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|Polish contribution to World War II|
Pilots of the 303 Squadron, from left: P/O Ferić, Flt Lt Kent, F/O Grzeszczak, P/O Radomski, P/O Zumbach, P/O Łokuciewski, F/O Henneberg, Sgt. Rogowski, Sgt. Szaposznikow
One of the four Polish Enigma doubles assembled in 1940
ORP Dragon, in Polish Navy from January 1943
Anti-aircraft mounting with three Polish Polsten cannons
The European theatre of World War II opened with the German invasion of Poland on Friday September 1, 1939, which was then followed by the Soviet invasion of Poland on September 17, 1939. The Polish Army was defeated after approximately a month of fighting. Poland never officially capitulated. After Poland had been overrun, a government-in-exile (headquartered in Britain), armed forces, and an intelligence service were established outside of Poland. These organizations contributed to the Allied effort throughout the war. The Polish Army was recreated in the West, as well as in the East (after the German invasion of the Soviet Union).
Poles provided significant contributions to the Allied effort throughout the war, fighting on land, sea and air. Particularly well-documented was the service of 145 Polish pilots flying British planes under British Command during the Battle of Britain, 79 in mixed Squadrons under the RAF after July 1940, 32 of wholly Polish Squadron 303 after 31st August 1940 and 34 also of entirely Polish Squadron 302.Other instances of service flying French planes in the Polish Air Force took place during the Battle of Britain at the same time and from 1944 the Polish Air Force (also with British planes) was established in Britain. Polish ground troops were present in the North Africa Campaign (siege of Tobruk); the Italian campaign (including the capture of the monastery hill at the Battle of Monte Cassino); and in battles following the invasion of France (the battle of the Falaise pocket; an airborne brigade parachute drop during Operation Market Garden and one division in the Western Allied invasion of Germany). Polish forces in the east, fighting alongside the Red army and under Soviet command, took part in the Soviet offensives across Belarus and Ukraine into Poland, across the Vistula and towards the Oder and then into Berlin. Some Polish contributions were less visible, most notably the prewar and wartime deciphering of German Enigma machine codes by cryptologists Marian Rejewski and his colleagues. The Polish intelligence network also proved to be of much value to the Allied intelligence. The Polish forces as a whole may be considered to have been the 4th largest Allied army in Europe, after the Soviet Union, United States and Britain. [a]
The invasion of Poland by the military forces of Nazi Germany marked the beginning of World War II in Europe. The Soviets invaded Poland on September 17 German-allied Slovakia invaded also
In keeping with the terms of the Secret Additional Protocol of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact Germany informed the Soviet Union that its forces were nearing the Soviet interest zone in Poland and so urged the Soviet Union to move into its zone. The Soviets had been taken by surprise by the speed of the German advance as they had expected to have several weeks to prepare for an invasion rather than merely a few days. They did promise to move as quickly as possible.On September 17 the Soviets invaded eastern Poland, forcing the Polish government and military to abandon their plans for a long-term defense in the Romanian bridgehead area. The last remaining Polish Army units capitulated in early October.
In accordance with their treaty obligations, the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany on September 3. Hitler had gambled, incorrectly, that France and Britain would allow him to annex parts of Poland without military reaction. The campaign began on September 1, 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact containing a secret protocol for the division of Northern and Central Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence. It ended on October 6, 1939, with Germany and the Soviet Union occupying the entirety of Poland.
German losses included approximately 16,000 killed in action, 28,000 wounded, 3,500 missing, over 200 aircraft, and 30% of their armored vehicles. The Polish casualties were around 66,000 dead and 694,000 captured.
German losses during the Polish campaign amounted to 50% of all casualties they would suffer until their invasion of USSR in 1941; and the campaign that lasted about a month consumed eight months worth of supplies.
There was a substantial group of Poles who risked their lives during the German occupation to save Jews. German-occupied Poland was the only European territory where the Germans punished any kind of help to Jews with death for the helper and his entire family. Even so, Poland was also the only German-occupied country to establish an organization specifically to aid Jews. Known by the cryptonym Żegota , it provided food, shelter, medical care, money, and false documents to Jews. Most of Żegota's funds came directly from the Polish Government-in-Exile in Great Britain.
Most Jews who survived the German occupation of Poland were saved by Poles unconnected with Żegota. Estimates of Jewish survivors in Poland range from 40,000-50,000 to 100,000-120,000. Scholars estimate that it took the work of ten Poles to save the life of one Jew.Of the individuals awarded medals of Righteous among the Nations (given by the State of Israel to non-Jews who saved Jews from extermination during the Holocaust) those who were Polish citizens number the greatest. There are 6,339 Polish men and women recognized as "Righteous" to this day, amounting to over 25 percent of the total number of 22,765 honorary titles awarded already.
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The main resistance force in German-occupied Poland was the Armia Krajowa ("Home Army"; abbreviated "AK"). While AK command said it numbered 400,000 sworn members, only a very small fraction of these was involved in partisan warfare: in 1943 one percent and in 1944 possibly five to ten percent. [ citation needed ]Throughout most of the war, AK was one of the three largest resistance movements in the war. [b] The AK coordinated its operations with the exiled Polish Government in London and its activity concentrated on sabotage, diversion and intelligence gathering. Its combat activity was low until 1943 as the army was avoiding suicidal warfare and preserved its very limited resources for later conflicts that sharply increased when the Nazi war machine started to crumble in the wake of the successes of the Red Army in the Eastern Front. Then the AK started a nationwide uprising (Operation Tempest) against Nazi forces. Before that, AK units carried out thousands of raids, intelligence operations, bombed hundreds of railway shipments, participated in many clashes and battles with the German police and Wehrmacht units and conducted tens of thousands of acts of sabotage against German industry The AK also conducted "punitive" operations to assassinate Gestapo officials responsible for Nazi terror. Following the 1941 German attack on the USSR, the AK assisted the Soviet Union's war effort by sabotaging the German advance into Soviet territory and provided intelligence on the deployment and movement of German forces. After 1943, its direct combat activity increased sharply. German losses to the Polish partisans averaged 850–1,700 per month in early 1944 compared to about 250–320 per month in 1942.
In addition to the Home Army, there was an underground ultra-nationalistresistance force called Narodowe Siły Zbrojne (NSZ or "National Armed Forces"), with a fiercely anti-communist stance. It participated in fighting German units, winning many skirmishes. From 1943 onwards, some units took part in battling the Gwardia Ludowa , a communist resistance movement. From 1944, the advancing Red Army was also seen as a foreign occupation force, prompting skirmishes with the Soviets as well as Soviet-backed partisans. In the later part of the war, when Soviet partisans started attacking Polish partisans, sympathizers and civilians, all non-communist Polish formations were (to an increasing extent) becoming involved in actions against the Soviets.
The Armia Ludowa , a Soviet proxy fighting forcewas another resistance group that was unrelated to the Polish Government in Exile, allied instead to the Soviet Union. As of July, 1944 it incorporated a similar organization, the Gwardia Ludowa , and numbered about 6,000 soldiers (although estimates vary).
There were separate resistance groups organized by Polish Jews:the right-wing Żydowski Związek Walki ("Jewish Fighting Union") (ŻZW) and the more Soviet-leaning Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa ("Jewish Combat Organization") (ŻOB). These organisations cooperated little with each other and their relationship with the Polish resistance varied between occasional cooperation (mainly between ZZW and AK) to armed confrontations (mostly between ŻOB and NZS).
Other notable Polish resistance organizations included the Bataliony Chłopskie (BCh), a mostly peasant-based organization allied to the AK. At its height the BCh included 115,543 members (1944; with additional LSB and PKB-AK Guard, for the estimated total of 150,250 men, not confirmed). [ better source needed ]
Throughout the war the German state was forced to divert a substantial part of its military forces to keep control over Poland:
|Period||Wehrmacht||Police and SS |
(German forces only)
|June 1941||2,000,000 |
(invasion of the Soviet Union)
|Action type||Action totals|
|Delayed repairs to locomotives||803|
|Transports set on fire||443|
|Damage to railway wagons||19,058|
|Blown up railway bridges||38|
|Disruptions to electricity supplies in the Warsaw grid||638|
|Army vehicles damaged or destroyed||4,326|
|Fuel tanks destroyed||1,167|
|Fuel destroyed (in tonnes)||4,674|
|Blocked oil wells||5|
|Wagons of wood wool destroyed||150|
|Military stores burned down||130|
|Disruptions of production in factories||7|
|Built-in faults in parts for aircraft engines||4,710|
|Built-in faults into cannon muzzles||203|
|Built-in faults into artillery projectiles||92,000|
|Built-in faults into air traffic radio stations||107|
|Built-in faults into condensers||70,000|
|Built-in faults into (electro-industrial) lathes||1,700|
|Damage to important factory machinery||2,872|
|Various acts of sabotage performed||25,145|
|Planned assassinations of Germans||5,733|
Polish intelligence supplied valuable intelligence to the Allies; 48% of all reports received by the British secret services from continental Europe in between 1939 and 1945 came from Polish sources.The total number of those reports is estimated about bout 80,000, and 85% of them were deemed high or better quality. Despite Poland becoming occupied, the Polish intelligence network not only survived but grew rapidly, and near the end of the war had over 1,600 registered agents (Another estimate gave around 3500 ).
Western Allies had limited intelligence assets in Central and Eastern Europe, and extensive Polish intelligence network in place proved to be a major asset, even described as "the only allied intelligence assets on the Continent" following the French capitulation.According to Marek Ney-Krwawicz , for the Western Allies, the intelligence provided by the Home Army was considered to be the best source of information on the Eastern Front.
During a period of over six and a half years, from late December 1932 to the outbreak of World War II, three mathematician-cryptologists (Marian Rejewski, Henryk Zygalski and Jerzy Różycki) at the Polish General Staff's Cipher Bureau in Warsaw had developed a number of techniques and devices— including the "grill" method, Różycki's "clock", Rejewski's "cyclometer" and "card catalog", Zygalski's "perforated sheets", and Rejewski's "cryptologic bomb" (in Polish, "bomba", precursor to the later British "Bombe", named after its Polish predecessor)— to facilitate decryption of messages produced on the German "Enigma" cipher machine. Just five weeks before the outbreak of World War II, on July 25, 1939, near Pyry in the Kabaty Woods south of Warsaw, Poland disclosed her achievements to France and the United Kingdom, which had, up to that time, failed in all their own efforts to crack the German military Enigma cipher. Had Poland not shared her Enigma-decryption results at Pyry, the United Kingdom might have been unable to read Enigma ciphers. In the event, intelligence gained from this source, codenamed Ultra, was extremely valuable to the Allied prosecution of the war. While ULTRA's precise influence on its course remains a subject of debate, ULTRA undoubtedly altered the course of the war.
As early as 1940, Polish agents (including Witold Pilecki) penetrated German concentration camps, including Auschwitz, and informed the world about Nazi atrocities. Jan Karski is another important Polish resistance fighter who reported to the Polish government in exile and the Western Allies on the situation in German-occupied Poland, especially the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, and the secretive German-Nazi extermination camps.
Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa, AK) intelligence was vital to locating and destroying (18 August 1943) the German rocket facility at Peenemünde and to gathering information about Germany's V-1 flying bomb and V-2 rocket. The Home Army delivered to the United Kingdom key V-2 parts after a rocket, fired on 30 May 1944, crashed near a German test facility at Sarnaki on the Bug River and was recovered by the Home Army. On the night of 25–26 July 1944 the crucial parts were flown from occupied Poland to the United Kingdom in an RAF plane, along with detailed drawings of parts too large to fit in the plane (see Home Army and V1 and V2 ). Analysis of the German rocket became vital to improving Allied anti-V-2 defenses (see Operation Most III).
Polish agents also provided reports on the German war production, morale and troop movements, including information on German submarine operations. "—Polish for "Rigor") set up "Agency Africa", one of World War II's most successful intelligence organizations. His Polish allies in these endeavors included Lt. Col. Gwido Langer and Major Maksymilian Ciężki (prewar heads, respectively, of Poland's Biuro Szyfrów , Cipher Bureau, and of its German section, B.S.-4, which broke Germany's Enigma ciphers). The information gathered by the Agency was used by the Americans and British in planning the amphibious November 1942 Operation Torch [ better source needed ] landings in North Africa. These were the first large-scale Allied landings of the war, and their success in turn paved the way for the Allies' Italian campaign.[ citation needed ]Polish intelligence network also extended beyond Poland to Germany (olish network ais reported to aave hd two agents in German high command. ) and other occupied countries (for example, French and Italian naval bases), and even Europe; for example the intelligence network organized by Mieczysław Zygfryd Słowikowski in North Africa has been described as "the only allied... network in North Africa". In July 1941 Mieczysław Słowikowski (codenamed "Rygor
Some Poles also served in other Allied intelligence services, including the celebrated Krystyna Skarbek ("Christine Granville") in the United Kingdom's Special Operations Executive.
The researchers who produced the first Polish-British in-depth monograph on Home Army intelligence (Intelligence Co-operation Between Poland and Great Britain During World War II: Report of the Anglo-Polish Historical Committee of 2005) and who described contributions of Polish intelligence to Allied victory as "disproportionally large"have also argued that "the work performed by Home Army intelligence undoubtedly supported the Allied armed effort much more effectively than subversive and guerilla activities."
|Deserters from the German Wehrmacht||90,000|
|Evacuees from the USSR||83,000|
|Evacuees from France in 1940||35,000|
|Escapees from occupied Europe||14,210|
|Recruits in liberated France||7,000|
|Polonia from Argentina, Brazil and Canada||2,290|
|Polonia from the United Kingdom||1,780|
|By July 1945, when recruitment was halted, some 26,830 Polish soldiers were declared KIA or MIA or had died of wounds. After that date, an additional 21,000 former Polish POWs were recruited.|
After the country's defeat in the 1939 campaign, the Polish government in exile quickly organized in France a new army of about 75,000 men.In 1940 a Polish Highland Brigade took part in the Battle of Narvik (Norway), and two Polish divisions (First Grenadier Division, and Second Infantry Fusiliers Division) took part in the defense of France, while a Polish motorized brigade and two infantry divisions were in process of forming. A Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade was formed in French Mandate Syria, to which many Polish troops had escaped from Romania. The Polish Air Force in France had 86 aircraft with one and a half of the squadrons fully operational, and the remaining two and a half in various stages of training.
By the fall of France, numerous Polish personnel had died in the fighting (some 6,000) or had been interned in Switzerland (some 13,000). Nevertheless, about 19,000 Polish - about 25% of which were aircrew - were evacuated from France, most alongside other troops transported from western France to the United Kingdom. In 1941, following an agreement between the Polish government in exile and Joseph Stalin, the Soviets released Polish citizens, from whom a 75,000-strong army was formed in the USSR under General Władysław Anders. Without any support from the Soviets to train, equip and maintain this army, the Polish government in exile followed Anders' advice for a transfer of some 80,000 (and around 20,000 civilians), in March and August 1942, across the Caspian Sea to Iran permitting Soviet divisions in occupation there to be released for action. In the Middle East, this "Anders' Army" joined the British Eighth Army, where it formed Polish II Corps.
The Polish Armed Forces in the West fought under British command and numbered 195,000 in March 1944 and 165,000 at the end of that year, including about 20,000 personnel in the Polish Air Force and 3,000 in the Polish Navy. At the end of World War II, the Polish Armed Forces in the west numbered 195,000 and by July 1945 had increased to 228,000, most of the newcomers being released prisoners of war and ex-labor camp inmates.
The Polish Air Force first fought in the 1939 Invasion of Poland. Significantly outnumbered and with its fighters outmatched by more advanced German fighters, remained active up to the second week of the campaign, inflicting significant damage on the Luftwaffe.The Luftwaffe lost, to all operational causes, 285 aircraft, with 279 more damaged, while the Poles lost 333 aircraft.
After the fall of Poland many Polish pilots escaped via Hungary to France. The Polish Air Force fought in the Battle of France as one fighter squadron GC 1/145, several small units detached to French squadrons, and numerous flights of industry defence (in total, 133 pilots, who achieved 53-57 victories for a loss of 8 men in combat, what was 7.93% of allied victories).
Later, Polish pilots fought in the Battle of Britain, where the Polish 303 Fighter Squadron claimed the highest number of kills of any Allied squadron. From the very beginning of the war, the Royal Air Force (RAF) had welcomed foreign pilots to supplement the dwindling pool of British pilots. On 11 June 1940, the Polish Government in Exile signed an agreement with the British Government to form a Polish Army and Polish Air Force in the United Kingdom. The first two (of an eventual ten) Polish fighter squadrons went into action in August 1940. Four Polish squadrons eventually took part in the Battle of Britain (300 and 301 Bomber Squadrons; 302 and 303 Fighter Squadrons), with 89 Polish pilots. Together with more than 50 Poles fighting in British squadrons, a total of 145 Polish pilots defended British skies. Polish pilots were among the most experienced in the battle, most of them having already fought in the 1939 September Campaign in Poland and the 1940 Battle of France. Additionally, prewar Poland had set a very high standard of pilot training. The 303 Squadron, named after the Polish-American hero, General Tadeusz Kościuszko, claimed the highest number of kills (126) of all fighter squadrons engaged in the Battle of Britain, even though it only joined the combat on August 30, 1940These Polish pilots, constituting 5% of the pilots active during the Battle of Britain, were responsible for 12% of total victories in the Battle.
The Polish Air Force also fought in 1943 in Tunisia - the Polish Fighting Team (nicknamed "Skalski's Circus") - and in raids on Germany (1940–45). In the second half of 1941 and early 1942, Polish bomber squadrons formed a sixth of the forces available to RAF Bomber Command but later they suffered heavy losses, with little replenishment possibilities. Polish aircrew losses serving with Bomber Command from 1940 to 1945 were 929 killed. Ultimately eight Polish fighter squadrons were formed within the RAF and had claimed 629 Axis aircraft destroyed by May 1945. By the end of the war, around 19,400 Poles were serving in the RAF.
Polish squadrons in the United Kingdom:
|destroyed||266 1/6||202||90||114¾||103||38½||769 5/12|
|damaged||43⅔ + 3/5||60½||43||66||27||18||252 1/6|
Just on the eve of war, three destroyers—representing most of the major Polish Navy ships—had been sent for safety to the United Kingdom (Operation Peking). There they fought alongside the Royal Navy. At various stages of the war, the Polish Navy comprised two cruisers and a large number of smaller ships. The Polish navy was given a number of British ships and submarines which would otherwise have been unused due to the lack of trained British crews. The Polish Navy fought with great distinction alongside the other Allied navies in many important and successful operations, including those conducted against the German battleship Bismarck. During the war the Polish Navy, which comprised a total of 27 ships (2 cruisers, 9 destroyers, 5 submarines and 11 torpedo boats), sailed a total of 1.2 million nautical miles, escorted 787 convoys, conducted 1,162 patrols and combat operations, sank 12 enemy ships (including 5 submarines) and 41 merchant vessels, damaged 24 more (including 8 submarines) and shot down 20 aircraft. 450 seamen out of the over 4,000 who served with the Navy lost their lives in action.
This does not include a number of minor ships, transports, merchant-marine auxiliary vessels, and patrol boats. Polish Merchant Navy contributed about 137,000 BRT to Allied shipping; losing 18 ships (with capacity of 76,000 BRT) and over 200 sailors during the war.
After the Polish government-in-exile organized the Anders Army in 1941 in the Soviet Union in the aftermath of the Operation Barbarossa and evacuated it to the West, Polish communists sought to create a new army, under communist control, out of the many ethnic Poles that remained in the Soviet Union. These were primarily citizens of the prewar Second Polish Republic that had been deported and often imprisoned by the Soviets following the Soviet annexation of Poland's eastern territories, as per the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The Soviet Union created the Union of Polish Patriots (ZPP) in 1943, a communist Polish organization intended to represent the interest of Poles on Soviet soil and organize this new army.The relocated Poles, along with numbers of Byelorussians, Ukrainians, and Polish Jews, were organized into a division, the nucleus of a force known as the Polish People's Army (Ludowe Wojsko Polskie, LWP) but colloquially known as the Berling Army after its first commander, Zygmunt Berling. The division made its combat debut in October 1943 at the Battle of Lenino. Afterwards, it was rapidly expanded into the 1st Polish Corps, which in turn grew by 1944 into the 1st Polish Army. In 1945, 2nd Polish Army was added to the LWP. By the end of the war, the LWP numbered about 200,000 front-line soldiers. The Polish communist guerilla force, the Armia Ludowa, was integrated with the Polish People's Army in January 1944.
The Polish First Army was integrated in the 1st Belorussian Front with which it entered Poland from Soviet territory in 1944. During the 1944 Warsaw Uprising it liberated the suburb of Praga, but otherwise sat out most of the battle, aside from a series of unsuccessful crossings of the Vistula in mid-September. It took part in battles for Bydgoszcz (Bromberg), Kolobrzeg (Kolberg), Gdańsk (Danzig) and Gdynia, losing about 17,500 killed in action over the course of the war.In April–May 1945 the 1st Army fought in the final capture of Berlin. The Polish Second Army fought as part of the Soviet 1st Ukrainian Front and took part in the Prague Offensive. In the final operations of the war the casualties of the two armies of the LWP amounted to approximately 67,000.
Hundreds of thousands of former Polish citizens, particularly residents of parts of Poland annexed to Germany, were conscripted into the German Armed Forces. Also, a number of former Polish citizens, especially members of the prewar German minority in Poland (see Volksliste ), volunteered for service in the German Armed Forces.
On the Western Front, German military personnel of Polish ethnicity, held in prisoner-of-war camps, became a substantial source of manpower for the Polish Armed Forces in the West. Nearly 90,000 former German military personnel were eventually recruited into the Polish Armed Forces in the West. By Victory Day (9 May) in 1945, a third of Polish service members in the West were former members of the German Armed Forces.
Major battles and campaigns in which Polish regular forces took part:
|Battle||Date||Location||Poland and its allies||Enemies||Issue|
|Invasion of Poland (1939)|
|Invasion of Poland||1 September – 6 October 1939||Poland||Defeat|
|Battle of Westerplatte||1 – 7 September 1939||Poland||Defeat|
|Battle of Mokra||1 September 1939||Poland||Victory|
|Battle of the Border||1 – 4 September 1939||Poland||Defeat|
|Raid on Fraustadt||2 September 1939||Germany||Victory|
|Battle of Wizna||7 – 10 September 1939||Poland||Defeat|
|Battle of Warsaw||8 – 28 September 1939||Poland||Defeat|
|Battle of the Bzura||9 – 19 September 1939||Poland||Defeat|
|Battle of Lwów||12 – 22 September 1939||Poland||Defeat|
|Battle of Tomaszów Lubelski||17 – 26 September 1939||Poland||Defeat|
|Battle of Wilno||18 – 19 September 1939||Poland||Defeat|
|Battle of Grodno||20 – 24 September 1939||Poland||Defeat|
|Battle of Szack||28 September 1939||Poland||Victory|
|Battle of Kock||2 – 5 October 1939||Poland||Defeat|
|Armed Forces in the West (1939–1945)|
|Battle of the Atlantic||3 September 1939 – 8 May 1945||Atlantic Ocean||Victory|
|Norwegian Campaign||9 April – 10 June 1940||Norway||Defeat|
|Battle of Narvik||9 April – 8 June 1940||Norway||Defeat|
|Battle of France||10 May – 25 June 1940||France||Defeat|
|Battle of Dunkirk||26 May – 4 June 1940||France||Retreat|
|Battle of Britain||10 July – 31 October 1940||United Kingdom (airspace)||Victory|
|North African Campaign||10 June 1940 – 13 May 1943||North Africa||Victory|
|Battle of Tobruk||10 April – 27 November 1941||Libya||Victory|
|Sinking of the Bismarck||26 – 27 May 1941||Atlantic Ocean||Victory|
|Operation Crusader||18 November – 30 December 1941||Libya||Victory|
|Dieppe Raid||19 August 1942||France||Defeat|
|Italian Campaign||10 July 1943 – 2 May 1945||Italy||Victory|
|Battle of Monte Cassino||17 January – 18 May 1944||Italy||Victory|
|Normandy Landings||6 June 1944||France||Victory|
|Invasion of Normandy||6 June – 30 August 1944||France||Victory|
|Battle of Ancona||16 June – 18 July 1944||Italy||Victory|
|Operation Totalize||8 – 9 August 1944||France||Victory|
|Battle of Falaise||12 – 21 August 1944||France||Victory|
|Operation Tractable||14 – 21 August 1944||France||Victory|
|Siegfried Line Campaign||25 August 1944 – 7 March 1945||France/Germany||Victory|
|Hill 262||12 – 21 August 1944||France||Victory|
|Operation Market Garden||17 – 25 September 1944||Netherlands/Germany||Defeat|
|Battle of Arnhem||17 – 26 September 1944||Netherlands||Defeat|
|Battle of the Scheldt||2 October – 8 November 1944||Belgium/Netherlands||Victory|
|Gothic Line||late August 1944 – early March 1945||Italy||Indecisive|
|Western Allied invasion of Germany||22 March – 8 May 1945||Germany||Victory|
|Spring 1945 offensive in Italy||6 April – 2 May 1945||Italy||Victory|
|Battle of Bologna||9 – 21 April 1945||Italy||Victory|
|Armed Forces in the East (1943–1945)|
|Battle of Lenino||12 – 13 October 1943||Soviet Union (Belarus)||Indecisive|
|Operation Bagration||22 June – 19 August 1944||Soviet Union/Poland||Victory|
|Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive||13 July – 29 August 1944||Ukraine/Poland||Victory|
|Lublin-Brest Offensive||18 July – 2 August 1944||Belarus/Poland||Victory|
|Battle of Studzianki||9 – 16 August 1944||Poland||Victory|
|Vistula-Oder Offensive||12 January – 2 February 1945||Poland||Victory|
|Battle of Poznań||24 January – 23 February 1945||Poland||Victory|
|East Pomeranian Offensive||24 February – 4 April 1945||Poland/Germany||Victory|
|Battle of Kolberg||4 – 18 March 1945||Germany||Victory|
|Battle of Berlin||16 April – 2 May 1945||Germany||Victory|
|Battle of the Seelow Heights||16 – 19 April 1945||Germany||Victory|
|Battle of Bautzen||21 – 30 April 1945||Germany||Indecisive|
|Prague Offensive||6 – 11 May 1945||Czechoslovakia||Victory|
|Underground actions (1939–1945)|
|Hubal's fight||October 1939 – 30 April 1940||Poland||Defeat|
|Czortków uprising||21 – 22 January 1940||Poland||Defeat|
|Polish resistance in France||1940 – 1944||France||Victory|
|Zamość uprising||December 1942 – mid-1944||Poland||Victory|
|Operacja Główki||1943 – 1944||Poland||Partial success|
|Warsaw Ghetto Uprising||19 April – 16 May 1943||Poland||Defeat|
|Operation Belt||20 – 21 August 1943||Poland||Victory|
|Operation Chain||late November 1943||Poland||Victory|
|Operation Tempest||January – October 1944||Poland||Partial success|
|Battle of Murowana Oszmianka||13 – 14 May 1944||Poland/Belarus||Victory|
|Battle of Porytowe Wzgórze||14 – 15 June 1944||Poland||Victory|
|Battle of Osuchy||25 – 26 June 1944||Poland||Defeat|
|Operation Ostra Brama||7 – 15 July 1944||Poland/Lithuania||Tactical victory|
|Lwów Uprising||23 – 27 July 1944||Poland/Ukraine||Victory|
|Warsaw Uprising||1 August – 2 October 1944||Poland|
aerial supply only
|Battle of Kuryłówka||7 May 1945||Poland||Victory|
|Attack on the NKVD Camp in Rembertów||21 May 1945||Poland||Victory|
|Augustów roundup||20 – 25 July 1945||Poland||Defeat|
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Polish engineers who escaped German occupied Poland contributed to weapon developments during the war. A Polish/Czech/British team brought the 20 mm Polsten to fruition as a simpler and cheaper to produce but as effective derivative of the 20 mm Oerlikon gun.
The Polish Home Army was probably the only World War II resistance movement to manufacture large quantities of weaponry and munitions. In addition to production of pre-war designs they developed and produced during the war the Błyskawica submachine gun, Bechowiec, KIS and Polski Sten machine pistols as well as the filipinka and sidolówka hand grenades. During the Warsaw Uprising Polish engineers built several armoured cars, such as the Kubuś, which also took part in the fighting. The KIS was designed and made in the Jan Piwnik's "Ponury" ("Grim") guerrilla unit that was operating in Holy Cross Mountains region. It was probably the only kind of modern firearm that could be manufactured in the forest without the need for sophisticated tools and factory equipment during the Second World War.[ citation needed ]
a ^ Numerous sources state that Polish Army was the fourth biggest Allied fighting contingent. Steven J. Zaloga wrote that "by the war's end the Polish Army was the fourth largest contingent of the Allied coalition after the armed forces of the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain." Jerzy Jan Lerski writes "All in all, the Polish units, although divided and controlled by different political orientation, constituted the fourth largest Allied force, after the American, British and Soviet Armies." M. K. Dziewanowski has noted that "if Polish forces fighting in the east and west were added to the resistance fighters, Poland had the fourth largest Allied army in the war (after the USSR, the U.S. and Britain)".
b ^ Sources vary with regards to what was the largest resistance movement during World War II. As the war progressed, some resistance movements grew larger - and others diminished. Polish territories were mostly freed from Nazi German control in the years 1944-1945, eliminating the need for their respective (anti-Nazi) partisan forces in Poland (although the cursed soldiers continued to fight against the Soviets). Several sources note that Polish Armia Krajowa was the largest resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Europe. For example, Norman Davies wrote "Armia Krajowa (Home Army), the AK, which could fairly claim to be the largest of European resistance"; Gregor Dallas wrote "Home Army (Armia Krajowa or AK) in late 1943 numbered around 400000, making it the largest resistance organization in Europe"; Mark Wyman wrote "Armia Krajowa was considered the largest underground resistance unit in wartime Europe". Certainly, Polish resistance was the largest resistance until the German invasion of Yugoslavia and the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. After that point, the numbers of Soviet partisans and Yugoslav partisans grew rapidly. The number of Soviet partisans quickly caught up and were very similar to that of the Polish resistance. The number of Tito's Yugoslav partisans were roughly similar to those of the Polish and Soviet partisans in the first years of the war (1941–1942), but grew rapidly in the latter years, outnumbering the Polish and Soviet partisans by 2:1 or more (estimates give Yugoslavian forces about 800,000 in 1945, to Polish and Soviet forces of 400,000 in 1944).
The Home Army was the dominant Polish resistance movement in Poland, occupied by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, during World War II. The Home Army was formed in February 1942 from the Związek Walki Zbrojnej. Over the next two years, it absorbed most other Polish underground forces. Its allegiance was to the Polish government-in-exile, and it constituted the armed wing of what became known as the "Polish Underground State".
The invasion of Poland marked the beginning of World War II. The German invasion began on 1 September 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, and one day after the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union had approved the pact. The Soviets invaded Poland on 17 September. The campaign ended on 6 October with Germany and the Soviet Union dividing and annexing the whole of Poland under the terms of the German–Soviet Frontier Treaty.
The history of Poland from 1939 to 1945 encompasses primarily the period from the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to the end of World War II. Following the German-Soviet non-aggression pact, Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany on 1 September 1939 and by the Soviet Union on 17 September. The campaigns ended in early October with Germany and the Soviet Union dividing and annexing the whole of Poland. After the Axis attack on the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, the entirety of Poland was occupied by Germany, which proceeded to advance its racial and genocidal policies across Poland. Under the two occupations, Polish citizens suffered enormous human and material losses. According to the Institute of National Remembrance estimates, about 5.6 million Polish citizens died as a result of the German occupation and about 150,000 died as a result of the Soviet occupation. The Jews were singled out by the Germans for a quick and total annihilation and about 90% of Polish Jews were murdered as part of the Holocaust. Jews, Poles, Romani people and prisoners of many other ethnicities were killed en masse at Nazi extermination camps, such as Auschwitz, Treblinka and Sobibór. Ethnic Poles were subjected to both Nazi German and Soviet persecution. The Germans killed an estimated two million ethnic Poles. They had future plans to turn the remaining majority of Poles into slave labor and annihilate those perceived as “undesirable” as part of the wider Generalplan Ost. Ethnic cleansing and massacres of Poles and to a lesser extent Ukrainians were perpetrated in western Ukraine from 1943. The Poles were murdered by Ukrainian nationalists.
The Warsaw Uprising was a major World War II operation, in the summer of 1944, by the Polish underground resistance, led by the Polish resistance Home Army, to liberate Warsaw from German occupation. The uprising was timed to coincide with the retreat of the German forces from Poland ahead of the Soviet advance. While approaching the eastern suburbs of the city, the Red Army temporarily halted combat operations, enabling the Germans to regroup and defeat the Polish resistance and to destroy the city in retaliation. The Uprising was fought for 63 days with little outside support. It was the single largest military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II.
The Polish government-in-exile, officially known as the Government of the Republic of Poland in exile, was the government in exile of Poland formed in the aftermath of the Invasion of Poland of September 1939, and the subsequent occupation of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union, which brought to an end the Second Polish Republic.
Western betrayal is the view that the United Kingdom and France failed to meet their legal, diplomatic, military, and moral obligations with respect to the Czechoslovak and Polish nations during the prelude to and aftermath of World War II. It also sometimes refers to the treatment of other Central and Eastern European nations at the time.
The Polish Underground State was a single political and military entity formed by the union of resistance organizations in occupied Poland, that were loyal to the Government of the Republic of Poland in exile in London. The first elements of the Underground State were established in the final days of the German and Soviet invasion of Poland, in late September 1939. The Underground State was perceived by supporters as a legal continuation of the pre-war Republic of Poland that waged an armed struggle against the country's occupying powers: Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The Underground State encompassed not only military resistance, one of the largest in the world, but also civilian structures, such as education, culture and social services.
The Polish Air Forces was the name of the Polish Air Forces formed in France and the United Kingdom during World War II. The core of the Polish air units fighting alongside the Allies were experienced veterans of the 1939 invasion of Poland. They contributed to the Allied victory in the Battle of Britain and Allied air operations during WW2.
The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.
Resistance movements during World War II occurred in every occupied country by a variety of means, ranging from non-cooperation to propaganda to hiding crashed pilots and even to outright warfare and the recapturing of towns. In many countries, resistance movements were sometimes also referred to as The Underground.
A partisan is a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity. The term can apply to the field element of resistance movements. The most common use in present parlance in several languages refers to occupation resistance fighters during World War II.
The Polish resistance movement in World War II, with the Polish Home Army at its forefront, was the largest underground resistance movement in all of occupied Europe, covering both German and Soviet zones of occupation. The Polish resistance is most notable for disrupting German supply lines to the Eastern Front, providing military intelligence to the British, and for saving more Jewish lives in the Holocaust than any other Western Allied organization or government. It was a part of the Polish Underground State.
Poland was invaded and annexed by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in the aftermath of the invasion of Poland in 1939. In the pre-war Polish territories annexed by the Soviets the first Soviet partisan groups were formed in 1941, soon after Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Those groups fought against the Germans, but conflicts with Polish partisans were also common.
No. 302 Polish Fighter Squadron RAF was a Polish fighter squadron formed in Great Britain as part of an agreement between the Polish Government in Exile and the United Kingdom in 1940. It was one of several Polish fighter squadrons fighting alongside the Royal Air Force during World War II.
Kazimierz Leski, nom de guerreBradl, was a Polish engineer, co-designer of the Polish submarines ORP Sęp (1938) and ORP Orzeł, a fighter pilot, and an officer in World War II Home Army's intelligence and counter-intelligence.
The Polish Armed Forces in the West refers to the Polish military formations formed to fight alongside the Western Allies against Nazi Germany and its allies during World War II. Polish forces were also raised within Soviet territories; these were the Polish Armed Forces in the East.
The Battle of Bologna was fought in Bologna, Italy from 9–21 April 1945 during the Second World War, as part of the Spring 1945 offensive in Italy. The Allied forces were victorious, with the Polish II Corps and supporting Allied units capturing the city on 21 April.
Ulrich Grauert was a general in the Luftwaffe of Nazi Germany during World War II who commanded 1st Air Corps. He was killed on 15 May 1941 when his Junkers Ju 52 aircraft was shot down by F/Lt Jerzy Jankiewicz, flying a Supermarine Spitfire, and Sgt Wacław Giermer, flying a Spitfire II, from the No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron near Saint-Omer on the French channel coast.
The occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II (1939–1945) began with the German-Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, and it was formally concluded with the defeat of Germany by the Allies in May 1945. Throughout the entire course of the occupation, the territory of Poland was divided between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union (USSR) both of which intended to eradicate Poland's culture and subjugate its people. In the summer-autumn of 1941, the lands which were annexed by the Soviets were overrun by Germany in the course of the initially successful German attack on the USSR. After a few years of fighting, the Red Army drove the German forces out of the USSR and crossed into Poland from the rest of Central and Eastern Europe.
Throughout World War II, Poland was a member of the Allied coalition that fought Nazi Germany. During the German occupation of Poland, some citizens of all its major ethnic groups collaborated with the Germans. Estimates of the number of collaborators vary. Collaboration in Poland was less institutionalized than in some other countries, and has been described as marginal. During and after the war, the Polish State and the Resistance movement punished collaborators, with thousands sentenced to death.
This tendency influenced the unwillingness to recognize the disproportionally large contribution of Polish Intelligence to the Allied victory over Germany