WWII: Invasion of Poland

This is the first of a series of posts that will track the major events of WWII thru the prism of our hobby of conflict recreation and board games. Either posts such as these where I have not replayed, nor own a title or cannot find a suitable After Action Report will be posted in Chronological Order. They may form part of another series of game plays I may repost summaries of past plays i.e. Case Yellow or the Blitzkrieg Legend will stand for our 1940 activities in May.

So from Poland we see the following happened-

Invasion of Poland | World War II Database.

1 Sep 1939 – 6 Oct 1939

Opposing Forces

On paper, Poland’s full mobilized army would have numbered about 2.5 million. Due to allied pressure and mismanagement, however, only about 600,000 Polish troops were in place to meet the German invasion on September 1, 1939. These forces were organized into 7 armies and 5 independent operational groups. The typical Polish infantry division was roughly equal in numbers to its German counterpart, but weaker in terms of anti-tank guns, artillery support, and transport. Poland had 30 active and 7 reserve divisions. In addition there were 12 cavalry brigades and one mechanized cavalry brigade. These forces were supplemented by units of the Border Defense Corps (KOP), an elite force designed to secure the frontiers from infiltration and engage in small unit actions, diversion, sabotage, and intelligence gathering. There was also a National Guard used for local defense and equipped with older model weapons. Armored train groups and river flotillas operated under army command.

German forces were organized in two Army Groups, with a total of 5 armies. The Germans fielded about 1.8 million troops. The Germans had 2600 tanks against the Polish 180, and over 2,000 aircraft against the Polish 420. German forces were supplemented by a Slovak brigade.

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Managing Editor C. Peter Chen’s Addition

The Western Betrayal

Since Britain and France had given Germany a freehand in annexing Czechoslovakia, some people of Central and Eastern Europe placed a distrust on the democratic nations of Western Europe. They used the word “betrayal” to describe their western allies who failed to fulfill their treaty responsibilities to stand by the countries they swore to protect. Britain and France’s lack of initial response to the German invasion convinced them that their western allies had indeed betrayed them.

Britain simply did not wish to give up the notion that Germany could be courted as a powerful ally. After a note was sent from London to Berlin regarding to the invasion of her ally, Lord Halifax followed up by sending British Ambassador in Berlin Nevile Henderson a note stating that the note was “in the nature of a warning and is not to be considered as an ultimatum.” Deep in its pacifist fantasies,

Britain did not consider the violation of her allies borders a valid cause for war. France’s response to the invasion was similar, expressing a willingness to negotiate though refusing to send any deadline for a German response. At 1930 London time on 1 Sep 1939, the British parliament gathered for a statement from Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, expecting a declaration of war as dictated by the terms of the pact between Britain and Poland, or minimally the announcement of an ultimatum for Berlin.

Instead, Chamberlain noted that Hitler was a busy man and might not had the time to review the note from Berlin yet. When he sat down after his speech, there were no cheers; even the parliament characterized by its support for appeasement was stunned by Chamberlain’s lack of action.

As Britain and France idled, the German Luftwaffe bombed Polish cities. They submitted messages to Berlin noting that if German troops were withdrawn, they were willing to forget the whole ordeal and return things to the status quo. It was a clear violation of the military pacts that they had signed with Poland.

Finally, on 3 Sep, after thousands of Polish military and civilian personnel had already perished, Britain declared war on Germany at 1115. France followed suit at 1700 on the same day. Even after they had declared war, however, the sentiment did not steer far from that of appeasement. The two western Allies remained mostly idle. While Poland desperately requested the French Army to advance into Germany to tie down German divisions and requested Britain to bomb German industrial centers, Britain and especially France did nothing in fear of German reprisals. In one of the biggest “what-if” scenarios of WW2, even Wilhelm Keitel noted that had France reacted by conducting a full-scale invasion of Germany, Germany would have fallen immediately. “We soldiers always expected an attack by France during the Polish campaign, and were very surprised that nothing happened…. A French attack would have encountered only a German military screen, not a real defense”, he said.

The invasion was not mounted; instead, token advances were made under the order of Maurice Gamelin of France, where a few divisions marched into Saarbrücken and immediately withdrawn. The minor French expedition was embellished in Gamelin’s communique as an invasion, and falsely gave the impression that France was fully committed and was meeting stiff German resistance. While the Polish embassy in London reported several times that Polish civilians were being targeted by German aerial attacks, Britain continued to insist that the German military had been attacking only military targets.

Next The Invasion and Fall of France.

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