Westerplatte - the small peninsula in Gdansk(Danzig).
Germans and Poles had right to the free city of Gdansk.
But the Germans did everything to prevent Poles from
using the port (Poland had no ports except the city).
Finally they succeeded but Poles surpricingly built a great
port in a small village called Gdynia (a big city today)
which gave sea access to Poland. Poles had bad position in
Gdansk indeed. They could have some offices and could mantain
88 men company in transit point which was placed on
the Westerplatte peninsula.
Polish authorities decided to strenghten Westerplatte garrison
after many german provocations in Gdansk. Finally the company
state was 182 soldiers, 1 infantry gun, 2 antitank guns, 4
mortars, 41 machine guns. Barracks and watch buildings were
strenghtened but there were no typical bunkers. The order for
the garrison was to defend for 12 hours.
Germans wanted to attack Westerplatte by marine assault
company with "Schleswig-Holstein" old battleship artillery
support. In August the 25th the battleship visited Gdansk.
But not everyone knew there are 225 soldiers prepared to
attack under the deck. The marine assault company is sometimes
called: first commando unit in World War II.
George Wolf, the soldier of the german company writes:
(...)We were surpriced we were located in chambers at the very
bottom of the ship instead of cabins. We felt like herrings
in a barrel. We were alarmed twice because of submarines.
We were completly desoriented. We found out that our ship is
going to visit Danzig the next day. About 12:00 there was an
order to sharpen bayonets and take food and ammunition.
We reached the Danzig port and stopped near Westerplatte
polish zone at 16:00. President of Free City of Danzig senate,
Artur Greiser and chief of Danzig police arrived at 17:00. Schleswig-Holstein diary:
18:30.The briefing with the ship commander - cpt. Kleikamp.
Eberhart refers Westeplatte plan, he considers there are
no fortifications there. The garrison equals about 100 men.
The base would be captured in no more than 3 hours. (...)
20:15 The radio section gets order nr 2623: delay action.
Nothing was happening for a few days. We sat under
the deck. (...) Sometimes these who had civil wear could run
a little bit along the coast. (...) Polish commissar of polish
goverment in city of Gdansk visited the ship in August 28th.
Our company sat in silence under the deck. (...)
We heared about Hitler's demands and mobilisation in Poland.
In August 31st at 18:35 we received an order - attack
September 1st at 4:45.
"Schleswig Holstein" in action
At 4:45 18 guns 8.8 to 28 centimeters caliber started
bombardment of polish base from 400 meters distance.
The effect looked terrible: great clouds of smoke and numerous
fires. Many germans believed noone survived on Westerplatte.
Then marrine assault company and SS Danziger - Heimwehr units
We knew nothing about our opponent. We attacked along the rail
by an old 1:1000 map without positions signed. We noticed
that artillery did not aim well: we found many bullets.
Polish garrison did not suffer much. Poles allowed attackers
to close about 50 meters. Germans encouraged by the silence
densed on the small area. Polish garrison made a trap:
heavy machine guns suddenly cut the first units preventing
them from retreating and unabling next units advancing.
Germans were shocked. In short combat the marine assault
company - first commando unit of World War II lost 127 troops
We returned to the ship. I saw Greiser in SS uniform and
Eberhard who told us that we will get support of SS company.
Our commander ltn. Schuck who replaced wounded Henningsen
responsed that even 3 companies are too weak because Poles
fight like lions and they are well fortified. We need air
Germans attacked three times more in September 1st -
all attacks were unsuccessful.
The next day Ju-87B Stuka diving bombers regiment entered
combat. About 30 planes started bombing polish positions.
German leaders were so shocked that they did not even think
to attack rapidly again. They did not know that after bombers
attacked some bombs hit not too strong polish buildings
killing some soldiers and causing panic and disorder. Polish
garrison was unable to defend for some time. But there was
no attack. Germans lost the chance of capturing Westerplatte.
In September 3rd Stuka attacked again. But Poles experienced
by previous attack withstood and attacking forces met heavy
resistance again. German headquarters reported to Berlin that
there are 20 heavy bunkers with underground communication on
Westerplatte. The truth was that Poles had a few strenghtened
watch points and barracks which could be called light bunkers
and barbed wires. The only infantry gun was destroyed.
Hitler ordered to attack if there is a chance for success.
Westerplatte had no strategic value but it had big moral and
propaganda value. Poles listening to the radio heared each
day: Westerplatte fights ! The small garrison encouraged all
the nation in first days of war. Germans called Westeplatte
small Verdun fortress.
Many attacks were stopped despite using numerous artillery
and additional infantry - about 3000 men (propably not all
attacked the same time).
In September the 6th Germans used cisterns with flame liquid.
But they were hit by antitank guns. The next day the same
tactics was used. Suddenly the white flag was seen.
Poles surrendered. It was 9:30.
Westerplatte fought 7 days instead of 12 hours and surrendered
because of lack of medicines and ammuntion. Poles lost 15 men
killed and about 50 wounded. Germans lost 300-400 killed not
counting wounded soldiers. The proportion was reversed in
fights in Poland.
Wehrmacht made the only chivalrous act in Poland: Polish
commander got his sabre back (polish commanders had sabres as
honour weapon) and german soldiers performed command
"attention!" when Poles marched to prisoner camp.
There were no such cases later.