Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Polish contribution to World War II
The European theater of World War II opened with the invasion of Poland by German armed forces in the 1939 Polish September Campaign. After Poland had been overrun, she managed to establish a government-in-exile, armed forces and an intelligence service outside Poland, contributing substantially to the Allied effort throughout the war. Poland never made a general surrender and was the only German-occupied country which did not produce a puppet government that collaborated with the Nazis.
After the country's defeat in the 1939 campaign, the Polish government in exile immediately organized in France a new army of about 80,000 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-mandated Syria, to which many Polish troops had escaped from Romania. The Polish Air Force in France comprised eighty-six aircraft in four squadrons, one and a half of the squadrons being fully operational while the rest were in various stages of training.
at the height of their power
|Deserters from the German Wehrmacht||89,300||(35.8%)|
|Evacuees from the USSR in 1941||83,000||(33.7%)|
|Evacuees from France in 1940||35,000||(14,0%)|
|Escapees from occupied Europe||14,210||(5,7%)|
|Recruits in liberated France||7,000||(2,8%)|
|Polonia from Argentina, Brazil and Canada||2,290||(0,9%)|
|Polonia from United Kingdom||1,780||(0,7%)|
|Note: Until 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 inducted.|
Source: Reference #4
After the fall of France, many Polish personnel had died in the fighting or been interned in Switzerland. Nevertheless, General Władysław Sikorski, Polish commander-in-chief and prime minister, was able to evacuate many Polish troops to Britain. In 1941, pursuant to an agreement between the Polish government in exile and Joseph Stalin, the Soviets released many Polish citizens, from whom a 75,000-strong army was formed in the Middle East under General Wladyslaw Anders ("Anders' Army").
The Polish armed forces in the west 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 WWII, 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 communist government organized its own army, the Polish People's Army (Wojsko Ludowe), which in 1944 numbered 78,000 and at the end of the war was close to 500,000 strong. In addition, the Armia Krajowa ("Home Army"; abbreviated "AK"), the Polish resistance forces in Poland itself, at their peak numbered some 200,000 regular soldiers and many more underground members and sympathizers.
Later, Polish pilots fought in the Battle of Britain, where the Polish 303 Fighter Squadron achieved 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 Britain. 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. 303 Squadron, named after the Polish-American hero, General Tadeusz Kosciuszko, achieved the highest number of kills (273) of all fighter squadrons engaged in the Battle of Britain, even though it only joined the combat on August 30, 1940: these 5% of pilots were responsible for a phenomenal 12% of total victories in the Battle.
Polish squadrons in Britain:
- No. 300 "Masovia" Polish Bomber Squadron (Ziemi Mazowieckiej)
- No. 301 "Pomerania" Polish Bomber Squadron (Ziemi Pomorskiej)
- No. 302 "City of Poznań" Polish Fighter Squadron (Poznański)
- No. 303 "Kosciuszko" Polish Fighter Squadron (Warszawski imienia Tadeusza Kościuszki)
- No. 304 "Silesia" Polish Bomber Squadron (Ziemi Śląskiej imienia Ksiecia Józefa Poniatowskiego)
- No. 305 "Greater Poland" Polish Bomber Squadron (Ziemi Wielkopolskiej imienia Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego)
- No. 306 "City of Toruń" Polish Fighter Squadron (Toruński)
- No. 307 "City of Lwów" Polish Fighter Squadron (Lwowskich Puchaczy)
- No. 308 "City of Kraków" Polish Fighter Squadron (Krakowski)
- No. 309 "Czerwień" Polish Fighter-Reconnaissance Squadron (Ziemi Czerwieńskiej)
- No. 315 "City of Dęblin" Polish Fighter Squadron (Dębliński)
- No. 316 "City of Warsaw" Polish Fighter Squadron (Warszawski)
- No. 317 "City of Wilno" Polish Fighter Squadron (Wileński)
- No. 318 "City of Gdańsk" Polish Fighter-Reconnaissance Squadron (Gdański)
- No. 663 Polish Artillery Observation Squadron
- Polish Fighter Team (Skalski's Circus)
Just on the eve of war, most of the major Polish Navy ships had been sent for safety to the British Isles. There they fought alongside the Royal Navy. At various stages of the war, the Polish Navy comprised 2 cruisers and a large number of smaller ships, including 3 destroyers and 2 submarines that had left the Baltic Sea in late August 1939.
- ORP Dragon (Danae class)
- ORP Conrad (Danae class)
- Escort destroyers
- ORP Krakowiak (Cracovian) (Hunt class)
- ORP Kujawiak (Kujawian) (Hunt class)
- ORP Ślązak (Silesian) (Hunt class)
- heavy minelayers:
- ORP Gryf (Gryf class )
The above list does not include a number of minor ships, transports, merchant-marine auxiliary vessels, and patrol boats.
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 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 Rozycki) at the Polish General Staff's Cipher Bureau (Biuro Szyfrow) in Warsaw had developed a number of techniques and devices--including Rozycki's "clock," Zygalski's "perforated sheets," and Rejewski's "cryptological bomb" (precursor to the later British "Bombe," so named after its Polish predecessor)--to facilitate decryption of messages produced on the German "Enigma" cipher machine. A month before the outbreak of World War II, on July 25, 1939, at Pyry in the Kabaty Woods just south of Warsaw, Poland disclosed her achievements to France and Britain, which had failed in all their own efforts to crack the Enigma cipher. Absent the subsequent Allied reading of Germany's Enigma ciphers, Britain would--in Winston Churchill's estimation--not have held out against Germany, and the U.S. would not have had Britain as a springboard to the European and North African theaters of operations. The outcome of the war in Europe would have been left to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to contest between them.
Home Army (Polish: Armia Krajowa) intelligence was vital in locating and destroying (18 August 1943) the German rocket facility at Peenemunde and in gathering information about Germany's V-1 buzzbomb and V-2 rocket. The Home Army delivered to Britain key V-2 parts, after a V-2 rocket, fired 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 Britain in an RAF plane, along with detailed drawings of parts too large to fit in the plane (see Operation III Most ). Analysis of the German rocket became vital to improving Allied anti-V-2 defenses.
Polish intelligence cooperated with the other Allies in every European country and operated one of the largest intelligence networks in Nazi Germany. Many Poles also served in other Allied intelligence services, including the celebrated Krystyna Skarbek ("Christine Granville") in Britain's Special Operations Executive.
- Polish Underground State
- Armia Krajowa, aka Home Army
- Polish Intelligence
Major battles and campaigns in which Polish regular forces took part:
- Polish September Campaign (1939)
- British campaign in Norway (Battle of Narvik)
- French Campaign
- Battle of Britain
- Battle of the Atlantic
- Battle of Tobruk
- Operation Jubilee (Battle of Dieppe)
- Battle of Lenino
- Battle of Normandy (D-Day)
- Battle of Monte Cassino
- Battle of Falaise
- Operation Market Garden (Battle of Arnhem: "A Bridge Too Far")
- Battle of Ancona
- Battle of Bologna
- Battle of Berlin
- Prague Offensive
- Replicas of the German Enigma cipher machine had been produced at the start of 1933 to the specifications of Polish mathematician-cryptologist Marian Rejewski, and two machines of the current model were given to the British and French just before the outbreak of war in 1939. Rejewski and his two cryptologist colleagues also invented the cryptological bomb, perforated Zygalski sheets, and other techniques and devices for breaking Enigma ciphers.
- Józef Kosacki invented the Polish mine detector, which would be used by the Allies throughout the war.
- The Vickers Tank Periscope MK.IV was invented by engineer Rudolf Gundlach and patented in 1936 as the Gundlach Peryskop obrotowy. It was copied by the British and used in most tanks of WW II, including the Soviet T-34, the British Crusader, Churchill, Valentine and Cromwell, and the American M4 Sherman. The main advantage of this periscope was that the tank commander no longer had to turn his head in order to look backwards. The design was also later used extensively by the Germans.
- A bomb-hatch system was invented by Wladyslaw Swiatecki in the 1930s and was used in the prewar Polish PZL P.37 Elk (Los ) bomber. In 1940 Swiatecki turned his invention over to the British, who used it in most British bombers. In 1943, an updated version was created by Jerzy Rudlicki for the American B-17 Flying Fortress.
- A rubber windshield wiper was invented by the Polish pianist Józef Hofmann.
- Henryk Magnuski, a Polish engineer working for Motorola, in 1940 invented the SCR-300 radio, the first small radio receiver/transmitter to have manually-set frequencies. It was used extensively by the American Army and was nicknamed the walkie-talkie.
- Wladyslaw Anders: An Army in Exile: The Story of the Second Polish Corps, 1981, ASIN 0898390435.
- Margaret Brodniewicz-Stawicki: For Your Freedom and Ours: The Polish Armed Forces in the Second World War, Vanwell Publishing, 1999, ISBN 1551250357.
- Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski: Secret Army, Battery Press, 1984, ISBN 0898390826.
- George F. Cholewczynski (1990). De Polen Van Driel. Uitgeverij Lunet. ISBN 9071743101.
- Jerzy B. Cynk: The Polish Air Force at War: The Official History, 1939-1943, Schiffer Publishing, 1998, ISBN 076430559X.
- Jerzy B. Cynk: The Polish Air Force at War: The Official History, 1943-1945, Schiffer Publishing, 1998, ISBN 0764305603.
- Robert Gretzyngier: Poles in Defence of Britain, London 2001, ISBN 190230454.
- Norman Davies: Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw, Viking Books, 2004, ISBN 0670032840.
- Norman Davies, God's Playground, Oxford University Press, 1981
- Lynne Olson, Stanley Cloud: A Question of Honor: The Kosciuszko Squadron: Forgotten Heroes of World War II, Knopf, 2003, ISBN 0375411976.
- Józef Garliński : Poland in the Second World War, Hippocrene Books, 1987, ASIN 0870523724.
- Jan Karski: Story of a Secret State, Simon Publications, 2001, ISBN 1931541396.
- Jan Koniarek, Polish Air Force 1939-1945, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1994, ISBN 0897473248.
- Stefan Korboński , Zofia Korbońska, F. B. Czarnomski: Fighting Warsaw: the Story of the Polish Underground State, 1939-1945, Hippocrene Books, 2004, ISBN 0781810353.
- Wladyslaw Kozaczuk , Enigma: How the German Machine Cipher Was Broken, and How It Was Read by the Allies in World War Two, edited and translated by Christopher Kasparek, University Publications of America, 1984, ISBN 0890935475. (This remains the standard reference on the Polish part in the Enigma-decryption epic.)
- Władysław Kozaczuk, Jerzy Straszak: Enigma: How the Poles Broke the Nazi Code, Hippocrene Books; February 1, 2004, ISBN 078180941X.
- Michael Alfred Peszke, Battle for Warsaw, 1939-1944, East European Monographs, 1995, ISBN 0880333243.
- Michael Alfred Peszke, Poland's Navy, 1918-1945, Hippocrene Books, 1999, ISBN 0781806720.
- Michael Alfred Peszke, The Polish Underground Army, the Western Allies, and the Failure of Strategic Unity in World War II, foreword by Piotr S. Wandycz, Jefferson, NC, McFarland & Company, 2005, ISBN 0-7864-2009-X.
- Polish Air Force Association: Destiny Can Wait: The Polish Air Force in the Second World War, Battery Press, 1988, ISBN 089839113X.
- Harvey Sarner: Anders and the Soldiers of the Second Polish Corps, Brunswick Press, 1998, ISBN 1888521139.
- Stanisław Sosabowski: Freely I Served, Battery Press Inc, 1982, ISBN 0898390613.
- E. Thomas Wood, Stanislaw M. Jankowski: Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust, Wiley, 1996, ISBN 0471145734.
- Steven J. Zaloga: Poland 1939: The Birth of Blitzkrieg, Osprey Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1841764086.
- Steven J. Zaloga: The Polish Army 1939-1945, Osprey Publishing, 1982, ISBN 0850454174.
- Adam Zamoyski: The Forgotten Few: The Polish Air Force in the Second World War, Pen & Sword Books, 2004, ISBN 1844150909.
- List of Polish armies in WWII
- List of Polish divisions in WWII
- Polish Secret State
- Polish government in exile
- Western betrayal
- Many books and articles on Soviet and Polish tanks and armor by author and military historian Janusz Magnuski
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