Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Poland Defeats the Soviets: Stalin Will Never Forget, Part II

By Jaroslaw Centek, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland

Stalin and Tukhachevsky Would Both Be Blamed for the Soviet Defeat

Battle of the Vistula

The Polish situation was critical, given the intensified enemy pressure at the Bug River. Thus, it was necessary to retreat to the last possible line of defense–the Vistula River. The Polish high command decided to regroup and form an assault group on the Wieprz River, on the left flank of the Soviet advance. The Poles were determined to defend the right bank of the Vistula in the vicinity of Warsaw, which resulted in heavy fighting. Apart from concentrating their forces in that area, the Soviets also advanced in the northern direction in order to cross the Vistula north of the Polish capital and capture it from the western side, as happened in 1831.

During those dramatic days in mid-August 1920, the Poles succeeded not only in stopping the advance towards Warsaw but also in regrouping their forces in preparation for a massive counteroffensive. On 15 August 1920, the day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Poles attacked on the left flank; a day later they began an attack on the right wing from the Wieprz line. The enemy was completely surprised and failed to put up any significant resistance.

The "Manoeuver from Wieprz" was an operational masterpiece. It is difficult to determine its authorship, but most probably it was either the Polish chief of the general staff, General Tadeusz Rozwadowski (1866-1928), or the head of state and supreme commander, Josef Pilsudski. The contribution of French general Maxime Weygand (1867-1965), who is sometimes credited with the initiative, is somewhat unlikel since French doctrine favored static warfare. In the course of the Vistula battle, the Soviets' northern front was crushed. The remnants withdrew to the east or crossed the German border in East Prussia and applied for internment. However, the Germans sent them back to Russia.

Polish Officers with Captured Soviet Flags

Battle of the Neman

The last main battle of the war took place at the Neman River between 20 and 26 September 1920. This time the Poles attacked from the outset. Despite some Soviet counterattacks, the Polish troops crushed the enemy's resistance. Tukhachevsky had to retreat, and his front found it impossible to restrain the Polish forces in pursuit. However, the Poles were also exhausted, so both sides decided to sign a truce in October 1920.

Peace Treaty in Riga

The peace negotiations were conducted in the Latvian capital of Riga. Since the Poles had been victorious, they would have been entitled to demand a border well to the east of the River Bug. The members of the Polish delegation, however, were unwilling to incorporate too much territory where Poles would be a minority. Therefore, Minsk was left to the Bolsheviks and the new border was drawn well to the west of the ceasefire line. The new frontier closely resembled the old one of the years 1793-1795, of course with some corrections in favor of Poland

Source: International Encyclopedia of the First World War

1 comment:

  1. American WWI veteran pilot volunteers formed the Kosciuszko Squadron for the Polish Air Force and fought with them against the Soviets. That was the 303 Squadron, later to be famous again in WWII. Merian Cooper, of Flying Tigers and Hollywood fame, was the co-founder