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Operation Tempest (Polish: akcja „Burza”, sometimes referred in English as Operation Storm) was a series of uprisings conducted during World War II by the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa – the Home Army, abbreviated "AK"), the dominant force in the Polish resistance.
Operation Tempest was aimed at seizing control of cities and areas occupied by the Germans while they were preparing their defenses against the Soviet Red Army. Polish underground civil authorities wanted to take power before the arrival of the Soviets.
From its inception the Home Army had been preparing a national armed rising against the Germans. The basic framework of the future rising was created in September 1942. According to the plan, the Uprising was to be ordered by the Polish Commander-in-Chief in exile when the defeat of the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front became apparent. The Uprising was to begin in Central Poland: in the "General Gouvernement", Zagłębie, Kraków Voivodeship, and the Białystok and Brześć areas.
The Uprising's basic objectives were to:
- end the German occupation;
- seize arms and supplies needed for a Polish regular army on Polish soil;
- counter the threat from the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (see Massacres of Poles in Volhynia);
- rebuild a regular Polish Army;
- rebuild civil authority, communications, and an arms industry;
- maintain peace and order behind the front lines; and
- begin offensive operations against Wehrmacht forces still on Polish soil.
Reconstruction of a Polish regular army was to be based on the prewar Polish order of battle. Home Army units were to be turned into regular divisions. Initially to be created were 16 infantry divisions, three cavalry brigades and one motorized brigade, to be equipped with captured weapons or with arms and supplies delivered by the Allies. The second phase was to see the re-building of an additional 15 divisions and 5 cavalry brigades which, before World War II, had been stationed in eastern and western Poland.
The plan was partly implemented. Beginning in 1943, Home Army units were grouped into larger units bearing the names and numbers of prewar Polish divisions, brigades and regiments.
In early 1943, after the German defeat at Stalingrad, it was clear that the western Allies had made relatively little progress toward an invasion of the European continent, and that the planned Polish rising would face a still powerful German army rather than units retreating to an already defeated homeland.
In February 1943, the Home Army chief, General Stefan Rowecki, amended the plan. The Uprising would take place in three stages. The first stage would be an armed rising in the east (with main centers of resistance at Lviv and Vilnius) in advance of the approaching Red Army. In preparation, the "Wachlarz" organization was formed. The second stage would be an armed struggle in the zone between the Curzon Line and the Vistula River; and the third stage would be a national rising over the rest of Poland.
On April 25, 1943, Polish-Soviet diplomatic relations were broken by Joseph Stalin due to Polish inquiries about the Katyn massacres, and it became clear that the advancing Red Army might not come to Poland as a liberator but rather, as General Rowecki put it, "our allies' ally." On November 26, 1943, the Polish government in exile issued instructions that, if diplomatic relations had not resumed with the Soviet Union before the Soviets entered Poland, Home Army forces were to remain underground pending further decisions.
The Home Army's commander on the ground, however, took a different approach, and on November 30, 1943, a final version of the plan was drafted.
Overview of the operation
The plan was to cooperate with the advancing Red Army on a tactical level, while Polish civil authorities came out from underground and took power in Allied-controlled Polish territory. This plan was approved by the Delegate of the government-in-exile and by the Polish underground parliament (Krajowa Reprezentacja Polityczna).
On January 2, 1944, Red Army forces of the 2nd Belarusian Front crossed the prewar Polish border. At the same time, massacres of Poles in Volhynia reached their peak and the 27th Polish Home Army Infantry Division was formed. Thus began Operation Tempest. The Division managed to contact the commanders of the advancing Red Army and began successful joint operations against the Wehrmacht. Together they retook Kowel (April 6) and Włodzimierz[disambiguation needed]. The Division was, however, soon forced to retreat west, and in the Polesie area was attacked by both German and Soviet forces. Polish soldiers taken prisoner by the Soviets were given the choice of joining the Red Army or being sent to Soviet forced-labor camps. The remnants of the Division crossed the Bug River, where they were attacked by Soviet partisan units. After liberating the towns of Lubartów and Kock, the Division (reduced to some 3,200 men) was surrounded by the Red Army and taken prisoner.
Operation Ostra Brama
In the north, on July 7, 1944, the forces of the Vilnius and Nowogródek Home Army districts (some 13,000 men under Colonel Aleksander Krzyżanowski) launched an attack on German-held Vilnius, although the attack stalled until the arrival of Soviet forces. The AK and Soviet armies then jointly took the city on July 13. Prior to the assault, the surrounding countryside had also been liberated by Polish and Soviet partisans. Cooperation ended almost immediately after the liberation of Vilnius; on July 14, Krzyżanowski and his officers were disarmed and imprisoned, and AK units who resisted being disarmed were violently crushed by Soviet forces, with dozens of Polish fatalities.
On July 23, Home Army forces in Lwów (now Lviv) began an armed rising in cooperation with advancing Soviet forces. In four days the city was liberated. The Polish civil and military authorities were then summoned to "a meeting with Red Army commanders" and taken prisoner by the Soviet NKVD. Colonel Władysław Filipkowski's men were forcibly conscripted into the Red Army, sent to forced-labor camps, or went back underground.
Seeing the fate of the Home Army forces that had taken part in Operation Tempest, the Polish government in exile and the Home Army's current commander, General Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski, decided that the last chance for regaining Poland's independence was to open an uprising in Warsaw. On July 21, 1944, Bór-Komorowski ordered that the Warsaw Uprising begin at 17:00 hours on August 1, 1944. The political goal was to emphasize for the Allies the existence of the Polish government and Polish civil authorities. Warsaw was to be taken in order to allow the legitimate Polish government to return from exile to Poland.
At the same time, other Home Army districts were also mobilized. Units of the Kraków area were preparing an uprising, similar to the one in Wilno, Lwów and Warsaw, but it was cancelled due to several reasons (see: Krakow Uprising (1944)). In the Kielce and Radom area, the 2nd Polish Home Army Division was formed and took control of the entire area except for the cities. Other units were also mustered in Kraków, Łódź and Greater Poland.
The Germans' suppression of the Warsaw Uprising, in the absence of Soviet assistance to the insurgents, marked the end of Operation Tempest. Joseph Stalin would not let the Polish government in exile return and instead created a puppet Moscow-backed government, while arresting or killing Home Army personnel and members of the civil authorities. Also the strategic priority was focused to the south to oil fields in Romania. In autumn 1944 many Home Army units were disbanded, while remaining forces returned underground.
- Polish Underground State
- History of Poland (1939–1945)
- Polish contribution to World War II
- Armia Krajowa
- Armia Krajowa
- Marek Ney-Krwawicz, Armia Krajowa. Szkic Historyczny, Wydawnictwo Ars Print Production, Warszawa, 1999, ISBN 83-87224-17-0
- Wojciech Roszkowski, Najnowsza historia Polski 1914-1945, Świat Książki, Warszawa, 2003, ISBN 83-7311-991-4
- Włodzimierz Borodziej, Barbara Harshav. The Warsaw uprising of 1944. University of Wisconsin Press, 2006.