Saturday, September 01, 2007

Today In History: Case White.

On this date in 1939, German forces launched the invasion of Poland, code named "Case White". Within two days, England and France would honor treaty obligations and declare war on Germany. The Second World War in Europe was well and truly underway.

And no, the Poles never "charged tanks with cavalry", nor was the invasion the fifteen minute bloodless one-sided walkover that your eighth grade history textbook made it out to be. The Poles did employ cavalry formations, but so did the Germans and the Russians; somehow, however, Polish cavalry has entered the collective cosciousness as a symbol of military futility. For what it's worth, the US Army didn't make its last "boots & saddles" cavalry charge until January of '42, in the Philippines.

15 comments:

Cybrludite said...

Pity it didn't instantly trigger War Plan Black...

Tam said...

Wow, the Geek is strong in this one. ;)

Cybrludite said...

::bows:: Between having been a History major back in the day, and a wargamer on through the present, there's no way I could have let that one slip by. :-)

Chris Byrne said...

Ayup, the 18th Uhlans lancers, at the battle of Krojanty.

They didn’t actually charge tanks with lances and sabers as has been popularly portrayed. The regiment were in the process of being converted to a mechanized brigade (they were to be combined with mech. infantry and tank destroyers to form the brigade); and they made a charge against the German supporting infantry with sabers and lances; while their machine gun and tank destroyer units opened up on the german tanks.

It has been widely portrayed as an idiotic charge into hopeless circumstances; but in fact the charge demoralized the Germans, and forced a tactical retreat until Guderian himself rallied the Korps; and in the next engagement crushed the polish infantry.

The common misconception of Polish military idiocy was primarily a creation of Soviet propagandists after the war.

The Prussians in particular had for years respected the Polish military establishment (which they recognized as being hobbled by their government), and in fact had often exchanged military students between their academies.

The Russians began systematically destroying the Polish infrastructure, leadership, and to some degree national pride at Katyn; long before the war was over (in fact before America had even entered the war).

Anonymous said...

As I heard it, Poland could have held out against any one attacker, but not against both Germany and the Soviets.

Of course, they were also planning for immediate aid from Britain and France, but those two were slow on the uptake.

Zendo Deb said...

I think the Bulgarians might have a different idea of exactly when the war started.

Chris Byrne said...

Zendo, you're thinking of the Czechs. That was March 15th of '39.

The Bulgarians didn't "join in" until March 1941.

Chris Byrne said...

Oh and Tam, I was just going to note the day in passing, but I was... uhhh... inspired I suppose; and wrote this:

An Undeserved Stain; an Unacknowledged Atrocity; an Unrecognized Achievment

comatus said...

The Belgians in forts around Liege held out for seven weeks, long after their mobile army had been disabled. They took everything the Germans had, including finned super-howitzer shells and horizontal Stuka bombs. The redoubt where they made their last stand has been preserved, complete with Browning pistols scattered in the rubble. They were pretty plucky, too, considering.

Will said...

IIRC, that calvary action in the PI was successful. The disturbing thing about the PI situation was how badly MacArthur screwed up from his first day there to his return. Plus that large bribe he accepted was just icing on it all. Did ok in Korea, wish he'd been able to follow through, instead of getting sacked by that Dem Prez. World scene might have changed dramatically. Oh, well.

Tam said...

cybrludite,

"and a wargamer on through the present"

Do you have US Navy Plan Black from Alliance Press? Great "What If?" game.

Cybrludite said...

I had a copy before Katrina. It is a great game. I've been meaning to pick up a copy of their War Plan Orange to see if they managed to break their system by bolting on too many new rules for the later tech modeled in that game.

Tam said...

I have Plan Orange (and Plan Red, as well as 1898, 1904-1905, and Plan Black) but no opponents... :(

Oleg said...

Tam, maybe next time I visit, we can play.

Cybrludite said...

Next time I'll be close to your neck of the woods will be next July for LibertyCon. I can probably work in a side trip in to get my backside kicked in a wargame.