Battle of Szack
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Eve of the battle
During the invasion of Poland the Polish Border Defence Corps (KOP) was severely stripped of all the reserves and heavy armament. All the available Polish forces were sent to the west to reinforce the units resisting the German invasion. When the Red Army invaded Poland on 17 September, there were barely any Polish forces to oppose them. The garrisons of the KOP were overstretched and after initial clashes and skirmishes for the border forts, the Polish units had to fall back.
The deputy commander of the KOP, general Wilhelm Orlik-Rueckemann decided to unite as many troops under his command as possible and join with the rest of Polish forces in the west. He ordered all the KOP forces in Polesie area to withdraw. In several days he managed to gather approximately 9,000 men under his command, coming from various units spread along a 300 kilometre long strip of the Polish-Soviet border. On 19 September he ordered all his units to march towards Kowel, where his forces were to be joined by the Independent Operational Group Polesie under general Franciszek Kleeberg. However, the difficult situation and the outcome of the battles of Brześć and Kobryń forced Rueckemann's group to change its plans. The Polish units changed the direction and started to march through the forests towards Włodawa and Kamień Koszyrski.
The group found itself in a no-man's-land between the Soviet forces and the Wehrmacht and could operate freely. However, the morale of the troops was low and on 27 September general Orlik-Rueckemann decided to engage the Soviet forces in order to achieve a victory and raise morale.
The Polish forces were marching in two columns. In the early morning of 28 September the northern column reached the forests near the village of Mielniki while the southern column reached the forests east of Szack (now Shatsk). Polish reconnaissance reported that the town of Shatsk was occupied by Soviet infantry and tanks. Orlik-Rueckemann ordered both columns to form a defensive line along the border of the forest and provoked the Red Army to attack.
At 8 o'clock in the morning the Soviet tank unit (composed mostly of the T-26 tanks) started a direct assault on Polish positions. The Polish forces did not open fire until the tanks came close. When the tanks were only some 500 metres from the Polish lines the Polish Bofors wz. 36 anti-tank guns opened fire. Soon they were joined by the infantry and the 75 mm artillery. All Soviet tanks were destroyed and the battalion of major Balcerzak was ordered to attack the town of Shatsk. The Soviet units were taken by surprise and after a short hand-to-hand fight the Soviet forces were routed. Only a small part of the motorised infantry managed to retreat, but had to leave behind all their lorries, artillery and 9 T-26 tanks. The Poles also captured the staff headquarters.
According to the orders of the Soviet 52nd Rifle Division found in the headquarters, the Soviet units operating from the Kobryń area and were to "clean up the area east of Bug River from the bands of Polish officers". At 2 o'clock in the evening the Soviet reserve units appeared in the area and Orlik-Rueckemann decided to withdraw his troops to the forests.
The Polish forces withdrew unopposed and started their march towards the Bug River. The only Polish unit destroyed by the Red Army was the tabor of KOP "Polesie" Brigade, caught by surprise near the village of Mielnik by the armoured troops of the Soviet 4th Army under general Vassili Chuikov. After a short fight the Polish unit surrendered. Upon the surrender all Polish officers and NCOs were shot on the spot (about 500).
However, the rest of the Polish forces evaded capture and crossed the Bug River, where they took part in the Battle of Wytyczno.
- Мельтюхов М. И. Советско-польские войны. Военно-политическое противостояние 1918—1939 гг. Часть третья. Сентябрь 1939 года. Война с запада — М., 2001
- Z bolszewikami nie walczyć Archived 2007-03-04 at the Wayback Machine. Obiektyw.net (1939-09-17). Retrieved on 2011-06-02.
- Encyklopedie w INTERIA.PL – największa w Polsce encyklopedia internetowa. Encyklopedia.interia.pl. Retrieved on 2011-06-02.
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- Czesław Grzelak (1993). Shatsk – Wytyczno 1939. Warsaw, Bellona. ISBN 83-11-09324-5.
- Stanley S. Seidner, Marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz Rydz and the Defense of Poland, New York, 1978, 286–287