Polish Armed Forces in the East

Polish Armed Forces in the East

Polish Armed Forces in the East ( _pl. Polskie Siły Zbrojne na Wschodzie) (or "Polish Army in USSR") refers to military units composed of Poles created in the Soviet Union at the time when the territory of Poland was occupied by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in the Second World War.

Broadly speaking, there were two such formations. First was the Polish government-in-exile-loyal "Anders Army", created in the second half of 1941 after German invasion of the USSR led to the 30 July 1941 Polish-Soviet Sikorski-Mayski Agreement declaring an amnesty for Polish citizens held captive in the USSR. In 1942 this formation was evacuated to Persia and transferred to the Western Allies, whereupon it became known as the Polish II Corps and went on to fight Nazi German forces in Italy, including at the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Following this, the remaining Polish forces in USSR were reorganized into Soviet-controlled Polish I Corps in the Soviet Union, which in turn was reorganized in 1944 into Polish First Army ("Berling Army") and Polish Second Army, both part of Polish People's Army ("Ludowe Wojsko Polskie", LWP).

In 1944, the Polish People's Army was reorganised to become the military of the People's Republic of Poland.

Anders Army: 1941-1942

After Soviet occupation of the eastern part of interwar Poland by that time effectively defeated by the German invasion, the Soviets effectively broke off diplomatic relations with the evacuated Polish government.See telegrams: [http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/nazsov/ns069.htm No. 317] of September 10: Schulenburg, the German ambassador in the Soviet Union, to the German Foreign Office. Moscow, September 10 1939-9:40 p.m.; [http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/nazsov/ns073.htm No. 371] of September 16; [http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/nazsov/ns074.htm No. 372] of September 17 Source: The Avalon Project at Yale Law School. Last accessed on 14 November 2006; pl icon [http://ibidem.com.pl/zrodla/1939-1945/polityka-miedzynarodowa/1939-09-17-nota-sowiecka-grzybowskiemu.html 1939 wrzesień 17, Moskwa Nota rządu sowieckiego nie przyjęta przez ambasadora Wacława Grzybowskiego] (Note of the Soviet government to the Polish government on 17 September 1939 refused by Polish ambassador Wacław Grzybowski). Last accessed on 15 November 2006.] The diplomatic relations relations were however re-established in 1941 after German invasion of the Soviet Union forced Stalin to look for allies. Thus the military agreement from August 14 and subsequent Sikorski-Mayski Agreement from August 17, 1941, resulted in Stalin agreeing to declare the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in relation to Poland null and void,"In relation to Poland the effects of the pact have been on the basis of the Sikorski-Mayski agreement".
René Lefeber, Malgosia Fitzmaurice, "The Changing Political Structure of Europe: aspects of International law", Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, ISBN 0792313798, [http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0792313798&id=oGGSGhFbCDEC&pg=PA101&lpg=PA101&ots=oMTzLEUFfB&dq=Sikorski-Mayski+null+and+void&sig=MU4kcmGL_ZuTCrwpZTBXPgztXYM Google Print, p.101] ] and release tens of thousands of Polish prisoners-of-war held in Soviet camps. Pursuant to an agreement between the Polish government-in-exile and Stalin, the Soviets granted "amnesty" to many Polish citizens, from whom a military force was formed. Stalin also agreed that this military force would be subordinate to the Polish government-in-exile.

General Władysław Sikorski, the leader of the London-based exiled government of Poland, nominated General Władysław Anders - one of the Polish officers held captive in the Soviet Union - as commander of this new formation. The formation begun organization in Buzuluk area, and recruitment begun in the NKVD camps for Polish POWs. By the end of 1941 25,000 soldiers (including 1,000 officers) were recruited, forming three infantry divisions: 5th, 6th and 7th. In the spring of 1942 the organizing formation was moved to the area of Tashkent; 8th and 9th divisions were also formed that year.Note that as there was no coordination between Polish Armed Forces in the East and West, both formations shared numbers of some divisions, and divisions numbered 5 through 9 existed both within the Anders Army and Berling's First (1,2,3,4,6) and Second Armies (5,7,8,9,10).]

The recruitment process met several obstacles, particularly the case of significant numbers of missing Polish officers , the dispute over whether non-ethnic Poles and citizens of the Second Polish Republic (Jews, Belarusians, Ukrainians) were eligible for recruitment, Soviet assigning low priorities to logistics of this project and refusal to allow volunteers to leave USSR and join already existing and fighting Polish Armed Forces in the West.

In the second part of 1942, during the German Caucasus offensive (most notable part of which was the Battle of Stalingrad), Stalin agreed to use the Polish formation on the Middle Eastern front; and the unit was transferred via Persian Corridor to Pahlevi, Iran. As such, the unit passed from the Soviet control to that of the British government, and as the Polish Second Corps joined the Polish Armed Forces in the West. About 77,000 combatants and 41,000 civilians - former Polish citizens - left USSR with the Anders Army.

Berling Army: 1943-1945

After Anders Army left the Soviet controlled territory, and it became more and more apparent that the Soviet forces were able to hold the front against the German invaders without reliance on Western aid (Lend-Lease Act) or temporary allies (like the Polish government-in-exile), the Soviets decided to assume much greater control over remaining Polish military potential in USSR (ignoring the agreements signed with the Polish government-in-exile). Increasing number of volunteers were denied the opportunity to enlist in the Polish formations, instead they have been declared Soviet citizens and assigned to the Red Army. Activities of organizations and people loyal to the Polish government-in-exile, particularly the Polish embassy in Moscow, were curtailed and its assets confiscated. Finally, diplomatic relations between Soviets and the Polish government-in-exile were severed again as news of the Katyn massacre emerged in 1943.Soviet Note of April 25 1943, severing unilaterally Soviet-Polish diplomatic relations [http://www.electronicmuseum.ca/Poland-WW2/katyn_memorial_wall/kmw_note.html online] , last accessed on 19 December 2005, English translation of Polish document]

In 1943 the Soviet Union created in Moscow the Union of Polish Patriots (ZPP) as a communist puppet governmentcite book | author =Steven J Zaloga | coauthors = | title =Polish Army, 1939-1945 | year =1982 | editor = | pages = | chapter = The Polish People's Army| chapterurl = http://books.google.com/books?ie=UTF-8&vid=ISBN0850454174&id=AAdYFeW2fnoC&pg=PA26&lpg=PA26&dq=first+polish+army&vq=counter-government&sig=qPA6i-Gms1D-8JEiRw58CNeDmvc| publisher =Osprey Publishing| location = Oxford | id =ISBN 0-85045-417-4| url =http://books.google.com/books?ie=UTF-8&vid=ISBN0850454174&id=AAdYFeW2fnoC&dq=isbn+0850454174&pg=PP1&printsec=0&lpg=PP1&sig=ajafnskh3BRg59sdnerIgirmLBc| format = | accessdate = ] designed to counter legitimacy of the Polish government in exile; ZPP was led by the pro-Soviet Polish communist Wanda Wasilewska. [http://encyklopedia.pwn.pl/haslo.php?id=4002372 Związek Patriotów Polskic] , PWN Encyklopedia, last accessed on 23 March 2006]

At the same time a new army was created - the Ludowe Wojsko Polskie (Polish People's Army, LWP). Its first unit, the 1 Polish Infantry Division (1 Dywizja Piechoty im. Tadeusza Kościuszki), was created in summer 1943, reaching operational readiness by June/July. In August, the Division was enlarged to corps, becoming the foundation of the Polish I Corps in the Soviet Union. It would be commanded by General Zygmunt Berling; other notable commanders included General Karol Świerczewski and Col. Włodzimierz Sokorski. The division with its supported elements was sent to the Eastern Front in September 1943; one of the most notable battles was of that period was the Battle of Lenino, the first major engagement of the Berling Army. By March 1944 the Corps was strengthened with increasing number of armor and mechanical support, and numbered over 30 000 soldiers. In mid-March 1944 the Corps was reorganized into Polish First Army. The later Soviet-created Polish army units on the Eastern Front included the the Second (1945) and the Third Polish Armies (the latter was quickly merged with the second due to recruitment problems), with total smaller formations being 10 infantry divisions (numbered from 1st to 10th) and 5 armored brigades. Plans for a Polish Front were considered but dropped, and the Polish First Army was integrated into the 1st Belorussian Front.

These units were led by the Soviet commanders, appointed by the Soviets and fought under the Soviet general command (the Second Army, for example, was led by the Soviet general Stanislav Poplavsky). In Air Force of those formations 90% of officers and engineers were Soviet ones, the situation was similar in armored formation. In the Polish Second Army they consisted 60% of officers and engineers, and in the 1st 40%. In the command staff and training the percentage of Soviets was about 70 to 85%. Special political officers, almost exclusively made up of Soviets, oversaw the Polish soldiers. The Soviets created also political military police, based on thousands of secret informants called Główny Zarząd Informacji Wojska Polskiego in Polish. [http://web.archive.org/web/20050322163658/http://www.ipn.gov.pl/biuletyn/6/biuletyn6_2.html Polish historian Paweł Piotrowski on LWP] . Institute of National Remembrance, from Internet Archive. Last accessed on 23 March 2006.]

The First Army entered Poland from the Soviet territory in 1944. Ordered so by the Soviet leadership it did not advance towards Warsaw as Germans suppressed the Warsaw Uprising fought mainly by AK (General Zygmunt Berling was relieved from command for attempts to help the uprising), and in January 1945 after Germans stopped the uprising the 1st Army participated in the Soviet Warsaw offensive that finally ended the Nazi occupation of the ruined city. It took part in battles for Bydgoszcz, Kolobrzeg (Kolberg), Gdańsk (Danzig) and Gdynia losing 20,000 people in winter 1944-45 battles. In April-May 1945 the 1st Army fought in the final capture of Berlin. The Polish Second Army fought within the Soviet 1st Ukrainian Front and took part in the Prague Offensive. In the final operations of the war the losses of the two armies of the LWP amounted to 32,000.

By the end of the war, LWP numbered about 200,000 troops. Many of the soldiers were forced into military formations from former Armia Krajowa (Home Army) units taken prisoner during Soviet advances into Poland, while others joined in order to escape labour camps, prisons and Gulags in Soviet Union.

On 21 July 1944, by order of the Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego, the communist Armia Ludowa resistance group was integrated with Polish People's Army forming the Wojsko Polskie (Polish Army). Its first commander was General Michał Żymierski. On 8 August 1944 in one of his orders, the organizational remnants (recruitment offices, etc.) of the Polish Armed Forces in the East were dissolved.

The land forces were also accompanied by an air force formation, the Air Force of the Polish Army, created in July 1943.

ee also

*Polish Armed Forces in the West
*Polish contribution to World War II
*History of Poland (1939-1945)


External links

* [http://wojsko-polskie.pl/wortal/document,,id,2339.html Military contribution of Poland to World War II] , Polish Ministry of Defence official page
* [http://www.polishembassy.ca/files/Polish%20Armed%20Forces%20in%20WWII%20eng.pdf Polish contribution to the Allied victory in World War 2 (1939-1945)] , PDF at the site of Polish Embassy (Canada)
* [http://www.poland.gov.pl/ww2/ The Poles on the Fronts of WW2]
* [http://www.kasprzyk.demon.co.uk/www/WW2.html The History Of Poland: The Second World War]
* [http://www.przeglad-tygodnik.pl/index.php?site=historia&name=103 Kierunek Berlin] , Tygodnik Pomorski

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