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Battle of Szack was one of the major battles between the Polish Army and the Red Army fought in 1939 in the beginning the Second World War.

Eve of the Battle

During the Invasion of Poland the Polish Border Defence Corps (KOP) was severely stripped of all the reserves and heavy armament. All the available Polish forces were sent to the west to reinforce the units resisting the German invasion. When the Red Army invaded Poland on September 17, there were barely any Polish forces to oppose them. The garrisons of the KOP were overstretched and after initial clashes and skirmishes for the border forts, the Polish units had to fall back.

Deputy commander of KOP, general Wilhelm Orlik-Rueckemann decided to unite as many troops under his command as possible and join with the rest of Polish forces in the west. He ordered all the KOP forces in Polesie area to withdraw. In several days he managed to gather approximately 9 000 men under his command, coming from various units spread on 300 kilometres long strip of the Polish-Soviet border. On September 19 he ordered all his units to march towards Kowelmarker, where his forces were to be joined by the Independent Operational Group Polesie under general Franciszek Kleeberg. However, the difficult situation and the outcome of the battles of Brześć and Kobryń forced Rueckemann's group to change the plans. The Polish units changed the direction and started to march through the forests towards Włodawamarker and Kamień Koszyrski.

The group found itself in a no-man's-land between the Soviet forces and the Wehrmacht and could operate freely. However, the morale of the troops was low and on September 27 general Orlik-Rueckemann decided to engage the Soviet forces in order to achieve a victory and raise the morale.

Battle

The Polish forces were marching in two columns. In the early morning of September 28 the northern column reached the forests near the village of Mielniki while the southern column reached the forests east of Szackmarker. Polish reconnaissance reported that the town of Szack was occupied by Soviet infantry and tanks. Orlik-Rueckemann ordered both columns to form a defensive line along the border of the forest and provoked the Red Army to attack.

At 8 o'clock in the morning the Soviet tank unit (composed mostly of the T-26 tanks) started a direct assault on Polish positions. The Polish forces did not open fire until the tanks came close. When the tanks were only some 500 metres from the Polish lines the Polish Bofors wz. 36 anti-tank guns opened fire. Soon they were joined by the infantry and the 75 mm artillery. All Soviet tanks were destroyed and the battalion of major Balcerzak was ordered to attack the town of Szack. The Soviet units were taken by surprise and after a short hand to hand fight the Soviet forces were routed. Only a small part of the motorised infantry managed to retreat, but had to leave behind all their lorries, artillery and 9 T-26 tanks. The Poles also captured the staff headquarters.

According to the orders of the Soviet 52nd Rifle Division found in the headquarters, the Soviet units operating from the Kobryńmarker area and were to "clean up the area east of Bug River from the bands of Polish officers". At 2 o'clock in the evening the Soviet reserve units appeared in the area and Orlik-Rueckemann decided to withdraw his troops to the forests.

After the battle

The Polish forces withdrew unopposed and started their march towards the Bug. The only Polish unit destroyed by the Red Army was the tabor of KOP "Polesie" Brigade, caught by surprise near the village of Mielnik by the armoured troops of the Soviet 4th Army under general Vassili Chuikov. After a short fight the Polish unit surrendered. Upon the surrender all Polish officers[99271] and NCO were shot on the spot (about 500) [99272].

However, the rest of the Polish forces evaded being captured and crossed the Bug River, where they took part in the Battle of Wytyczno.

References

  • Stanley S. Seidner, Marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz Rydz and the Defense of Poland, New York, 1978, 286-287


See also




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