August 15, 2012


Polish Armed Forces Day is celebrated on August 15th in tribute to all Polish armed forces, of land, sea and air, and the Polish men and women who have made great contributions and sacrifices in the service of Poland, and the world.

Jozef Pilsudski - Polish Russian War - Miracle on the Vistula
Jozef Pilsudski
It also commemorates the Polish victory during the Battle of Warsaw, or what is has often been referred to as the "Miracle on the Vistula".   That few westerners even know about this Battle is rather disturbing since it marked a crucial point in world history.  It was more than a Polish victory in defense of her national sovereignty.  Poland was the bulwark standing between the Soviet Union and the spread of global communism. 

Poland's thousand-year history has been a long and bloody saga of countless invasions by neighbouring enemy states who sought to destroy the very existence of the Polish nation, its culture, and its people.  From 1795 to 1918, Poland was partitioned for the third time in its history, by Russia, Prussia and Austria.  It had virtually ceased to exist as a nation and was virtually obliterated from the map.  After 123 years of oblivion the Polish state came into existence once again, the result of terms set out in the Versailles Treaty.

But no sooner had World War One ended that the Polish-Soviet war had commenced. While Poland was struggling to solidify its new-found sovereignty and re-establish its borders, the Russian Civil War was in full swing. Bolshevik propaganda boasted that Warsaw would quickly fall, and thus signal the beginning of communist revolutions that would sweep throughout Poland, Germany and other western European nations.

The Russian commander Mikhail Tukhachevsky planned to cross the Vistula River and surround Warsaw to the north and south, thereby cutting of Polish access to the port of Gdansk, and its vital supplies of materiel.  The Russians expected the maneuver to result in a swift and massive victory, much like that of 1831 during the November Uprising.  What transpired shocked and humiliated the Russians.

The Battle of Warsaw began on August 12th, 1920 and in two days the Red Army conquered the city of Radzymin.  Sikorski's 5th Army courageously fought against three Russian armies, the 3rd, 4th and 15th Soviet armies simultaneously.  They were able to hold out until dawn until the Polish 18th Infantry Division was dispatched to relieve them.  By midnight the 203rd Polish Uhlan Regiment broke through Russian lines and successfully attacked the enemy command post, destroying its radio station.  

The battle ensued until, on August 15, the town of Nasielsk was almost completely destroyed. Polish troops then recaptured Radzymin which was a military and a moral victory.  The Soviet advance towards Warsaw had all come to standstill.

Sikorski's 5th army, in liaison with a few, but no less potent, number of mechanized units of tanks and armoured cars, launched what can only be described as a "blitzkrieg-type" of maneuver, which successfully scattered Russian troops away from Warsaw environs. In addition, Polish troops had the support of two armoured trains which were used to disrupt Soviet maneuvers.

Despite these Polish victories, the Russian commander was convinced that everything was going according to his plan.  He knew that there were just a few Polish troops in their path and that the south of Warsaw would be vulnerable to attack.   However, the commander of the 1st Cavalry Army, Semyon Budyonny, disobeyed orders to march on Warsaw, and instead marched on the city of Lwow.

On August 16 the Polish Reserve Army, under the command of Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, marched north from the Wieprz River and coming face to face with the Mazyr Group, quickly retreated. But - as the Soviets pursued them, they lost many of their own troops, and were left with only one or active divisions.  Polish divisions launched a fierce counter-offensive and succeeded in pushing north 45 kilometers without any opposition. By evening the Poles liberated the town of Wladawa, and succeeded in cutting communication and supply routes of the Soviet 16th army.  They successfully outmaneuvered the Soviet troops, leaving them surprised and confused in their wake.  It was a stunning Polish victory!

At the end of the war, Red Army casualties were about 15,000 KIA, 500 MIA, 10,000 WIA, and 65,000 captured.  Conversely, Polish losses were about 4,500 KIA, 22,000 WIA, and 10,000 missing.  Polish troops captured about 231 pieces of Soviet artillery and 1,023 machine guns.


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