Poland has spoken and it seems it is not hoping to repeat the mistakes it made in World War II. The country that in less than a month succumbed to German panzers – and their new ‘blitzkrieg’ – now promises to transform its armed forces into the best in Europe to fend off pressure from the Russian cauldron. Joining hands with its big brother, the United States, from a military point of view, in 2021 it dedicated 4.63% of its public expenditure to defence. And that, without counting the dignified armored fleet that it hides in its hangars – 120 Leopard 2 – and the decisive reform program of its air force. almost nothing.
But the reality is that he did not always have an army of the level of European power. not much less In 1939, when the Germans crossed the Polish border on 1 September, shortly before the Gates of Hell were opened, the country had an anemic armed force and, above all, was poorly adapted to the Great War that shook Europe two decades earlier. it was done. In fact, its best asset at the time was the mutual aid alliance it had signed with France and Great Britain to curtail the escalation of German violence against Austria, the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia.
Although this measure proved ostentatious after the first skirmishes, Britain was quick to accept the agreement shortly before the outbreak of hostilities. This is how the ABC explained it in June, when the conflict between Poland and Germany over the Danzig Corridor was already dominating the front pages of newspapers:
“Labour Deputy Cock inquired in the House of Commons whether the British Government, in keeping with its commitments to Poland, intended to exert all its power to aid her, whether it would consider forcibly revising the Dantzig Laws.” should be the case, or any aggression is carried out against the vital interests of the Polish state. Butler replied that England would certainly honor the terms of her commitment to Poland. To another question from the same deputy, he affirmed That the terms of the guarantee given by the English government to Poland clearly mention threats against Polish independence.
Infantry to attack
There are a thousand and one details that reveal the true depth of the Polish Armed Forces before September 1, 1939. There are many specialists who have dedicated themselves to studying this period. Although one of the greatest authorities on the period is undoubtedly the historian Steven J. Zaloga is. In ‘The Polish Army, 1939 – 1945’ he states that the country had a total of 30 infantry divisions (half a million men) depending on the borders; However, and according to the state, it may mobilize 15 more. Most of the soldiers were armed with the same rifle as the Germans, the semi-automatic Mauser Kar 98k; In this sense, they were equals.
If compared to the total Polish population of about 14 million people in 1939, the number of soldiers was considerable. According to experts such as Richard Hargreaves, the problem was that one in three riflemen were not adequately trained and a good portion of these troops had to be mobilized after hostilities were declared. It has nothing to do with the training the Germans were subjected to. The Infantry Division also pulled up some of the World War I customs that placed it behind its opponents; One of them, is relying on pack animals to transport heavy weapons.
The basis of everything
European parties have changed a lot today. Their expertise, effectiveness and equipment are more important than the number of soldiers. And Poland, after conducting a thorough analysis of its forces in 2016, understood this pattern. That year, the high command understood that, for the first time in three decades, the number of soldiers and personnel of the armed forces would increase dramatically. “Over the next eight years, the total number of troops, including members of the Territorial Defense Forces, will exceed 200,000,” breaks down the Ministry of Defense on its website.
However, the Polish government prides itself on the tough training of its armed forces: “The training of troops at all levels has been intensified and special priority is given to the support of operational units, situational awareness, creativity and initiative of the commander » . The maximum is to recover the role of operational art. At the moment, the number of troops is close to 123,000 active troops, about 3,000 more than the Spanish Armed Forces. Although this figure is comparable to France -205,000 troops-, the United Kingdom -190,000- and Germany -184,000- is far from the European engines.
In addition, Poland raised a new force, the Territorial Defense Force, in 2016, with a total of 24,000 troops in 2019. According to the government, this paramilitary force was created at the local level for the purpose of “civil security and protection of the cultural heritage of the Polish nation” as well as “preventing and countering non-military threats”. The special thing is that it is made up of part-time volunteer soldiers. These units are similar to units that have done well in Ukraine in that they know the terrain, have the ability to coordinate with area residents, and are efficient with minimal training. All of them, ideal characteristics for a hybrid conflict.
In World War II, the case of the armored parka was similar to that of the infantry. Although Poland was the second country after the Soviet Union to invest the most money in the defense of its homeland, more than a billion zlotys between 1938 and 1939, the rare development of mechanized doctrine allowed the military to use the weapon on a large scale. chose. tank. A mistake, as they could do little or nothing against Nazi Germany’s armored divisions months later. Shortly before the invasion, the armed forces had 450 TK and TKS, small vehicles commanded by a two-man crew with a heavy machine gun or – at best – a light cannon.
German main battle tanks advance through Polish territory in 1939 ABC
However, it is a lie that there were no tanks in the country. He had them, and painted. In the 1930s, for example, he obtained 38 Vickers E Type A and a production license from the same company. The heaviest 7TP and some Renault models completed a total casting of 475 units. And that’s without counting the luxurious armored vehicles.
The Polish Army, as a good contingent inherited from the IGM, did not lack artillery. According to various sources, it had a total of 2,065 howitzers and 774 anti-tank pieces; All of them were capable of destroying any Panzer of the time without ammunition. Where, then, was the elite of the armed forces? in the cavalry. A land of horsemen since time immemorial, the best-versed soldiers requested to join this branch. Thus, in 1939 there were 70,000 horsemen in the country. However, and contrary to the image that has survived, it was not intended to carry a spear at the ready. The truth is that they were armed with rifles and kept sabers only for extreme cases.
Already today, Poland is a very secretive country when it comes to its armored divisions. It’s hard to keep track of how many tanks you have. One of the few figures in this regard was projected by ‘Global Firepower’ in 2022. This military analysis website revealed that Warsaw had 863 tanks, the most in all of Eastern Europe and far more than Germany’s 266, France’s 406 and Spain’s 327, to give just three examples.
As if this were not enough, in recent years the Polish Armed Forces have been reinforced by their European and foreign neighbors. As Rosalia Sanchez explained on ABC last Tuesday, since 2013 it has had 120 leopards, 2 German; A tank that is one of the best on the planet. The same is true of the 250 Abrams M1A1s that Warsaw acquired from the United States for 4.9 billion euros to replace a similar number of Soviet-era ones handed over to Ukraine. Its net has also spread to South Korea, a country with which it has entered into an agreement to buy K2 tanks and K9 howitzers, among other things.
Its most important acquisition has been the American M142 HIMARS, an acronym for ‘High Mobility Artillery Rocket System’ – High Mobility Rocket Artillery System. Presently deployed on its northwestern border, they are mobile platforms capable of firing 227mm missiles. GPS guided. Its fifty-mile range, accuracy, and ability to fire six rounds at once make it one of the most versatile and lethal weapons in its field. Retired general and military analyst Mick Ryan put it this way a few months ago: “The fighting in Ukraine is changing.”
From ussr to nato
Before the outbreak of World War II, Poland had an anemic air force consisting of 1,900 aircraft. At least on paper. In practice, 650 of them were intended for training new pilots and another 700 were obsolete. According to Zaloga, its actual capacity was only around 392 front-line fighters: 158 fighters, 114 light bombers, 36 medium bombers and 84 observation devices. The models, which ranged from the PZL P.11 to the P.7, were already out of date and could do little against the Teutonic BF109. The comparison was not very flattering in quantity either, as the Third Reich deployed 2,152 devices to invade the country.
For today, the reality is that the Polish Air Force still has a large remnant of Soviet aircraft such as the MiG-29 and Su-22. However, Warsaw makes daily efforts to integrate effectively into NATO, to which it has belonged since 1999. 19 years ago it received 48 modern F-16s – old fighters, but efficient after all – and, this same year, many more Korean FAs will receive. -50s; Part of them, a specific version for the country. It is expected that the first European pilots will travel to the Asian country at the end of the year to begin training and take the first step in a definite modernization of the military.