74th Infantry Regiment (Poland)

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The 74 Infantry Regiment (Polish 74 pułk piechoty) was a Polish military unit. Created during the Greater Poland Uprising, it entered the Polish Army and fought in the Polish-Soviet War and Invasion of Poland. During Operation Tempest of 1944 it was re-created by the Home Army.

The unit was created under the name of III Regiment of Land Defence (III pułk obrony krajowej) in 1919, as a merger of several battalions of infantry of Greater Poland. Among them were the II battalion of western Poznań, III battalion of Krotoszyn and IV battalion of eastern Poznań. On October 2, 1919 captain Kazimierz Zenkteler was assigned to the unit as the first commanding officer and the unit was renamed to IV Regiment of Land Defence. After Zenkteller was replaced by Lt. Antoni Nieborak, the unit's number was changed to I.

After the end of the Greater Poland Uprising the regiment was reformed, reinforced with HMGs and partially demobilized. It took part in taking over the town of Wieleń from the German administration on January 17, 1920. Again renamed, this time to 1st Reserve Regiment, it was included in the Polish Army and sent to the front of the Polish-Bolshevik War. Almost annihilated during the Battle of Grodno, it was reinforced by Lt. Lisewski it again entered combat during the Battle of the Niemen River, after which it was withdrawn to the training ground in Biedrusko. After the cease-fire and signing of the Riga peace treaty, the regiment was moved to Lubliniec on June 26, 1922.

During the interbellum, it was one of the Silesian units, with the majority of recruits coming from that region of Poland. After the secret mobilization of March 15, 1939, the regiment - until then held en cadre - was reinforced to 75% of strength and attached to Częstochowa-based Polish 7th Infantry Division. Its task in case of a possible war with Germany was to defend the town of Lubliniec, the westernmost town of Poland, which was surrounded by German territory on three sides. To do that, a line of fortifications and anti-tank obstacles was built around the town and the regiment also manned MG nests along the Polish-German border. On August 24, 1939, another 222 soldiers arrived and the unit was fully reinforced.

After the outbreak of the Invasion of Poland at four o'clock in the morning on September 1, the German 46th Infantry Division crossed the border and headed towards the town. However, the German infantry and tanks were repelled and withdrew, while the task of destroying the fortified city was left to the Luftwaffe. The town was destroyed at 11 am, yet the German tank assault could not follow as the tank barrier surrounded the city. This allowed the cut-off 74th regiment to withdraw to a second line of defence in the village of Kochanowice. Heavy fighting for the town began, with the Polish MGs successfully preventing the German infantry from entering the town. The Germans suffered heavy losses, but their numerical superiority was evident and by 12.30 the Poles were pushed out of the town, with a loss of 177 men (both killed and wounded). It is estimated that the German losses were twice as high, mostly due to minefields and machinegun fire.

The 74th Regiment then withdrew to Herby and manned the Boronów-Herby-Woźniki line. Reinforced by Kraków Cavalry Brigade, the unit was pushed back by a German assault and the regiment lost its commander, Major Jan Zapolski. Along with the remnants of the 7th Division, the regiment withdrew towards the Vistula. There, the remainder of the regiment took part in the defence of Ciepielów on September 8, 1939. Assaulted by the German 11. Kp/III motorized battalion of the 15th Infantry Regiment, the combined I battalion of the 74th regiment held its position and defended the approach to the town of Zwoleń. Commanded by Maj. Józef Pelc, the battalion was a combination of all the forces of the regiment and numbered only about 500 men. After the German 15 Infantry Regiment assaulted the Polish positions with the assistance of tanks, the Polish unit surrendered. Out of approximately 450 Polish POWs, 250 were murdered on the spot after having their documents taken by the Germans. The remaining 200 were marched towards the rear, with additional 50 killed by a German armoured car. Major Pelc was killed in the skirmish, while his deputy, Captain Cyruliński, committed suicide after seeing what happened to his men. The wounded soldiers of the 74 regiment were also killed by the Germans after the battle.[citation needed]

During the Operation Tempest of 1944, the unit was recreated by the Radom-Kielce Armia Krajowa Area and assigned to a recreated 7th Infantry Division Orzeł.

References[edit]

  • Jan Przemsza-Zieliński (1989). Księga wrześniowej chwały pułków śląskich (Book of September Glory of Silesian Regiments). Katowice, KAW. pp. 328 + 224. ISBN 83-03-02883-9. 
  • Jan Przemsza-Zieliński (1991). Pułki śląskie w wojnie polsko-niemieckiej 1939 roku (Silesian Regiments in the Polish-German War of 1939). Sosnowiec, Sowa Press. p. 48. 
  • Jan Przemsza-Zieliński (1993). Śląski tryptyk wrześniowy (Silesian September Triptic). Sosnowiec, Sowa Press. p. 88. ISBN 83-85876-07-3. 
  • Jan Przemsza-Zieliński (1994). 73 pułk piechoty w bitwie granicznej (73rd Infantry Regiment in the Battle for the Borders). Sosnowiec, Sowa Press. p. 55. ISBN 83-85876-21-9.