General engagement in White Russia. Its political consequences. The Curzon note; strategic results of the same. Operations on the Niemen and Shar rivers. Return of the Red high command to previous views respecting the role and importance of our two fronts (groups of armies). Policies of Allied powers; their aid to Poland. International solidarity of the proletariat. Beginning of peace negotiations.
Designating the 4th of July for the launching of the offensive, the commander of the Western Front (group of armies) left in force the basic concepts of his May offensive, namely, that of driving the hostile forces into the marshy Polesie area, while resting his right flank first on Lithuania and then on East Prussia. This was to be accomplished by a turning movement to be executed by the Red Fourth Army north of the B. Elnya lake, with the infantry of this army advancing against Germanovici and the cavalry (III Cavalry Corps) executing a turning movement in depth along the bank of the Western Dvina on Sventsiany. The more powerful Fifteenth Army delivered a frontal assault on Glubokoye, assisted by a coordinated flanking attack on the Third Army on Parafianovo. Simultaneously the Sixteenth Army, advancing on the Igumen - Minsk area, was to contain the hostile forces in the central sector, while the Mozyr group, which meanwhile already held Mozyr, was to assist the Sixteenth Army by developing an assault on Glusk ( See Sketch 14 - original text. - Tr.)
At this time the disposition and relative strength of the opposing forces had been as follows: Red forces. The Red Fourth Army under Sergeyev (12th, 18th, 48th, 53d infantry divisions), a brigade of the 55th Infantry Division (164th), and the III Cavalry Corps *
*The III Cavalry Corps comprising the 10th and 15th cavalry divisions, had been organized from the original 15th Cavalry Division of the Western Front transferred from the Caucasus. It was commanded by comrade Gai. 13,831 infantry and cavalry troops - developed on the line from the town of Opochka up to Zhado lake, inclusive, with main forces concentrated on the front Drissa - Lake B.Elnya - Lake Zhado, exclusive. General extent of the front, 160 km**
** On the Opochka - Drissa sector of the front on the Latvian demarcation line, extending about 120 km. was situated the 48th Infantry Division. On the Drissa - Lake Zhado front, about 40 kilometers in extent, the remaining divisions of the army were deployed. In this sector there were per kilometer of front about 345 infantry and cavalry troops.
The Red Fifteenth Army, commanded by Kork (4th, 11th, 16th, 33d, 54th infantry divisions and attached organizations) - 25,918 infantry and cavalry troops, deployed on the line Lake Zhado - Lake Scho., a front 35 km. in length. There were per kilometer of front about 741 infantry and cavalry troops ( in round numbers). The Red Third Army under Lazarevich (5th,6th, 21st, 56th infantry divisions and attached organizations) - 20, 128 infantry and cavalry troops, occupied the line Lake Scho - Lake Mezhuzhol - Pelik lake, a line 80 kilometers in length. Per kilometer of front there were roughly 252 infantry and cavalry troops.(in round numbers). The Red Third Army under Lazarevich (5th, 6th, 56th infantry divisions and attached organizations) - 20, 128 infantry and cavalry troups, occupied the line Lake Scho - Lake Mezhuzhol - Pelik Lake, a line 60 kilometers in length. Per kilometer of front there were roughly 252 infantry and cavalry troops.
The Red Sixteenth Army under Sollogub (2d, 8th, 10th, 17th, 27th infantry divisions, with various attached units) - 24,998 infantry and cavalry troops, was disposed on the front: Lake Pelik - Parichi, about 200 kilometers in extent. Per kilometer of front there were in round numbers about 125 infantry and cavalry troops
The Mozyr group under Khvesin (57th Infantry Division, composite detachment and various attached units) - 6.588 infantry and cavalry troops, conforming to the advance of the right flank of the Southwest Front, moved up to the line Parichi (exclusive) - Mozyr (inclusive), about 80 to 100 kilometers in extent. There were anywhere from 83 to 66 infantry and cavalry troops, in round numbers, per kilometer of front.
In the aggregate the commander of the Western Front (group of armies) had 91,463 * infantry and cavalry troops.
* The variance of these figures from the 95,000 infantry and cavalry troops shown in the preceding chapted is due to the fact that we have omitted here the 48th Infantry Division which was maintained on the Latvian demarcation line and which consequently took no immediate part in the operations..
The Polish First Army under General Zhigadlovich (General Zhigadlovichy's group; 8th and 10th infantry divisions and various units in the Zventsiany area; the group of forces under General Endzheyevsky, comprising the 7th Infantry Division, 7th Reserve Brigade, a brigade of the 5th Infantry Division in the Glubokoye - Dunilovichi area, and the group of forces under General Rzhondkovksy, consisting of the 1st Lithuanian White Russian Division, the 11th Infantry Division). In all the Polish First Army comprised 35,100 infantry and cavalry troops, developed on the line: Drissa - Mezhuzhol Lake. The total extent of the front was 190 km. For kilometer of front there were 390 infantry and cavalry troops (in round numbers).
The Polish Fourth Army commanded by General Sheptitsky (2nd Legionnaire Infantry Division, 4th and 15th infantry divisions, a brigade of the 6th infantry division): A total of 29,500 infantry and cavalry troops. The Fourth Army was deployed on the line extending from Lake Mezhuzhol up to the Zhlobin - Kalinkovici railway line. Extent of the entire front, about 300 kilometers.
There were about 99 infantry and cavalry troops per kilometer of front.
The Polesie group commanded by General Sikorski (9th, 14th, 16th infantry divisions) - a total of 8,000 infantry and cavalry troops - covered the front extending from the Kalinkovici - Zhlobin railway up to the mouth of the Ubort river and father along the Ubort river until it established contact with the left flank of the Polish Third Army in South Polesie. The front of the Sikorski group was quite irregular in shape. It extended from the Kalinkovici - Zhlobin railway along the Pritch, up to its mouth, thence along the Pripet, up to the mouth of the Ubort river, thence turning along the Ubort. The line extended over about 200 kilometers. There were about 40 infantry and cavalry troops per kilometer of front.
In the aggregate the forces under the control of General Shpetitski, which included also the Polish First Army and the Polesie group, consisted of 72,600 infantry and cavalry troops. He could count on the immediate support of 15,000 men in the service of the rear of the Polish First and Fourth armies and Lithuanian-White Russian 2nd Division - (2,700 infantry and cavalry troops)
From the above figures it is apparent that the forces* of the Red command exceeded the Polish forces by 25,000 men. Furthermore, the Polish front extended in an even cordon, **
*Sight must not be lost of the fact that the Seventh Army had not ben under the control of Sheptitski but was rather maintained under the immediate control of Pilsudski himself. On June 27th the latter advised his commanders that henceforward they would have to rely on their own forces, inasmuch as he no longer had any reserves at his disposal.
** During the month of June Sheptitski designated army and front (group of armies) reserves which, upon his orders, were disposed as follows: Reserve of First Army - 8th Infantry Division - in the vicinity of Germanovici, and a brigade of the 1st Lithuanian-White Russian Division, at Tumilovici, behind the right flank of the First Army. The front reserve consisted of two detachments: The 17th Infantry Division at Golubicha ( in rear of the First Army) and the 4th Infantry Division, in the Zhodin area (to the northeast of Minsk).
whereas the disposition of the Red forces on the flank where the main effort was to be made consisted of powerful striking detachments (Fourth and Fifteenth armies). This disposition of originally designated forces, involving a decisive superiority over the enemy, was further aided by the action of the Polish command. Actually, against the 35,100 infantry and cavalry troops of the Polish First Army the commander of the Red Western Front had 59,977 infantry and cavalry troops (Fourth, Fifteenth and Third armies), i.e., a superiority of nearly two to one. The disposition of these forces, however, was not entirely in accordance with the basic plan of action of the commander of the Western Front (powerful center of the Fifteenth Army and weakened wings of the Fourth and Third armies).
Certain of our own and foreign writers recognized in this disposition of the Red forces a certain inconsistency with the basic plan of the operation. In the event of a successful advance by the Fifteenth Army it would have driven back the enemy in the sector facing it before the enveloping actions of the Fourth and Third armies could bring to bear their own efforts. The disposition of the forces of the Western Front, however, may be explained by other reasons, which prevented an overburdening of the control agencies of the Red Fourth and Third armies, agencies that had be recently been adopted and whose supply systems and communications were as yet in a poor state. These were matters for which the commander of the Western Front was not responsible. The commander of the front (group of armies) did everything in his power to overcome the deficiencies involved.
In the adopted plan of the commander of the Western Front, the Fourth Army was to make its main effort along the Western Dvina, whence it was subsequently to move with its cavalry ( III Cavalry Corps) due west, while turning its infantry directly south to assist the Fifteenth Army. The commander of the Fifteenth Army selected the Parafianovo railway station as the direction of his main effort, while the Third Army was preparing to make its main effort, while the Third Army was preparing to make its main effort against Dokshitsa. The Sixtenth Army prepared for an advance withmain forces on Smolevici - Minski, moving its left-flank units in the direction of Osipovici, with the object of severing the Bobruisk - Minsk railway.
At the close of June, 1920, Pilsudski, taking into consideration his difficultsituation in the Ukraine and the absence of readily available strategic reserves in the country, was prepared to greatly shorten him White Russian front with the object of forming the necessary reserves for a restoration of the situation in the Ukrine. Pilsudski now designated the main defense line in White Russia as follows: Baranovici - Lida - Orany, and Vilna, if possible. Taking up this line, the northern Polish armies were to close the open gaps between the Niemen river and the Polesie swamps. This contemplated plan was communicated the General Sheptitsky in a letter of the chief of staff (General Haller) on June 28, 1920. General Haller at the same time pointed out that in Pilsudski's opinion it was necessary to do everything possible to prevent the Red army from establishing contact with the Lithuanian army. Accordingly, the left wing of Sheptitsky's front, in the event of a withdrawal of his army to the line indicated, was to be extended as far as the city of Dvinsk. This same letter contained instructions covering the contingency of a failure by the Polish northern armies in maintaining their positions under the pressure of the Red forces. In such event a withdrawal was to be instituted on the left flank of the front, while firmly maintaining the right flank in position - the latter to be reinforced for the purpose. *
*This document fully explains the subsequent actions of General Sheptitsky and serves as an indictment of Pilsudski who, in his book The Year 1920 sharply criticizes Sheptitsky's subsequently movements in which the latter followed the very suggestions made by Pilsudski.
The nature of the suggestion involved was withdrawal of the Polish northern armies a distance of 200 kilometers, which reduced the front of these armies between the Western Dvina and the Pripet river by 300 km., which at the same time permitted resting a part of this new front on the line of the old German trenches. From this standpoint, in our opinion, Pilsudski's plan was quite proper, considering the existing situation at the time. General Sheptitsky was opposed to this plan. He believed that a withdrawal would have an adverse effect on the morale of the troops; that the occupation of the entire line of German trenches would require a greater number of troops that the occupation of a system of strong defense positions, and consequently did not afford any greater tactical advantages. General Sheptitsky accordingly insisted on accepting a general engagement on the line of the Auta and Berezina rivers * and finally gained Pilsudski's approval of such action.
* General Sheptitsky personally met Pilsudski for a discussion of the matter on July 1st at Warsaw. Pilsudski in his book The year 1920 quite bluntly refers to Sheptitsky's cowardice, pointing to the latter's suggestion of the necessity of concluding an armistice with the Bolsheviks. Without denying this suggestion, Sheptitsky states that this was made in a reference to the utilization of the first favorable opportunity for the conclusion of a peace.Subsequent events demonstrated the fact that the very nature of events compelled the Polish government to follow the path suggested by Sheptitsky. In analyzing this event objectively, we do not regard Pilsudski's accusation to be well founded, inasmuch as Sheptitsky did insist on accepting battle on the Auta and Berezina rivers.
In accordance with the plan of the commander of the Western Front the main assault of the Red armies of the Western Front was to be delivered against the Polish First Army. On July 4th, after a partial regrouping of forces, the latter army occupied the following positions: General Rzhondkovsky's group (Lithuanian-White Russian division and 11th Infantry Division) occupied the sector of the front between Lake Dolgoe and the Berezina river. The group of forces under General Endzheyevsky (7th Reserve Brigade and a brigade of the 5th Infantry Division) was situated on the Auta river. General Zheligovsky's group (10th Infantry Division) was situated with main forces in the gap between the Elnya and Zhado lakes, and to the south and north of these lakes. Army reserves were situated as follows: The brigade of the 1st Lithuanian White Russian division, at Tumilovici; the 8th Infantry Division moved up to Luzhki. On the night of the 4th of July the commander of the Polish First Army, having learned of the concentration of considerable Red forces in the vicinity of Disna, began massing his reserves along with the front reserves (17th Infantry Division) on his left flank. the 8th Infantry Division was sent from Luzhki to Pogost (20 km. away), while the 17th Infantry Division was to be shifted from Golubici to Plissa (10 km. away). Thus the central sector of the army was denuded of reserves. In the course of this regrouping, the Polish First Army was attacked by the main forces of the Red Fourth and Fifteenth Armies and part of the Red Third Army.
On the 90-km front there were several individual strong positions. The main forces of the Red Fourth Army advancing between the Bol. Elnya lake and the Western Dvina, came upon the detachment of Colonel Savitski (comprising 4 infantry battalions, 2 cavalry squadrons and 5 batteries of artillery), and after several hours of vigorous fighting crushed it. The III Cavalry Corps advanced through the gap and began a swift advance on Sventsiany. The main forces of the Polish 10th Infantry Division, attacked only by the 18th Infantry Division, successfully maintained their position. The group of forces of General Edqheyevsky , at daybreak of July 4th, was subjected to an attack by the entire Fifteenth Army and promptly defeated. It had lost contact with General Rzhondkovsky's group on its right, and began withdrawing in a westerly direction. Its withdrawal was so swift that by 7:00 A.M. the Red forces began threatening Plissa, situated 15 km. behind the front lines. At the same time, developing the penetration on the Auta river in the direction of General Rzhondkovsky's group of forces, units of the Fifteenth Army compelled the left flank of this group (11th Infantry Division) to withdraw. By noon of July 4th remnants of Endzheyevsky's group made some effort at maintaining themselves on the line of the Mniut river; at the same time, the Rzhondkovsky group, threatened with an envelopment of its left and subjected to a powerful atack on its right by units of the Red Fifteenth and Third armies, withdrew in a westerly direction. Thus by 9:00 A.M. on July 4th, the first defense line of the Polish First Army was already penetrated in the center along the Polotsk - Molodechno railway line and its left flank turned in the gap between Bol. Elnya lake and the Berezina river.
General Zhigaldovich at first failed to realize the full extent of the defeat of his first line, with the result that he failed to commit to action his army reserves. Perhaps more properly, he found it impossible to establish contact at once with his two divisions (17th and 8th) which had just been shifted to the north. At all events, one of these divisions, the 17th, received his orders (even though it had been designated as G.H.Q. reserve) to counterattack in the area from Podsvilye to Proshkovo. This constituted an assault against the spearhead of the attacking Fifteenth Army. Owing to the requirement of gaining authority first for the employment of the 17th Infantry Division here, the counterattack was not launched until 5:00 P.M. Meanwhile the groups of forces under Endzheyevsky and Rzhondkovsky, especially that of the former, were already in helpless retreat, with the result that they could not conform to the action of the advancing 17th Infantry Division. The counterattack of this division, after some temporary gains, ended in complete failure. As regards the 8th Infantry Division, upon the assignment of the mission to the 17th Infantry Division, General Zhigaldovich endeavored once more to maintain this division in the Germanovici area,but was late in doing so. The division was already on the march to Pogost; the army commander found it impossible to establish contact with it throughout the day, and this division took no part whatever in the fighting on July 4th. The brigade of the 1st Lithuanian White Russian Division situated behind the right flank of the First Army (Rzhondkovsky's group) did not afford any appreciable assistance to the right flank of Rzhondkovsky"s group, its regiments being committed to action piecemeal. These regiments made a few uncoordinated counterattacks without exerting any appreciable effect upon the advancing Red Third Army. At the close of the day the penetration effected by the Red forces in the sector of the Polish First Army reached 20 to 15 kilometers, so that it may be said that already on the first day of the general engagement in White Russia the left flank of the Polish armies had been crushed, and the commander of the Red Western Front had thus already gained his immediate objective. Actually by the close of July 4th, scattered uncoordinated Polish units, some of which had lost contact with the headquarters of the Polish First Army, were situated as follows: The Rzhondkovsky group was repulsed beyond the Tumilovici - Glino line. The 17th Infantry Division formed a salient on the left and in advance of this group, which succeeded in maintaining itself on the Proshkov - Borovye line. Remnants of the Endzheyevsky group abandoned the line of the Mniuta river - Plissa, and withdrew westward. The Zheligovsky group (10th Infantry Division) withdrew in fairly good order to the line Boyarshchina - Luzhki, but became separated from the rest of the Polish forces. The lefyt flank of the Endzheyevsky group (7th Reserve Brigade) no longer operated as a combat unit, while remnants of Savitsky's detachment withdrew to Mera. The 8th Infantry Division finally reached Pogost, i.e., it was situated 30 km. in rear of the remnants of the combat lines held by the Polish First Army. The main reason of the defeat of the Polish First Army on July 4th was the extremely unfavorable relative strength of forces opposing her. The massing of forces fully justified itself here.*
*General Sikorski in his On the Vistula and Wkra also stresses the views expressed by us in this connection. He writes: "Under the influence of so carefully concentrated a superior force, the left flank of the Northeastern Front collapsed as if stuck by a hurricane. We were unable to offer sufficient resistance either to the well-prepared plan of action of our adversaries or to their skillful employment of forces in the execution of the same, in the intentions of the enemy" (Page 19 of the above work).
Considerable blame for the Polish failure rested on General Sheptitsky, who stubbornly insisted on accepting battle on the line of the Auta and Berezina rivers, against the opposition of the more studied and prudent advice of Pilsudski. The extent of the defeat depended mainly on the instructions and actions of General Zhigaldovich. As we know, the entire system of the defense of the Polish armies had been based on the instructions issued by Pilsudski for a defense on extended lines (dated March 21st 1920).The substance of these instructions involved the adoption of a strong point or group system of defense along the main line of resistance of the defensive zone (rather than a continuous defensive line as that employed in the World War), while reliance on the success of the defense was based on the active employment of mobile reserves echeloned in depth. The experience of the fighting on July 4th demonstrated the fact that the active employment of such mobile reserves is more difficult an undertaking for the high command, and that such forces, to be effective, must be quite considerable in size. General Zhigaldovich was incapable of the effective maneuvering of his reserves. He succeeded, after much delay, in somehow developing the 17th Infantry Division alone for a counterattack. This was due to the fact that in undertaking the difficult movement of his reserves over lateral communications toward his left flank, little attention was given to the matter of proper communications with these reserves. As a consequence, the 8th Infantry Division remained idle behind the battlefield throughout July 4th without taking part in the fighting.
Finally, the army reserve, in the shape of the brigade of the 1st Lithuanian White Russian Division, was likewise apparently employed in a haphazard manner. General Zhigladovich cannot particularly be blamed for the delay in estimating the general situation properly. In mobile warfare the situation changes so rapidly in the case of extensive lines that the intelligence received at the larger headquarters more distant from the front fails to give an accurate description of the actual situation, no matter how well the system of communications may be functioning. On the night of July 5th General Zhigaldovich had already realized the true state of affairs and was aware of the fact that all his plans for the organization of a large-scale counter-attack for the 5th of July were fruitless. Notwithstanding this he continued to waver throughout the right. It was only at daybreak of July 5th that he issued orders for the organization of a defense on the Dokshitsa - Pogost line; meanwhile, however, remnants of his separated groups had already crossed this line and were in full retreat. Only by noon, July 5th, did General Zhigaldovich suggest to Sheptitsky the need for a further withdrawal, in order to restore proper order within the First Army.
On July 5th General Sheptitsky issued orders to the Polish First Army to disengage itself from the Red forces and to withdraw with main forces in the general direction of Lida, and to cover with the group of forces under Zheligovsky (8th and 10th Infantry Divisions) the Sventsiany area along with the city of Vilna.
In view of the withdrawal of the right flank of the First Army, the Fourth Army was also to begin withdrawing, because of the threat to its left flank. The general order for the withdrawal of the Fourth Army was issued on the same day in accordance with Pilsudski's orders for a general withdrawal of the Polish armies from the White Russian Front to the line of the old German trenches. At the same time the Lithuanian White Russian 2nd Division was placed under the control of General Sheptitsky, who was also given the mission of the defense of Vilna, extending his lines northward from Sventsiany
Meanwhile the commander of the Western Front ordered his armies to follow up vigorously the successes gained by them. The Sixteenth Army was ordered to cross the Berezina in the Lubonici - Parici sector (See Sketch 14 - original text), while the Mozyr group was ordered to advance in a northwesterly direction and to reach the Bobruisk - Glusk - Leskovici - Medukhov line by July 7th. The above directive of the Commander of the Western Front contemplated the formation of a pincer movement against both flanks of the Polish White Russian front.
In the course of the 5th of July the remnants of the groups of the Polish First Army were retreating - endeavoring to reach their rear lines, without maintaining any communications with their headquarters. The advance guards of the Red armies were driving them back. The III Cavalry Corps, after occuping Bratslav advanced on Sventsiany. At the close of July 5th only the Lithuanian White Russian 1st Division was left at Nebyshen. Later it was revealed that General Zheligovsky with his group (8th and 10th infantry divisions) had withdrawn from Postav not foward Sventsiany but directly on Vilna through Kobylnik. Remnants of the Rzhondkovsky group rapidly withdrew in the Molodechno area, exposing the left flank of the 15th Infantry Division (Fourth Army). In the circumstances, the order issued by General Sheptitsky on the night of July 6th with respect to the manner in which the line of old German trenches was to be occupied, was already too late. In accordance with this order, Sheptitsky withdrew his Polesie group in order to conform to the Polish Third Army, to southern Polesie. The Fourth Army, with its axis of communications on Minsk, withdrew directly to the line of old German trenches; while the First Army, withdrawing to the same line through Vileika and Molodechno, was to withdraw its left flank along the western shore of the Svir lake and farther on Lintupa - Sventsiany - Malyata, with the object of securing the city of Vilna. The Lithuanian White Russian 2nd Infantry Division quickly concentrated at Sventsiany for the purpose. The situation, however, of the groups of forces of the Polish First Army at the close of July 5th already precluded the execution of even this order affecting the left flank of the Polish First Army.
By the morning of July 6th all three groups of the Polish First Army were very much scattered over a wide area, which greatly facilitated their defeat in detail. Instead of this, however, contact was lost between the opposing forces on July 6th, and this afforded the Polish forces an opportunity for a regrouping. The loss of contact had been due to several reasons. The Red Fourth Army had slowed down its progress on the 6th. Only at the close of the day did it reach the Nosarzh - Dunilovici line. Meanwhile General Zheligovsky had already abandoned Dunilovici at daybreak of that day. The Fifteenth Army was slowly advancing on the 6th, which enabled the Endzheyevsky group to successfully accomplish on this day its flanking march from Glubokoye on Nolodechno. Nor cold the Third Army interfere with this movement, which the commander of the Western Front had ordered to turn abruptly southwestward, directing it against Minsk to assist the Sixteenth Army; it was thus required to effect a regrouping of its forces and to change its direction of movement.
Only on the 7th of July did the Polish First Army succeed more or less in restoring order within its ranks, and on the 8th it already withdrew with the Zheligovsky group on Vilna, the Endzheyevsky group on Molodechno, and the Rzhondkovsky group on Dolginov - Shipki. The Fourth Army was likewise in retreat all along the front, in close contact with the advance guards of the Red Sixteenth Army which, on July 7th had crossed the Berezina river. On this day the armies of the Red Western Front pursued the enemy. The III Cavalry Corps, conducting a parallel pursuit, was approaching Sventsiany. The axis of the movement of the Fourth Army was from Sharkovshchizna on Galdutsishki; the Fifteenth Army advanced with main forces on Molodechno; the Third Army continued to incline in the direction toward Minsk, while the Sixteenth Army directed its principal detachments through Igumen on Minsk.
Thus, beginning July 7th, the general engagement in White Russia, for which the commander of the Western Front had made such minute preparations for an entire month, had ended in a disorderly retreat of the enemy, which he embarked upon without a particular struggle for initiative, as a consequence of the complete defeat of the Polish First Army during the very first day of the battle, i.e., July 4th. The battle was not carried to any final stage; the Polish First Army was the only one upon which a severe defeat had been inflicted; the Polish Fourth Army and the Polesie group retreated of their own volition and in good order. As far as our Red forces were concerned, the battle assumed the aspects of a repulse of the left flank of the Polish White Russian Front, the main forces of which had been crushed by the assault forces of the Fifteenth Army. The movement launched by the cavalry on the 4th and 5th of July toward its envelopment could not as yet make itself felt because of the swift developments that were taking place on the front of the Polish First Army. Henceforward, the crushing of the enemy could be brought about only by a vigorous advance on the part of the Red Fourth Army. The divisions of this army, however, failed to manifest the necessary vigor, and they lost much time on the banks of the Vilii; this greatly retarded the action of the right flank of the Red front (See Sketch 14 - original text).
The subsequent orders issued by Pilsudski serve to indicate that the failures in White Russia and the Ukraine took him by surprise and compelled him to adopt measures on the spur of the moment. Even though he states in his book, The Year 1920, that during this phase his main object was how the restoration of the situation in the Ukraine and action against Budienny's cavalry; that the White Rissian Front assumed secondary importance, and the action there was intended merely for the purpose of gaining time - yet the directives which he issued tend to indicate otherwise. On July 9th he told his army commanders that the final line for the withdrawal was that of the Zbrucha river - Styr river - Luninets - line of the old German trenches - Vilna. An offensive was soon to be launched from this line. At the same time he entered into negotiations with the Lithuanians for a treaty, but the latter insisted on the transfer to them of the city of Vilna. *
* This decision of General Pilsudski was confirmed in his "instructions"of July 9th, 1920, though in his book, The Year 1920 he states that the "instructions" were not approved by him. According to these instructions, the enemy intended to delay the advance of the Red forces on the line; Vilna - old German trenches - Luninets and farther along the Styr and Zbrucha rivers. General Sikorski, in the work referred to by us, speaks of these instructions an "unreal," and incapable of execution." (On the Vistula and the Wkra, p. 20) Subsequent events substantiate this opinion of General Sikorski, General Fourreau quite accurately states in his critique that the most important consequence of this new victory of the Red armies of the Western Front was not the gain in territory, but rather the decline inthe morale of the Polish armies. **
**It is particularly interesting to note the dwindling of the Polish forces accompanying their retreat. In the course of one week the Polish First Army was reduced in strength by 19,000 men, i.e., it lost 57th of its actual strength be an exaggeration but in spite of it the views expressed by Fourreau are nevertheless quite to the point.
There were intensive efforts within Poland directed toward the formation of reserve units, which units were sent to the Western Bug river; for the time being these units took no part in the fighting of the Polish First and Fourth armies. Subsequent events showed that Pilsudski's last plans proved impracticable of execution. Efforts toward the liquidation of Budienny's cavalry on the line of the Western Bug and Brest fortress had fallen into the Soviet hands before the Poles succeeded in concentrating considerable forces on the Western Bug, and there was no place where these were to be obtained, considering the fact that the fighting in the Ukraine continued in all its fury
All of these circumstances shifted the fates of the entire campaign to the banks of the Vistula and to the very gates of Warsaw. But while these were being prepared, the offensive launched by our armies on the Western Front continued its successful development.
On the 9th of July our forces captured Igumen; on July 10th the enemy abandoned the Bobruisk fortress, after demolishing the fortification works; on July 11th the city of Minsk was captured by units of the Sixteenth Army; on the 13th of July the enemy made some efforts at resistance on the line of the Old German trenches, but his efforts here were short-lived. On July 14th our forces, after an intensive battle with units of General Zheligovsky's group on the Vilii river, entered the city of Vilna. This resulted in the almost simultaneous advance of the Lithuanian army from the direction of the Landvarovo railway station and Novye Troki * against the Polish forces. This action of the Landvarovo Army threatened the left flank and the communications of the Polish front and compelled General Zheligovsky's group to institute a hasty retreat directly southward, on the city of Lida, instead of on Grodno, in order to get away from the Lithuanian frontier.
* Only on this day, i.e., July 14, did Pilsudski agree to the transfer of the city of Vilna to Lithuania; this, however, had come too late.
Cooperation between the Lithuanian and Red armies would have been most advantageous strategically for both of these armies, had the Lithuanian government been willing to follow this to the end. This, however, was not the case. After negotiations lasting four days with the Lithuanians an agreement was concluded in accordance with which the right flank of the Western Front was not to cross with major forces the conventional line; Novye-Troki - Orany - Grodno - Sidra. Subsequently a new line of demarcation was estab;osjed" Pramu - Merech - Avgustov. Northwest of this line the Lithuanian Army enjoyed complete independence. After the fall of Vilna Pilsudski, on July 15th, ordered the withdrawal of the armies of his White Russian front to the line: Pinsk - Ogin canal - Shara - Niemen, up to Grodno. *
* In the execution of this movement, General Sheptitsky intended to detach the 14th Infantry Division from the Polesie group and to place it in reserve at Volkovysk; he soon however changed his plans in this connection, issuing orders for the transfer to Grodno of only the 41st Infantry Division.
But already on the evening of the 16th of July, Pilsudski had another plan in mind: namely, the withdrawal of the Polish First Army to the Niemen, and the delivery of a brief thrust with the Fourth Army against Lida, concentrating the reserves of this army behind its left flank along the Niemen. In the execution of these orders, General Sheptitsky delayed the withdrawal of the Fourth Army and began shifting it over lateral communications to the left: The 2nd Infantry Division of Legionnaires and the 15th Infantry Division were moved up to the Novogrudka area, and the 14th Infantry Division was to be transferred by rail to Mosty. This plan of the Poles,however, was likewise not destined to be realized. Meanwhile the armies of the Western Front continued the pursuit of the enemy. On the 16th of July they once more delivered a vigorous assault against the Polish First Army. On the night of the 17th Red units penetrated between the inner flanks of the Polish First and Fourth armies and occupied the small town of Nikolayev on the Niemen. Thus Pilsudski's last plan was upset by the vigorous pursuit of the Red forces before it could be placed in operation. The only effect of his plan was to retard the withdrawal of the Polish armies which, considering the existing situation, further complicated matters for them. The failure of the Polish First Army to maintain itself on the line of the old German trenches was due to the enveloping maneuver of the Red Fourth Army from the direction of Vilna in its efforts to assist the Red Fifteenth Army that had become involved in heavy fighting at Smorgon. The enveloping movement of the 18th Infantry Division of the Fourth Army and the reinforcement of the Fifteenth Army with one division from the Red Third Army decided the outcome of the battle at Smorgon in favor of the Red forces. All this caused General Sheptitsky to refrain from undertaking the counter-maneuver called for by Pilsudski, and on the 18th of July he issued general orders for the withdrawal of his armies behind the Niemen and Shar rivers.
At the close of July 19th the Red armies of the Western Front reached the line: Niemen river - Baranovici R.R. station - Luninets R.R. station, the III Cavalry Corps continually advancing ahead of the right flank of the Fourth Army, stormed and captured the fortified city of Grodno on July 19th, 1920. The occupation of the city of Grodno y the III Cavalry Corps was effected in conformity with the orders of the commander of the Western Front. In conformity with these same orders the armies of the Western Front were to force a crossing of the line of Shar and Niemen rivers on July 21 and 22.
The Red Fourth Army was directed against the sector of the Niemen river south of Grodno; the south of it the Fifteenth Army was to cross the Niemen; the Third Army was ordered to cross the Niemen in the vicinity of the month of the Shar river; the Sixteenth Army was directed to cross the Shar north of Slonim. Meanwhile the enemy was in full retreat on the line of these rivers. The Polish First Army proceeded in two columns from the line Lida - Radun to the Vasilishki - Shchuchin front, intending to cross the Niemen at Grodno and Mosty. The Polish Fourth Army withdrew in four columns to the Shar river, in the Byten - Vielka Volya sector. The withdrawal was characterized by considerable haste. Some of the Polish divisions had covered as much as 60 kilometers in 24 hours. The capture of the city of Grodno by the III Cavalry Corps, placed the Polish First Army in a precarious situation, putting it between two fires. In turn, the III Cavalry Corps found itself in a similar situation during July 20 and 21.
In this general state of affairs a particularly interesting tactical situation developed with respect to the Polish First Army. Immediately upon the receipt of information of the capture of Grodno by the Red cavalry, General Sheptitsky ordered the Polish First Army to recapture the city with the assistance of the brigade of the 9th Infantry Division.*
* The Grodno fortress had been dismantled by the Poles back in the summer of 1919. At the time of its capture by the Red cavalry corps its garrison consisted of 3,000 infantry troops, mostly communications and reserve elements, 300 cavalry troops and 14 light and heavy guns. The brigade of the 9th Infantry Division was hastily transferred by rail from the Polesie group at Bialystok, in conformity with Pilsudski's orders of the 17th of July. Entertaining some doubt as to the ability to maintain his forces on the line of the old German trenches, he still hoped to organize a defense on the line of the Shar and Niemen rivers.
With a view to securing the rear of this group, he ordered the Rzhondkovsky group (Lithuanian-White Russian 1st and the 17th infantry divisions) to launch an attack from Mosty in the general direction of Shchuchin, against the sector of the Red Fifteenth Army. The rather exhausted group under General Endzheyevsky ( 11th Infantry Division, remnants of the 7th Infantry Reserve Brigade and brigade of the 5th Infantry Division) was given the mission of securing the crossing by both of the first groups of the Niemen river south of Grodno and to occupy defensive positions on the left bank of the Niemen between the mouths of the Svisloch and Shar rivers. On the other hand, Comrade Gai, commanding the III Cavalry Corps, threatened on both sides by the enemy, moved up the 15th Cavalry Division to Kuznitsa against the hostile Bialystok group and the 10th Cavalry Division to Skidel against the Zheligovsky group. The advance units of the Red Fourth Army meanwhile were approaching to the town of Ozera. On the 20th of July, events developed in the following manner. The Bialystok group of the enemy attacked the Red 15th Cavalry Division, driving it to the western suburbs of Grodno, but found it impossible to make any further headway. General Zheligovsky was forcing back the 10th Cavalry Division to Grodno, but was in turn subjected to an attack by the Red forces from the direction of Ozera against his right flank. At the same time, Rzhondkovsky's attack on Shchuchin was not only repelled, but his group, under pressure of the Fifteenth Army, began a hasty withdrawal on Mosty, exposing by this withdrawal the rear of Zheligovsky's group of forces. Under thecircumstances the latter group was forced to discontinue its fighting on the 21st of July at Skidel and to retreat hastily beyond the Niemen in the Lunno area. Rzhondkovsky effected the crossing of the Niemen at Mosty.*
*Withdrawing behind the Miemen and Shar, Sheptitsky strengthened considerably his First Army with forces from the Polesie group and the Fourth Army. From the First Army in the Bialystok area there was shifted anothr brigade of the 9th Infantry Division (17th Brigade); this brigade, however, was late in arriving to participate in the fighting of the 20 and 21st of July; the 41st infantry was transferred to Kuznitsa from Cheremkha, and the composite infantry - brigade was transfered to Brest upon Pilsudski's personal orders. From the Fourth Army Sheptitsky took in his reserve at Sokolka the Legionnaire 2nd Infantry Division. This division was also to reinforce the First Army. This shifiting of forces from the right to the left flank was executed with considerable delay, with the result that the same could not exert any influence on the situation of the Polish forces on the Niemen and Shar rivers. The actual situation called for the also permitted a more timely transfer of the forces involved.
The success of Red arms now induced the Allied governments to institute deplomatic converations. On July 12th the British governemnt, through Lord Curzon, applied the Soviet government with an offer for the conclusion of a truce with Poland. A prerequisite of this truce was the withdrawal of Soviet forces from the natural and ethnographical Polish boundaries. In reality this meant that the Soviet forces were not to cross the line of the Western Bug river. In like manner, the Polish forces were to withdraw from the territories of the Soviet Federation, which involved a continuation of their withdrawal beyond the Western Bug river. Utimately Curzon proposed to take up a consideration of armistice conditions between the R.S.F.S.R and Poland at a Lendon conference, suggesting the boundary between the two countries in conformity with the plan of the Supreme Allied Council adopted in 1919, i.e., extending along the line of the Western Bug. A rejection of this offer by the Soviet government was to be followed by Allied assistance to Poland with every means at their disposal. Lord Curzon's note was of no further diplomatic or political significance. On the 17th of July the Soviet government bluntly rejected the proposals of the British government.*
In considering this rejection of the British note, due consideration must be gtiven to the fact that th British government was already engaged in similar negotiations concerning Wrangel's forces. The only immediate effect of these negotiations was that Wrangel gained an opportunity to prepare for a continuation of his fight against the Soviet Union. The Soviet govenment was fully justified in assuming that the object of the British negotiations in behelf of Poland had the same purpose in view. This paticularly in view of the fact that the Polish government, at the time of the delivery of Curzon's note, had submitted no concrete proposals of its own.
The note did, however, affect the strategic plans of the Red high command. Recognizing in the concluding words of the note a threat of entering into the conflict against us by our enemies - Rumania, Finland and perhaps also Latvia, and particularly apprehensive of Rumania, the commander-in-chief thought it possible to complete the defeat of the Polish forces with the available force of the Western Front, even reducing the strength of this front (group of armies) by one army (the Sixteenth) and keeping this army in reserve for the contingency of an attack by Latvia. Meanwhile it decided to shift the center of gravity of the Southwest Front due south, with a view to maintaining sufficient forces on the banks of the Dnieste for use in the event of a possible attack by Rumania. In his directive of July 21, 1920, the commander-in-chief therefore required the commander of the Southwest Front to operate in the Kovel area only with a strong assault group, with the object of maintaining communications with the left flank of the Western Front, while utilizing all remaining forces of the front for the purpose of inflicting a crushing defeat upon the Polish armies operating in the Ukraine, and to drive these in a southerly direction - against the Rumanian frontier, employing the Cavalry Army for the purpose.
Subsequent events showed these apprehensions to have been baseless, and the directive of the commander-in-chief was superseded by numerous other orders. A detailed analysis of the political background of the action of the Soviet govrnment and the decisions of the commander-in-chief in the formulation of the plans of the campaign against the Poles will be presented in the next chapter. Meanwhile the operaions of the armies of our two fronts (groups of armies) developed successfully as heretofore. The Sixteenth Army captured the city of Volkovysk, driving the Polish Fourth Army beyond the Svisloch river. The city of Pinsk was captured by the Mozgr group two days before this. The turning movement of Gai's III Cavalry Corps on the tip of the right flank of the Western Front continued to show its effects, hindering the enemy in his efforts toward the organization of a strong defense in the path leading to Warsaw.*
* Already on the 21st of July Pilsudski in his orders to Sheptitsky pointed out that the "maintenance of the line of the Niemen and Shar rivers is of basic importance for the general prosecution of the war."
On July 27th Gai's cavalry captured the Osovets fortress; on the 29th of July it occupied Lomzha and Novograd and by so doing facilitated the advance of the Red Fourth and Fifteenth armies, which captured Bialystok and Bielsk, advancing ebyond the line of the Narev and Nurets rivers on the same day, July 29th.
The advance of the Sixteenth Army was somewhat retarded by the stubborn resistance of the enemy during a three-day battle at Pruzhanami and Kobrin,after the capture of which the Sixteenth Army facilitated the advance of the Mozyr group and, pursuing the enemy, promptly moved up to the line of the Western Bug river. The Mozyr group, delayed by the protracted fighting for the possession of Kobrin, was inclined behind it. With this situation existing at the time, the commander of the Red Sixteenth Army did not consider it feasible to effect a crossing of the Western Bug river, while on its flank a strong center of resistance (Brest-Litovsk), though half destroyed, nevertheless constituted a fortress, at which point the enemy, furthermore, was dendeavoring to concentrate some of his available forces. The commander of the Sixteenth Army therefore decided on exercising his own initiative and, securing his left flank, proceeded to capture Brest, in spite of the fact that it was situated within the zone of action of the Mozyr group. The mission involved was assigned to the left-flank division of the Sixteenth Army (10th Inf. Div) and the division in army resrve 2nd Inf. Div.) Subjected to the assaults of the two divisions and the Nozyr group, which meanwhile reached the city of Brest and attacked the right coastal forts of the fortress, Brest- Litovsk fell on August 1, 1920. In order to realize the full importance of the capture of Brest, it is necessary to remember that Pilaudski regarded Brest-Litovsk as the mainstay of his contemplated counter-maneuver against the armies of our Western Front from his line on the Western Bug. Pilsudski intended to develop this maneuver fully immediately upon the liquidation of the succeeses of the Red cavalry under Budienny in the Ukraine. It was because of this that he inquired of General Sikorski (commander of the Polesie group) back on July 30th as to how long Brest could hold out. Sikorski assured him that it would hold out at least 10 days. The fall of Brest involved also other consequences; the further withdrawal of the Polish Third Army in the Ukraine beyond the Western Bug, to say nothing of the disruption of Pilsudski's plan for his counter-maneuver from the line of the Western Bug. *
* Apparently the basic thought of the utilization of the line of the Western Bug with the Brest fortress as the mainstay of an ultimate counterattack had long since been considered by the chief of the French military mission in Poland, General Hanri. This may be judged from certain indirect remarks in the book by Sikorski above referred to. On page 21 of this book Sikorski connects a letter of General Hanri addressed to the chief of staff of the Polish army, General Rozvadovsky, dated July 3, 1920 with Pilsudski's directive of the 27th, of July, 1920. This directive involved a stubborn defense on the line: Western Bug, Ostrov, Grayevo, and if absolutely necessary, on the line: Western Bug - Ostrolenka - Omulev, and the launching of an offensive with two reserve groups; With one group from the Brest area, and another from the Ostrov area. (Id. pages 21 and 22).
General Fourrier points out that the operation on the Western Bug contemplated by Pilsudski was intended solely for the purpose of gaining time for a regrouping of forces on the Vistula with a view to the launching of a decisive offensive.
The operations on the Southwest Front during this phase of the campaign involved a vigorous struggle with the enemy for the initiative . While it involved much fighting and the progress made was rather slow, it did, nevertheless, produce continuous successes; On July 9th the Fourteenth Army seized Preskurov, and on the 12th it captured Kamenets-Podolsk: on the 14th of July our forces reached the line of the Vierkhnaya-Styr, Ikva and Zbruch rivers. The enemy planned to put up a vigorous resistance behind this line. He defended himself most vigorously in the mountainous and close terrain of the Dubno - Rovno area, launching frequent counterattacks. Here too, however, his resistance was finally overcome by the First Cavalry Army, which made a glorious page of its history during this fighting.
Meanwhile in the Kovel area on July 20th units of the Twelfth Army reached the line of the lower course of the Styr river, consolidating their positions on the eastern bank of this river - up to Kilki. Farther the front of the armies of the Southwestern front extended through Lutsk - Torgovitsa on Dubno - Mlyhov and, skirting the town of Kremenets, where vigorous fighting was in progress for the town, turned to the Zbruch river. Here along the entire course of the stream, and especially in the Volochisk area, the Red Fourteenth Army, in vigorous fighting with the Polish Sixth Army, contested the line of this stream, preparing for an invasion of Galician territory. This was the general situation on the Southwest Front when the directive of the commander of this front dated July 24 called for making further main efforts in the Lemberg area. This directive called for immediate assistance to the Western Front on the part of the numerically weakened Twelfth Army alone; the latter army was required to seize the town of Kovel at the earliest practicable moment. After posting a screening force against B rest, this army was to launch a vigorous offensive against the Kholm - Krasnik - Annopol line, and by not later than August 15th reach the line of the Vistula and San rivers. seizing the crossings of the same in the Annapol - Nisko area.
This mission of the Twelfth Army more nearly provided for its assistance to the Southwest Front than the Western Front, if we consider the particular missions assigned to the other armies of the Southwest Front. Actually, in conformity with the same directive, the principal forces of the First Cavalry Army were intended for employment in the capture of the city of Lemberg, while the Fourteenth Army was to direct its main forces against the general direction of Tarnopol - Peremyshlyany - Gorodok, which involved cooperaion with the First Cavalry Army in the capture of Lemberg.
` This directive clearly indicated the gravitation of the main forces of the Southwest Front toward the Lemberg rather than the Warsaw area. This coincided with the beginning of the general regrouping of the hostile forces on the enemy front, which contemplated the concentration of as much forces as posible in the Warsaw area and, on the other hand, the strengthening of the Polish Second Army which had before it Budienny's cavalry forces. It was because of this that the Kovel area, where the Twelfth Army was operating, was rather poorly covered. The advance of the Twelfth Army, which at the time served as the connecting link between the Western and Southwestern fronts, was thus facilitated. On July 27th the Twelfth Army effected its crossing of the Styr river, encountering only weak resistance of the enemy; on July 30th it reached the line of the Stokhod river, and during the night of the 2nd of August crossed also this barrier with little difficulty on its front and advanced to the line of the Western Bug.
While the Twelfth Army was thus advancing successfully, the First Cavalry Army was engaged in vigorous fighting, with alternating successes and failures in the Brody area, with the Polish Second Army, which attempted to repel this cavalry army in a meeting engagement and to force it back from the approaches to the city of Lemberg, which indicated the execution of Pilsudski's plan of action to which we referred to above, calling for the destruction of the First Cavalry Army. As a result of the fighting here the enemy did succeed in gaining a temporary hold on the city of Brody, but owing to the fall of Brest, referred to above, the Polish G.H.Q. was forced to abandon its pland for launching a counterattack along the Western Bug and to move its new defense line to the Vistula, and the Polish Second and Third armies operating in the Kovel area received orders for a further withdrawal westward. The Twelfth Army only had to take advantage of the particularly favorable situation and merely to cover sufficient ground in order to reach a line on the same plane with the left flank of the Western Front. It did this to the extent that if found possible. On the night of August th it occupied the Kovel heights and on the 6th of August it reached the line of the Western Bug, on the Opalin - Korytnitsa front. The freedom of movement of the Cavalry Army was restored later.
Delayed by the fighting at Brody this army found it possible only by August 7th to begin its movement to the upper stream of the Western Bug in the general direction of Busk. On this line it once more became involved in vigorous fighting with the enemy who defended his positions with great tenacity, and only on the 15th of August did it succeed in consolidating its hold on the Upper Bug river, having captured Busk and thus arrived at the route leading directly to the city of Lemberg, which now constituted the immediate objective of the Cavalry Army. The successes gained by our armies of the Southwest Front in the Kovel and Lemberg areas compelled the Polish Sixth Army, which had been battered by the frontal attacks of our Fourteenth Army, to abandon the line of the Sbruch river, and this extgended the military operations to Eastern Galicia.
These successful operations on the Southwest Front were conducted at a time when there was some lull on the Western Front. The armies on the latter front, on the other hand, were encountering stiff resistance of the enemy on the lines of the Narev and Western Bug rivers.
The attack of the III Cavalry Corps on the fortified Lomzha position on July 29th inaugurated a six-day battle on the left bank of the Narev, which the Fifteenth Army found it impossible to cross with the forces at its own disposal. The Fourth Army came to its assistance here. The latter succeeded in transferring to the left bank of the Narev river two of its divisions which engaged in fighting for the purpose of extending their base of operations there. With a view to assiting the Fifteenth Army, the commander of the Western Front had ordered not only the Fourth Army, but the Third Army as well to assist the Fifteenth Army, sending both of these armies against the general direction of Ostrokenka (Fourth Army from the Lomzha - Tykotsin area, and the Third Army through the interval of space that was free of local barriers between the Western Bug and the Narev). As a consequence there was an even greater shift in the main forces of the Western Front to the north of the Western Bug river. As a result of the coordinated efforts of our armies, the enemy abandoned the line of the Narev river in front of the Fifteenth Army which, as a consequence, had an opportunity to advance further and on August 3d units of this army occupied the city of Ostrov.
Meanwhile the Sixteenth Army was engaged in equally stubborn fighting with the enemy on the line of the Western Bug river. On August 1st there had withdrawn behind the Western Bug river the very much battered and weak units of the retreating Polish divisions which established themselves here supported by new volunteer and reserve units. The first attempt at crossing the Western Bug was made on the 2nd of August by units of the Sixteenth Army in the Yanov - Brest - Litovsk (exclusive) sector (17th, 8th and 10th infantry divisions). It ended in failure when the forces attempted to extend their bridgehead on the left bank of the river, in spite of the fact that some of our divisions succeeded in getting a considerable distance within the depth to the west of this river. Thus, the 8th Infantry Division advanced a whole day's march due west and engaged in a vigorous battle for the possession of the town of Bieloi. Only on the 4th of August did the 27th Infantry Division (right- flank division of the Sixteenth Army) succeed in gaining possession of the town ofDrogichin on the Bug and to consolidate its position there, establishing contact with the left flank of the Third Army. This signified the collapse of the defensive line of the Polish forces on the Western Bug. Two days later, on August 6th, the Fourth Army, after intensive fighting, captured the town of Ostrolenka. Thus developed the general situation on the Western Front prior to the launching of the operation on the banks of the Vistula, which constituted a change in the entire 1920 campaign on the Polish front.
In view of the fact that the fate of the operation had been adversely affected by the general condition of our armies, aside from strategic considerations, we deem it necessary to say a few words with respect to this. All matters such as extended communication lines, reduced combat strengths of units, etc., were the natural and inevitable consequences of the conduct of protracted operations and the pursuit of the enemy over some 500 kilometers of territory. Doubtless this was responsible for the difficulties which we have noted above. In war, however, matters of this nature are unavoidable, and the hazards involved must be provided for by various measures, to which we shall refer later on. Was the action of the commander of the Western Front (group of armies) proper in demanding the extraordinary efforts and exertion of his troops? This may be properl answered by quoting our adversaries. Let us see first of all what Pilsudski himself said in this connection. Here is what he writes in his book, The Year 1920: "The execution of such lengthy marches, interspersed with fighting, speaks well for both the men and their commanders. The immediate effforts of the commander-in-chief, particularly, were here above the ordinary as regards force, energy, power of will and skill in the accomplishment of a military undertaking of such a nature." These words written by Marshal Pilsudski some five years after the events in question are eloquent testimony of his high regard for the extensive marches of the forces of our Western Front and of the impression which this made upon the Polish G.H.Q. The above quotation, we believe, is quite to the point in this connection.
It may be well now to turn to other opinions coming from the same camp. General Sikorski in his book, On the Vistula and Wkra, writes that the rather hasty pursuit of the Red armies launched by the commander of the Western Front, considering the political and economical conditions then obtaining, was unjustified and led to a weakening of the Red armies, which were compelled to advance without having a well protected line of communications and restored railway lines. *
* Sikorski - On the Vistula and Wkra, pp. 237 - 239.
Similar thoughts were expressed by some of our own writers. This, however, was not the case. At the very time of the advance on the line of the Western Bug river the commander of the Western Front had made utmost efforts toward the restoration of the railway communications and system of communications.
With respect to the restoration of the railway system, the intensive efforts connected therewith may be noted from the fact that at the time of the beginning of the fighting on the line of the Vistula river, i.e., by mid-August, 1920, terminal railway stations were already opened at Vyshkov and Siedlce. Thus, railway communications between the armies and their bases, we might say, were established in time. The main difficulty was in the proper utilization of this communications system. Army supply organizations, partly owing to a shortage in vehicular transport units, had considerable difficulty in providing for the transportation of supplies from the railway terminal stations to the troops in the field. Of principal importance, however, was the poor control maintained over the military roads, which had not yet been properly organized. Furthermore, the shortage in rolling stock, locomotives espedially, greatly affected the movement of supplies over the existing railways. Because of this fact, the 60,000 replacements which the reserve army of the Western Front had trained and sent to the front could not reach their destination in time. The great speed in the advance of the Red forces had compelled the commander of the Western Front to seek new routes in the maintenance of communications and the system of supply, and to re-examine the entire question concerning intermediate supply depots. The cumbersome army bases,in the existing circumstances, were out of place and too far behind the lines. Thus the base of the Fifteenth Army was situated in the town of Velikie Luki; the base of the Sixteenth Army, at Novozybkov. In order to facilitate supply and transport functions and to obviate unnecessary transport shipments, the commander of the Western Front moved up the advance bases of these armies to Molodechno and Minsk. From these bases transportation was arranged to the front utilizing any available transportation means for the purpose. the supply depots were situated on the advance sections of the railways, and were moved up there the moment the railways were opened. The supplies were sent directly to divisions. It was here that the supply system often failed, owing to the difficulties involved in regulating the distribution of the supplies.