|Letter to Bill O'Reilly|
Attached find a letter to Bill O'Reilly of Fox News from Dr. Thaddeus Radzilowski, President of the PIast Institute.
Your remarks on September 1st, the anniversary of the German Invasion of Poland, about the Polish Army collapsing when the Soviet Union invaded as Hitler’s Ally on September 17th, were not exactly accurate and a bit cavalier. The remark certainly deserved context.
Despite myths to the contrary, the Nazi attack on Poland was not exactly a walkover for the invaders. The Polish defense was spirited and courageous. In the course of the five week struggle the German casualties were about 48,000 with 14-15,000 dead and 32-33,000 wounded. The last great battle of the campaign was the town of Kock, October 2-5 with hundreds of casualties on both sides. Warsaw did not surrender until September 28th after a heroic defense. This does not sound like “collapse” to me. Most Polish aircraft were not, as legend has it, destroyed on the ground. The German air force lost over 160 aircraft to air to air combat. Altogether 285 Nazi aircraft were destroyed and an additional 279 were damaged so severely they could not return to battle. The Poles lost 260 aircraft of which 70 were lost to air to air combat. The skilled Polish Pilots who dealt such heavy losses to the Germans were a year later to save England during the Battle of Britain. They accounted for 20% of all enemy aircraft downed even though they entered the Battle only in September, 1940.
Other German material losses were also heavy: 674 tanks, 319 armored cars, 195 artillery pieces, 6045 vehicles, and 5538 motorcycles. The Germans used up 80% of their ammunition reserves. If France had invaded in mid September the Germans would have been very vulnerable indeed.
We have some idea of the ferocity of the 5 week struggle and the magnitude of the German losses when we compare the Battle for Poland with the Battle of Okinawa which is considered the “bloodiest” battle of the Pacific Campaign. American losses during the 11 week campaign were 12,000 dead and 25,000 wounded which is somewhat less the German losses in the five week battle in Poland.
Thus when Six Soviet Armies invaded eastern Poland there were few if any regular forces to oppose them. They initially faced only nine battalions of lightly equipped Border troops who were later joined by some regular army forces. The badly out numbered Poles fought well, in some cases fighting to the last man. As late as September 28, Polish forces routed the Soviet 52nd Rifle division and its supporting armor at the battle of Szack. On October 1st at Wytyczna they fought the Soviet 45th Rifle Division to a standstill with heavy losses. In this “easy” invasion the Soviet losses were 737 dead and almost 2000 wounded over a two week period. It is worth noting that U. S. losses in Iraq after more than a whole year of fighting from March, 2003 to April 2004 were coincidentally also 737 dead.
Although Poland was overwhelmed by the joint invasion of Nazis and Soviets in 1939, “collapse” is probably not the best or most accurate word to describe the character of Polish resistance and its fidelity to its treaty obligations to its allies who tragically ignored their own obligations to Poland.
Thaddeus C. Radzilowski, PhD
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