Battle of Przemyśl (1939)
|Battle of Przemyśl|
|Part of Invasion of Poland|
|Commanders and leaders|
|7th Infantry Division,
44th Infantry Division and
45th Infantry Division
|7 infantry battalions
1 engineer company
6 heavy artillery platoons
|Casualties and losses|
The Defence of Przemysl took place between September 11 - 14, 1939, during the Invasion of Poland. Polish Army garrison of former Austrian fortress of Przemysl (see Przemysl Fortress) managed to halt the advance of the Wehrmacht for three days. The city surrendered on September 14.
In the Second Polish Republic, Przemysl was an important military garrison, with headquarters of 9th Military District of the Polish Army stationed here (commandant: General Waclaw Scaevola-Wieczorkiewicz). Furthermore, Przemysl was home to 38th Lwow Rifles Infantry Regiment, which was part of 24th Infantry Division.
In the first days of German Invasion of Poland, 24th Infantry Division remained in reserve of Polish Commander-in-Chief. On September 3 it was attached to Operational Group Jaslo, part of Karpaty Army. The division was loaded on trains, and transported to Tarnów and Debica. In the second week of September 1939, frontline approached the San river, which was defended by troops of General Scaevola-Wieczorkiewicz. His forces, however, were inadequate to defend an extended line, also water level in the river was very low due to hot and dry summer of 1939, and the advancing Wehrmacht units were able to cross the San without difficulty. On September 8 General Kazimierz Fabrycy ordered preparation for the defence of Przemysl. Polish forces in the city were commanded by General Jan Chmurowicz, his chief of staff was Major Michal Gulcz. Military commandant of Przemysl was Colonel Mieczyslaw Sokol-Szahin.
In the night of September 8/9, Polish soldiers manned two defensive lines. Two infantry battalions with 7 cannons defended the district of Zasanie, and their task was to keep their positions on nearby hills until forces of 11th Infantry Division, fighting the Wehrmacht near Dubiecko, reached the safety of the fortress. Second line of defence was temporarily manned by one infantry battalion. Road bridge over the San was ready to be blown up, while rail bridge was barricaded with freight cars and barbed wire.
Since the beginning of the campaign, Przemysl was bombed by the Luftwaffe. On September 7 and 8, two raids brought widespread destruction and losses. On September 8, two platoons of anti-aircraft guns were brought to Przemysl from Krosno and Sanok, but on September 10, both platoons were transported to Lwow.
The Siege of Przemysl
On September 9, the evacuation of civil servants began. In the evening of that day, members of paramilitary organization Strzelec marched towards Lwow, and on September 10, evacuation of offices of 9th Military District took place. Due to chaotic situation in the city, army authorities were obliged to use military police to reintroduce order in Przemysl. The situation was worsened by masses of refugees from western Poland, and thousands of soldiers, whose units had been destroyed by the Germans.
On September 10 in the morning, German 4th Light Division reached the San near Radymno, and after a short skirmish with weak Polish forces, crossed the river. Next the Germans captured Jaroslaw, after a battle which lasted several hours. On September 11, German 2nd Panzer Division reached the area of Przemysl, chasing Polish 10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade.
A motorized column of 4th Light Division attacked Przemysl, trying to capture the city by surprise. The attackers were repelled by Polish artillery, but overal situation of Polish forces in the area of the city worsened, as in the south, motorized units of 1st Mountain Division captured Dobromil, and its patrols approached Przemysl on September 11, but failed to seize the city.
In the night of September 11/12, upon order of General Jan Chmurowicz, Poles attacked German artillery batteries, which were located in Kosienice. The raid was a failure, as Polish soldiers, facing German machine guns, had to retreat. On September 12 near Bircza, Polish 24th Infantry Division, commanded by Colonel Boleslaw Schwarzenberg-Czerny, was involved in heavy fighting with 2nd Mountain Division. In the evening of that day, the Germans broke through Polish positions, forcing the 24th I.D. to retreat.
On September 13, Polish heavy artillery was taken from Przemysl to Mosciska, but along the way, the transport was bombed by the Luftwaffe. In the night, units of Polish 11th Infantry Division managed to enter Przemysl, after heavy fighting with German 45th Infantry. Polish soldiers rested in Przemysl for a few hours, and in the morning of September 14 marched towards Lwow, leaving behind one infantry battalion with a battery of cannons.
On September 14, the defenders of Przemysl consisted of seven infantry battalions, a company of engineers, and six platoons of artillery. Altogether, these forces numbered several thousand soldiers. They came from different units, and in many cases did not know the city they defended. German forces consisted of 7th Infantry Division, and elements of 44th and 45th Infantry Divisions.
On September 14 in the morning, the Germans tried to capture the city in a frontal attack, but were halted by machine gun fire and artillery. Main fighting took place in the south, where Germans, after artillery bombardment, crossed the San and attacked the village of Kruhel Maly, which now is a district of Przemysl. After a Polish counterattack, in which bayonets were used, the situation there stabilized in the evening. In the north, German attacks also failed.
In the evening of September 14, Colonel J. Matuszek, who commanded the defence of the city after General Jan Chmurowicz, received order of General Kazimierz Sosnkowski, who commanded him to abandon Przemysl and march eastwards, to Lwow. Polish units retreated towards Mosciska, blowing up bridges behind them. On the next day in the morning Germans entered Przemysl.
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