September 18, 2011

Warsaw Uprising 1944: September 18 Russia Allows Air Drops to Warsaw

Anthony Eden
Anthony Eden has informed the War Cabinet “that the Russians had now sent help by air to the Polish Underground Army in Warsaw, and had also afforded facilities for the United States Air Force to do likewise." The Soviets have finally relented and have granted a one time clearance for B-17s of the United States Air Force to land and refuel at Soviet airfields.

Last evening the officer responsible for organization and recovery of air supplies was stationed in his pillbox at Zlota Street number 7-9 and heard a particular Polish melody on the BBC radio broadcast during Polish hour. According to a prearranged code, the song meant that the next day a major air supply drop would be coming to Warsaw. It was confirmed at 10:00 this morning by a second musical code broadcast by the BBC that the planes were already in the air and should reach Warsaw within 3 to 4 hours. Between noon and 1:00 pm today houses in Warsaw, or rather what remained of them, vibrated to the drone of throbbing engines of Flying Fortresses passing overhead and the din of German anti-aircraft artillery shooting at them. There were 107 four-engine Boeing B-17 planes covering the skies of Warsaw! It was the largest airdrop yet made during the Uprising.

Waclaw Zagorski "Lech" from the Chrobry II Battalion described the incredible scene. A sentry at the Panska Street gateway sounded a warning of approaching aircraft. Zagorski looked up. To the north and at very high altitude he saw them coming. He said that "they looked like silver birds in a blue sky lightly scattered with little clouds". He started to count them but in the excitement was distracted. But someone did count...there were no less than 102 airplanes and then somebody shouted wildly "They're Liberators! And they're Ours!!" Zagorski was awestruck and he exclaimed, "It was as if the dead had arisen from their graves!"

Polish Insurgents revel at sight of Flying Fortresses over Warsaw

Suddenly dozens of parachutes started to drop and it seemed like tiny little white clouds opening. German troops began firing but the parachutes were out of range. While some containers fell in Polish-controlled areas, the remainder were carried away by the wind into enemy territory. Before the first containers even landed the insurgents made a mad dash to collect them amid the roar of German fire power. The Germans were firing with everything they had - rifles, machine guns, grenades, mortars, artillery.

Supplies were dropped from from 17,000 feet but were caught in a strong wind. Many of the containers floated directly towards German positions and were captured by enemy forces. Some of the insurgents wept openly while other struck the walls with their fists in anger and despair.

Some supplies did fall into insurgents' territory.  When the containes were opened the Poles found the following items: Sten guns and ammunition, equipment for sappers mines, revolvers, anti-tank weapns, and percussion caps. They also found containers with tinned beef imported from Argentina, chocolate and biscuits. The last container held medical supplies including vials of blood donated by Polish soldiers in Edinburgh. When the ambulance girls handled the precious cargo, Zagorski noticed that their hands trembled....

B-17 Flying Fortresses flying in formation

Many insurgents disregarded the danger of German snipers and gathered on rooftops deliriously waving their hands and shouting words of gratitude. The Eighth Airborne Army of the United States dropped 1,284 capsules containing weapons and ammunition. Supplies were gathered and loaded by the Polish section of the British Strategic Operations Executive. Each bomber had a crew of ten members and could take 12 containers. The following supplies were packed:

Machine pistols, Stern 2976
Light machine guns, Bren 211
Bazookas (Piat) 110
Revolvers 545
Explosives (Gammon) 2490
Explosives (plastic) 7865 kg
Fuses for explosives 54,400 metres
Fuses(other) 8720 meters
Detonating caps 21,990 pieces
Meat tins 53,520
Hardtack 2016 tons
Margarine 2016 tons
American soldiers K rations 51,820
Milk 5820 rations
Medical equipment 12 containers
Ammunition (unspecified) a total of 2,267,250
Shells 2,200
Grenades 4,360

The AK commander acknowledged that only 228 containers were retrieved, adding that insurgents had to fight the enemy to obtain another 32 containers. Moreover 28 containers were destroyed because their parachutes were burned. There is no confirmation, but in all probability the civilian population retained a certain number of food containers.

There were some unexpected surprises in some of the retrieved containers that fell into insurgents hands. For example, part of the ammunition was found to be nothing more than wooden bullets, the kind used for training exercises. The containers also packed money, which the AK Commander in Chief expressly instructed England not to send.

Here is an extract from one of the USAAF Operations Intelligence Summary, reported by number 283.


However, sources indicate that the mission suffered losses of 41 planes, and 36 crew. (A crew consists of approximately 7-10 men, depending on the type of plane.) The Poles lost 17 planes and 16 crews; British and South African lost 22 planes and 18 crews; Americans lost two planes and one crew.

A total of 306 planes had taken off for Warsaw. Among the crew members, 91 were Polish, 50 were British, 55 South Africans and 110 Americans. Following the mission the American planes landed near Poltava airfield and from there went to England via Italy. The entire trip took 6 days.

In response to the disastrous outcome, Polish PM in exile Stanislaw Mikolajczyk made a heart-rending appeal to Churchill for another daylight shuttle mission to Warsaw. There is no reply as yet.

Kazimierz Sosnkowski
According to Eden, Polish-Russian relations had “a very marked improvement” which he claimed was the result of Anglo-British intervention and persistence in the matter. He added that it was of utmost importance that Polish Prime Minister Mikolajczyk return to Moscow immediately for further consultations but before this could occur Eden stated that General Kazimierz Sosnkowski, the Polish Supreme Commander in Chief should resign.General Sosnkowski had made several public statements expressing his grave concern over the loss of Polish sovereignty, his fear of the seizure of the Polish eastern territories by Soviet troops, and the lack of effective allied support for the Uprising of Warsaw. Now the British government is pressuring for his dismissal.

Monter sent an urgent radio message to Marshal Rokossovky offering the collaboration of AK insurgents with General Berling's Army and the Soviet Army. But just as in all previous messages sent by Polish Command, the Soviets did not respond.

German command has again proposed surrender to Colonel Niedzielski, AK Commander of Zoliborz Sector. In defiance, the Colonel had asked the Germans to surrender to him instead. The battle continues.

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