Westerplatte

Westerplatte


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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. (...)
Helmut Schauer: 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 attacked.
Heinz Denker: 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 of 225.
Heinz Denker: 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 support.
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.

Fights in Pomorze corridor


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