Warsaw after being bombed repeatedly by the Luftwaffe, September 1939
73 years ago on the morning of 1 September 1939, a German army of 1.25 million men, including six armored divisions and eight motorized divisions with armored units, crossed the border into Poland behind a heavy aerial bombardment. History knows this invasion by the name of German operation title of Case White or in Poland as the 1939 Defensive War.
Hitler had ranted about Danzig and the Polish Corridor, but the northern wing of his attack headed for Warsaw, while the southern wing swept through Krakow and Lodz.
Although the Polish Army would have outnumbered the attacking German army—the Wehrmacht—once it had all been mustered, instead the German army were met by 17 ill-equipped infantry divisions. The Poles had just one armored brigade-660 tanks in all, versus Germany 2,100. In some cases Polish Calvary units were utilized but never against Panzer Brigades, instead they were used as messengers between the light infantry—though the myth (propagated by both the Germans and Russians) of the “last calvary charge in history” still persists. In the air, the Polish Air Force had just 842 obsolete aircraft; the German Luftwaffe could put 4700 modern aircraft in the air, trained in the same tactics that destroyed Guernica, Spain.
In just seven days, the Panzers reached Warsaw.
To make matters worse, on 17 September the Red Army moved across Poland’s eastern border to occupy the 76000 square miles of land, with its population of 12.8 million, promised under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The act was condemned internationally and the Soviet Union was expelled by the useless League of Nations but the damage was done. By the end of September the invasion of Poland was complete and Case White was a success. The Polish government, left with no choice and with its allies—France and Britain—acting too late, fled into Romania.
In the first month of the Second World War alone some 60,000 Poles were dead, 200,000 injured and 700,000 taken prisoner.