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Posted October 17, 2002
In the heart-breaking days and weeks that the world watched as the Wehrmacht smashed mercilessly into the belly of Poland in September of 1939, the Polish armed forces fought back with largely unrecognized ferocity and courage against overwhelming odds. As author Stephen Zaloga describes so forcefully in this wonderful new book, Polish forces had been chastised and prevented through continuing European pressure into delaying any meaningful army mobilization that might have been considered provocative to the Germans, so they were unable to answer the blitzkrieg tactics with sufficient forces early enough to really stem the tide. Moreover, while it had been widely recognized that based on topography and lack of badly needed fortifications the frontiers were virtually indefensible, the political reality dictated against abandoning the frontiers in favor husbanding their limited forces into a more meaningful defense of the realm closer to centers of population, thus, the Polish forces attempted to defend an area too large, too wide, and too flat to do so effectively. This work continues the excellent exposition begun by the same author in "The Polish Campaign 1939", extending and completing his controversial account which effectively debunks many common misconceptions regarding the nature of the Polish actions against the Germans in the all-too brief campaign. The author once more contends that many of the commonplaces regarding Polish conduct during the war are inaccurate and slanderous, including the idea that Polish cavalry actually attacked German tanks with swords drawn, or that the entire Polish Air Force was demolished on the first day of the war. According to Zaloga, neither supposition is true. And, while cavalry was used during the campaign, its application was much more clever and much more ingenious than previously believed. This is a quite comprehensive book, with extensive coverage of every element of the campaign as seen from both sides of the conflict. Several fascinating aspects of the war emerge for further consideration, such as the fact that in the Battle of Bzura , the Poles caught the Wehrmacht with its pants down, with the Germans badly over-extended. The capability of the Polish forces to hold their own against their foe was demonstrated with the initial attack, in which the Poles slammed two German divisions backwards into retreat, capturing over 1,500 prisoners in the process. I was also surprised to discover that the Poles had deployed the advanced techniques using tungsten-core anti-tank shells, which they then used on a limited basis in the conflict. The author also shows how the cowardice and malice of the French misled the Poles into believing their allies might intervene, when historians have clearly proven the French actually never had any such action in mind. This is an intriguing book, and a wonderful addition to the growing library covering the German-Polish exchange in the fall of 1939. Enjoy!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.