Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland in 1939 was a military offensive in which Nazi Germany, and two weeks later the Soviet Union, invaded Poland. It was the start of World War II in Europe. The invasion took place from 1 September to 6 October 1939. The invasion of Poland caused Britain and France to declare war on Germany on 3 September; they did little to affect the September Campaign. In the end, Poland lost. Germany and the Soviet Union divided the country according to a treaty signed years before the war.
|Invasion of Poland (1939)|
|Part of World War II|
The map shows the beginning of the Second World War in September 1939 in a wider European context.
Soviet Union (After September 17, see details)
|Commanders and leaders|
Grand total: 2,000,000+
39 divisions (some of them were never fully mobilized and concentrated),
Total: 950,000[Note 1]
|Casualties and losses|
1,475 killed or missing,
This was often called the first time Blitzkrieg was tried on the battlefield, though similar methods had been used earlier. The German surprise attack was successful. It was very effective against the ineffective and unmobilized Polish Army, whose tanks and airplanes were few and mostly old. They were outflanked, outmaneuvered, and outnumbered in September 1939, and easily destroyed by the Blitzkrieg. The Poles if well prepared could have had two million soldiers in the fight.
In the first few days of the German invasion the Poles proved to be more difficult than the Germans expected. In the Battle of Mokra on September 2nd, the Poles repulsed an attack by a German Panzer division forcing their retreat. The German air force, unlike their invasions of other countries, did not easily overcome the outnumbered Polish Air Force. However, due to their great superiority in numbers they gained air superiority after 5 to 6 days.
Surrounded by German territories north, west and south of Poland, the Poles had little space for tactical retreat. The Germans reached Warsaw and attacked on September 7 but were repulsed suffering heavy tank losses and were forced to retreat. The Battle of Bzura on September 9 was the largest attack by the Poles during the war. The Poles had great initial success decimating 2 German divisions and took 3500 German prisoners. Polish infantry fought well, but by September 19th due to overwhelming German reinforcements were defeated.
When the Poles realized the British and French were in a phoney war and had no intention of assisting Poland and especially when the Red Army invaded Poland from the east on September 17th, the Polish high command ordered as many troops and equipment to the Romanian bridgehead to enter Romania with the intention to continue their resistance by moving as much of their army to France as possible. Most of the Polish navy escaped to Britain. Polish cryptographers who had cracked the German Enigma (machine) went to France and later to Britain to continue their work.
Polish politicians set up a government-in-exile in France and later escaped to Britain. In 1945 when the Allied armies invaded Germany forcing their surrender, the Polish army was the fourth largest allied army.
- 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 1,500,000 (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 WWI 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 armoured vehicles as irrecoverable losses (including 165 Panzer Spahwagen – 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 are estimated at 737 to 1,475 KIA or MIA (Ukrainian Front – 972, Belorussian Front – 503, and 1,859 to 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.
- 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: 66,000 to 70,000 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 lost 1 destroyer (ORP Wicher (1928), 1 minelayer (ORP Gryf) and several support craft. Equipment losses included 132 Polish tanks and armoured cars 327 Polish planes (118 fighters))
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- World War 2 Online Newspaper Archives - The Invasion of Poland, 1939 Archived 2007-12-15 at the Wayback Machine
- The Campaign in Poland at WorldWar2 Database Archived 2007-03-11 at the Wayback Machine
- Fall Weiß - The Fall of Poland Archived 2005-08-29 at the Wayback Machine
- BBC portal dedicated to the start of WW II in Europe
- German Invasion of Poland -Citizendium