Battle of Tuchola Forest

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The Battle of Tuchola Forest (German: Schlacht in der Tucheler Heide, Polish: Bitwa w Borach Tucholskich) was one of the first battles of World War II, during the 1939 invasion of Poland. The battle began 1 September and ended 5 September with a major German victory. Thanks to poor Polish command and control, as well as German numerical and tactical superiority, the Germans managed to cripple Poland's Army Pomerania and, by breaking through the Polish Corridor, to connect mainland Germany with East Prussia.[1]

The battle was fought against the judgment of General Wladyslaw Bortnowski, the commander of Army Pomerania, who believed the Corridor to be a very poor defensive position and had repeatedly asked for permission to withdraw his forces from it.[2]

Prelude[edit]

Positions of Polish and German forces before the battle

Tuchola Forest (Polish: Bory Tucholskie, German: Tucheler Heide) in Westprussia,[3] since 1920 Treaty of Versailles in the Polish Corridor, is a large area of mostly forest. Its difficult terrain was thought by the Polish high command as a good defensive position. However, the Germans had held their Truppenübungsplatz Gruppe military exercises in the area until 1919, and were therefore familiar with it, and furthermore General Heinz Guderian had been born in nearby Kulm).[4]

Polish forces in the theater comprised elements of the Pomeranian Army: 9th Infantry Division under colonel Józef Werobej, the 27th Infantry Division[5]:53 under general Juliusz Drapella, and Czersk Operational Group under gen. Stanisław Grzmot-Skotnicki.

German forces in the theater were composed of elements of the 4th German Army under general Günther von Kluge, specifically 19th Panzer Corps (commanded by general Heinz Guderian), and 2nd Army Corps under general Adolf Strauß. Those units were based in Western Pomerania west of the corridor.

19th Panzer Corps consisted of the 2nd Motorized Division under general Paul Bader, the 20th Motorized Division under general Mauritz von Wiktorin and the 3rd Panzer Division under general Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg. 2nd Army Corps was composed of two infantry divisions: the 3rd Infantry Division under general Walter Lichel and 32nd Infantry Division under general Franz Böhme.

Battle[edit]

Despite several tactical Polish victories, including the successful cavalry charge at Krojanty on 1 September, and the destruction of a German armored train near Chojnice, the German armies were able to advance quickly. Not all Polish forces were in position by 1 September and the rapid German advance generated confusion in the Polish ranks. In addition, communications problems prevented cohesive action on the part of the scattered Polish forces. The Poles were soon forced to abandon plans for a counterattack and retreated, pursued by more mobile German motorized and armored troops. The German forces had a significant amount of armor support, including over 300 tanks commanded by the famous panzer expert Guderian.

Most Polish units were surrounded by 3 September. Some were destroyed, while others managed to break through towards Bydgoszcz.

Aftermath[edit]

By 5 September the Germans had in large part completed their takeover of the Polish Corridor. At that point some German forces moved to erase isolated pockets of Polish resistance further north in fortified areas on the Baltic Coast, while others continued their push south-east, deeper into Polish territory.

On 6 September, Adolf Hitler visited Guderian and congratulated him on his swift progress.[6]

Order of battle[edit]

Polish[edit]

Polish Army
Groups Division or Brigade Regiment or Battalion
Army Pomorze
Bortnowski
Operational Group Czersk
Grzmot-Skotnicki
Pomorska Cavalry Brigade
Zakrzewski
2nd Chevau-légers Regiment
8th Mounted Rifles Regiment
16th Uhlan Regiment
18th Uhlan Regiment
Chojnice Detachment
Majewski

1st Rifles Battalion
18th Uhlan Regiment
Czersk Battalion
Tuchola Battalion
Kościerzyna Detachment
Staniszewski
Kościerzyna Battalion
Gdynia II Battalion
62nd Infantry Regiment
9th Infantry Division
Werobej
15th Infantry Regiment
22nd Infantry Regiment
34th Infantry Regiment
35th Infantry Regiment
27th Infantry Division
Drapella
23rd Infantry Division
24th Infantry Division
50th Infantry Division
15th Infantry Division
Przyjalkowski
59th Infantry Regiment
61st Infantry Regiment
62nd Infantry Regiment

German[edit]

Wehrmacht
Corps Division or Brigade Regiments
4th Army
Kluge
XIX Corps
Guderian
3rd Panzer Division
Schweppenburg
5th Panzer Regiment
6th Panzer Regiment
3rd Motorized Infantry Regiment
2nd Motorized Division
Bader
5th Motorized Infantry Regiment
25th Motorized Infantry Regiment
92nd Motorized Infantry Regiment
20th Motorized Division
Wiktorin
69th Motorized Infantry Regiment
76th Motorized Infantry Regiment
80th Motorized Infantry Regiment
II Corps
Strauss
3rd Infantry Division
Lichel
8th Infantry Regiment
29th Infantry Regiment
50th Infantry Regiment
32nd Infantry Division
Böhme
4th Infantry Regiment
94th Infantry Regiment
96th Infantry Regiment
III Corps
Haase
50th Infantry Division
Sorsche
121st Infantry Regiment
122nd Infantry Regiment
123rd Infantry Regiment
Wehrmacht Reserves 10th Panzer Division
Schaal
8th Panzer Regiment
86th Motorized Infantry Regiment
23rd Infantry Division
Brockdorff-Ahlefeldt
9th Infantry Regiment
67th Infantry Regiment
68th Infantry Regiment
218th Infantry Division
Freiherr Grote
323rd Infantry Regiment
386th Infantry Regiment
397th Infantry Regiment

References[edit]

  1. ^ Christer Jörgensen, Chris Mann, Strategy and Tactics: Tank Warfare, Zenith Imprint, 2001, ISBN 0-7603-1016-5, p. 35. Google Print
  2. ^ (in Polish) R. Ziobroń, Historia żołnierza tułacza. Działalność emigracyjna gen. Władysława Bortnowskiego, Rzeszów, 2009.
  3. ^ 1896 Map of West-East Prussia with Tucheler Heide south of Danziger Bucht Bay
  4. ^ Heinz Guderian: Erinnerungen eines Soldaten, "Ich hatte am 3.9 ... meinen Sohn Kurt wiedergesehen und mich dabei an den Türmen von Kulm, meiner Geburtsstadt, erfreut, die vom Ostufer der Weichsel herüberwinkten. Am 4.9 ... bei ihren Waldgefechten und endete auf dem alten deutschen Truppenübungsplatz Gruppe westlich Graudenz.", 1951,[1]
  5. ^ Zaloga, S.J., 2002, Poland 1939, Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd., ISBN 9781841764085
  6. ^ Martin Gilbert, The Second World War: A Complete History, Owl Books, 2004, ISBN 0-8050-7623-9 Google Print, p.6

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°36′00″N 18°00′00″E / 53.600000°N 18.000000°E / 53.600000; 18.000000