Incidents of the Polish Campaign, 1939:

German campaigns and battles 1919-1945.

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tigre
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Incidents of the Polish Campaign, 1939:

Post by tigre » Sat Oct 29, 2005 9:46 pm

Hello to all, I'll start posting this small unit action here; all of you are invited to contribute as well. Thanks in advance. I hope you find it interesting.

Tanks Against Warsaw
(A passage from Panzer packen Polen”contained in and translated from ‘Em lissant quelques etudes sur la campagne de Pologne, by Colonel E. M. G. Montfort, in Revue Militaire Suisse, January 1941.)

“Attack ! We, the men of the armored divisions, knows what that means. It is the purpose of our existence. Several times already we have attacked successfully over open ground. “But today there is something new. Eight days after the outbreak of hostilities, we are before a city of 1,300,000 inhabitants into which a penetration must be attempted.
“Air reconnaissance has disclosed that strong barricades have been erected to bar our entrance into the city.

Also we are naturally expecting the necessity of having to hight from street to street.
“Our Panzer troops spend the night before the attack under the Walls of the city, in well-protected bivouac, with firing positions organized on all sides. The guard, is relieved frequently, for we do not want to be surprised. From time to time we send a greeting to the city in the form of a shell which bursts afar.

“Five o’clock ! A disagreeable night has finally passed. The company commander returns from the group commander’s headquarters, where orders have been distributed. He calls the section leaders together to acquaint them briefly with the situation, and to give them orders for the attack.

“1‘ am ( Sergeant-major Ziegler) chief of the company command group, and I make up a combat crew, in my tank, with the driver and the radio telegrapher. My mission, with two other tanks, is to protect the company commander and, if necessary, establish liaison with the sections, or reconnoiter.

"Six o’clock ! Moving into place near the line of departure. A faint feeling of apprehension: no unnecessary words are exchanged; only a few brief orders to the driver and the telegrapher interrupt the silence. 1 look out from the interior of the turret, Behind me my good motor throbs and high in the air a few shells whistle. The plan of combat for the company and the order of attack arrive by radio. Our’ nick.name is ‘Buzzard’; and the last words of the order are: Buzzard’ to the combat. March!’

“The tanks roll along. In front of me the company commander. We cross a high barricade to the left. Our sections are visible in the gardens in front of the houses to the left and right. Rifle and machine.gun fire burst forth:
but that hardly disturbs us, accustomed as me are to the sharp sound of bullets which ricochet off the turret We search carefully for the spots from which this firing comes, and we respond to it, suddenly the section leader of the first echelon reports: Two tanks disabled!, Immediately the company commander orders the following section to push forward. This one in its turn is stopped shortly afterward. why? I do not know, I shall learn much later that It passed over mines.

.’Everything vibrates in me; apprehension has disappeared, and the good Stimmung’of attack is created. I ask the company commander for permission to take command of the rest of the sections of the first echelon, because the tank of the Second Section leader, which also hit a mine, has over turned.

“Authorizationt to push forward is granted to me, and I roll forward, Ordering the other tanks to follow me rapidly, Trees, little houses, and barricades are crushed, and the first street has been crossed. As we draw near we see everywhere sharpshooters, trenches and breastworks; but they have been inmediately abandoned by the Poles, so great is their
fear of our tanks. Perhaps they didn’t expect to see us arrive from across a mine field. During all this time the fusillade which is mining down on us from the houses has not ceased. I have my eye at the observation slit and, aided by the driver, I seek the proper road to follow.

“We begin to feel the heat in the tank. Sweat rolls down our faces, and we breath in lungs-full of powder smoke from cannon and machine-gun fire. That hardly bothers us; our nerves are, too taut. Unfailingly the radiotelegrapher maintains liaison with the company commander who is following. The advance continues steadily between houses and across courts into other gardens. Here too, they shoot at us from all sides. A short halt is maded; to orient our selves and to permit liaison with the tanks which.are following.

“Two hundred meters in front of me appears the angle of a wooden barricade which could be used for cover. I shout to the driver: ‘Hannes, full speed ahead!’ and point out the direction to him. The motor gives its maximum; I keep up a steady fire during the rush; the barrier is reached.

A glance through the rear observation slit shows me, thirty yards behind, the company commander. The other tanks are not following. ‘They will come,’ I think; and I order my Driver to press on.

“Another 200 yards and we find a street which leads to the center of the city. We want to take it because I envision the swift effect the mass of tanks would produce by attaining this objective. ‘Hit in the openingr cries my driver. An antitank shell has shattered the observation slit of the driver and broken the protective glass. The driver can no longer see I call to him to change the glass, while I feverishly turn the turret and open fire on a wooden shed from which the shell must have come.

‘.We reach the street. I look quickly behind. Now it is the company commander who is no longer there. In 300 yards three tanks have stopped! Why don’t they come?
The radio telegrapher continues uninterruptedly to give the order to advance. Dripping with sweat, seated down below in his corner, he telegraphs and hands me up drums of ammunition.

“My machine-gun Jams, I withdraw the lock; the socket is broken. Quickly I change the gun. I glance through the observation slit and see a civilian running toward us. A sudden movement of his arm—a grenade flies over and bursts on us without doing any damage He doesn’t have time to throw a second one because my gun cuts him to bits.

“Two hundred yards further along, on a railway embankment, about fifty Poles scatter, running. My machine gun fires again. A hail of bullets” mows down the enemy.
“During this time my radio telegrapher has been ceaselessly calling the tanks which remained behind. Suddenly tuned on the group frequency, he receives the following order: ‘Take command of the company and push forward!’.

What has happened to the company commander? Has he advanced too far without protection?.

“Two light tanks and one medium tank rejoin me. The order is given them to advance with me, and to push along this street toward the center of the city. At my right is the medium tank; behind me the two light tanks. While spraying suspicious points with lead, I suddenly see, halfway to my left in a garden, a burst of flame and I hear the explosion of a shell. The munition depot of a75-mm gun, which was in position ready to fire on us, has been accidentally hit. The entire gun crew has disappeared.

“And now, directly in front of us, an antitank obstacle looms up. There is no way to avoid it; we must cross it. Carefully, the tank on my right aproaches it and crosses. I concentrate my fire on the obstacle. All hell breaks loose ! In front of us several shells burst in quick succession. The 75-mm gun must now be in position somewhere else. I look for it and fire as hard as I can. While changing a magazine I glance around me. The two light tanks are in flames. Is there another gun behind us? May be it’s an enemy tank or an antitank; .qun ! I haven’t time to think very long. An order is given to the tank beside me to return along the road by which we came; and I fire again at the gun in front of me.

“Before turning, the medium tank received a 37.mm shell in its motor, but the shell did not burst. I grit my teeth and press my head against the gunsight, contracted by my search for the enemy. Incredible luck ! One of the tanks in flames gives forth a smoke which protects me in the rear, while the fire of the enemy in front of me continues to fall short. A shell whistles under the tank, tears out part of the motor chassis, and by its explosion lifts us a trifle off our springs.

“My accompanying tank has disappeared, Now is the difficult moment for us. ‘Turn around and go back !’ The driver turns the tank sharply, and plunges down the street passing burning tanks through clouds of smoke, Another 50 yards to cover before we reach the garden. I shoot continuously, raking the street with fire, From one moment to the next I expect to receive the fatal hit, It does not come.

“We reach the gardens and roll onto the principal street. Back of us we hear only a few gun shots and several bursts of machine-gun fire.

“From behind a bush a comrade, driver of one of the flaming tanks, rises suddenly. I open the turret cover, calls to him, and quickly he jumps to safety in to the tank onto the knees of the radio telegrapher.

“A burning doorway bars our path. My driver stops just in front of it; aims directly for it; and at one rush the door flies to pieces. Finally we reach the main road. Several tanks of our group are already assembled here. From the town comes a steady artillery fire which has put several tanks of our regiment out of action by direct hits.

“My turret no longer turns, Perhaps it is owing to the shock of hitting the doorway, or the result of the quantity of bricks which fell on us during the trip between the houses. Upon lifting the turret cover to see better, I observe nearby my company commander leaning against the corner of the house. Impassively, he is defending himself, pistol in hand, against enemy riflemen who are occupying the windows. He, too, jumps into my tank, and we are even more crowded than before, The turret damaged, five men in the tank—battle is hardly an easy matter for us!.

“During the return trip, the company commander told me that his tank was put out of action and his radio telegrapher wounded. He sent the wounded man to the rear, accompanied by the driver, while he remained forward and continued to tight with his pistol,.

“Finally we reach our original line of departure, Some comrades are already there. Their tanks were destroyed by guns or mines, and they returned on foot, They inform me that one of my men is dead, burned in one of the tanks which took fire behind me. His wounded driver was picked up.

“Several tanks of the group come up from behind in perfect order.

“The attack lasted five hours. It failed on account of the city’s powerful defense. ”

I think the german unit mentioned above was the 35 Pz Regiment part of the 4th Pz Division. Regards. Tigre.
Serás lo que debas ser o no serás nada. General José de San Martín.

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Post by Pirx » Mon Oct 31, 2005 2:33 am

4th Panzer Division tried September 9th 1939 enter to Warsaw. To September 10th this division lost 80 tanks. Whole division was withdraw to Sochaczew. Wehrmacht encircled Warsaw September 15th and artilery with Luftwaffe started bombardment wich ends September 27th.

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Post by Benoit Douville » Mon Oct 31, 2005 12:19 pm

It really proved that the German blitzkrieg campaign in Poland was a myth, the Polish defense was pretty effective against a superior enemy.

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Post by sid guttridge » Tue Nov 01, 2005 10:04 am

Hi Benoit,

I would suggest that the expensive failure of the first direct German tank attack on Warsaw only proved for the first time that tanks were vulnerable in an urban environment and required very close infantry support. It did nothing to undermine the wider Blitzkrieg "myth" about the rapidity of German success in open country.

The fact that after little more than a week of campaigning 4th Panzer Division was already in a position to launch a direct assault on Warsaw only goes to show how effective Blitzkrieg techniques were in open country.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Incidents of the Polish Campaign, 1939:

Post by tigre » Mon Nov 07, 2005 7:49 pm

Hello to all, here a picture of a panzer II rolling along a street of Warsaw, september 1939. From: Panzer II by Horst Scheibert.

Regards. Tigre.

Image
Serás lo que debas ser o no serás nada. General José de San Martín.

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Post by von_noobie » Thu Nov 17, 2005 3:56 am

from what i can tell no german tank should have ever entered a city no matter what,, let them surround and hold off any relief attempt or break out, atmost send in self propelled guns, or armoured cars. less important and easier to replace.

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Post by sid guttridge » Thu Nov 17, 2005 5:56 am

Hi von-noobie,

I think this was the first major use of armour in a large built-up area. Sometimes lessons have to be learnt the hard way.

The Germans had almost no self propelled guns at the time. Armoured cars would be equally vulnerable and rather less mobile across rubble.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by Ada » Thu Nov 17, 2005 6:58 am

Finally Germans invented/refreshed (they did similiar thing in middle ages in Glogow) great anti partisants' and tanks-safe idea. They were gathering civilians before moving tanks. So tanks were save against Polish resistance actions, and they still could free shoot to partisants.
Such events were reported by British agent to Churchill/Britain.
Ada

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Post by von_noobie » Thu Nov 17, 2005 9:45 pm

why yes i agree stuff has too be learnt the hard way hitler failed to learn from this time. eg: starlingrad.

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Post by Christoph Awender » Fri Nov 18, 2005 2:46 am

von_noobie wrote:why yes i agree stuff has too be learnt the hard way hitler failed to learn from this time. eg: starlingrad.
Why Stalingrad? Which similarities do you see with Warschau 1939? And you think Hitler decided such things like sending tanks into an urban area?

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Post by von_noobie » Sun Nov 20, 2005 10:24 pm

tell me what good did the tanks do in starlingrad, none from what i can tell.

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Post by sid guttridge » Mon Nov 21, 2005 2:15 am

Hi von-noobie,

Tanks do have value in urban fighting, such as Stalingrad. However, they have to operate in close co-operation with infantry or they become vulnerable to hand-held anti-tank weapons (even such low-tech ones as molotov cocktails) in confined spaces, where they must move slowly and opposing infantry can approach to close range under cover.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by Pirx » Mon Nov 21, 2005 3:15 am

In Arnherm or well protected by infantry tank or sp-gun was very effective against troops. Tank could be used in urban area, but like Sid wrote, infantry must well protect this vehicle.

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Post by Christoph Awender » Mon Nov 21, 2005 3:38 am

von_noobie wrote:tell me what good did the tanks do in starlingrad, none from what i can tell.
von-noobie if you use the "german" name of the city it is Stalingrad not starlingrad.
The way the tanks were used in Stalingrad was in no way comparable with Warschau 1939 nor is it relevant if Hitler learned from it or not because the field commanders which decided such things learned from it. This is shown by several orders and tactical guidelines that came out after the first experiences.

\Christoph

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Post by von_noobie » Mon Nov 21, 2005 4:07 am

ok i can understand that with close co-ordination with infintry they can be helpfull, but only to a certain point.

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