Tenth Army would attack in the center of Army Group South. On the right XV Corps would commit one light division. In the right center IV Corps would have two infantry divisions. The XVI Corps, consisting of two Panzer and two infantry divisions would be committed north of the IV Corps. The XI Corps would be on the left of the Tenth Army front with two infantry divisions. The XIV Corps, with two motorized infantry divisions, and two light divisions would form the army reserve. The XIV Corps was disposed on the army north flank, one light division was located behind the XI Corps, and one light division to the rear of the junction of the IV and XV Corps.
On the right of Army Group South, Fourteenth Army would commit the XVIII Corps, made up of one mountain, one light, and one Panzer division. Several Slovak battalions would supplement German reconnaissance units on the extreme right flank and capture a number of villages in Poland that the Slovaks claimed as their own. The XVII Corps would form the center of the Fourteenth Army line with its three infantry divisions. The left of the Fourteenth Army would be held by the VIII Corps, with one Panzer and two infantry divisions. The XXII Corps and two mountain divisions were still arriving and would join the attack later.
Army Group South reserves would comprise one infantry division of the VII Corps, and five other infantry divisions. The reserve corps would follow Tenth Army in the attack, behind the XV Corps. Two of the other five infantry divisions would be disposed at the junction of Eighth and Tenth Armies, one would be disposed in the area of Tenth Army, and two at the junction of Tenth and Fourteenth armies.
In the west, Army Group C had been mobilized and become operational at the same time as the army groups on the Polish frontier, with Generaloberst Hitter von Leeb, recalled from retirement, in command. Twelve active, 6 second-wave, 12 third-wave and three fourth-wave divisions comprised Leeb's defense force, supported by the Second Air Force in the north and the Third Air Force in the south. This would hardly suffice to hold a general attack by the French Army, supported by the British Army and Royal Air Force. However, even though the OKH planners did not share Hitler's optimism and were convinced France and Britain would declare war in the event of an attack on Poland, they felt that the Allies would be hesitant to attack and that the Wehrmacht would be able to achieve a quick victory in Poland. The Westwall defenses, meanwhile, would
discourage any British and French offensive until German troops could be shifted from Poland to the west.
On the eve of operations, Germany had all of its divisions under arms. The bulk of the Army, including all of Germany's panzer, motorized, and light divisions, was concentrated in the east. In the west, a minimum force, all infantry divisions, held the Westwall against a possible French and British attack. The remainder of the German ground force, a few reserve infantry divisions, was scattered about in the interior of the Reich.
The strength figures for the German ground forces in the east included 630,000 men in Army Group North and 886,000 in Army Group South. Of the Army Group North total, 320,000 were in the Third Army and 230,000 in Fourth Army; the remaining 80,000 comprised army group troops or units retained under the direct control of OKH. Of the Army Group South total, 180,000 were with Eighth Army, 300,000 with Tenth Army, and 210,000 with Fourteenth Army; the remaining 196,000 were army group or OKH troops.5-11
No unforseen incidents arose to disrupt preparations. The weather remained clear as the troops closed in their final assembly areas for the attack.
Table of Contents * Previous Part (Chs. 1-3) * Next Part (Chs. 6-11)
4-1. Ltr, Gen Blumentritt to OCMH, 28 Dec 54.
4-2. Grasses Orientierunggheft Polen, Stand Fruehjahr 1939, Kapitel 3a, Oberste Kommandobehoerden und Gliederung der hoeheren Einheiten im Frieden, OKH, Az. 3 a/n. 50-12. Abt. (Ill) GenStdH, Nr. 550/39, den 1 April 1939. OKW 1957. CRS, TAG.
4-3. Grosses Orientierungsheft Polen, Kapitel 3a, Anlage 4, Friedensgliederung des polnischen Heeres, Stand vom April 1939. OKW 1957. CRS, TAG.
4-4. Grosses Orientierungsheft Polen, Kapitel 3b, I, Oliederung, Bewaffnung und Staerken der einzelnen Waffen in Frieden (einschl. Marine), pp. 1-50, and II, Obrona Narodowa (Nationale Verteidigung), 31-36. OKW 1957. CRS, TAG.
4-5. The Sikorski Institute, Polskie Sily Zbrojne W Drugiej Wofnie, Tom I, Kampania Wrzesniowa 1939, Czesc Pierwasa (London, 1951), p. 178.
4-6. Ibid., pp. 209-12.
4-7. Ibid., pp. 212-14.
4-8. Grosses Orientierungsheft Polen, Kapitel 3b, I Gliederung, Bewaffnung und Staerken der einzelnen Waffen in Frieden (einschl. Marine), pp. 1-30, and II, Obrona Narodowa (Rationale Verteidigung), pp. 31-36. OKW 1957. CRS, TAG.
4-9. The Sikorski Institute, op. cit., p. 178.
4-10. Ibid., p. 178.
4-11. Ibid., pp. 257-62.
5-1. Aufmarschanweisung Weiss, Arbeitsstab Run/Astedt, la Nr. 1/39 g. Kdos, 20. Mai 19S9, p. 274g. CRS, TAG: Gen Feldm, v. Bock, Tagebuch-Notizen z. Polen-Feldzug, Mai/Juni 1939-43. Oktober 1939, I, p. 2-4 (hereafter referred to as the "Bock Diary"). P-210. Foreign Studies Br, OCMH.
5-2. Bernhard von Lossberg, Im Wehrmachtfuehrungsstdb (Hamburg, 1950), p. 27.
5-3. Aufmarschanweisung Fall Weiss, OKH, 1. Abt (I) Gen 8t d H, Nr. 400/39 g. Kdos., 15. Juni 1939. A copy of this order will be found in the Arleitsstab Rundstedt planning papers. P 274 k. CRS, TAG.
5-4. Ltr, Halder to Manstein. OKH, 1. Abt. (I) Gen 8t d H, Nr. 4I6O/SO g. Kdos., 2. Juni 1989, in the Arbeitsatab Rundstedt papers. P 274 a. CRS, TAG.
5-5. "Bock Diary," pp. 4-5.
5-6. Zeittafel fuer den Fall Weixs, WFA/L I 92/39, Chefs, v. H.7.S9. OKW 129. CRS, TAG.
5-7. Weisung Fall "Weiss," OKM, B. Nr. 1 Ski. la Op i8/S9, Odkos Chefs, 16. Mai 1939, in I.M.T., op. cit., XXXIV, Doc. 126-C, pp. 428-42.
5-8. Operationsbefehl Nr. 1 fuer Linienschiff "Schleswig-Holstein," Marinegruppenkomtnando Ost, B. Nr. Okds 250/39 Chefs. AT, 21. August 1939, in ibid., pp. 448-55.
5-9. Die Planting und Vorkereitung des Lulkrietges gegen Polen, 1939, Teil C, Planung und Vorbereitung. Von Rohden Collection. CRS, TAG.
5-10. Kriegstagebuch des Oeneralobersten Franz Halder, Band I (hereafter referred to as the "Halder Diary"), p. 26. Copy in Foreign Studies Br, OCMH.
5-11. Ibid., p. 44.