Robert Forczyk’s book covers the story of the German invasion of Poland in 1939. Contrary to popular belief and written history, Germany’s Invasion of Poland was not a walk in the park for them at any time during the struggle. There was no rapid advance, blitzkrieg of Panzers across the Polish Terrain, no Polish Cavalry attacking tanks, and no, the Polish Air Force was not destroyed on the ground during the first day of the attack!
A compelling and thoroughly researched historical account of the Polish defense of their homeland against the German forces in 1939. The author goes deep dispelling misconceptions and written history that has twisted the story of these battles and made the Polish Forces look weak contrasted against the force and might of the German Forces. Examples of these misconceptions follow; In his History of the Second World War, Gerhard Weinberg claimed that “in the first days of the campaign the Luftwaffe cleared the skies of… Polish Air Force”. Research proves that the Polish Air Force lost only 7 percent of its operational aircraft on the first day of the war and remained actively in the fight for a total of 17 days-until the Soviet Invasion! A second misconception; Polish doctrine was foolish, outdated and too reliant on horsed cavalry, as demonstrated by examples of Polish Cavalry charging German tanks. The myth is based on a minor skirmish at Krojanty on 1 September 1939 which did not involve tanks at all! There were no tanks near Krojanty at the time of the battle. These myths are the result of poor research and lazy retelling of stories swapped between amateur historians. Historians tales of German blitzkrieg provide a fascinating story, but the truth is the Germans were still testing and developing their tactics in 1939. The full force of the blitzkrieg would not be impactful until the Invasion of France and Belgium.
Forczyk’s book leverages a good mix of Polish and German sources to tell the factual story of the Polish invasion. As the author points out, historical writing should not just to be catalog facts but to develop insight analysis as to why events had particular outcomes.
This book is an excellent portrayal of the Polish spirit which is an innate national stubbornness which few outsiders can comprehend. This stubbornness was clearly demonstrated during and after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. An unwillingness to surrender and be treated like a second class citizenry. While Hitler and Stalin conquered the Polish Territory in 1939 and murdered thousands of Poles, they never broke the Polish spirit. Hitler and Stalin both wanted territory in Poland. Hitler had delusion of Grandeur associated with his Lebensraum theory and Stalin wanted territorial expansion in Poland and the Baltic states to further the spread of communism. History remembers that in 1939 the world turned its back on Poland, especially England and France. It could also be said that they were stabbed in the back and betrayed by England and France who signed pacts to come to their aid in the case of invasion. Neither country helped in any way. They stood by and watched as the German and Russian forces invaded Poland.
Today, after 50 years of brutal occupation Poland has regained its freedom while the previous conquerors have ended up in the trash heap of history. Long live the Polish People!
About the author; Robert Forczyk has a PhD in International Relations and National Security from the University of Maryland and a strong background in European and Asian military history. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the US Army Reserves having served 18 years as an armor officer in the US 2nd and 4th Infantry Divisions and as an intelligence officer in the 29th Infantry Division (Light). Dr Forczyk is currently a consultant in the Washington, DC area.
Book review by Christopher (Moon) Mullins