Agreement between Petlura and Pilsudski as an antecedent to the Polish advance on the Ukraine. Situation of opposing forces in the Ukraine prior to the beginning of the decisive Polish action. Essential features of Pilsudski's offensive plan of action. Revolt of the Galician brigades and the supply situation of the Red armies on the Southwest front. Battle on the sector of the Red Twelfth Army. Battle for the possession of Kiev. Operations on the sector of the Red Fourteenth Army. Interruption in the operations of the Polish forces in the Ukraine. Causes of the Southwest front in the in the Ukrainian theater of operations. Offensive of the armies of the West front. Berezina engagement and its consequences. Counter-maneuver of the armies of the Southwest front in the Ukraine; results of the same. Pursuit of the retreating Polish armies in the Ukraine and beginning of joint action by the inner flanks of our two fronts. The battle of Rovno. Proskurov raid. Preparation of the West Front for a general engagement in White Russia. Situation of opposing forces prior to the beginning of this engagement.
On April 22, 1920 the head of the Polish government, Pilsudski, and the leader of the Ukrainian petit bourgeois chauvinists, Simon Petlura, who assumed the title of "chief ataman" of the Ukraine, signed a mutual agreement for the liberation of the Ukraine from the Soviet government. This agreement, which practically converted the Ukraine into a bourgeois-Polish colony of the nobility was essential for Pilsudski as a political pretext to justify the invasion of the Ukraine by his Polish legions. Pilsudski intended to utilize this agreement for the purpose of misleading the public opinion of the masses in Poland and Europe, since otherwise the attack on the Ukraine would have been contrary to all former declarations of Polish government leaders and press to the effect that Poland was in the position of a country defending itself against the "red imperialism" of the bolsheviks. At the same time Pilsudski was not constrained in making his agreement by the fact that one of the signatories to the agreement was not a competent political representative. The agreement was signed* and came into force at the time when the Polish forces in the Ukraine completed their concentration and deployment.
*In signing the agreement, Pilsudski of course counted not on the actual strength of Petlura's forces which amounted only to several thousand men, but rather on the potential Petlura brigand forces that were quite a political factor and were engaged in brigandage in Western Ukraine
On the 25th of April, 1920, the enemy forces in the Ukraine had developed as follows: Along the Slavechin river, from its mouth and farther up to the Milashevich village, inclusive, on a front of 120 kilometers, was the Polesie group under Colonel Rybak, numbering 1,5000 cavalry with an unknown number of infantry ( 3 infantry and 3 cavalry regiments) operating under the orders of adjacent units of the Polish Third Army on its right. This latter army occupied the line extending along the Ubort and Slutch rivers from Milashevich (exclusive) up to the Rovno - Berdichev railway (exclusive), on a front of 140 kilometers, with a strength of 14,000 infantry and over 2,000 cavalry troops. ( The lst Legionnaire Infantry Division, 4th, 7th infantry divisions and 3d Cavalry Brigade with the composite cavalry division under General Romer.** On the south these forces were joined by the Polish Second Army on a sector 80 kilometers long, extending from the Rovno - Berdichev railway line (inclusive) up to the town of Letichev (inclusive). In this sector the enemy had 10,486 infantry and 500 cavalry troops (15th, * the Ukrainian Infantry and the 13th Infantry divisions).
** An indeterminate number of cavalry troops just arrived in the Ukraine of the 5th Cavalry Brigade were incorporated into the composite cavalry division commanded by General Romer.
* Our data fail to show the strength of the 15th Infantry Division. We have only the strength of one of its regiments, which numbered 1,406 men. We have estimated the strength of the 15th Infantry Division at 4,300 men. The Ukrainian Infantry Division had only a skeleton organization, comprising 1,886 men and 4 light guns. .
Finally the tip of the right flank of the Polish Ukrainian front was made up of the Polish Sixth Army, comprising 16,700 infantry and 1,600 cavalry troops (6th, 12th, 18th infantry divisions, Ukrainian formations), occupying a line of 90 kilometers from Letichev (exclusive) via Derazhnaya and farther along the Kalyshik river up to its mouth. **
** Thus per one kilometer of front of the Polish Third Army there were 115 infantry and cavalry troops (in round numbers); in the case of the Polish Second Army - 138 infantry and cavalry per km. of front (in round numbers); and Polish Sixth Army - 138 infantry and cavalry per km. of front (in round numbers); and Polish Sixth Army - 231 infantry and cavalry troops per km of front.
In all on the Ukrainian front of 430 to 450 kilometers there
developed over 40,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry of the enemy. Considering the
forces of the three infantry regiments of Colonel Rybak and the Polish 5th
Cavalry Brigade which we did not include in the above figures, we might
definitely say that, in round figures, the Polish forces here consisted of
45,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry troops.
These forces were not evenly distributed over the entire front. The density of the Polish forces was less on the left flank. This was particularly so in the sector of the Polish Third Army which in Pilsudski's plan involved an offensive mission. In the sector of this army two infantry divisions and one cavalry brigade, in turn (the 1st Infantry Legionnaire Division, 7th Infantry Division, and 3d Cavalry Brigade) formed the assault group of General Ridz-Smigli.
Against these hostile forces, the commander of the Southwest Front had available; The Twelfth Army (Mezheninkov), occupying the line from the mouth of the Slavechin river, through Slavechin - Emelchin - city of Novograd-Volhynsk - Baranovka-Ostropol - Senyava railway station ( all points extending in all over 140 to 360 kilometers, with a total strength of 6,849 infantry and 1,372 cavalry troops strength of 6,849 infantry and 1,372 cavalry troops (47th, 7th, 17th, Cavalry, 44th divisions), having in army reserve at the Zhitomir area the 58th Infantry Division with a strength of 855 infantry troops - or a total of 7,904 infantry and 1,372 cavalry troops; and the Red Fourteenth Army (Uborevich), comprising 4,866 infantry troops occupying the line from the town of Letichev (exclusive) through Derazhnia (exclusive along the Kalushik stream and further along the Dniester to the mouth of this river opposite Rumania; the sector of the Fourteenth Army facing Poland up to the mouth of the Kalushik river, over a stretch of 90 kilometers, was occupied mainly by two infantry divisions (45th and 60th Infantry Divisions), * with a total strength of 2,768 infantry troops. **
In all in the Ukraine we had 10,672 infantry and 1,372 cavalry
troops against 50,000 infantry and cavalry forces of the enemy, i.e., our
forces were outnumbered almost five to one.
Our forces were distributed evenly in cordon along a line from the Pripet to the Dniester, a characteristic feature in their distribution was the fact that their line along the Novograd-Volhynsk - Zhitomir railway, more strongly held by the enemy, was covered by our forces only with the 17th Cavalry Division, a weak number of forces poorly trained extended on a line of thick forests. The enemy was in possession of detailed information of our disposition here.
Preparing for the delivery of his blow against the Ukraine, Pilsudski decided to assume personal leadership over the Polish forces here. Without abandoning his authority over all Polish forces, he assumed immediate command over the Polish Third Army which according to his plans, was to play the main part here. The plan adopted by Pilsudski followed the objective of the complete destruction of the Red Twelfth Army which represented the right flank of the main Soviet forces concentrated (in his opinion) in the Ukraine. Penetrating the lines of this army in the Zhitomir area and launching a simultaneous attack on its right flank with the Polesie group, Pilsudski believed that this would bring about the complete destruction of the entire northern flank of the Red Southwest front and open for him a route on Kiev, which constituted the political objective of his undertaking. The immediate objectives of Pilsudski's plan contemplated the capture by his cavalry of the railway stations of Malin and Katin, the rear supply lines, which Pilsudski believed the Red forces could not prevent in any manner. In the execution of this plan, it was contemplated to contain the Red Fourteenth Army by launching powerful frontal attacks, to the end that this army may not come to the aid of the Twelfth Army.
Upon reaching the line of the Teterev river Pilsudski contemplated the concentration of his main forces in the triangle of Zhitomir - Berditchev - Kazatin with a view to launching from there, in accordance with the requirements of the situation, an attack either against Kiev or against the Red Fourteenth Army.
In analyzing the Pilsudski plan, we should note first of all that he acted on false political and strategic premises, which led to his ultimate failure, notwithstanding his initial temporary gains. Politically, Pilsudski's plans were erroneous in that he overestimated the importance of his alliance with Petlura, forming an entirely erroneous estimate of the attitude and sympathies of the wide masses of the Ukrainian people, who regarded the invasion of the Polish Legions as another intervention. Thus Pilsudski, in order to establish himself in the Ukraine, should have provided for the regular occupation of it; the Polish forces at his disposal were inadequate for the purpose. The experience of 1918 demonstrated the fact that the occupation of the Ukraine by the Austro-German interventionists required the employment of 250.000 men, and these served only for the occupation of the principal administrative centers and railway lines, while throughout the remainder of the Ukraine there were waves of national agitations.
From the strategic standpoint, Pilsudski's situation in the Ukraine
could likewise not be considered quite satisfactory so long as there were
operating in the immediate strategic areas, in the vicinity of Warsaw, the
principal political center of the Polish government, the armies of the Red
Western front, which enjoyed freedom of action and were being reinforced by the
Red high command.
Thus the Polish advance might have expected a successful development in the Ukraine by following a single mission of a purely local nature, the defeat of one or two Soviet armies. This might have been accomplished without a five-to-one superiority in forces, that had been brought about at the expense of weakening the Polish forces in the principal theater of operations.
These were the views also maintained by numerous Polish authorities. One Polish writer, Colonel Malyshko, writes: "The disregard of the situation in the north in favor of the Kiev operation was a political and strategic blunder." Another Polish author - Palevich, evaluating the influences exerted by the Polish operations launched by Pilsudski in the Ukraine throughout the subsequent course of the campaign, states: "This campaign, though it ended successfully, was nevertheless a defeat which involved the disruption of half of the country, while its material and moral consequences are still being felt to this day".Finally, an indirect admission of error is to be found also in Pilsudski's own memoirs. In his book, the Year 1920 he states that the main effort in the Ukraine had been decided upon for the reason that the principal Soviet forces were situated there. This belief had been based on the assumptions of General Haller who was Pilsudski's chief of staff at the time.
The armies of the Southwestern front in the Ukraine from the end of March, 1920 were assigned defensive missions. These armies were awaiting replacements and the concentration of those forces that were on the way to the Southwest front in conformity with the general intentions of the development of our forces against Poland, after which the commander of the Southwest front contemplated the launching of an offensive.*
*These forces consisted of the First Cavalry Army commanded by Budienny, which was transferred by marching from the North Caucasus to the Ukraine.
Aside from a considerable numerical superiority which, as we have seen Pilsudski succeeded in concentrating there, the conditions that had developed in the Ukraine considerable favored the execution of his contemplated plans of action. This consisted of the following: The units of one division of the Twelfth Army (44th Infantry Division) and that of two divisions of the Fourteenth Army (45th and 41st) included a brigade each of Galician troops organized from the former Galician army after the latter had gone over to the Soviets in the early spring of 1920.**
** This army, fighting for the independence of Eastern Galicia, in the summer of 1919 was forced out of its territory in the Ukraine by the Polish forces, whereupon it established itself in Western Ukraine where it was compelled, owing to its complete loss of equipment and by the outbreak of epidemics among the troops, to recognize all of the provisional authorities, in that territory. This army took no particular part in the civil war for the reasons stated, and in February, 1920, recognized Soviet authority.
Two of these brigades that were incorporated into the Fourteenth Army succumbed to anti-Soviet propaganda and revolted precisely two days before the Poles launched their offensive. The action against these mutineers consumed all available reserves of the Red Fourteenth Army and, moreover, affected the situation of the neighboring units on the right of the Twelfth Army. Even though the 1st Galician brigade situated on the left flank was entirely loyal to the Soviet government and in subsequent fighting proved its dependability, it was nevertheless necessary to move up a part of the available reserves of the Twelfth Army to its left flank, against the neck of the Galicians - which further increased the threat to the Zhitomir area.
Aside from the mutiny of the Galician brigades, absorbing the remainder of the scant reserves of our two armies, another reason, of a more durable nature, undermined the strength of our forces here. The kulak*
* Kulak=Wealthy peasant.
revolt, guided by the nationalist-chauvinistic parties, had firmly entrenched itself in Western Ukraine in the immediate rear of our armies. The vast extent of the area to the east of the Vinnitsa - Slobodka railway line, up to the banks of the Dnieper, had been infested with brigand bands. (See Sketch 13 - original text.
Most of the bands operating in Western Ukraine were plainly of the same Petlura ilk; only in the southeastern corner (in the Kherson, Nikolayev and Krivoi Rog area) id the Makhno bands contest the hegemony of the Petlura brigands. Petlura's bands were organized on the same principles as his regular army units. At the head of most of his bands were officers of Petlura's army that were left behind the Red forces during their successful advance after the defeat of General Denikin. Establishing themselves behind the lines, the cadres of Petlura organizations served to invigorate and consolidate the latter brigand organizations in the Ukraine. The unorganized amorphous kulak elements found in these cadres the necessary organizing force. On the basis of a multitude of documents, we have arrived at the conclusion that the establishment of Petlura's cadres and agents in the course of the withdrawal of the latter's regular military forces, was accomplished in accordance with a thoroughly worked out plan prepared in advance. These cadres were more densely established in the vicinity of the principal railway centers. Organizing a number of bands in the vicinity of these railway centers, Petlura maintained a constant threat to the Red army communications, interrupting the functions of these at regular intervals.
Two or three weeks before the launching of the Polish attack in the Balta - Ananyev area, there was already undertaken, under the leadership of Tutunnik, a unification of the action of the brigand bands situated in this area. Almost simultaneously, a tight ring was formed by the bands around the highly important railway junction of Znamenka. The entire immediate rear of the Twelfth and Fourteenth armies was overrun by small bands which engaged in raids on transport units and railway stations, disrupting supply and communication functions. The atamans at the head of these bands were operating under the orders of the Polish high command, receiving their instructions through Petlura. In proportion as the Polish forces advanced, individual bands (Tutunnik's, for example) joined the regular Petlura military forces.
On the basis of a careful study of a large number of documents, we are obliged to refute the assertions of certain sources to the effect that the advance of the Polish armies had been accompanied by extensive peasant uprisings behind the lines of the Red armies. The boisterous atamans with their actions and staged uprising did frequently create the impression of an unreal exaggerated scope of their influence. In most cases, however, the Petlura bands came into being not as a result of peasant uprisings but rather as a result of painstaking efforts toward the organization of underground centers established in advance. In the face of the weak or rather completely absent Soviet agencies in the villages, the brigand bands, placed on a military footing and gaining the support of the wealthy peasants as well as the temporary sympathy of the peasants of average means, even with a comparatively limited strength found it possible to carry on large-scale activity in entire areas. The process of Sovietization, requiring much resources and strength, in the latter part of 1919 and beginning of 1920, could not keep pace with the progress of the Red armies engaged in the pursuit of the remnants of Denikin's forces. A gap was formed, of which the Petlura and Makhno bands took advantage
As distinguished from the brigandage in Western Ukraine, the Makhno bands covering vast areas in Western Ukraine had not been formally connected either with Wrangel or the Polish- Petlura bloc. In their objective undertakings, disrupting the communications of the Red armies, diverting Red forces from the front, we might consider the Makhno brigands as allies of both of the above the above. In 1920 Makno's proclamations wailed of having to fight on two fronts; actually his activities were directed solely against the Soviet government; his proclamations contained vociferous leftist revolutionary expressions concerning a third super-socialist revolution. Actually the kulak counter-revolutionaries and kulak adherents were paving the way for Wrangel.
In the spring of 1920, Makhno overhauled the organization of his bands, giving them now the collective title of Revolutionary Army of the Ukraine. He divided his army into three corps. Each corps consisted of an indefinite number of regiments and varied greatly in organization. The regiments were formed from among roving scamps. The brigand undertaking the organization of a regiment was its absolute commander. Most of these regiments were made up of horsemen. Where the brigands succeeded in accumulating sufficient machine-guns, they organized machine-gun regiments.
` After settling down for the winter of 1919-20 in his area, with the approach of the spring of 1920 Makhno once more became active, launching his partisan campaign against the communications of the Red Thirteenth Army. The Makhno brigand bands demolished bridges on railway lines, raided railway stations, supply columns, and isolated Red army organizations. Against these there were sent the 42d Infantry Division and a brigade of the Esthonian division. These forces occupied the town of Gulai-Pole, which was Makhno's principal base of operation, and captured nearly his entire artillery, but Makhno himself with his detachments escaped and the action against him had to be carried on practically throughout the summer of 1920, when the political situation compelled him once more to adopt a conciliatory attitude toward the Soviets.
In Western Ukraine action against the brigand bands also called for men and material of our military command. The strength of the local garrisons, which was very small, was insufficient to cope with this scourge. Additional forces had to be taken from among the field units, thus again depleting the strength of these. Particularly the Twelfth Army by itself, had to detail eight detachments for the purpose, made up of 150 to 200 men each.
Along with the regular forces employed against the brigands there were also employed reserve formations, detachments and battalions belonging to the department of the interior. The "Domestic front" demanded the close attention of the high command. In April-May some of the brigand bands were operating in the immediate vicinity of Kharkov (where the front headquarters and the Ukrainian government had been situated). During the latter part of April railway communications were interrupted for several days between Poltava and Kharkov (Kovyagsk uprising); the bands threatened the main communications of the Twelfth and Fourteenth armies operating against the advancing Polish forces. The Polish advance was accompanied, as we have already noted, by a sharp increase in the activity of all bands of the Petlura type. The "internal" and external fronts now intermingled.
The tense situation existing behind the lines of the Red armies demanded of the command the government a number of administrative measures in order to insure normal, uninterrupted action against the brigand bands. Scattered, unorganized efforts on the part of separate armies and military commissariats toward the liquidation of the "internal" front failed in bringing about the necessary results. By the month of May there was completed the organization for the conduct of operations in the Ukraine against the brigands. A chief of communications was installed at the Revolutionary Military Council at the front. Similar chiefs of communications were installed at all army headquarters and in the various governments. Political supervision of the action was concentrated in special agencies of so-called regular conferences for action against bandit bands, made up of representatives of military commanders, revolutionary military councils (executive committee), party organizations, agricultural and supply agencies In May Comrade Dzerzhinsky was appointed chief of the S.O. S. and ordered to the Ukraine by the government of the R.S.F.S.R. The action involved against the brigand bands called for vigorous efforts on the part of the military forces. Employing partisan methods, the elusive, indefatigable, mobile bands, thoroughly familiar with the countryside, called for Red forces that were equally proficient in these means and methods of action. The troops and their commanders underwent training in this during the actual campaign, acquiring the necessary experience for operations against partisan elements. The rear lines consumed much strength. By the autumn of 1920 all of the forces designed for action against the bandit bands were already organized into ten interior service divisions of three brigades each. At the same time,as already mentioned, other forces also participated in the action against the brigand elements (reserve formations, etc.). The units of the service of the interior, in their undertakings against the brigands, were gradually gaining a new ally in the shape of organized indigent peasant detachments.
We have purposely dwelled at some length upon the aspects of the rear lines of the Red military forces in the Ukraine. The problems involved at a front and rear during a civil class struggle are quite different from those obtaining in any other conflict. The opposing forces in a revolutionary class struggle, more than in any other conflict, are afforded opportunities for gaining the military support of elements situated in rear of their enemy. There is hardly any need for proof that it was particularly this which opened exceptional opportunities for the armies of the proletarian revolution.
Any war of the future in which the Soviet Union might be forced to engage in will be a revolutionary class struggle. In our research we consider it our task to discover as we go along those features and indications which, in our opinion, distinguish a revolutionary class struggle from other conflicts. The future revolutionary class war, judging from the war of 1918-1921, in our opinion, will be the combination of a great modern conflict and so-called small wars. The command (officer) personnel of the Red Army in times of peace must be trained not only for the great war (which is its primary function) but also for decisive partisan operations, or in other words, for the small war.
Such was the general situation at the front and behind the lines of our two armies when, at daybreak of April 25, 1920, the enemy launched a general attack in the sector extending from the Pripet up to the Dniester. The hostile assault groups found little difficulty in penetrating the thin lines of our Twelfth Army. The group commanded by Rybak on this day, i.e. April 25th, occupied the town of Ovrutch, while the group under General Ridz-Smigly, developing a vigorous attack with its infantry, (consisting of the 1st Legionnaire Division), partly moving by truck, covered 80 kilometers, and at daybreak of the 26th of April seized the city of Zhitomir after a battle at the immediate approaches to the city with the 58th Infantry Division. On the same day the enemy occupied Korosten and Radomysl, thus establishing himself on the lateral railway communications extending in rear of the Red Twelfth Army front (Korosten - Zhitomir). As a consequence of these operations on the second day after the launching of the attack, the Twelfth Army ceased to exist as a component military unit; four divisions of this army (the 47th,7th, 58th infantry divisions and the 17th Cavalry Division),having lost contact with army headquarters and among themselves, were retreating in an easterly direction, endeavoring to reach the military roads in their rear. At the front only the 44th Infantry Division on the left flank continued to engage the enemy. In view of enemy pressure, however, this division also was soon compelled to yield 30 kilometers, withdrawing from Chudnow to the Kikhti - Beizymovka line. More successful was the action of the Fourteenth Army, which spelled hostile demonstrations on its front.
Thus the plan adopted by Pilsudski already bore its fruits on the
26th of April. The ensuing days on the sector of the Twelfth Army were
characterized by new gains of the enemy and the vain efforts of the commander
of the Twelfth Army to restore order and arrange an orderly withdrawal of the
divisions and to organize resistance at intermediate lines. In both of these
efforts he met with failure: In the first, he failed owing to the loss of
contact with his divisions, and in the second, because of a lack of fresh
reserves. During the night of the 26-27 of April Rybak's cavalry seized the
Malin railway station, while Romer's composite cavalry division attacked the
railway junction of Kazatin and gained possession of it, destroying in that
area the supply organizations of the 44th Infantry Division. The latter, in
view of this fact, was compelled to turn abruptly due south in its withdrawal,
heading for Makhnovka and Samgorodok, as a result of which it became completely
separated from the army to which it belonged for some time to come.
Seizing Malin and Kazatin, the enemy failed, however, in completely bottling up the units of the Twelfth Army, which Pilsudski's plan contemplated. The 44th Infantry Division, as we have seen, got around this bottleneck, while the 7th Infantry Division, withdrawing in good order, succeeded in repelling the hostile force trying to block it at the Malin railway station on the night of the 27-28 of April, driving the Polish cavalry force due north, and thus opened the route to Kiev for itself and for the remnants of the 47th Infantry Division. These tactical successes, however, failed to alter the general strategic situation, A considerable gap was formed between the Twelfth and Fourteenth armies which the enemy endeavored to enter. The Fourteenth Army, changing the direction of its right flank (45th Infantry Division) due north, was also to begin a withdrawal in the general direction of Zhitomir, in order to later cover the Odessa area.
Up to now the operations of the Polish Third Army developed very swiftly and vigorously. A conception of this is afforded by the following figures; The 6th Cavalry Brigade of the Rybak group had covered 180 kilometers in two days; the 1st Infantry Division of Legionnaires covered 80 kilometers in 24 hours. *(by truck) Henceforward, however, when the initial phase of the operation had been executed and was culminated by the pursuit of the remnants of the Twelfth Army, the momentum of the pursuit was slackened appreciably, and the pursuit itself now assumed a sporadic nature.
There were special reasons for this, explained by the wavering of the Polish G.H.Q. Notwithstanding his proximity to the Polish forces, Pilsudski's headquarters being located at Rovno, in view of the rapidly developing situation and of the conflicting reports reaching his headquarters, Pilsudski lacked a clear picture of the situation, and he gained a rather distorted conception of it. Thus, on April 28, Pilsudski had no information whatever regarding the situation at Malin, and on the basis of false rumors, he assumed that Romer's cavalry division had been defeated at Kazatin; the only accurate information that he possessed was to the effect that the resistance of the Fourteenth Army had been greater than expected, and that the group of forces under Ridz-Smigly had reached with advance units the line of the Teterev river.
Disturbed by this state of affairs Pilsudski on the next day held in place his left flank; he moved up slightly his center, and gathered in reserve the 15th Infantry Division for the contingency of more powerful action against the Fourteenth Army. Taking advantage of this delay, the units of the Twelfth Army disengaged themselves from the enemy and carried out their withdrawal in a more orderly manner. In connection with the general situation the commander of the Southwest Front decided upon limiting the action of this front (group of armies) to defensive operations in the Kiev and Odessa areas until the arrival at the Southwest Front of the Cavalry Army.
The following day was also passed by Pilsudski in indecision. He was faced by the choice of two plans: either of cutting off the Fourteenth Army from the crossings of the Dnieper, sending his entire cavalry against Tcherkassy and Znamenka, or of shifting the center of gravity of his forces to the Kiev area, and to pursue his ultimate objective - the capture of the city of Kiev. The occupation of the town of Belaya Tserkov by the Polish cavalry thoroughly convinced Pilsudski that there existed between the Red cavalry thoroughly convinced Pilsudski that there existed between the Red Twelfth and Fourteenth armies a wide gap that was in no way occupied by any Red forces, and put an end to his vacillations. On the 3d of May he decided on the selection of the city of Kiev as his main objective. The capture of Kiev was entrusted to the group of forces under Ridz-Smigly, which was attached the 15th Infantry Division and the composite cavalry division, whose designation was changed to that of the Third Army *
*The Polish Third Army that previously existed was disbanded and its 4th Infantry Division placed in G.H.Q. reserve.
In conformity with the plan of the Kiev operation, the Third Army
was to reach the line of the Dnieper river between the mouth of the Pripet and
the mouth of the Krasna river. The Polish Second Army was to cover it in the
south, while the Polish Sixth Army was given the mission of strongly protecting
from the south the railway line of Mogilev - Kazatin - Kiev.
Assisting the Third Polish Army, the Fourth Army in Polesie was to launch an attack on May 7th in the Dnieper river sector between the mouths of the Pripet and Berezina rivers. Meanwhile by the close of May 5th the remnants of the Twelfth Army, numbering in all only 2,511 infantry and 893 cavalry troops, took up positions at the immediate approaches to the city of Kiev behind the Irpen river, turning the left flank through the Veta village up to the Dnieper. Considerably to the south of these forces, on the line Vintsetovka - Tarashcha, was the 44th Infantry Division. In the interval of space between these two groups, on the left bank of the Dnieper in the vicinity of the Gusentsy village, was situated the same detachment of comrade Degtyarev. Finally, in the Odessar area, in the vicinity of the Vapnyarka railway station there was concentrating the Fourteenth Army, having its 60th Infantry Division on the line Sharapanovka - Myaskovka, while the 45th Infantry Division was withdrawing on Trostyanets from Tulchin. At Zvenigorodka was situated one brigade of the 21st Infantry Division (the 63d Infantry Brigade, transferred to the Southwest Front by the commander-in-chief).
Preparing for the capture of Kiev, General Ridz-Smigly, in anticipation of a vigorous struggle for the possession of this large political center of the Ukraine, concentrated on a narrow front his three infantry divisions for an attack on the city of Kiev from the west, while the group of forces under Rybak was to launch an attack on the city from the north. For the purpose of securing this operation, the Polish Second Army considerably extended itself eastward, changing its front practically to the south. The assault delivered by Ridz-Smigly, however, hit a vacuum, the weakened and decimated units of the Twelfth Army could not withstand the pressure of the advance elements and soon abandoned the line of the Irpen river. On May 6, 1920, the commander of the Twelfth Army was compelled to issue orders for the abandonment of the city of Kiev and the withdrawal of the Soviet forces on the left bank of the Dnieper river.
On May 9th the enemy crossed with some of his forces to the left bank of the Dnieper river opposite Kiev and established a bridgehead there. Efforts on the part of the Twelfth Army to repel the enemy resulted in a number of local engagements in this area, which continued throughout the month of May with alternating successes and failures on both sides. A similar situation developed also on the front of the Fourteenth Army. The action of the enemy after the fall of Kiev, notwithstanding his local victories merely assumed the aspects of an active defense. The law of distances here made itself felt, which in the end consumed the energy of the Polish advance, along with the lack of available forces, which had been diverted to the White Russian theater of operations from the Ukraine by the active operations of the Soviet Western Front. This activity led both sides to their first large scale engagement of the campaign in White Russia on the Berezina river.
The minor engagements at Kiev brought to a close the special Ukrainian operation of the enemy that had been characterized by his fullest initiative of action. In the background of these events new events were developing in connection with the approach to the Ukrainian front of the First Cavalry Army and the beginning of efforts toward a regaining of the initiative by our own forces in view of the advance of the Cavalry Army here.
Before taking up this matter, let us briefly consider the results of the above phase of the campaign in the Ukraine.
As already noted, in embarking on his attack on the Ukraine, Pilsudski pursued political and strategic objectives. His rces of the Soviets concentrated in the Ukraine, had likewise not been attained for the very obvious reason that these forces were not there These forces had been concentrated and were developing at this time in the White Russian theater of operations. Thus the strategic attack delivered by Pilsudski was delivered without affecting these forces, and when the energy of his assault had dwindled in the vast spaces of the Ukraine, his strategic situation was not so favorable as it had been at the beginning of the operation. The battle of Berezina soon gave rise to some misgivings in the minds and hearts of the Polish politicians and strategists.
Let us now consider the extent to which Pulsudski succeeded in accomplishing his tactical mission in his efforts toward gaining his tactical missions in his efforts toward gaining his ultimate objective. In our opinion , in this connection he also failed to accomplish his objective to the extent to which he might have expected it, if we consider the great superiority of forces enjoyed by him. True the Red Twelfth Army had been quite thoroughly crushed, and in all subsequent fighting this army's morale suffered from the consequences of the defeat that had been inflicted upon it, and yet the defeat of this army was not carried to completion by a vigorous pursuit. The Red Fourteenth Army was left without notice. The enemy lost an opportunity for its defeat while it had been isolated, which he might well have accomplished beginning April 28th. Maintaining its combat efficiency, the Red Fourteenth Army continued to contain considerable hostile forces. The particular activity of this army, in view of the need of the enemy to safeguard two areas, the Kiev and Odessa areas, on the opposite flanks, brought about a scattering of his forces in the Ukraine which ultimately enabled the Red command to execute counter-maneuvers against these. These mistakes were not due to any strategic plans of Pilsudski, whose virtues we have noted above. Rather they were the result, on the one hand, of the erroneous political and strategic premises on which his plan of action was based, and on the other hand, they were due to the vacillation and indecision at the Polish G.H.Q. after attaining the initially designated objectives involving the defeat of the Red Twelfth Army. This wavering was reflected in the retarded pursuit and the disregard of the Soviet forces that were still intact on the Polish right flank, consisting of the Fourteenth Army.
In the situation of the Soviet forces in the Ukraine in the spring of 1920, the principal cause of the failure of the Twelfth Army and withdrawal of the Fourteenth Army was the extremely unfavorable relative strength of opposing forces. No elastic counter-maneuver of any kind was feasible under the circumstances. The only expedient plan of action would have been a timely withdrawal on the part of the Twelfth Army under cover of rear guard actions. Such a plan would also have involved the withdrawal of the Fourteenth Army and a temporary yielding of considerable territory. If the commander-in-chief and the commander of the Southwest Front (group of armies) could not agree on this for political reasons, there was nothing left but to follow the course which they did: endeavoring to maintain their positions on intermediate lines with a view to gaining time until the arrival of fresh units. The bad feature of such a method of action is the great wear and tear involved on the part of the forces, of which the Twelfth Army was the example in the present circumstances.
The Red high command, estimating correctly the scope of the Polish advance in the Ukraine, considered the only manner of effecting a proper change in the situation to consist of the bringing up of a large striking force for employment in the decisive area. Until this striking force could be concentrated, which was to consist of the First Cavalry Army, the measures adopted by the high command consisted first, in conserving this force intact, without dissipating it prematurely, and secondly, in the creation of favorable circumstances for its employment. Consequently, S. S. Kamenev, the commander-in-chief, back on May 8th, already called for utmost activity by the Twelfth Army, in order to contain a maximum of hostile forces on its front. The Red Fourteenth Army,in turn was to conduct its operations so as to attract considerable forces in the Odessa area. By thus bringing about an extension of the hostile front it was contemplated to facilitate the delivery of the attack of the First Cavalry Army against the inner flank of one of the Polish armies; the direction of the assault was to be aimed at the Kazatin railway junction.
The final development and the execution of this plan took place during the second phase of the Ukrainian campaign, which was marked by brilliant triumphs of Red arms, and practically coincided with the revived action in the Crimea, which was also characterized by the original gaining of the initiative by the enemy and his gaining of considerable ground.
The halt in the progress of the Polish forces in the Ukraine almost coincided with revived action on the part of the Red armies on the Western Front.
In embarking upon this activity, however, the commander of the Western Front was not so much concerned with aiding the Southwest Front as in preventing a general hostile offensive in White Russia. The activity of the Polish Fourth Army, in the opinion of the commander of the Western Front, gave ground for such expectations.
The Polish Fourth Army, assisting the Polish Third Army in the Kiev area, had developed a vigorous offensive with the right flank and during May 8 and 9 moved up to the Dnieper river and captured the town of Rechitsa. Desiring to maintaining his position and to "prevent the enemy from involving our main forces in action at his choosing." *Quotation from book by Tukhachevsky, The March on the Vistula, p. 7, 1923. the commander of the Western Front himself decided to pass from the defensive to the offensive. On May 12, 1920 he issued orders for the launching of a vigorous offensive, without waiting for the complete concentration of all forces, with the object of "crushing the Polish army and driving it into the Pinsk marshes." *
* As had since been established, M.N. Tukhachevsky's suppositions were well founded. On May 11 Pilsudski, at Kalinkovice, ordered the commander of the Polish Fourth Army, General Sheptitsky, to prepare for an attack in the general direction of Zhlobin and Rogachev. Sheptitsky designated the 6th, 14th and part of the 9th Infantry Divisions for the attack. The attack was to be launched on the 17th of May. (Book by Sheptitsky, referred to above, page 17).
There were special reasons favoring the execution of the plan of the high command. These did not involve the numerical superiority of the forces but rather the relative disposition of the same. The actual strength of the opposing forces had been as follows: 61,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry troops of the Western Front were arrayed against 50,000 infantry and 4,500 cavalry troops of the Poles. The Polish forces, however, were extended almost evenly over a line of almost 500 kilometers, from the Western Dvina to Loyev on the Dnieper, where as the commander of the Western Front had disposed immediately behind the right flank the considerable forces of the 5th Infantry and 1st Cavalry divisions with a total strength of 35,736 infantry and 2,416 cavalry troops, which the commander of the Western Front decided on deploying in the sector: Yanopolye - Paulye - Kamen - Grachevici - Chashniki, over a line of 60 kilometers. Thus the commander of the Western Front provided a decided superiority of forces in the area selected by him for the assault.
In the delivery of this attack the decisive role, in accordance with the plan contemplated by the commander of the Western Front, was to assumed by the Fifteenth Army commanded by Comrade Kork, the organization of which included all of the units referred to above. This army delivered the main assault in the direction of Ushach - Zyabki. The operation involved, consisting of the turning of the hostile flank in the north, was to be supported by the "northern group" commanded by Comrade Sergeyev, which was organized back on May 5th. This group, however, found it impossible to effect its concentration in time, with the result that its commander could only designate a small "assault detachment" (two regiments of the 164th Infantry Brigade) comprising 700 infantry troops with 8 guns, for active operations. At the same time, the Sixteenth Army commanded by Sollogub, launching an attack in the Igumen area and crossing the Berezina river, was to contain the enemy frontally and impede any possible counter-maneuver by him against the Fifteenth Army.
Thus the role assigned the Sixteenth Army in the plan of the commander of the Western Front consisted of the delivery of a subsidiary assault. It is to be noted that the execution of this mission involved a preliminary regrouping of this army. The bulk of its forces had been concentrated on its left flank in the Mozyr area (10th, 17th and 57th Infantry Divisions). The Borisov and Bobruisk areas had been secured only by the 8th Infantry Division, extended over a line of 200 kilometers. Considering the time and space, or distances involved, the army commander regarded the transfer of his main forces to the Igumen area possible by May 19 or 20 at the earliest. * The commander of
* Duly considering the disposition of his forces, Sollogub submitted to the commander of the Western Front his own plan of action, which involved the making of the main effort by the Sixteenth Army against Bobruisk. In this event, the assault would coincide with the assault of the Fifteenth Army against Vilna and Molodechno. This attack of the Sixteenth Army was to consist essentially of a powerful demonstration against Bobruisk. This was the light in which the commander of the Sixteenth Army regarded it. The commander of the Western Front rejected this plan, ordering the Sixteenth Army not to stage a demonstration but to deliver an auxiliary attack with a view to assisting the Fifteenth Army. (For details see book by Shilovsky - On the Berezina). The commander of the Western Front ordered the Sixteenth Army to cross the Berezina not later than May 17th.
Desiring to avoid the marshy-forest upper parts of the Berezina river, the commander of the Fifteenth Army decided to originally deliver his attack in the general direction of Ushach - Zyabki and thence to shift the direction of his attack against Molodechno. The development of the Fifteenth Army in one line by divisions on the above front was completed by the morning of the 12th of May.
By this time, the general disposition of the opposing forces in the White Russian theater of operations had been as follows:
The Polish First Army (General Zhigaldovich) - 34,000 infantry and 1,300 cavalry troops (1st and 2nd Cavalry Brigades, 1st Lithuanian-White Russian Division, 3d infantry Legionnaire Division, 8th and 10th infantry divisions) were deployed on the front: Pelik Lake (incl), Ushach, Parianovo railway station, Disna, extending (roughly) about 150 kilometers.*
*There were per kilometer of front, in round figures - 234 infantry and cavalry troops.
The Polish Fourth Army (General Sheptitsky) - 17,200 infantry and 3,200 cavalry (9th Infantry Division, a cavalry brigade, 14th Infantry division, one brigade of the 6th Infantry Division, 2nd Infantry Legionnaire Division) were deployed on the front; Loyev - Rechitsa - Gorval - Bobruisk - Borisov - Pelik Lake (excl.), extending (roughly) about 350 kilometers.**
** There were per kilometer of front, in round figures - 694 infantry and cavalry troops.
The G.H.Q. reserve - the 17th Infantry Division (4,800 infantry troops) was situated in the vicinity of Lida. The 16th Infantry Division (4,800 men) that was arriving in Fourth Army reserve, was directed by brigade to the Borisov and Zhlobin areas.*** Based on the data furnished by E. A. Shilovsky.
Against these Polish forces the Red armies of the Western Front developed as follows: Northern group commanded by Sergeyev, disposed with assault detachment (700) men against the town of Disna; the Fifteenth Army commanded by Kork (6th, 53d, 4th, 11th, 56th, 29th infantry divisions and 15th Cavalry Division) - 35,736 infantry and 2,416 cavalry troops - on the line; Yanopolye - Kamen - Grachevici - Chasniki, extending over 60 kilometers. *
*There were per kilometer of front, in round figures - 637 infantry and cavalry troops.
The Sixteenth Army commanded by Sollogub (8th, 10th, 17th, 57th infantry divisions) - 28,449 infantry troops - began regrouping on May 6th and continued it at a rather slow pace. The 17th Infantry Division moved up to the Teterin - Shepelevici - Golovchin area (50 km. northeast of the town of Berezina); to the south of it, the 8th Infantry Division began turning over the Ozdyatici - Batsevici - Yakimovskaya sector to a brigade of the 10th Infantry Division. The 23d Brigade occupied the line opposite Borisov and awaited relief which was to arrive from the 21st Infantry Division. **
** In view of the tardiness of the 21st Infantry Division, the 23d Infantry Brigade was later relieved by an Alatyr infantry brigade which was also incorporated into the Sixteenth Army, which arrived earlier.
The general offensive was ordered for the 14th of May. As was to be expected, the action of Sergeyev's "assault detachment," though the latter successfully crossed the Western Dvina, failed to exercise any appreciable effect upon the development of the action of the Fifteenth Army, which was progressing quite satisfactorily without the aid of the former. At the same time the left flank of the army, where the so-called South group operated (formed from the 29th Infantry Division and attached units) found it impossible to avoid the marshy-forest upper parts of the Berezina river. As the Fifteenth Army advanced its front became extended. On May 18th the line of this army extended along the line Luzhi - Glubokoye - Mezhuzhol Lake - the town of Berezina - Domzheritskoye lake, with the flanks of the army refused with respect to the center, while the army covered a front of 110 kilometers. So far the Fifteenth Army was left at its own resources. The Sixteenth Army only at daybreak of the 19th of May crossed with two divisions (17th and 8th infantry divisions) to the right bank of the Berezina river south of Borisov and began developing its attack against Igumen.* The operations here from May 19 to 23 were of a purely local nature.
*Thus the auxiliary attack of the Sixteenth Army was greatly delayed, for the reasons stated.
Notwithstanding the fact that our forces succeeded in advancing up to Igumen and capturing the latter town, the strength of the Sixteenth Army was insufficient for the purpose of extending the wedge driven into the enemy lines, and it soon felt the pressure of the hostile reserves that were brought into action, which threatened to cut off our forces from the crossings of the Berezina river. The considerable distances separating the inner flanks of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth armies, amounting to about 120 kilometers, precluded any mutual cooperation on the part of these two armies, and facilitated the enemy's action against the Sixteenth Army.
Only on the 22d of May, after being reinforced by the advance units of the 18th Infantry Division arriving from Polotsk, did the "Northern group" commanded by Sergeyev begin advancing on the same line occupied by the right flank of the Fifteenth Army. The latter was at this time preparing to change the direction of its advance on Molodechno. This movement brought about an almost even distribution of all forces of the Fifteenth Army into three different areas: The Postava area (53d Infantry Division, 15th Cavalry Division and the army reserve - 6th Infantry Division at Glubokoye); the Molodechno area (4th, 11th, 56th infantry divisions), and the Zembina area ( the south group - about two divisions), with the active missions of each of these groups the objective of which was to reach the line Postava - Voistom - Radashkovici.
The "Northern group" commanded by Sergeyev, comprising for the time being only one infantry brigade, was directed at the same time in a northwesterly direction, against Bratslav. There were thus four separate areas 55, 75 and 55 kilometers from one another along which, beginning on the 23d of May, the "Northern group" was to operate along with the Fifteenth Army that was to be employed on the main effort - which led to a scattering of the latter, though up to the 27th of May the advance of the Fifteenth Army, in view of its initial inertia, was still in the process of development. Only on the 27th of May did it begin to encounter more stubborn resistance of the enemy, and the lines of this army at points began faltering under enemy pressure that was beginning to be felt in the Zembina area, with the gradual extension of this pressure in the Molodechno area. The "Northern group" encountered strong resistance in the Bratslav area, and the fighting in this area assumed an indecisive, alternating aspect.
All this testified to an approaching change in the situation that was unfavorable for us; it was due to the beginning of the Polish preparations for the launching of a counter-maneuver. Considering at first the advance of the Fifteenth Army as a mere demonstration, Pilsudski did not lose much time afterwards in gaining an accurate evaluation of the situation. Placing both armies operating in White Russia under the command of General Sheptitsky, commanding the Fourth Army, he ordered the transfer to the Minsk area from the Ukraine the two infantry divisions and an infantry brigade which he had maintained there in reserve, and he moved from the interior to Sventisiany the 7th Infantry Reserve Brigade with several other units, forming in the Sventisiany area an assault force in the shape of the "reserve army" under General Sosnkovsky, made up of 4 infantry divisions and 1 cavalry brigade (the 8th, 10th, 11th infantry divisions, a brigade of the 5th infantry division 7th Reserve Brigade, 1st Cavalry Brigade), with a similar assault force in the Minsk area in the vicinity of Zemblin, made up of the Skersky group (1 1/2 infantry divisions) the 15th Infantry Division and a brigade of the 4th Infantry Division.
Pilsudski planned by an attack on both flanks of our Fifteenth Army,
in the Postava and Shklyantsy areas, to take this army in a pincer movement and
to bring about its destruction. In order to accomplish this, however, it was
necessary first to end matters with the Igumen column of the Sixteenth Army.
The initial assaults against this column were delivered by reinforcements
arriving at Minsk. During May 22 and 23 these attacked the column from the
south and north and compelled it to draw back from Igumen to Berezina (by May
26); during the days that followed the Sixteenth Army withdrew to the left bank
of the river. The assault on the wedge that had been formed by the Sixteenth
Army was the prologue to a more extensive counter-maneuver against the
Fifteenth Army. This counter-maneuver, as we have seen, began developing from
the Zembina area with the attack of the assault group under General Skersky
made up of units of the Polish Fourth Army. Evaluating properly the changed
situation in the sector of the Fifteenth Army, the commander of the Western
Front adopted measures for the cooperation between the inner flanks of the two
Red armies. He ordered on the 29th of May the Sixteenth Army to re-cross the
Berezina river, this time to the north of Borisov, but the regrouping of forces
which this entailed required several days.
Notwithstanding the extension of supply lines and the discovered increase in hostile forces, the Fifteenth Army was ordered to continue its vigorous advance. The commander of the Fifteenth Army therefore accumulated in the Molodechno area ( at Shklyantsi) all of his available reserves, denuding the Postava area; in the latter area he furthermore intended to extend considerably to the south the front of the 53d Infantry Division. Thus movements in this area were facilitated for the enemy.
On the 31st of May the enemy counter-maneuver was greatly developed against the Fifteenth Army. On this day the "reserve army" of General Sosnovsky launched a vigorous offensive in the Postova area and penetrated the area where the lines of the Fifteenth Army and the "Northern group" joined. The action of the enemy developed less successfully in the Molodechno area and in the Zembina area, where the exhausted Polish First Army was operating, comprising 3 1/2 infantry divisions (3d Legionnaire Infantry Division, 1st Lithuanian-White Russian Division, 17th Infantry Division, and a brigade of the 6th Infantry Division), of which the commander of the Southwest Front decided to take advantage, deciding on the launching of a vigorous assault against the hostile forces in the Zembina area. With this object in view there were attached to the Fifteenth Army on the night of June 1-2 the 12th Infantry Division that had been maintained in G/H.Q. reserve, which had arrived at Glubokoye. Reinforcing his South group with this division, the commander of the Fifteenth Army was to develop his attack on Smolevici.The Sixteenth Army was to assist in this; it was ordered at daybreak June 3d to cross the Berezina north of Borisov and to advance on Zhodin - Smolevici. Thus, each side sought a decision on its opposite flank. The commander of the Western Front, however, in order to accomplish his objective, had to denude even further the Posteva area against which the enemy exerted great pressure. This area was of vital importance to both sides, inasmuch as it led the enemy against the rear of the Fifteenth Army.
The orders issued by the commander of the Fifteenth Army further facilitated the action of the enemy. He directed the Shklyantsi the entire 12th Infantry Division and then sent there also the brigade of the 54th Infantry Division * which had just arrived in the sector of the Fifteenth Army along with the 15th Cavalry Division. None of these units accomplished their missions. While they were en route to Shklyantsi on June 2d, the enemy effected a complete breakthrough of the front of the 53d Infantry Division. The Fifteenth Army reserves again turned toward Postova from their march and were committed to action in driblets. Their efforts at restoring the situation were of no avail. Thus June 2d was the crucial day of the operation. **
*The 54th Division was transferred from the former Northern Front to the Western Front. The leading brigade of this division was also placed under the control of the commander of the Fifteenth Army by the commander of the Western Front.
**At the close of the day the front of the Fifteenth Army assumed approximately the following broken outline: Ozeryan - Postava (exclusive) - Dunilovici (exclusive) - Krivici - Shklyantsi.
The ensuing days were marked by a general withdrawal of the Fifteenth Army and the "Northern group." Being unable to maintain themselves on the Mniut river, both of these forces withdrew on June 8th to the narrower front, which was protected by water barriers, extending along the line: Lake Pol. Blna - Lake Zhado - Auta river, resting the left flank on the Berezina river.As a consequence of his counter-maneuver from June 1st to June 8th, the enemy had succeeded almost completely in restoring his situation on the Berezina river.
In the battle of Berezina neither side succeeded entirely in attaining its objectives. The Soviet forces did not succeed in driving the enemy into the Pinsk marshes, while the Polish forces failed to bring about the destruction of the Fifteenth Army. The brunt of the fighting here was borne by the Fifteenth Army. Up to the 22d of May the Northern group was too weak to afford any important assistance, while the action of the Sixteenth Army was not coordinated with that of the Fifteenth Army to be of any help. These were the objective reasons complicating the situation of the Fifteenth Army. Among the subjective reasons that facilitated the enemy's execution of his missions, were the movements of the Fifteenth Army and its changes of direction toward Molodechno in three separated areas and the weakening of the Postava area at the moment when the assault of the hostile "reserve army" was being directed against it. The action of the Fifteenth Army in avoiding the pincer movement of the enemy was facilitated by the fact that the hostile forces in the Molodechno area had rushed forward and came upon the wedge formed by the Fifteenth Army before these had learned of the action of their enveloping group.
The battle of Berezina, assumed the aspects of a preventative offensive of the Red armies of the Western Front, in spite of same friction in the matters of organization and control that were mentioned above and which is more or less unavoidable in war, nevertheless gained those limited objectives for which the commander of the Western Front had embarked upon. We have already pointed out that the main objective of the commander of the Western Front was a disruption of the contemplated Polish offensive. As we have since learned, Pilsudski had the following plan before him, namely: immediately upon the completion of the campaign against Kiev, the development of an operation against the left flank of the Western Front in the general direction of Zhlobin. With this object in view, the enemy had already concentrated his mobile reserves along the lateral railway communication lines of Berditchev - Zhitomir - Korosten - Kalinkovici - Zhlobin, which joined the Ukrainian and White Russian theaters of operation. Those reserves, however, had to be transferred to the Polotsk and Minsk areas and to be utilized in halting our assaults. Moreover, our preventative attack also exerted its influence on the entire subsequent course of the conflict. The Poles found it necessary to limit their action in the Ukraine to purely defensive undertakings - the maintenance of seized ground - inasmuch as it became necessary for them to transfer their available reserves as promptly as possible to White Russia.* The wavering of the Polish front on the shortest strategic lines of operation against Warsaw compelled the enemy to hasten the changing of his plans. Even the reserves in the interior of the country that were still in the process of organization (7th Reserve Brigade) felt the influence of our assault. Of equal importance was the effect of our assault on the morale of the forces. The attack served to emphasize the striking power and efficiency of our forces.
*True, Pilsudski had ordered between June `` and 13 the transfer back to the Ukrainian theater of operations 2 1/2 infantry divisions (3d Infantry Legionnaire Division, 16th Infantry Division, and a brigade of the 6th Infantry Division), but these were too late and arrived at a time when the change in the situation in the Ukrainian theater of operations already favored Red arms.
The results involved might have been greater were it not for some blunders committed by us, blunders that were of a purely technical nature.
The technique involved in the organization and execution of an
operation is acquired at the expense of much experience. We did not acquire
this experience at one. Beginning with the battle of Berezina our will to
victory began to show progressively its psychological effect upon the Polish
military leaders. Our bold revolutionary strategy fully justified itself and
once more served to emphasize the importance of the element of morale in war -
which is so often lost sight of. If the battle of Berezina on the whole
produced an adverse effect upon the morale of the Red forces. This was
particularly important in so far as the principal divisions of the Western
Front were concerned, which had been engaged in defensive operations throughout
the preceding year. These divisions now realized that they too, like the
divisions on other fronts that had become used to bold offensive undertakings,
are capable of launching attacks, and must do so.
Finally, the battle of Berezina was also important to the Red Army from the standpoint of the experience which it afforded. It served to reveal certain organizational defects (insufficiently developed army control agencies, lack of means of communication, etc.), and the lull in the fighting which ensued made it possible to correct these.
In that phase of the battle of Berezina when the opposing forces stubbornly fought for the initiative in that battle, with the enemy making overwhelming gains in this respect, an entirely different picture obtained in the Ukraine. Here the long- expected First Cavalry Army that had been on the way by marching from the Caucasus finally made its appearance. On May 18 the main forces of this army, comprising 16,700 cavalry troops, 48 guns, 5 armored trains, 8 armored cars and 12 airplanes, arrived in the vicinity of Elitsavetgrad. On the same day Yegorov, commanding the South Front, provided for the organization in Western Ukraine of three strategic groups: The Fastov group, commanded by Yakir - consisting of 2 infantry divisions ( 44th and 45th) and an independent cavalry brigade (under Kotovsky); the Kazatin group, commanded by Budienny, consisting of the Cavalry Army, and the Zhmerinsk group at Borovici, comprising the entire Fourteenth Army, i.e., 2/3 infantry divisions and one cavalry division (41st and 60th Inf. Divs. and the 8th Cavalry Division just transferred from the Crimea front, the 21st and 63d infantry brigades). The Kazatin cavalry group was the striking force operating within the framework of two infantry divisions that were securing its flanks.
By the time the First Cavalry Army was committed to action the lines of the enemy had been brought to a standstill; the enemy passed to the defensive all along the front. The Polish Third Army, made up of three incomplete divisions (Colonel Rybak's detachment, 1st Legionnaire Infantry Division, and the 6th Ukrainian Division), and one cavalry brigade (the 7th), occupied the front from the mouth of the Pripet river up to Bielaya Tserkov (inclusive), with a bridgehead on the left bank of the Dnieper facing Kiev, whose mission was the protection of the Kiev area from the east and south. The Polish Second Army, made up of two infantry divisions and one cavalry division (7th & 13th Infantry Divisions and the former Romer Cavalry Division), was disposed on the line extending from Bielaya Tserkov (exclusive) up to the town of Lipovets (inclusive). This army was to secure the Kazatin railway junction.*
*This army was disbanded on the 27th of May. The headquarters of the army was converted into the headquarters of the Ukrainian Front (Zhitomir); the 13th Infantry Division was assigned to the Sixth Army, and the 7th Infantry Division, to the Third Army.
The Polish Sixth Army, made up of four infantry divisions*
* The lst Brigade of the 5th Infantry Division was sent to White Russia. (12th and 18th Infantry Divisions, Ukrainian Division, and one brigade of the 5th Infantry Division) - on the line Lipovets (exclusive) - Haisin - Yampol covered the Zimerinka area. The general strength of all Polish forces in the Ukraine amounted to 60,000 infantry and cavalry: there were practically evenly distributed in a line from the mouth of the Pripet river up to the Dniester extending over 400 kilometers. Against these the commander of the Southwest Front, even with the First Army, could muster a total of 36,985 infantry and cavalry troops, whose disposition, however, provided a concentration in the direction of the main effort, against Kazatin, of about 16,000 cavalry troops.
Estimating the total of the hostile forces at 58,000 infantry and cavalry troops and assuming that the center of gravity in the disposition of the hostile forces had been shifted to Kiev, the commander of the Western Front decided on the selection of the hostile group of forces as his main objective. The twelfth Army was to effect the crossing of the Dnieper north of Kiev and advance in the general direction of Korosten, intercepting the railway line between the Korosten railway station and the city of Kiev at the Borodyanka railway station; the Yakir group, advancing on Bielaya Tserkov, had the mission of attracting a maximum of hostile forces, with the object of facilitating the execution of the mission by the First Cavalry Army. The latter, advancing energetically against Kazatin, was required to capture it not later than by June 1st and, posting a screening force in the west, it is not later than by June 1st and, posting a screening force in the west, it was to operate against the communications of the hostile Kiev group of forces.
The Fourteenth Army, staging a demonstration, was to occupy the Vinnitsa - Zhmerinka area by not later than June 1st. The operation was to be launched on the 26th of May. It was developed as follows. In the sector of the Twelfth Army and that of the Yakir group the fighting was at first conducted with alternating successes and failures. The Twelfth Army, engaging in some fighting, awaited the complete concentrating at Oster of the 25th Infantry Division that was arriving to assist it, before undertaking a crossing of the Dnieper.
On the 29th of May the First Cavalry army came upon the fortified positions of the Polish 13th Infantry Division covering the Kazatin railway junction; committing to action its divisions one at a time, it attempted to penetrate the hostile positions by repeated frontal attacks. The Fourteenth Army conducted local engagements. Only on the 5th of June, after concentrating all of his forces on the right flank, did the commander of the First Cavalry Army succeed in penetrating the rear lines of the enemy at the junction point of the Polish Sixth and Third armies.*
*This penetration of the First Cavalry Army deserves particular attention not only from its large strategic importance, but also from the standpoint of the military art of the post-war period of 1914-1918. The well-known French General Fourrier to whose work we shall frequently refer later on, in his critique on the important work of General Sikorski of the Polish Army, entitled On the Vistula and the Wkra, published in a journal of 1929, emphasizes the fact that the penetration of the First Cavalry Army witnessed the collapse of the Polish military doctrine of linear defense that had been their heritage of the World War. This general points out that it was particularly the Red high command which foresaw the evolution of military art in this sphere of action, preferring the concentration of powerful assault forces at a given point to extensive arrays of echelons over long lines of action. Ere long the polish high command received another and more painful lesson in the White Russian theater of operations in the conduct of extensive mobile warfare at the hands of the Soviet high command.
This penetration coincided with the crossing to the right bank of the Dnieper above Kiev by the advance units of the assault group commanded by Golikov, made up of Twelfth Army units (7th and 25th Infantry Brigades and Bashkir Cavalry Brigade).
On June 7 and 8 Golikov's assault detachment slowly deployed along the right bank of the Dnieper, with its axis of communications on Borodyanka; at the same time the First Cavalry Army but rather against Berditchev and Zhitomir, avoiding also the powerful Kazatin center. On the 7th of June Zhitomir and Berditchev with the warehouses situated thereat were captured by the First Cavalry Army. The Polish Third Army, however, was allowed two precious days, and the Polish sixth Army had an opportunity to secure the Kazatin communications center with two infantry and one cavalry divisions.
Thus, for the time being, the penetration effected by the First Cavalry Army was more important from the standpoint of the morale of the troops than strategic. During the days that followed the First Cavalry Army engaged in fighting with the cavalry division of the enemy. On June 8th, judging from the directive issued by him, the commander of the Southwest Front apparently intended to take the Polish Third Army in a pincer movement, utilizing the Yakir and Golikov groups alone for the purpose. The first was given the mission of intercepting the Kiev - Zhitomir highway not later than June 10th, while the Twelfth Army was to sever the railway line of Kiev - Korosten in the Borodyanka - Irsha sector by not later than June 12th. In turn the commander-in-chief, taking into consideration the success of the Golikov group, adopted measures for the prompt transfer by water of the 24th Infantry Division to the point of the crossings from Gomel. This division had originally been assigned to the Western Front.
With the first information of the penetration made by the First Cavalry Army, Pilsudski decided on clearing the Kiev base on the left bank of the Dnieper and to occupy in the Ukraine a narrower front, while employing the Polish Third Army in assaults against the communications of the First Cavalry Army moving this army over the Zhitomir highway. The instructions pertaining to the Polish Third Army, however, did not reach it in time.Assuming that the Polish assault detachment concentrated at Kazatin would deal with the First Cavalry Army. Ridz-Smigly decided to withdraw his army to Korosten, utilizing the Kiev - Korosten, utilizing the Kiev - Korosten railway as the axis of his movement.
Pilsudski adopted measures for the establishment on the Korosten-Shepetovka line of a new front by once more transferring forces from White Russia * and from the interior.
*We have already shown that with this in view he ordered between June 11 and 13th the transfer from the White Russian theater of operations to the Ukraine 2 1/2 divisions (3d Inf. Div. of Legionnaires, 16th Inf. Div. and a brigade of the 6th Infantry Division).
On the night of the 9th of June the Polish Third Army, in preparation for its withdrawal, began concentrating its forces in the Dnieper, Irpen and Stugna triangle, facing in three directions. On June 10th the advance units of the Golikov detachment reached the line Ivankov - Dymer, while its cavalry brigade proceeded against the Teterev railway station. The group of forces commanded by Yakir was very much scattered: the 45th Infantry Division of this group was approaching Fastov at the very time that the cavalry brigade under Kotovsky occupied Romanovka. Thus the Polish Third Army still had before it a gap through which to effect withdrawal that was about 75 kilometers wide. This gap could be blocked by the First Cavalry Army, which had abandoned the Zhitomir - Berditchev - Fastov area and was proceeding in an easterly direction. On June 9th this army concentrated in the Kornin-Khodorkov-Voitovtsi area, and on June 10th two of its divisions advanced on Fastov where they established contact with the forces of the Yakir detachment.
Once more, however, the trap prepared for the Polish Third Army failed in its purpose. On June 10th the commander of the Southwest Front again directed the First Cavalry Army against the Berditchev - Zhitomir area, apparently believing that the Golikov detachment by itself, on reaching the Radomysl - Markarov line, would be able to surround the Polish Third Army. The latter, however, withdrawing in good order in three strong columns succeeded on June 11th and 12th in defeating those weak detachments of the Golikov group that attempted to block the retreat of these forces along the Kiev - Korosten railway and cleared from themselves the line of retreat to Korosten. Once more occupying the Zhitomir area on June 12th and spending the next day there the commander of the First Cavalry Army on June 14th received a directive of the commander of the Southwest Front dated June 11th requiring him to send at once two of his divisions by marching to the Chepovici - Malin area, in view of the withdrawal of the main forces to the Polish Third Army on Korosten. Efforts at halting the withdrawal of the Polish Third Army once more failed. Both of the divisions of the First Cavalry Army, operating separately, since one of the divisions moved on Korosten while the other proceeds against Radomysl, found it impossible to cope with the strong flanking detachments of the Polish 7th Infantry Division. The further withdrawal of the Polish Third Army now proceeded without interference, inasmuch as it now established contact with those Polish forces that began forming a new front along the Uzen and Slutch rivers. On this front, i.e., on the same line which the Polish armies had occupied in the Ukraine up to April 20th, was where Pilsudski had decided on June 12th to withdraw his Ukrainian forces. This decision inaugurated a new phase in the Ukrainian campaign which may be characterized as the strategic pursuit of the enemy.
Thus the strategic results of the counter-maneuver launched by the commander of the Southwest Front brought about the considerable success involved in the liquidation of all previous territorial gains made by the enemy. The success, however, was not complete. We failed in effecting a considerable destruction of the hostile troops, especially in destroying the Polish Third Army. The main reasons for the failure were, on the one hand, the fruitless movements of the Cavalry Army during June 5 to 12 in the Berditchev - Zhitomir -Fastov triangle; the exaggerated hopes placed in the ability of the single Golikov group to surround the enemy; tardiness and extended movement of the latter group owing to the unfavorable conditions of the terrain (sandy-forest area), and on the other hand, the skilful organization of the withdrawal by the commander of the Polish Third Army, General Ridz-Smigly.
The operations of the armies of the Southwest Front were not only of strategic importance, but exercised a vital effect on the morale of the forces as well: The penetration effected by the First Cavalry Army, according to Pilsudski, produced a tremendous effect not alone on the army but on the entire country as well.
The commander-in-chief, S. S. Kamenev, was of the opinion that in launching the pursuit of the Polish forces, the primary efforts of the Southwest Front should be directed against the hostile Kiev group of forces, since it was expected that these hostile forces could be reinforced by three divisions from the White Russian front. He accordingly proposed to have the Cavalry Army directed against Rovno, the assault group of the Twelfth Army to proceed directly against Ovruch - Koroten, and to send a special detachment against Mozyr. In his directive of the 15th of June the commander of the Southwest Front introduced some changes in the above instructions. He ordered the main forces of the Twelfth Army against Ovruch, two divisions of the cavalry army on Korosten, and the two remaining divisions of this army together with the 45th Infantry Division attached to the army, against Novograd-Volhynski. This dispersion of the forces of the Cavalry Army led to protracted fighting on the line of the Slutch river near Novograd-Volhynski with the hostile infantry arriving from White Russia ( a brigade of the 6th and the 3d Legionnaire Infantry Divisions, inasmuch as all divisions of the First Cavalry Army again concentrated in the Novograd-Volhynski area only by June 20th.
Only on the 27th of June did the First Cavalry Army succeed in overcoming the resistance of the enemy at Novograd-Volhynski, perhaps for the simple reason that at this time two infantry divisions of the Twelfth Army (25th and 7th) already hovered over the left flank of the enemy, reaching the Olevsk area where they engaged in vigorous fighting. The shifting of the four infantry divisions of the Twelfth Army to Southern Polesie gave free rein to the left flank of the Western Front the moment that the threat to the right flank and rear of the Polish forces in the Govel area became apparent. On the 18th of June the Mozyr group of the Western Front, formed back on the 19th of May from the left-flank units of the Sixteenth Army, proceeded against the retreating hostile forces on its front; it occupied the town of Retchitsa and advanced on the town of Mozyr. The latter town, however, was occupied on the 29th of June by the right flank division of the Twelfth Army.*
*The successful action of the Mozyr group and of the right flank of the Twelfth Army in Polesie attracted the particular attention of Pilsudski. The latter did not lose hopes up to the end of June on the organization of a counterattack with his Polesie group under Sikorski (two infantry divisions and Balakhovitch brigade), and the Polish Third Army with the object of driving the Red forces from the gap between the Pripet and Dnieper rivers. Because of this, the Polesie group was strengthened, at the expense of the Polish White Russian theater of operations, by another infantry division (16th). This plan was disrupted by the vigorous offensive launched by our South armies. Only the negative results of this plan were left for the Poles in the form of the weakening of the main front of General Sheptitski by one more infantry division.
On June 27th the commander of the Southwestern Front, Yegorov, decided on a complete disruption of the Polish front in the Ukraine, driving the northern part of this front into the Polesie marshes,and the southern part against the neutral Rumanian territory. With this in view, the Twelfth Army was to seize Mozyr and Olevsk by not later than June 28th and then, by not later than July 3d, with the "assault group," in conjunction with the First Cavalry Army, occupy the Kostopol - Rovno area, and thence develop a vigorous assault against Sarny, turning the latter in the general direction of Stepan Chartoriisk. The First Cavalry Army, pursuing the enemy, was to occupy the Rovno area by not later than July 3d. The Fourteenth Army, by not later than June 29th, was to seize the Staro-Konstantino - Proshurov area, while at the same time endeavoring to deliver a crushing blow against the hostile Dniester group of forces, cutting it off from the Galician frontier and driving it against the Dniester river.
An estimate of this plan calls first of all for an analysis of the situation of the opposing forces on July 1st and the relative strength of these.
On July 1st the Polish Third Army (3 infantry divisions and 1 cavalry brigade) - 16,000 infantry and cavalry forces - occupied the line along the Ubort river, with the 1st Legionnaire Infantry Division in the Golysh area. The newly organized Polish Second Army (3 infantry divisions along the line of the Gorin river, between Tuchin and Ostrog, having on its left flank the 6th Infantry Division moved up in the Ludvipol area, and on the right flank, two infantry brigades (10th and 1st reserve), in the Izyaslavl - Ostrog area. In the center, astride the Rovno highway, was situated the 3d Legionnaire Infantry Division, and between the right flank of this division and Ostorg was the lst Cavalry division. The Polish Sixth Army (3 infantry divisions and Ukrainian army whose strength was equal to that of a Polish division) - 27,000 infantry and cavalry troops - occupied a line from Gritsev via Letitchev and Bar, up the Dniester.
In the disposition of the Polish forces there is to be noted the gap between the inner flanks of the Polish Second and First armies of about 80 kilometers, the oblique situation of the Polish Second Army behind the Polish Sixth Army and the superior strength of the Polish Sixth Army over the two Polish armies.
On July 1st the line of the units of the Twelfth Army, which was in a state of flux, may be said to have extended somewhat as follows: Elsk - Perga - Zubkovici villages; here were operating the five infantry divisions and 1st Cavalry Brigade) - with a total strength of over 12,000 infantry and cavalry troops. *
*Information relative the combat strength of the 24th Infantry Division is lacking.
The First Cavalry Army (16,000 cavalry troops, in round numbers), advanced with leading units along the line Ludvipol (exclusive) - Mezhirechye - Annopol. The 45th infantry division attached to this army, with Kotovsky's cavalry brigade (1,215 infantry and 210 cavalry troops) reached the line Korchik - Shepetovka with two brigades, while occupying with its 3d brigade the town of Gritsev. The Fourteenth Army (41st, 60th, composite divisions and the 8th Cavalry Division) - 7,400 infantry and 2,195 cavalry, in round numbers, having on its right flank east of the Sienyava railway station the 6th Cavalry Division, conducted vigorous fighting along the Novo- Konstantinov Letitchev line (both points exclusive) - Mordin - Stodultsi - Kopaigorod - Mogilev - Podolski (latter two points exclusive).
Thus each of our armies had before it approximately one hostile army. The relative strength of the opposing forces in the three areas which may be regarded as the pivots of these armies, namely; the Sarno, Rovno and Proskurov areas was as follows: In the Sarno area, against the hostile 16,000 infantry and cavalry forces were 12,000 infantry and cavalry troops of our own i.e., the enemy enjoyed here a numerical superiority of forces. In the Rovno area, against 14,000 infantry and cavalry forces we had 16,210 cavalry troops and 1,215 infantry (a total of 17,425 infantry and cavalry troops) i.e.,here we had a slight numerical superiority over the enemy. In the Proskurov area, against 27,000 infantry and cavalry of the enemy, we had 9,595 infantry and cavalry troops, i.e., the enemy here enjoyed a numerical superiority of almost three to one.
Obviously, with the above relative strength of opposing forces, the commander of the Southwest Front could not count on gaining those decisive results which he had expected ( this is especially true with respect to the mission assigned to the Fourteenth Army), unless the enemy was completely demoralized or about to commit some great blunders. In the plans of the commander of the Southwest front the Rovno area assured decisive importance though in the disposition of the force this was not given sufficient attention. True the Twelfth Army was to consolidate its lefty flank and to maintain in the Rovno area an assault detachment of at least three divisions, but, considering the time factor, this was hardly feasible. In any case. it was impossible to assume equally decisive missions both in the Rovno and Proskuro areas. And if we nonetheless note later the accomplishment of considerable gains by our First Cavalry Army and Fourteenth Army it merely serves once more to demonstrate the importance of vigorous, hold action in military undertakings.
In the newly developing operation in which the commander of the Southwest Front was endeavoring to gain the objectives above stated and in which the Polish commander of the Ukrainian Front was endeavoring, by an active defense, to maintain the positions of that front, a central position was assured by the battle for the possession of Rovno. Indirectly connected with it was the action of the opposing forces in the Izyaslavl area, resulting from the effort of the commander of the Polish Sixth Army, General Romver, to assist his neighbor on the left by sending one of his divisions (the 18th Infantry Division) against the flank and rear of the First Cavalry Army.
The scattered offensive efforts of the Polish Second Army constituted the prologue to the battle of Novno. These case as a result of the effort of the Polish commander to adopt new methods of active defense on extended lines. With this in view, the commander of the Polish Ukrainian Front ordered on July l the 3d Infantry Division of Legionnaires to launch a frontal attack against the First Cavalry Army along the Novno highway. The 1st Infantry Division of Legionnaires of the Third Army was to cooperate in this attack by a flanking assault from the Golyshi area. However, the order to the 1st Legionnaire Infantry Division for the attack did not reach it in time. The 3d Legionnaire Infantry Division had launched its attack alone and was met first by the 4th Cavalry Division of the Red forces which was later assisted by a brigade of the 6h Cavalry Division. After a full day's battle these units repelled the 3d Legionnaire Infantry Division behind the Gorin river on the Twelfth - Goscha line, and captured 1,000 prisoners, 40 machine- guns and 4 guns. Unaware of the outcome of the fighting on July 1, the commander of the Polish Ukrainian Front, General Ridz- Singly, ordered the entire Polish Second Army to launch an attack on the 2nd of July.
The advance of the 3d Legionnaire Infantry Division was to be continued in the former direction, while the 1st Cavalry Army was to advance via Annopol and turn the left flank of the main forces of the First Cavalry Army.
For his part, the commander of the First Cavalry Army, comrade Budienny, decided on the following plan of action for July 2d: To leave in the Rovno area, as a screening force, only the 4th Cavalry Division: the main forces of his army (three cavalry divisions) were to be sent against the town of Ostorg with the mission of turning the right flank of the main forces of the Polish Second Army there. The 45th Infantry Division was disposed preparatory for the launching of a parallel pursuit of the enemy; this division was ordered to reach the line of Varkovici - Obov. Finally, the cavalry brigade commanded by Kotovsky, operating in conjunction with the 45th Infantry Division, was directed to Staro-Konstantinov. In the plan of the commander the launching of an attack by this division against the flank of the Polish Sixth Army was to facilitate the advance of the Red Fourteenth Army. As a consequence of these plans and the instructions issued by both sides on July 2, a meeting engagement took place on the Gorin river between the entire First Cavalry Army and the Polish 3d Legionnaire Infantry Division and 1st Cavalry Division. The Polish 6th Infantry Division that was required to assist the above forces of the enemy here, took no part in this engagement. The same thing happened to this Polish Division as did to the 1st Legionnaire Infantry Division, namely: it failed to receive its orders in time.
The meeting engagement on July 2 ended in the successful action of our Rovno screening force against the Polish 3d Legionnaire Infantry Division. Crushing the advance guard of this division, our 4th Cavalry Division launched an attack and repulsed the 3d Infantry Division beyond the Gorin river. The Polish 1st Cavalry Division, under pressure ofour three cavalry division, was also compelled to withdraw behind the Gorin river. In the Izyaslavl area on this same day, the Polish 18th Infantry Division dislodged Kotovsky's cavalry brigade from the town of Gritsev. On July 3d the Polish Second Army merely undertook the defense of the positions held by it behind the Gorin river. Late in the evening, however, our cavalry crossed the Gorin north of Ostrog. The success gained here affected also the neighboring secytor of the Polish First Army in the north - the 1st Legionnaire Infantry Division being hurriedly detached from it for reinforcement of the Polish Second Army,though the division was too late to affect the outcome of the fighting for the possession of the town of Rovno itself. On the other hand, the commander of the First Cavalry Army was disturbed by the situation in the sector of the 45th Infantry Division at Shepetovka, reported that it had before it three hostile divisions. Budienny sent there his reserve, the independent cavalry brigade, which weakened his forces on the next day in the decisive fighting for the possession of the city of Rovno.
On July 4th the Polish Second Army continued its stubborn resistance on the contracted front, at the very city of Rovno. Late in the evening, however, this res istance was broken by the 14th Cavalry Division which turned the city in the west and captured it. The Polish Second Army lost its direct communications with Brest and was driven back north of Rovno, basing its communications on the Rovno - Sarmy railway, and thus maintained its communications with Brest. It was only this that prevented its defeat from being converted into a disaster. The immediate results of the fall of Rovno consisted of the fact that the Cavalry Army succeeded in penetrating the enemy lines for 80 kilometers. This compelled the Polish command in the Ukraine to withdraw the Polish forces there a distance of 100 kilometers. In view of all this the previous undertakings of the Polish 18th Infantry Division were meaningless; the division on the same day, i.e., July 4th had occupied the town of Izyaslaval and now, in conformity with the new decision of the Polish high command, prepared to withdraw to Broda. The only results which it accomplished by its appearance at Izyaslaval was the detaching of two divisions from the First Cavalry Army for action against it which, y a dispersion of its forces, facilitated in the days that followed the withdrawal of the Polish Second Army to Pilsudski's new line, once more through the city of Rovno
The operations of the Fourteenth Army also exerted their influence on the decision of the Polish high command to begin a withdrawal of the Polish forces, The Fourteenth Army successfully accomplished the mission assigned it, penetrating the hostile front held by the infantry in the sector adjacent to the Proskurov railway line, and inserting its cavalry (8th Cavalry Division) into the gap formed by the penetration. This latter cavalry force, gaining the rear of the Polish Sixth Army on the night of July 4th, completely disrupted the communications of that army and even captured the town of Proskurov where the headquarters of the Polish Sixth Army was situated, whose staff, however, succeeded in escaping. The strength of the 8th Cavalry Division, however, was by far not enough to prevent an orderly withdrawal of the powerful columns of the Polish Sixth Army and, becoming entangled among these, the 8th Cavalry Division had to hasten to find a way out and to rejoin its main forces.
The mission assigned by the commander of the Southwestern front with
respect to the seizure of the crossings of the Ikva and Styr rivers in the
vicinity of the First Cavalry Army which once again began to assume definite
lines after its occupation of the city of Rovno. The commander of the Polish
Second Army gained the depression that the entire First Cavalry Army was moving
against Dubno, and he decided to launch operations against the rear of this
army and to occupy Rovno once more. Advancing from the north, the Polish Second
Army by the close of June 8th occupied the city of Rovno after a vigorous
battle with two cavalry division of the First Cavalry Army. On the next day,
i.e., on July 9th, the commander of the First Cavalry Army moved up to Rovno
also the 1st Division and prepared once more for the launching of an attack on
the city. This, however, was no longer necessary. On July 9th the entire Polish
Second Army abandoned Rovno and withdrew to its new lines, and the First
Cavalry Army merely had to overcome some rear guards of this army.
The new penetration of the Polish front in the Ukraine was now effected almost exclusively by the forces of the Red cavalry engaging the Polish infantry. This characteristic feature that was not observed in the history of former campaigns testifies to the exhausted condition of the infantry on both sides and their low morale incident to the low combat strength of infantry units, or to the losses suffered by them in battle.
While the Polish front in the Ukraine at first wavered and then rolled back under the powerful assaults of the Red cavalry, the armies of the Western Front prepared intensively for a resumption of their offensive on a mere extensive and pretensious scale. Here the commander of the Western Front gave first and foremost thought to minute preparations, carefully noting all experience of the previous fighting. This was based on the imperative needs of the existing situation. It was necessary to reorganize the replenish the divisions that had participated in the fighting on the Berezina river. In accordance with the speed with which these matters were being worked out, the commander of the Western Front was completing his plans for the launching of the new and decisive offensive.
The commander-in-chief strongly urged the commander of the Western Front to hasten the launching of his offensive. On June 8th the commander-in-chief demanded of the commander of the Western Front the utmost exertion of his efforts in order to impede the shifting by the enemy of his forces to thr Southwest Front. On June 9th the commander-in-chief already called upon the armies of the Western Front to launch a brief assault against the enemy. To the extent that this was possible the commander of the Western Front satisfied the demands made upon him, providing for a number of brief attacks along the entire front.* (See Sketch 14 - original text).
*These actions assumed the aspect of brief thrusts by the Red ARmies of the Western Front against different sectors of the Polish lines facing them. Battles of this nature took place on June 20 and 21 in the sector of the Polish First Army. On June 25th assaults were repeated by the Red forces in the vicinity of Mezhuzhol lake. On June 26th frequent thrusts were made in the vicinity of the Chernitsa river. In the sector of the Polish Fourth Army on June 17 and 24 the Red forces engaged in offensive actions against the upper Berezina. In the Bobruish area there were continuous lively fighting between the opposing advance units. These actions reached their greatest intensity on June 27.
During this period the attention of the commander of the Western Front had been consumed primarily by organizational and administrative matters. Having decided to double the strength of his forces, the commander of the Western Front found an ample source of manpower were among the inhabitants of the areas occupied by his armies, men who had previously avoided mobilization or deserted military units and were now situated behind the lines of the Western Front. According to N. M. Tukhachevsky the vigorous campaigns launched in this connection afforded the front (group of armies) about 100,000 replacements, a major portion of which was sent for training and organization into a reserve army that was formed behind the lines on the 26th of June. The campaign against desertions and draft dodgers proved successful thanks to the organization of an entire system of extensively developed agencies to combat this evil throughout the Soviet Union. There were thus formed committees to combat desertions - central, frontal, army and division committees; the interior of the country likewise had a corresponding system of such agencies.
The Western Front, however, was strengthened further, in other respects. During the period of June 5 to July 5 the strength of the Western Front was increased by 5 infantry and 1 cavalry division (2d, 18th, 27th, 33d, 5th infantry divisions and 10th Cavalry Division). The number of army control agencies and the increased number of military units exercised a particularly important effect upon the problems of organization, control and communications. The practical experience gained in the battle of Berezina demonstrated the fact that the methods of control employed in the field failed to meet the requirements of mobile warfare. Consequently, one of the principal measures adopted by the commander of the Western Front was that dealing with an increase in the number of army control agencies. The North Group commanded by Sergeyev was reorganized into the Fourth Army; the South Group of the Fifteenth Army was detached from this army and organized into the Third Army (on the line Scho Lake - Pelik lake: both exclusive).
The increase in army control agencies, however, brought with it greater problems of communications and supply. The scope of the operations now indicated that the existing number of railway and technical troops would not suffice to meet all requirements. Units organized at the center (Moscow) were not enough to meet the demands for the same at the fronts. Consequently, some of these, the Western Front in particular, endeavored to overcome this shortage by methods adopted locally. Notwithstanding the shortage in material and mechanical means of communication, the Western Front, during the period of its preparations for the second offensive, succeeded in improving the functions of its communications and railway troops. The matter of communications was approached by the commander of the Western Front in another manner. There was introduced for the first time on the Western Front the concept of control points, which have since been more fully developed into advance communication stations. The control point moved at the head of the heavy repair line, and farther field communications were extended up to army headquarters. The properly adopted concept of control points of course went far toward solving the problems of communication functions. However, attempts at widening the scope of the functions of the control points and the conversion of these into small staff headquarters (Sixteenth Army) to replace to some extent the agencies of command, as was the case in a few instances, of course failed in serving the purpose.
In order to insure the success of the second offensive, the Western Front maintained reserve food supplies for 30 to 60 days and forage for 1 to 20 days. The group of armies had 100% of its clothing, but the number of rifles at its disposal was only 49% of the full requirements. Therefore the number of heavy machine-guns was above the requirements set forth in tables of organization, amounting to 106% of total requirements. The front (group of armies) felt a need to field artillery ammunition: it was better situated with respect to munitions for medium calibers of artillery pieces, and was amply supplied with munitions for heavy artillery. Signal communication equipment was only about 61% of the total requirements, and the equipment available was not evenly distributed.
Regular transport equipment was available for only about half of the needs of the front (group of armies). Measures were therefore adopted for the utilization of impressed transport vehicles. Of such vehicles there were needed, by the Fourth Army - 8,000; by the Fifteenth and Third Armies - 15,000;by the Sixteenth Army - 10,000 vehicles. The line of communications of the Fourth Army extended over the railway from Polotsk up to Velikie_Luki; in addition, this army had at its disposal a section of water communication extending from Polotsk up to Dizna. The Fifteenth Army had at its disposal the railway line of Polotsk - Vitebsk - Smolensk and the water route from Polotsk up to Vitebak. The Third Army was based on the Kokhanovo - Orsha - Smolensk railway line. The Seventeenth Army had at its disposal two railway lines: Mogilev - Orsha - Smolensk, and Mogilev - Gomel - Briansk. Finally, at the disposal of the Mozyr group of forces there was the railway line Kalinkovici - Gomel - Briansk.
This is our brief review of the measures of the commander of the Western Front (group of armies) in the preparation for his second offensive. If later on certain defects became apparent, such as shortages in transport equipment, lack of artillery weapons, shortages in ammunition and in signal communication equipment, the blame rested mainly with the general conditions under which the operations were conducted, the "desperate state of collapse" obtaining in the country, and the conditions under which the war had to be conducted. We have mentioned all this for the reason (among others) that today some historians in evaluating the measures taken by the commander of the Western Front toward the preparations for the offensive, are inclined to underestimate the general conditions that prevailed at the time. At the same time we wish to emphasize the fact that even in those difficult conditions under which the preparations of the Red armies for the Polish-Soviet campaign of 1920 were developed the resources of the country and army permitted a more thorough preparation for the contemplated campaign. Aside from the numerous new measures adopted by the Red command toward this end, among the more important achievements of the commander of the Western Front will be found, by the more thoughtful, objective historian, to be that involving the adaptation and utilization of the experience gained in previous fighting, under different conditions, to meet the situation in the Polish campaign.
The methods of control employed in the campaigns against Kolchak and Denikin had to be improved and changed with a view to their adaptation to the new and more complicated situation of the Polish-Soviet conflict.
The commander of the Western Front estimated the Polish forces facing him to consist of 95,000 infantry and cavalry troops, assuming 28,200 infantry and cavalry troops to be maintained in reserve and in the army communications service. According to the data furnished by the other side, there were 87,600 infantry and cavalry troops (including service of supply troops, but exclusive of reserve units) with 265 light and heavy artillery weapons.*
*General Sheptitsky estimates the strength of the Polish forces on this front by the end of June, 1920 (apparently not counting communication and reserve troops) at 69,000 infantry and cavalry with 464 artillery pieces. Later on these forces, at the beginning of the decisive fighting in White Russia, according to this author, were reduced to 62,000 infantry and cavalry troops. In our figures we have included also the Polish Seventh Army, not included in Sheptitsky's figures, and the communication troops. Deducting these, our figures closely coincide with the first figures supplied by Sheptitsky. Thus we might say that the actual strength of the effective under General Sheptitsky did not exceed 40,000 infantry and cavalry troops with 464 guns.
All previous measures adopted by the front commander resulted in raising the strength of the armies of the Western Front (exclusive of the reserve army) to 96,801 infantry and cavalry troops with 395 guns. Thus, being inferior to the enemy in artillery weapons, we had a considerable superiority in infantry and cavalry troops. The relative strength of the opposing forces in the positions occupied by them again favored the Soviet forces. With some minor variations, the enemy disposed his extended lines between the Western Dvina and the Pripet, whereas the commander of the Western Front, in his preparations for the launching of the attack, again disposed his main forces (Fourth, Fifteenth and Third armies) in the Drissa - Pelik lake sector, a line of k35 kilometers. Here early in June our forces consisted of 60,000 infantry and cavalry troops * against 33,000 infantry and cavalry of the Polish First Army, i.e., in the sector of the impending decisive attack we enjoyed a superiority of almost two to one over the enemy.
* According to the data supplied by M.N.Tukhachevsky in his book The March on the Vistula.