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SOS: I'm under fire ~ Major Sucharski [1]
The Battle Of Westerplatte was the first battle of the invasion of Poland by the German army, commanded by Friedrich-Georg Eberhardt,  Wilhelm Henningsen and Gustav Kleikamp. The Polish army at the time was lead by Henryk Sucharski (later promoted to general after surviving the war) and Franciszek Dąbrowski.

Perhaps most notable of the battle is the greatly disproportionate odds with which the Polish garrison had held out against, themselves numbering only about 210. By contrast, they faced some 3,400 German troops complete with naval and air support.

Prelude

In spring 1939, The polish starting upping the defences, as the growing risk of war continued. An alarm system was put in place along with the total blacking out of the area at night. Barbed wire, trip wires and other entanglements were put up and the forest was thinned out to benefit machine gun fire.[2]

Battle

First Day

On September 1, 1939, at 0448 local time, Germany began WW2 with its invasion of Poland. Three holes were made in the perimeter wall, along with the oil warehouse catching fire. Lieutenant Wilhelm Henningsen's marines advanced in three platoons while the Wehrmacht's Pioneers blew up the railroad gate going on the land-bridge. At this time the Germans expected an easy victory.

At this time Staff Sergeant Wojciech Najsarek, a Polish soldier, was killed by machine-gun fire, the first combat death of both the battle and war, first blood so to speak. [3]

After crossing the brick wall, the Germans came into an ambush. German soldiers found themselves caught in a kill zone of Polish crossfire from concealed firing points, some germans even thought they were being shot by snipers. All happening whilst barbed wire blocked quick movements from the germans. The Poles knocked out a machine gun nest at the German Schupo and Lt. Leon Pająk opened intense fire on the Germans, who ended up stoping their attack.

The single 76.2 mm field gun knocked out machine-gun nests on top of the warehouses across the harbour canal, but was destroyed by the ship's guns after firing of 28 shots.

Danzig Police had tried to seize control of the harbour on the other side of Westerplatte but were defeated.

Casualties: 50 Germans and 8 Poles

The Germans tried again at 0855 But were met with heavy barricades and fire. By noon the men fled and Henningsen was mortally wounded.

Second Day

A second attack was launched on the next morning (after an artillery barrage of 90 280 mm shells, 407 150 mm shells and 366 88 mm shells) but was repelled as well by the Polish forces, the Germans suffering high losses. The Polish soldiers eventually retreated from the Wał and Prom outposts making a strong ring of defence around the New Barracks in the centre of the peninsula.

At 17.30, 60 Junkers Ju-87B dive-bombers took off from an airfield near Słupsk. They carried 500-, 250- and 50-kg. bombs, as well as machine guns. The polish detected the bombers at about 18.00. Soon after, the Ju-87Bs took turns diving from around 4,000 m.  The Polish soldiers took refuge in the shelters near their action stations. 

The barracks were attacked by the first bombers. The building was hit twice, but its had been made specialy for this, and held out. The bombs first went through the building’s top two concrete floors, which reduced the impact and dispersed the shock from the explosion. This left only the third and last ceiling of the cellar, which shelter the crews. No one was even wounded after the attack.


A direct hit by a 500-kg. bomb wipped out Guardhouse no. 5. Only two soldiers from its crew survived, with serious injuries. Guardhouse no. 2 was damaged and bombs destroyed ammunition warehouses nos. 2, 4, 5 and 7; the non-commissioned officers’ casino was also damaged. All four mortars were too destroyed by the bomb explosions. The water supply system and the kitchen were hit and destroyed too. This meant that from then on all of the soldiers would not be able to get large amounts of water or be able to cook.


Casualties: Polish: Ten Dead Six Wounded.

The raid shocked most of the polish soldiers so much, some could not fight after. The system of defense had been weakened and disorganised. If the German soldiers had of raided then, the Polsish would have been in a bad situation, and could have been beaten. Lucky for the Polish no more attacks came that day.

Thinking that a attack would come however, all important documents were burnt, after which some of the officers in command wanted to surrender, but in the end they all decided to carry on to fight. The night of 2-3 September was calm, the crew covered their positions and the shock of the air raid gradually receded.

Third Day

From the 3-6 of september the Germans carried on to gather together forces. A torpedo boat, T-196  , and a later the Von der Groeben. As the days past constant exchange in fire accrued.

Fourth Day

On the 4th the T-196 shelled Westerplatte, with Von der Groeben joining in later. There however were no human losses. Also on the 4th German heavy mortars were set up near the Wisloujscie fortress. 

Fifth Day

On the 5th at 9:00 the battery 105-mm howzits opened fire on Weterplatte. It caused little damage and few human injuries but did exhaust the Polish defenders. Captain Mieczyslaw Slaby, the surgeon, could not treat the injured and so they got worse and worse.

Sixth Day

On the night of 5-6 the Germans attempted to burn the Westerplatte forest, which successfully camouflaged the Polish positions and made it difficult for the Germans to spot them and aim at them. They rolled a cistern containing a flammable substance onto the peninsula and planned to explode it near the Polish line of defence. But the cistern blew up prematurely near the German trenches, Luckily for the Germans, the fire went out quickly. 

On the 6th of September heavy-mortar shelling started from the direction of Wisłoujście. It had very little success, but one of the shells blew up near Guardhouse no. 2 and damaged it, but caused no human losses. One person was wounded in the barracks. 

The Germans tried there burning of the forest again. The defenders were not surprised and opened fire from their heavy machine guns and a small anti-tank cannon. The cisterns exploded and went out again quickly. 

Seventh Day

On 7 September at 4.30, the Schleswig-Holstein again began to shell Westerplatte. Fire from the machine guns located on the upper floors of the buildings in the New Port also started. At 5.00 the German infantry began to reconnoitre the Polish positions. They were stopped by fire from Guardhouses nos. 1 and 2 and from the Fort, Bieniasza and Sgt. Deik’s outposts. The Schleswig-Holstein directed her fire at Guardhouse no. 2, seriously damaging it making it no longer good for fighting.

At about 7, the Germans began to retreat, under cover of the battleship Schleswig-Holstein’s anti-aircraft gun fire. After the retreat the Germans again tried to set fire to the forest, again they failed.

Surender

Guardhouses no. 2 and 5 were out of the fight, Guardhouses nos. 1 and 4 were damaged, the number of wounded was growing and the condition of those who had been wounded early was desperate.Water, food and supplies were running out. Major Sucharski decided to surrender, and a white flag was hung in a barracks window. 

Some of the Westerplatte garrison gathered in front of the barracks for a last assembly, were marched away to prison as POWs. The Germans escorted all the Polish soldiers who were able to walk to the environs of the Mewi Szaniec, where they were searched and their information was recorded. 

The wounded were sent to various hospitals in Gdańsk. The Polish officers were then moved to the Centralny Hotel and the non-commissioned officers and privates to a provisional prison in the Biskupia Górka fortress. The officers were transported to Oflags on 10 September and the rest of the men to Stalags on 12 September.

Stats

Fifteen Polish soldiers were killed and 26 wounded in the heroic defence of the Military Transit Depot on Westerplatte, but the casualties may have been higher. The number of dead on the German side is estimated at 50 and of wounded at 121. But these figures have also never been confirmed.

References

  1. Mann, C, 2008, Great Battles of World War II 
  2. www.muzeum1939.pl
  3. backtothebattle.wordpress.com, back-to-the-battle-of-westerplatte
 

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