Friday, September 1, 2017

78 Years Ago, The West Went to War, For Poland

German infantry march into Poland
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On the 1st day of September, 1939, the German military attacked Poland. Naval, air, and ground forces launched the invasion which is traditionally considered the beginning of World War II.

But the night before, at the Silesian town of Gleiwitz (today, Gliwice in Poland) a group of Germans, acting under the orders of Reinhard Heydrich and Heinrich Müller (chief of the Gestapo), seized the radio station. Masquerading as Poles, the point of the mission was to provide a pretext for the actual invasion the next day.

A Silesian* man, who was known to be a Polish sympathizer and who had been picked up by the Gestapo earlier, was given a lethal injection, then shot. His murder, along with a number of inmates from the concentration camp at Dachau, dressed in Polish uniforms, were the first casualties of the Polish campaign.

On such pretexts do nations go to war.

For Poland, a long nightmare began which would not end until 1989 with the triumph of the Solidarity labor movement and the first democratic elections since before the war. One thing people often forget, or just don't know, is that about two weeks after the German military crashed over the western Polish border, the Soviet army crashed across the eastern border.

The Poles did not surrender, though organized resistance within the country collapsed. The government fled to Great Britain and many Polish fighting men left the country to fight on for both the British and the Russians.


As you can see by the map, the Soviets seized a rather large chunk of Poland, the area shaded in pink. The Curzon Line stems from just after World War I, the idea was that Poland would be to the west of that line, Soviet Russia to the east. No, the Poles didn't buy that idea from the British Foreign Secretary. They fought the Russians, and won at the Battle of Warsaw in 1920. They kept the land shaded in pink until Hitler and Stalin made their little deal on the eve of the invasion of Poland by the Nazis in 1939.

Near the end of the war, at Tehran and at Yalta, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin agreed that when the Nazis were defeated, the Soviets could keep their piece of Poland. Not a proud moment for Sir Winston, but by that stage of the war the British were treated as junior members of the Grand Alliance, a step above the French yes, but still junior. Stalin and Roosevelt held all the aces.

So when the Nazis were done for, the Poles were compensated with the area shaded in yellow, Silesia, Posen, Pomerania, West Prussia, and the southern part of East Prussia. (The Soviets kept the northern part.) Much of that area had been populated by Poles over the centuries. Poland, due to it's topography, was divided up between Prussia, Austria, and Russia three times over the years. While the Polish nation might have come and gone over the centuries, the Polish people remained.

Modern Poland
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My hometown had a large population of folks of Polish descent, good people, damned good to have by your side in a fight. Looking at the Islamic refugee issues overwhelming Germany, it's good to know that Poland is having none of that nonsense.

They've been invaded enough.

Polish F-16s
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* Silesia was part of Germany in 1939.
** "For our freedom and yours" - Motto of Polish soldiers, exiled from partitioned Poland, fighting in various independence movements throughout the world.

30 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post about the start of the European part of WWII. Agree about the current invasion of Europe, perhaps the beginning of a new phase of the current war.

    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. I think you're right about this being a new phase, in a very old war.

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  2. Oh good to have the history remembered...
    btw the Gleiwitz incident, along with the shelling of Soviet border village near Finland later that same year which triggered the Winter War show that "fake news" are not invented yesterday (and, if anything, have been worked on before with far more thoroughness).
    As for the refugees, mind you we have been refugees ourselves many times - not incidentally so many polish descent citizens in the US. So we sympathize. But realistically, I am against 1. more refugees than can be assimilated. 2.forcingly settling them in one place. Because, what is stopping them from boarding next bus/train to Berlin? And the alternative is to keep them behind barbed wire with guards, machine guns and dogs. Wait didnt Germans one time sent here people they didnt want at home already?

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    1. Excellent observation on the fake news then and now.

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  3. The Cajun commemorates today too:

    Mostly Cajun, All American and Opinionated
    http://mostlycajun.com/wordpress/

    1939 – World War II: Nazi Germany attacks Poland, beginning the war. Hitler’s not worrying about Russia objecting because he’s already signed a treaty with Stalin to split Poland between the two dictators. As the war progresses, both sides slaughter Poles by the thousands.

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    1. The Nazis and the Commies wanted to rid Poland of anyone who could think for themselves, the rest would be slaves. Poles don't knuckle under to any one.

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  4. Indeed the Poles are a stalwart people, refusing to knuckle under to the current Western European political correctness of accepting Islamic "refugees". Lets hope there is no need for a second Battle of Vienna.

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  5. Ah, my family resembles that. Part Ulster part polish Russian. Double underdoq?

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  6. This image has always haunted me.

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-jxUhZ7WcGtc/VeRTZV-0OqI/AAAAAAAAC5I/5BWdT5mHBrM/s1600/First%2Bcasualty%2Bof%2BWorld%2BWar.jpg

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    1. I was going to use that photo which I have from a different angle. The caption indicates that they are sisters, 11 and 14, the older sister killed by a German strafing run on a refugee column.

      That photo is the essence of war, horrible.

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    2. There were a lot that haunted me. 'The Last Jew in Vinnitsa' and pictures of little children in the ruins of bombed cities. I was called in to help plan a TLAM strike against Iraq a long time ago and took a few minutes to step back outside, light up and consider what exactly I was doing. It's interesting how one rationalizes the taking of innocent lives.

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    3. Yes, yes, exactly. People too often forget that on the hard edge of air strikes, TLAM strikes, and the like, there are people who are just going about their daily business. Working, feeding their families, war is terrible and it is always the innocent who suffer.

      My son commented to me once that while the rest of the crew was rather exultant about their launching TLAMs at Iraq in the opening rounds of the second Gulf War, he thought of what was happening on the other end. He said it bothered him that innocents would die at the "hands" of his ship. Hard, but necessary. War is best avoided, but is sometimes absolutely necessary.

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  7. I'm sure I've posted this here before, but it is apropos to put it up here as well.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptijNcDanVw

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    1. You haven't posted that before, great link! I need to make some time to watch the whole thing.

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    2. That is a great link! I had no idea about their involvement , it helps understand their current fortitude!

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  8. From the days of Cain and Abel to Berkeley's demonstrations, "Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) 9 The heart is deceitful above all things,
    and desperately sick; who can understand it?"

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  9. Interesting to note in the photo that despite the Wehrmacht's advanced mechanization, their infantry even in 1939 moved their supplies with horses.

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    1. I'll have to expound upon that someday, the Germans weren't as mechanized as popular legend likes to make us think. In reality their level of mechanization was perhaps less than that of the British and on a par with the French.

      It's just that their doctrine and training was far superior in the early stages of the war. Most of the Wehrmacht went to war the same way their grandfathers had, on foot.

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  10. The Poles are about as Badger Approved as you can get!

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  11. Hey Old AF Sarge;

    The Germans were not ready for war, the generals and admirals planned it around 1945 but Hitler jumped the gun along with the ineptness of the British and French. Their tactics were superior to the French and Polish, but that the Polish cavalry attacked German tanks with sabers says something for their fortitude.

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    1. And that whole attacking tanks with swords thing? Media mayhem, what you might call "fake news."

      Didn't happen, the Poles aren't stupid. Never have been.

      Gutsy though, damned fine fighters.

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    2. the part about sabers is mostly German propaganda...
      Polish cavalry was well equipped with 37mm bofors ATG, and native AT rifles
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wz._35_anti-tank_rifle
      on 1st September at battle of Mokra a well led "Volhynian" Cavalry Brigade held out against 4th Panzer Div. inflicting heavy losses
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Mokra

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  12. Nice post Sarge!

    It wasn't the West that declared war on Germany in September 1939. It was France and Britain and the english speaking Empire nations plus the Trucial States. Everybody else pretended that there was nothing to see including US. You can check it out at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declarations_of_war_during_World_War_II

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    1. Thanks Cap'n. The West going to war on 1 Sep 39 was a bit of hyperbole on my part.

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