Battle of Grodno (1939)

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For other uses, see Battle of Grodno.
Battle of Grodno
Part of Invasion of Poland
Battle of Grodno
Overhead view of Grodno, 1935
Date September 20–24, 1939
Location Grodno, Poland
Result Soviet victory
 Soviet Union  Poland
Commanders and leaders
Soviet Union Ivan Boldin
Soviet Union Mikhail Petrov[1]
Poland Wacław Jan Przeździecki
Poland Józef Olszyna-Wilczyński
Poland Edmund Heldut-Tarnasiewicz
15th Tank Corps
Unknown number of tanks and infantry
2,000-2,500 (September 20)
3,500-4,000 (September 21)
2 AA guns
Casualties and losses

Soviet counts:
57 KIA
159 WIA
23 AFVs

Polish counts:
800 KIA, MIA and wounded
Soviet counts:
644 KIA
1,543 captured

The Battle of Grodno took place between 21 September and 24 September 1939, during the Soviet invasion of Poland.[2]:82 It was fought between improvised Polish units under Gen. Wacław Jan Przeździecki and the Red Army of the Soviet Union, at the time in a non-aggression agreement with Nazi Germany under the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact.


The Soviet aggression caught much of the eastern Poland virtually undefended, as most of the Polish forces from the area had already been transferred to the German front. After breaking through overstretched defences of the Border Defence Corps, the Soviet 15th Tank Corps started a fast advance towards the city of Grodno. Commander of the pre-war Grodno Military Area Command Gen. Józef Olszyna-Wilczyński, together with the mayor of Grodno Roman Sawicki, started organizing city defences, based mostly on march battalions, volunteers, Boy Scouts and police forces[citation needed].


Ill-equipped, undermanned and lacking any anti-tank artillery, the Polish defenders relied mostly on improvised anti-tank means such as bottles of gasoline or turpentine, small arms fire, and anti-tank obstacles. On 20 September, the Soviet tanks of the Soviet 27th Light Tank Brigade of the 15th Tank Corps reached the city's outskirts. Although both numerically and technically superior, the Soviet forces lacked infantry support and oil, which stopped many tanks. Also, the tank crews had no experience in urban warfare, which was a significant help for the defenders.

The Soviets tried to seize the city from the south through the bridge over the Niemen River. However, the initial assault was repelled. In the early morning of 21 September, the defenders were joined by the remnants of the reserve Wołkowysk Cavalry Brigade under Brigadier General Wacław Przeździecki. After two days of heavy fighting, often in close quarters, much of the city centre was destroyed by Soviet artillery. Seeing no chance for further defence, on 22 September the remainder of the Polish forces withdrew towards the Lithuanian border. According to Soviet sources, the Red Army suffered casualties of 57 killed and 159 wounded. However, Polish historians Andrzej Krzysztof Kunert and Zygmunt Walkowski claim that the Red Army lost around 800 killed, missing or wounded. They also lost 19 tanks and four armored cars.

Polish losses, both civilian and military, remain fully unknown, although Soviet records do exist - 644 killed, 1,543 captives (66 officers and 1,477 soldiers[3]) plus salvage: 514 guns, 146 machine guns, one mortar, one anti-aircraft gun.


A Soviet BT-5 fast tank; the 15th Tank Corps had around 460 of these tanks.[1]

After the battle, the remaining forces of the Wołkowysk Cavalry Brigade broke through the lines of the reconnaissance battalion of the 2nd Light Tank Brigade in the Battle of Kodziowce and headed for the Augustów Forest.

About 300 Polish defenders of the city, including teenage boys, were murdered by the Soviets after the battle.[4] The victims were both Polish students (20) and soldiers (30) as well as an unknown number of civilians.[4] Poles were judged by the Soviet justice organs for their participation in the defense of the city and were reproached with the participation in the armed resistance movement against the Red Army and sentenced.[4]

Opposing Forces[edit]


Polish Army
Defense Unit
Grodno Defense Group
Wołkowysk Cavalry Brigade
32nd Armored Reconnaissance Group
94th Artillery Battery


Soviet Army
Corps Brigade
Cavalry-Mechanized Group
15th Tank Corps
2nd Tank Brigade
27th Tank Brigade
20th Motorized Rifle Brigade
21st Tank Brigade


  1. ^ a b Magnuski, Janusz, and Maksim V. Kolomiec. Czerwony Blitzkrieg: Wrzesień 1939: Sowieckie Wojska Pancerne W Polsce. Warszawa: Pelta, 1994. Print.
  2. ^ Zaloga, S.J., 2002, Poland 1939, Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd., ISBN 9781841764085
  3. ^ The Fate of Poles in the USSR 1939~1989" by Tomasz Piesakowski ISBN 0-901342-24-6 Page 39
  4. ^ a b c "Investigation concerning the murder of approximately 300 civil and military inhabitants of Grodno in September 1939 by the officials of the Soviet state.". 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°40′00″N 23°50′00″E / 53.666667°N 23.833333°E / 53.666667; 23.833333