Measures for establishing cooperation between the inner flanks of the Western and Southwestern Fronts. Plan of action of the Polish high- command; disposition of its sectors of the Warsaw theater of operation of plans of the belligerent. See map pertaining to Chapter XVI and XVII - (original text. - Tr.)
On the night of the 10/11 August the commander-in-chief halted the action of the Cavalry Army against the Polish Sixth Army. Directive No. 4738/op 1041sh issued by the commander-in-chief at 3:00 A.M. on August 11th contained a complete estimate of the general situation and prescribed definite missions for the Polish wing of the Southwest Front (group of armies). In this directive the commander- in-chief quite properly set forth the relative importance of the Lemberg and Warsaw operations and the direction of the main effort of the Polish wing of the Southwest Front to be undertaken, for the time being, by the First Cavalry Army and the Twelfth Army, and to be shifted for action in cooperation with the main effort of the Western Front.
In connection with this decision, the Twelfth Army was to deliver an assault with its main forces in the general direction of Lublin, while the main forces of the Cavalry Army were to reach the Grubeshow - Zamosty - Tomaszov area. The commander-in-chief at the same time stressed the fact that it was "vital to effect the transfer first of the Twelfth Army, and then the Cavalry Army, to the immediate control of Tukhachevsky, commander of the Western Front, with the least practicable delay." Further, the commander-in-chief called for the "immediate conclusions"of the commander of the Southwest Front with respect to the above.* This last note of the directive somehow did not fit in with the general tone of the directive as a whole. At first glance this appears of little significance, and yet it was fraught with dire consequences. It affords the right to certain rights to certain writers to assert that Directive No. 4738 was not in the nature of an order calling for the immediate execution of certain undertakings, but was merely intended as a warning order.
However, the commander-in-chief himself apparently implied an entirely different meaning. This may be noted from the second discussion which took place between the commander-in-chief and the commander of the Western Front at 12:35 A.M. on August 12 (i.e., on the night of the 11/12 August). This conversation lent further emphasis to the concept of the commander-in-chief affecting the cooperation of the two fronts (groups of armies) and the relative parts to be assumed by them at the decisive phase of the campaign. The commander-in-chief stated: "The mission of the Southwest Front has been to defeat the enemy protecting Lemberg, and with this in view Budienny's army and the Twelfth Army were turned southward. Now, when you are turning your forces directly north in the execution of the final mission, it is necessary that the Twelfth and Budiennny's armies be turned due north with a view to avoiding the dispersion of our forces in the center." Further the commander-in-chief stressed the importance of maintaining close cooperation between the Twelfth Army and the left flank of the Western Front (group of armies). With this in view he believed it necessary that the Western Front assume control at once of not only the 58th Infantry Division but of the entire Twelfth Army, "otherwise your center may not be able to perform the mission before it and might break like an over-strained cord."*
* The full text of the conversation will be found in A. I. Yegerov's Lemberg - Warsaw, pp. 94 and 95.
The commander of the Western Front did not consider it possible to
take over control of the Twelfth Army at once. He could get in contact with the
First Cavalry Army via Berdichev by wireless, and by the l2th of August he
could establish more reliable communications. This conversation also had an
important bearing on the above directive, testifying first to the full
agreement in the views of the commander-in-chief and the commander of the
Western Front with respect to the methods of the employment of the right-flank
armies of the Western Front. It indicates the manner of the actual supervision
over the action of these armies after the night of the 11/12 August.
Thus the general strategic situation, in so far as the feasibility of at once establishing actual cooperation between the two groups of armies (fronts) was concerned, had been so favorable that it could have been fully effected already on August 10 and 11th (as pointed out by A. I. Yegorov in his book, Lemberg - Warsaw, pp. 171 and 172). But then, after the commander-in-chief had adopted the plan that was definitely to insure our victory on the Vistula, there appeared such difficulties in the functions of control as to nullify completely the plans of the commander-in-chief.
Because of the scarcity of material published on the civil war, there are many participants of the war who have gained the impression that the commander of the Southwest Front (group of armies) somehow refused to execute the directive of the commander-in-chief. Actually, this was not the case. We shall return later to those deficiencies which affected the execution of the directive of the commander-in-chief by the commander of the Southwest Front (group of armies), though these deficiencies alone were not of decisive importance here. In the circumstances, it was the poorly functioning field headquarters at the time that was largely responsible.
Let us now examine this vitally important matter, which so fully emphasizes the importance of the preparation of a flexible, energetic and resourceful system for the control of any army in the field. The decision of the commander-in-chief, in view of the poorly functioning system of control, failed to exert a timely influence on the fate of the entire campaign on the banks of the Vistula.
The directive of the commander-in-chief calling for the regrouping of the cavalry army was issued on the night of the l0/11th of August. The elementary principles of staff functions demanded of the field headquarters and of its operations section, in the circumstances, a number of measures to insure the execution of the new plan of the commander-in- chief. This was especially essential considering the fact that the new plan was to overcome that "Lemberg inertia" which for about two weeks had already pervaded the entire system of control and the functions of the entire Southwest Front (group of armies). The commander of the Southwest Front should have at once been apprised of the new mission over direct wire; and the commander of the Cavalry Army also should have been advised over direct wire with respect to the new mission of the cavalry army inasmuch as it was placed under a different control and was transferred to areas with which it was not familiar. This was particularly essential in view of the fact that the commander- in-chief had entertained considerable anxiety over the Lublin area, and the field headquarters should naturally have applied its functional efforts in this direction.
The directive of the commander-in-chief, however, without the issuing of any warning orders, was put into code and then sent out. Owing to some unfortunate mistakes in coding the instructions contained certain errors and distortions. The front headquarters, after losing considerable time in unsuccessful efforts at deciphering the orders, applied to the field headquarters for a proper deciphering of the same which the latter did. At l:35 P.M. August l3 the telegrams with correctly deciphered orders were once more transmitted to Kharkov and Minsk. If warning orders were not issued with respect to the new plans of the commander-in-chief by the headquarters, the latter should have seen to it that the new orders reached the front commanders in time. And if errors were discovered in deciphering the orders the substance of the same could at least have been obtained at once by wire. It is impossible to explain this along with the undue secrecy that was maintained with all this. We note daily conversations between the commander-in-chief and the commander of the Western Front concerning these secrets. We note here a deplorable, though instructive example of how the plan of a commander-in-chief may be nullified by staff agencies through the inefficient functioning of the latter.
Another deplorable fact was the note written by the commander-in-chief at the bottom of his directive (calling for the opinion of the commander of the Southwest Front), which detracted from the authority of the directive. Subsequent instructions, however, clearly established the imperative nature of the directive of the commander-in-chief.
On the evening of August 11th, the commander-in-chief, acting in the spirit of his already adopted plan, apparently considered it necessary to reinforce the impression of his directive, No. 4738/op/10441/sh, issuing directive No. 4752/op/l044/sh in which he stressed the need to accelerate the movement of the Twelfth Army in the Lublin area, emphasizing the fact that the Mozyr group was already on the Kotsk heights.*
Meanwhile the Southwest Front still continued to maintain its inertia on August 12th, in the spirit of the directive of July 23d. The commander of the Southwest Front decided to make one more vigorous effort against the Lemberg center - which he actually did in conformity with his directive No.764/sek/4626/op, ordering the First Cavalry Army and the Twelfth Army to continue with utmost vigor the execution of the mission involving the capture of Lemberg and to advance to the Tomaszov area, whereupon the cavalry was promptly to seize the crossings over the San river in the Sinyava-Radymno sector.** Thus beginning with the 12th of August there was complete lack of coordination between the efforts of the commander-in-chief and the commander of the Southwest Front (group of armies), nullifying the required cooperation of the two fronts (group of armies). Unfortunately, it cannot be said that the lack of cooperation involved had been due mainly to objective reasons; it might well have been obviated had the functions of our staffs at the time been on a proper level of efficiency.*
In his directive No. 767/sek/4639/op the commander of the Southwest Front, so to speak, gave the Twelfth Army its last push, which as we shall see later, continued to influence the actions of the commander of this army practically throughout the entire operations on the Vistula, notwithstanding the fact that the Twelfth Army was already beginning to receive its orders from the commander of the Western Front, having actually been incorporated into the latter front (group of armies).
In directive No. 767 the commander of the Southwest Front called upon the assault group (i.e., the main forces of the Twelfth Army) to seize the Tomaszov - Rava Russka area and the San crossings in the Sinyava and Radymno areas with the least practicable delay. The right flank of the Twelfth Army, after the occupation of Kholm, was to launch a vigorous pursuit of the enemy in the Krasnik area, with a view to capturing the crossings of the Vistula in the Annopol - Zavikhost area and over the San in the Razvaduv - Nisko area at the earliest possible moment,**
Thus both of these directives of the commander of the Southwest Front (group of armies) actually, in so far as the cooperation of the two fronts was concerned, reverted to the situation existing on August 4th. The situation may perhaps now be considered more difficult, since on the 12th of August the First Cavalry Army, before the receipt of directive No.764,began introducing its cavalry reserves, on its own initiative, on the line of the Styr river.***
*** Id., p.109
On the 12th of August the commander of the Southwest Front, in the form of a suggestion, presented a new variant for the employment of the Cavalry Army, proposing to place it in reserve in the Proskurov area for the possible contingency of Rumania's entry into the conflict.*
* Lemberg - Warsaw, by A. I. Yegorov, p. 117
On the night of the 12/13 August, in a conversation between the commander-in-chief and the Western Front, the problem was decided of the actual incorporation of the Twelfth and the First Cavalry armies into the Western Front, with the temporary transmission of orders to these armies through the Southwest Front. The commander of the Western Front called for placing these armies under his control at midnight of August 13th or better yet, at noon of the 13th.**
**Id., p. 120.
The directive of the commander-in-chief affecting this transfer (at noon of the 13th August) was issued at 3:10 A.M., August 13th (No. 4774/op).
However, the matter affecting the establishment of cooperation between the two fronts (groups of armies) was yet to go through its final difficulties. Receiving at 4:30 P.M. on August 13th the decoded directives of the commander-in-chief of the 11th of August, Nos. 4738 and 4752, the commander of the Southwest Front reported that the Twelfth and First Cavalry armies had already embarked upon the execution of missions assigned them on the 12th of August and that he therefore considered it impracticable "to effect basic changes in the missions assigned these armies under the existing circumstances." In anticipation of a reply to his report, the commander of the
Southwest Front prepared the draft of an order for the transfer of the First Cavalry and Twelfth armies to the control of the commander of the Western Front. This order, however, contained no mention concerning the assignment to the Twelfth and First Cavalry armies of those new missions that were intended for them by directive of the commander-in-chief of August 11th, No. 4738/op. and yet,the directive in question clearly provided that the commander of the southwest front designate the new missions for these armies. Obviously, of course, upon the receipt of the new missions these armies could have proceeded with the requisite regrouping of their forces preparatory to the execution of their new missions as early as the night of the 13/14 August. The commander of the Southwest Front, however,preferred merely to comply formally only with the last directive of the commander-in-chief of the 13 August,No. 4774, calling for the transfer of the Twelfth and First Cavalry armies to the control of the commander of the Western Front. Directive No. 776/sek/4654/op of the commander of the Southwest Front effecting the transfer of the two armies in question, dated noon, August 13th, for various reasons, was actually issued only at 1:02 A.M., August 14th. Thus, the actual solution of the problem with respect to cooperation between the two fronts (group of armies) that had been provided for back in the latter part of April and which was finally to be effected on August 3d was not consummated until the night of the 13/14 August, and even then only partially.
We have devoted considerable space here to the matter of the cooperation between the two fronts (groups of armies).
This question looms large before the researcher as soon as he approaches the operations on the Vistula. Various researchers have elucidated this matter in different ways. Hence it was necessary to present a preliminary careful analysis of all factors involved to the end that the proper conclusions may be arrived at by the reader without regard for the various pronouncements and authorities so often encountered on the question.
These conclusions should supply answers to the following questions: Was the importance of the cooperation between the two fronts (groups of armies) fully recognized by our leading military authorities? Was there unanimity of thought among them on the question? Was the decision with respect to effecting cooperation between the two fronts adopted in time? What form did this matter assume, and what were the reason for its failure in producing practical results?
The answer to the first of these question is simple. The importance of the proper cooperation between the two fronts was thoroughly recognized by all of our higher military leaders; by our government which raised this question back in April, l920, and by the commander-in-chief and the commander of the Western Front.
With respect to the second question, we have every reason to assume that there did not exist any full and complete unanimity in the matter. The commander-in-chief and the commander of the Western Front (group of armies) quite consistently, from the beginning to the end of the campaign, adhered to the view, which is also confirmed by most of the Polish writers on the subject, that the northern theater of operations, where the armies of the Western Front were employed, constituted the principal theater of operations. At the time of the change in the campaign within this theater of operations, primary attention was devoted to the Warsaw - Modlin area which attracted, as we shall see later, the principal mass of the Polish forces. In this area, for a variety of political and economic reasons, the city of Warsaw loomed as a major objective, yet the capture of the city did not constitute an objective in itself. The fall of Warsaw was to be the natural consequence of the destruction of the hostile manpower protecting this city. Hence the commander of the Western Front in his directive of August 10th setting forth the approach march of our armies to the line of the vistula did not even mention the capture of Warsaw.
With the relative strength of the forces existing in the Polish theater of operations we could not afford the luxury of two independent operations in the same theater, such as the capture of line of the Middle Vistula, which extended throughout the system of the entire Polish defenses and which was to paralyze the very functioning of the Polish government, and the operation for the capture of Galicia.
Obviously, the action of the Polish wing of the southwest Front should have been subordinated to the interests of the objectives of the Western Front (group of armies). This alone would have afforded us the necessary concentration of our efforts against the one vitally important objective. Any other plan was bound to involve a dispersion of forces.
However, the commander of the Southwest Front (group of armies), as we know, contemplated the cooperation of the two fronts by means of two independent operations in the Warsaw and Cracow areas. With respect to this particular plan, we cannot help recalling a historical analogy. This seems to bring to mind the situation in which the Russian Stavka (G.H.Q.) found itself during the World War when its two fronts similarly endeavored to exert their respective efforts against Berlin and Vienna, with each of the two fronts regarding its own mission to be paramount.
As we know, in that instance the commander-in-chief assumed the position of mediator between the two fronts rather than that of supreme authority, acting as a sort of referee between the two. And we know the negative strategic results that followed this policy of the Russian Stavka (G.H.Q.)
It is gratifying to note that our commander-in-chief had mustered sufficient will power to follow at the decisive moment the path which his clear strategic thought and accurate estimate of the situation pointed to him.. In mentioning here the particular merits of the commander- in-chief, it is to be remarked, however, that he was rather late in formulating his plan for the destruction of the hostile forces; in other words, that his concepts affecting the cooperation of the two fronts were belated. This cooperation should have been accomplished sooner, and the Western Bug river should have been crossed by our forces with a ready plan fully developed by the commander-in-chief. These belated efforts may have been due in a measure to the optimistic views that had been produced by the headlong advance of our armies on the Western Front. On the other hand, perhaps the possibility of Romania's entry into the conflict had been somewhat overemphasized, and too much attention given by our commander- in-chief to the Wrangel section of the Southwest Front. We are unable to give any definite answers to these questions; so far those persons who might shed some light on this have remained silent.
In order to answer the third question, as to whether the decision for the actual cooperation of the two fronts (groups of armies), had been adopted in time, it is necessary on the one hand, to get somewhat ahead of ourselves, and on the other, to consider the elements of time and space.
As we shall soon see, the Polish high command, having worked out a plan for an extensive counter-maneuver that was to be launched from the line of the Middle Vistula, had been covering the same in the Lublin area with a screening force of 7,500.infantry and cavalry forces. This screening force was deployed on the front: Kholm - Grubeshov General Sikorski, in his work, points out that this screening forces.with the exception of the 7th Infantry Division, was more of a fiction than a reality. The fictional force involved included the
Ukrainian 6th Infantry Division, whose strength was less than 1,000 men; the "White Russian national army "numbering about 1,600 men, and various Polish volunteers* that had been organized into tactical groups but which, according to General Sikorski, did not represent anything "of the quality or force of regular troops."**
General Sikorski quite properly emphasized the great risk that was involved in the Polish counter-maneuver, protected by such a minor force in the east.
On the 12th of August we had opposite this Polish screening force on the approximate line of Vlodava - Ustilug our Twelfth Army*** about 35 to 25 km. away, or about one days march from it. Thus, if the Twelfth Army would have concentrated its efforts at once in one definite area, and assumed the immediate mission of defeating this Polish screening force, it could well have proceeded with the execution of this mission within a day, or two days at the most. But as we already know, the mission of this army required it to turn abruptly due south, on the line Grubeshov-Rava Russka. The practical execution of this mission led to the establishment of the main forces of the Twelfth Army parallel to the front held by the Polish screening force, touching it only indirectly in the Grubeshov area.
*** We wish to mention once more its strength: 11,225 infantry and cavalry troops.
Already on the morning of the 12th of August the main forces of the cavalry divisions of the First Cavalry Army were situated in the Radzekhov - Toporov area, i.e., about 70 km. from the Red Twelfth Army and 100 km. from the Polish screening force in the Lublin area.
Comrade Yegorov is quite right when he states that since the decision for the employment of this army in the Lublin area was finally adopted on the night of the 10/11 August, on the very morning of the 11th of August it could and should have been issued orders by the commander-in-chief, through the headquarters of the Southwest Front (group of armies), with regard to its new mission. This, however, was not the case. At the present moment, however, we are interested in another matter, namely: From where, from what line, from which area, was the First Cavalry Army to launch its strategic action against the Polish counter-maneuver, and was it so vitally important to overtake this counter-maneuver before it got under way, rather than during the actual process of its development?
Comrade Yegorov is of the opinion that in order to disrupt the Polish counter-maneuver, the First Cavalry Army should have moved up directly against the line of the Wieprz river, behind which the main Polish assault force (Fourth Army) was being concentrated, and he estimates the distance which the First Cavalry Army have had to cover at 240 to 250 Km., as the crow flies. Further, he believed that even upon starting the movement on the 10 or 11th of August (with changes providing for the resistance of the enemy), the First Cavalry Army could not have reached the line of the Wieprz river before August 21st or 23d. Yegorov is of the opinion that in addition to the Polish screening force already referred to, the Polish 3d Infantry Division of Legionnaires at Zamostye,* the 1st Infantry Division of Legionnaires at Lublin, and finally the 18th Infantry Division detraining also at Lublin, might have resisted the advance of the First Cavalry Army.
* As a matter of fact, this unit was not situated at that point. On the 13th of August this division was still on the tip of the right flank of the Polish screening force in the vicinity of Voislavice (northwest of Grubeshov) it then moved to the Kholm area, whence it advanced directly on Vlodava.
Subsequent events showed that these divisions at the time formed the assault detachment of Pilsudski"s forces. Based on the very contentions of comrade Yegorov, the dispersion of this assault detachment would have begun under the circumstances a considerable time before the First Cavalry Army would have reached the Ivangorod - Kotsk area, where the Polish Fourth Army was being concentrated.**
** A. I. Yegorov, Lemberg - Warsaw, p. 175.
From this it is apparent that the very approach of the First Cavalry to the line of the Wieprz river would have exerted an immediate effect on the freedom of action of the enemy. And we believe that this would have resulted with the arrival of the First Cavalry Army on the line Grubeshov - Zamostye.
Now let us see whether it was so particularly important to have the First Cavalry Army moved into this area especially before the beginning of the Polish counter-offensive. Yegorov himself enumerated those advantages that we might have gained from it. The substance of this consisted in the fact that the movement of the Cavalry Army would have presented a threat to the enemy, impeded the regrouping of his forces, and would have cut in half the strength of the assault detachment in the south.
But if the First Cavalry Army had arrived in the area in question later, i.e., if it had reached the line of the Wieperz river at the time when all of the Polish assault detachments had already gotten on their way in the directions indicated for their advance, then the First Cavalry Army, in conjunction with the Twelfth Army, would have had to overcome only the thin line of the single Polish screening force in order to reach the entirely unprotected rear of the Polish southern armies. There is little need for us to go into the opportunities of the cavalry army with its 15,000 cavalry troops that would in the circumstances presented themselves.
All of the above is intended to substantiate the statements that we are about to make. In the first place, the Cavalry Army could have been committed to action not only prior to the launching by the Polish forces of their counter-offensive, but during the actual course of its development with as good if not better chances of success. In the second place, in order to exert the pressure of the First Cavalry Army on the freedom of action of the hostile forces, especially as regards its psychological effect, it was entirely unnecessary to have it more directly on Kotsk or Demblin. It would have sufficed to have it appear in the Grubeshov area sometimes before August 15th or 17th.
On the basis of the above, it is necessary to determine whether or not the First Cavalry Army could have appeared in this area by the time indicated had it started its advance on the 14th of August. Considering the fact that the distance from the Radzekhov area to the Grubeshov area is 100 kilometers, as the crow flies, and that a day's march of the cavalry amounts to 30 to 35 kilometers, we arrive at the conclusion that at the close of August 16th the First Cavalry Army might have reached the Grubeshov area.
And thus the strategic cooperation of the inner flanks of our two fronts (groups of armies), within the purview of the commander-in-chief's concepts of August 11th, was quite feasible and capable of being effected in spite of the belated receipt of the orders of the commander-in-chief of the 13th of August by the commander of the Southwest Front (group of armies). This is substantiated also by General Sikorski who states in his work that interference on the part of the First Cavalry Army and Twelfth Army in the operation on the Vistula was feasible and might have proved of great moment.*
In the event that the directive of the commander-in-chief would have been executed on the 12th of August, Pilsudski's counterattack in general would have been impossible of execution.
Thus the answer to the last question is quite obvious. To the second half of the last question, a partial answer has been given in our previous statement. We shall therefore present here a brief summary of the reasons for the failure in effecting the cooperation of the two fronts. These were mostly subjective, i.e., they depended on the free will of individuals who were one way or another connected with the matter affecting the unification of the activity of the two fronts. Among the causes of a subjective nature that may have been avoided, and which were entirely avoidable, but which produced a number of difficulties that in general disrupted the plans for the cooperation of our two fronts, were the following: The belated efforts of the commander-in chief and commanders of the two fronts in taking up the matter with respect to the cooperation of their forces, which, however, might still have been accomplished and the mission of the commander-in-chief of the 11th of August properly executed. The inefficient functioning of the staffs, which had deteriorated to the point where highly important directives issued by the commander-in-chief on the 11th of August had not reached and were not communicated to the commander of the Southwest Front before the 13th of August. This must be regarded to have been basic in the circumstances. The failure of the commander of the Southwest Front to execute that portion of the directive of the commander-in-chief on the 13th of August which required him to effect a regrouping of the First Cavalry Army.
To these original causes should be added, going a little ahead,the following, which already became apparent at the time when the First Cavalry Army and the Twelfth Army were transferred to the control of the commander of the Western Front:*
*Sikorski, On the Vistula and Wkra, p.245
Tardiness of the First Cavalry Army in the execution of the directive of the commander of the Western Front with respect to its withdrawal from the action against Lemberg,* and the concentration
* Comrade S. M. Budienny, the former commander of the First Cavalry Army, has the following to say with respect to the directive of the commander of the Western Front issued on the 15th of August calling for the transfer of the First Cavalry Army from the Lemberg area to the Vladimir-Volhynsky-Ustilug area
"The transfer of the First Cavalry Army on August 15th from Lemberg to the Vladimir-Volhynsky - Ustilug area must be regarded as the dying convulsions of the plan of the commander of the Western Front based on a regrouping of his forces in the north, without properly raising the question of cooperation with the Southwest Front (group of armies). On August 15th the situation was as follows:
"1. The directive of the commander of the Western Front (group of armies) affecting the transfer of the Cavalry Army in the Lublin area was so late that the Cavalry Army, by its transfer to the Vladimir- Volbynsky-Ustilug area could no longer afford effective assistance to the Southwest Front (group of armies). In order to accomplish the regrouping of its forces now, the Cavalry Army would have been required to cross the Western Bug river twice, once in moving back and again in its advance to the northwest.
"2. Had the commander of the Western Front not been so unduly anxious in issuing his directives anent the transfer of the cavalry army and if he had agreed to the suggestions of the commander of the First Cavalry Army, the fall of Lemberg, at all events, would have been insured. Consequently, the situation on both the Western and the Southwestern fronts would have been entirely different: First, the enemy would have been compelled to muster considerable forces with which to recapture the city, and by so doing would have eased the situation on the Western FRont; Secondly our capture of Lemberg would have enabled the Cavalry Army to reach the Lublin area by the shortest route, advancing between the Western Bug and the Vistula rivers. This would have afforded a saving of much time and at the same time created a great threat to the enemy operating against our Western Front. At all events, the situation existing at the time had rendered the capture of Lemberg imperative.
"3. It must be admitted that the fall of Lemberg would doubtless have created a favorable change toward the restoration of the balance of our entire campaign. "S.Budienny."
of this army by four days' marching in the Vladimir-Volhynsky area; * the persistent endeavor of the commander of the Twelfth Army to develop his main efforts not in the direction of Lublin, as called for by the commander of the Western Front, but in the southwest, against Tomaszov -Rava Russka - Kamenka, i.e., in conformity with the previous orders of the commander of the Southwest Front.** Finally, we wish to stress
This caused a delay in the execution of the orders involved. The next directive issued on the 17th of August, No. 4006/op, in which the First Cavalry Army was instructed to"strain every effort and at all cost to concentrate its force within the required time in the Vladimir-Volhynsky-Ustigul area, with the ultimate mission of advancing against the rear of the hostile assault group." (N. Kakurin and V. Melikov, The War with Poland, p. 321). The Cavalry Army replied that "at the present moment, it is impossible to effect a withdrawal from action for the purpose of a new regrouping of its forces." (A. I. Yegorov, Lemberg - Warsaw, p. 152).Only after the receipt of the directive of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic of the 20th of August did the First Cavalry Army proceed with the execution of the directive of the commander of the Western Front. (N. Kakurin and V. Melikov, The War with Poland, pp. 346 and 347.) omissions which, in our opinion, should be charged against the commander of the Western Front. The latter should have made every possible effort to have the First Cavalry Army moved up in the Lublin area in time even before this army actually passed to his control. On the particular efforts of the commander of the Western Front depended a great deal, and at the most decisive moment in the operations this commander was found wanting in these efforts.
Let us now take up the plans, decisions and experiences of the other side. Only by presenting these to the reader in an understandable manner may we go more thoroughly into the plans and decisions of both sides and compare these.
With a view to saving the Polish government, the Polish high command decided to strain every possible effort. A call to the colors of every able bodied man up to 35 years of age capable of bearing arms, and a strong appeal for volunteers were to fill up the thin lines of Polish military units. The propaganda conducted by the clergy among the more backward soldiery and Polish masses was intended to raise the morale of the men called into the military service. After vigorous administrative and propaganda efforts, similar strategic efforts were instituted.
The entire course of the previous campaign demonstrated the fact that the enemy had to alter his methods of action. Upon the collective mind of the Polish generals there now dawned the thought that it was necessary first to withdraw the Polish military forces in order to insure freedom of action in effecting a regrouping of the Polish armies. The first signs of the evolution of this thought are to be found in the "general defense instructions" of the Polish general staff of August 4, 1920; these already spoke of the acceptance of a general engagement along the line of the Vistula.
The arrival in Poland on July 25, 1920 of General Weygand, who had served as General Foch's chief of staff in the World War, served to more fully and thoroughly put this thought into operation. General Weygand developed in greater detail* his concepts of the formation of a new and strong line so far back in the interior of the country as to permit the formation of the necessary reserves that were to be employed on active maneuvers on both flanks. General Weygand was in full agreement with the chief of the regular French Military Mission, General Hanri, with respect to the need for the creation of a powerful army on the north wing of the Polish front, in view of the danger threatening the capital of the country in the event that it should be turned in the north.** We are presenting these details in order to show that the Polish plan of operations was not adopted overnight, and was not the act of one particular individual, as some of our writers are wont to believe, placing too much credence in Pilsudski's book,The Year 1920, Marshal Pilsudski was still under the impressions which he gained incident to the failure. Proof of this may be found in the numerous "notes" of General Weygand and General Razvadovski covering the period July 30 - August 5, 1920
* Sikorski, On the Vistula and Wkra, p.40.
of his plan of operations involving the development of an active counter-maneuver from the line of the Western Bug river. The depression and confusion prevailing among the persons about him also had their effect upon him. It is difficult to say what the final outcome would have been of his own plan were it not for the guidance afforded him by the two French generals. Pilsudski's own state of mind at the time and the trend of his thoughts may be clearly seen from his own book, The Year 1920, in which he states:
"All combinations produced an insignificant number of forces, senseless conclusions,maddening weakness, or extreme risk against which all logic failed us. Everything appeared to me very gloomy and quite hopeless. The only bright rays on our horizon in the circumstances was the absence of Budienny's cavalry in our rear and the feebleness of the Red Twelfth Army which, after the defeat in the Ukraine, found it impossible to recover." As a consequence, Pilsudski, without comprehending the situation as a whole, as in the case of Weygand and Hanri, was cognizant only of the immediate danger on the direct approaches to Warsaw, and this absorbed most of his attention. Herein are to be found the psychological reasons for the plan of action finally formulated by Pilsudski.
This plan provided for active maneuver only with the south wing of the Polish front alone. Pilsudski's plan was based primarily on the following: The main effort of the Red armies directed against Warsaw is aimed south of the Western Bug river, while the armies following to the north of the line Grodno - Byalistok - Warsaw are crossing somewhere in the Malkin - Brok area to the south bank of the Bug. According to Pilsudski's calculations, to the north of the Western Bug river there might be expected only a secondary Red assault involving attempts at a turning of his left wing along the East Prussian frontier.*
* Sikorski, On the Vistula and Wkra,p.46.
The concept of the plan involved the following: While resting the left flank and center of the Polish front on the fortifications of Modlin (Novogeorgievsk), Zgierz, Warsaw bridgeheads and the line of the Vistula, Pilsudski decided in the Demblin (Ivangorod) area, under the protection of the Lower Wieprz, to concentrate an assault detachment to be designated as the "central group of armies"that was to be organized from the regrouped forces in the principal theater of operation and a part of the forces of the Ukrainian theater of operations, and to deliver an assault with this force against the left flank and rear of the Red armies attacking the Warsaw fortifications. The armies in the Ukrainian theater of operations, which detached a part of their forces for employment on the principal theater, were assigned for the time being strictly defensive missions, involving the maintenance of the area of the city of Lemberg and the oil basin in Eastern Galicia.**
** It was assumed that Romania, which had remained neutral so far, would nevertheless become actively involved as son as the Red forces invaded far into Galicia, inasmuch as such an invasion would directly affect the vital interests of Romania (Bukovina). At all events, Pilsudski was willing to risk the temporary loss of Eastern Galicia and even the city of Lemberg.
With the above in view, Pilsudski in a directive dated August 6th designated as the basic defense line the line: Orzhits river - Narev river with bridgehead fortification of Pultusk - the Warsaw bridgehead fortifications - line of the Vistula river - Demblin (Ivangorod) fortress line of the Wieprz, Seret, and Strypa rivers. In the interest of facilitated control, Pilsudski combined the three armies in the principal theater of operations, which had been assigned defensive missions (Fifth, First and Second armies) into the "North Front," while he personally assumed command of the Central Group of armies (Fourth and Third armies ), and maintained personal general supervision over the North and Ukrainian fronts.
The mission of the "Central Group of Armies" consisted of the following: The Polish Fourth Army, deploying on the Demblin (Ivangorod) - Kotsk line, was to attack in the general direction of Novo-Minsk. The Polish Third Army, covering the entire wide front extending from Kotsk up to Brod (both points exclusive), was to support the attack of the Fourth Army by an assault on Lukov to be launched with two of its infantry divisions and one cavalry brigade, while maintaining the remainder of its forces as a screening force in the Lublin area against the Red Twelfth Army.
In the execution of this plan, the final disposition of the Polish forces was to be as follows: The North Front (from Thorn to Demblin, exclusive) - 72,000 infantry and cavalry troops; Central Group of armies - 37,000 infantry and cavalry troops, from which forces 7,500 infantry and cavalry troops, from which forces 7,500 infantry and cavalry troops were to be detached for employment on the passive mission of a screening force in the Lublin area; the Ukrainian Front - 22,000 to 34,500 infantry and cavalry.* In all, the enemy had at his disposal 131,000 to 143,000 infantry and cavalry troops in the two theaters of operation. Of these forces, directly or indirectly, there were involved in the Warsaw operation about 109,000 infantry and cavalry troops, which afforded the enemy a superiority of more than two to one in the operation on the Vistula.
*The latter figure based on Polish sources.
Translating this relative strength into percentages, we not that in the secondary Ukrainian theater of operations the enemy had detached 17 to 27 per cent of his forces for employment on the principal operation and that he concentrated 83 to 73 per cent of his available forces for employment in the latter operation, However, turning to the percentage of forces distributed between the active and passive missions within the scope of the operation in question, we note a violation of the principle affecting active forces. Thus, on the execution of active missions, there were assigned only 27% of all available forces, whereas on the passive missions there were at first assigned 73% of all available forces, whereas on the passive missions there were at first assigned 73% of all available forces. There is to be noted in this distribution of forces a lack of confidence in the combat efficiency and dependability of the Polish armies, the morale of which had been undermined by the protracted failures and retreats, and a fear for the possible loss of Warsaw before the outcome of the active maneuver in the Demblin area could be ascertained.
The entire operation in general was secured not alone by the screening force in the Lublin area, which had been given the limited mission of maintaining its position until the l8th of August, but also by the possibility of later, after the "Central Group of Armies"reached the line Siedlce - Novo-Minsk, of shifting the communications of these armies from the Demblin to the Warsaw area, for fear of a possible attack by our armies in the Lublin-Demblin area.* From the above disposition of forces for the active and passive missions it follows that the original
*Pilsudski was of the opinion that the effects of his counterattack on the Warsaw area would not be felt before August l9th. (Sikorski - On the Vistula and Wkra, p. 571)
variant of Pilsudski's plan in no way pursued the object of a battle of annihilation, and involved nothing but defensive actions; it contemplated the limited objective of delaying the direct attack of the main forces of the Red armies on Warsaw. This basic plan of Marshal Pilsudski, however, had undergone many revisions and essential changes during August 6 to 12, both as a result of changes in the existing situation consequent upon the relentless pressure of the Red armies, and the influence of General Weygand of the French Army upon the strategic concepts of the Polish G.H.Q. Consequently, we believe it well not to stop here to analyze the first variant of this plan, but to take this up after we have followed the history of the subsequent changes of this plan in connection with the changes in the situation. For the time being the Polish armies proceeded on the night of the 6/7 August with the execution of Pilsudski's plan in its original draft form.
The armies, basing their movement on the group of forces under General Roja on the tip of their left flank,* withdrew first to the line: Livets river - Siedlce - Lukov - Kotsk, and on the night of the 12th of August the Polish forces situated to the south of the Western Bug river continued their regrouping. The Polish Fourth Army found itself in particularly difficult straits, and was compelled to then abruptly due south, to the line of the Wieprz river by a flanking movement.
*This was a group of forces organized from a variety of volunteer formations and regular units. The nucleus of this group consisted of the 18th Infantry Brigade and 8th Cavalry Brigade - its total strength reached on August 1st 4,390 infantry and cavalry troops. (Sikorski - On the Vistula and Wkra,pp. 67 - 69).
In the course of the actual regrouping of the enemy, however, a change was taking place in the original plan adopted by him, inasmuch as the actual combat situation now disclosed certain erroneous premises in Plisudski's original assumptions. Only on the 8th of August did it begin to dawn upon the enemy that there were some sort of large Red forces to the north of the Western Bug river. On this day he verified the presence there of units of the Red fourth Army that were continuing their advance westward.
This information served to confirm General Weygand's apprehensions with respect to the Northern wing of the Polish front. General Weygand believed from the very beginning that Pilsudski's plan was based on erroneous assumptions with respect to the disposition of the Red forces. Judging from all indications, he assumed that a strong Red assault force was situated somewhere to the north of the Western Bug, though he was not quite certain as to the intentions of this force.*For the time being it was quite apparent that the Red Fourth Army was engaged in certain movements in a westerly direction with the apparent object of turning the left wing of the Polish front.
This turning movement caused General Weygand particular anxiety for the reason that such action on the part of the Red Fourth Army might well have strategic as well as tactical consequences. The Polish forces situated north of Warsaw, the Fifth Army especially, were based on Thorn,i.e., their line of communications extended parallel to the front, and their base was situated on their flank.** This any pressure against their communications was quite perilous for the. The information in question, however, affected more than the Polish Fifth Army alone, and as we can now state without fear of contradiction, actually affected all of the Polish military forces in general.
According to General Sikorski, Danzig at the time served as the main base of operations of the Polish armies. Here. under the protection of the French Navy, huge quantities of ammunition and military equipment were being unloaded, which were essential for a further continuation of the war.* In view of the fact that PIlsudski had shifted all of his attention to the immediate approaches to Warsaw, without recognizing fully the importance of the Danzig corridor, General Weygand apparently felt compelled to take a more firm control over the general strategic action of the forces.
Accordingly,on August 8th, at the conference held between Pilsudski, Razvadovski and Weygand, the first change was made in the plan of August 6th. This consisted of the acceptance of General Weygand's viewpoint concerning the need for the creation of a powerful assault group on the left wing, to the north of the Western Bug river.** This group was to organized in the Pultusk -Modlin area; it was to consist at first of the l8th Infantry Division*** and of the newly organized Siberian brigade.**** Of considerable interest, in this connection,is the estimate of the situation on which the Polish G.H.Q. based its order of the 9th August, designed to put into operation the decisions adopted at the conference of August 8th. Having become aware of certain movements of Red forces in the direction of the right wing of the Western Front, and yet being uncertain as to the particular nature of these movements, the enemy assumed that the Red forces had learned of the Polish orders of August 6th with respect to the regrouping of the Polish forces.
Hence this regrouping was assumed to be an effort on the part of the commander of the Western Front (group of armies) to remove his left flank in time from the attack that was being prepared against it from the south, to establish it on the line of the Western Bug river, in the Brok-Brest sector, to provide this line as a base for action and to launch his assault with the powerful mobile group made up of the Twelfth Army and the First Cavalry Army in the Lublin area against the flank and rear of Pilsudski's southern assault detachment, while at the same time developing an attack with the northern group of his armies against Zgierz, Modlin, Warsaw and the Danzig corridor.* This supposed plan of action of the Red high command, or more properly, this concept, as we see it, very nearly coincided with the actual plan of the commander of the Western Front. This method of action, according to the admissions of General Sikorski, presented the greater threat to the enemy, and, as he puts it, "constitutes an example wherein we often detect in the actions of the enemy something that is more dangerous to ourselves - imagining a disposition of hostile forces and hostile intentions that constitute the more logical answer to our own plans."**
In General Sikorski,s opinion, the plan of action adopted on August 8th, in the event of the slightest signs of an advance by the Twelfth and First Cavalry armies in so perilous a direction for the Poles as the Lublin - Demblin area, might have triumphed completely over the plan of August 6th, compelling the enemy to abandon his assault from behind the Wieprz.*
*Sikorski - On the Vistula and Wkra, p. 61.
Reinforcing the Polish Fifth Army with the 18th Infantry Divison and Siberian brigade, which in conformity with the original plan were to be incorporated in the already strong group of forces protecting the Warsaw bridgehead, the Polish high-command assigned to the Fifth Army a number of difficult missions. It was required to halt the continuing enveloping movement of the Red armies in the space between Modlin and the German frontier; to secure the Mlawa - Modlin railway; to prevent the Russian forces from reaching the Danzig corridor. Later, with the launching of the general offensive, this army was to deliver an assault against the right flank of the Red forces, repelling it from Narev and driving it southward - which mission was to be performed by the assault group commanded by General Kraiovsky, consisting of the 18th Infantry Division and the 8th Cavalry Brigade. Within a few days most of these missions, in the course of events, either lost their importance or were subjected to considerable changes. There did remain in force, however, the concept with respect to the development of the attack with both flanks of the Polish front, instead of the delivery of a single flank attack in the south, along the stabilized Polish front extending up to the Prussian frontier. This testifies to the fact that the guiding thought of General Wrangel prevailed here, on which the latter had so strongly insisted in the course of the preceding days. In the orders dated August 9th the Missions of the Polish Third Army were more clearly defined. Detaching two of its divisions for assignment to the "Central Group of Armies" under Marshal Pilsudski, this army was to deliver a thrust against the right flank of the Red
Twelfth Army with a view to misleading the Red high command, and be so doing gain freedom of action. At the same time there were definitely established the areas where the "Central Group of Armies" was to attack from behind the Wieprz river and, finally, in anticipation of the possibility of the turning of the Second Cavalry Army from the Lemberg area against the Lublin -Demblin area, possible measures were adopted against such a threat, which involved the ordering of the Polish Ukrainian front, in the event of the discovery of such a movement by the First Cavalry Army, to contain it by means of attacks against its flanks and rear. But these orders, too were based again on the assumption that the main effort of the Red forces was to be delivered against Warsaw south of the Western Bug river.*
Thus it may be said that the final plan was adopted at the Polish G.H.Q. only on the 9th of August. It was the fruit of the collective creative efforts of Marshal Pilsudski, General Rozvadovaky and General Weygand. The technical evolution of the plan belonged to the first of these generals, the second was the author of some highly important changes introduced into the original plan. Therefore it may be said that the final plan of action of the Polish commander-in-chief of August 9, was the symbiosis of the strategic thoughts of Marshal Pilsudski and General Weygand, but by no means the fruit of the independent strategic creative efforts of the former, as one might be led to believe from Pilsudski's book, The Year 1920. We may conclude this with a presentation of the history of the evolution of the Polish plan of operation.
* Sikorski - On the Vistula and Wkra,pp. 6l and 62.
But in order to present a complete picture and to determine the particular importance which in the control of the operations of the Polish armies the representatives of the French army and especially General Weygand, assumed we believe it necessary to present the development and formulation of the plan of action of the Polish northern assault wing, i.e., the Fifth Army.
In accordance with the plan of the 9th August, the Polish Fifth Army was to launch its attack on the 15th of August. General Sikorski, on the night of the 11th August, even before he assumed actual command of the army, submitted suggestion directly to the Polish G.H.Q. at Warsaw (apparently to General Rozvadovski and General Weygand) concerning the following changes in the plan of August 9th: The shifting of the base of operations of the army from Thorn to Modlin; abandonment of the formation of the separate assault group of General Kraiovsky and conversion of the entire army into an assault detachment.*
*Sikorski - On the Vistula and Wkra, pp. 66-67
Both of these suggestions were adopted. Assuming command over the Fifth Army on August 11th, General Baranovsky (formerly under Roja). the 17th Infantry Division and the 8th Cavalry Brigade, were engaged in fighting on the front: Pultusk - Pzhevodovo - Gonsotsin - Lopatin. The 18th Infantry Division was being shifted by rail to Modlin. The Siberian brigade had started on its way by marching to Zgierz from Warsaw, but was turned by General Sikorski to Modlin. The 18th Infantry Brigade and the Koch group were withdrawing along the left flank of the neighboring Polish First Army in the south. The 17th Infantry Brigade was still in the Lukov area. Thus Sikorski had still to accomplish the concentration of his forces before he could embark on any active operations. He regarded the offensive as being the only method for the execution of his mission, believing his troops to be neither accustomed to or suitable for defensive undertakings. On August 11th his assumptions with respect to the existing situation were quite accurate. He had assumed that considerable Red forces of indeterminate strength, were engaged in some sort of a maneuver, as yet not determined properly, in a westerly direction. In this situation, the fall of Pultusk followed on the 11th of August. This involved the loss to our enemy of the line of the Orzhice and Narev rivers which, in conformity with Pilsudski's contemplated plans, was to constitute the line of departure for the launching of the Polish counter-offensive. The plan of the 9th of August was subjected to revision under the influence of the enemy. Especially in so far as the Fifth Army was concerned, the shifting of the concentration area farther back to the south was imperative. Consequently, Sikorski decided, while covering himself with three screening detachments ( on the lower Narev with the 17th Infantry Division, in the Nasielsk area, with the Baranovsky group, and in the Modlin - Tsekhanov area with the 8th Cavalry Brigade) to concentrate the remainder of his forces in the Nasielsk - Modlin area. At the close of the 11 August, General Sikorski realized the extent of the turning movement of the Red Fourth Army in the west, in the approximate area of Plotski, and the presence of another powerful group of Red armies to the north of the Western Bug river (Red Fifteenth and Third armies) whose mission differed from that of the Red Fourth Army and was directed further south. On the night of the 12th August, Sikorski reported the impressions gained by him to the Polish G.H.Q. As was to be expected, the commander of the Polish North Front and the G.H.Q. gave much attention to the latter part of his report, since it served to confirm the views of Generals Rozvadovsky and Haller to the effect that the northern group of the Soviet armies assisting the attack on Warsaw from the east, was about to turn abruptly south, against the Modlin Zgierz line. Apparently, the news of the fall of Pultusk caused much confusion at the Polish G.H.Q. The plans of the 6th and 9th August were greatly upset by it. This may be gleaned from the fact that General Weygand found it necessary to assume stricter supervision over the subsequent Polish strategic plan of operation. These were thoroughly discussed in a "note" addressed by General Weygand to the chief of the Polish General Staff, General Rozvadovsky, on August 11th, 1920. This note may be regarded essentially as the final determinant of the Polish plan of action. In view of the particular importance of this document, we shall present it here in full:
"On the eve of the general engagement, I believe it necessary to clarify certain points, to which I wish to call your attention and the attention of the chief of the government (i.e., Marshal Pilsudski} upon his arrival here.
"The success of the adopted plan is contingent upon the maintenance of the defensive line Warsaw - Gura Kalvarija. The Fifth Army will be capable of the execution of its mission of withstanding the enemy and of later disrupting his turning movement, provided the northern sector of the Warsaw front from Modlin up to Sierotsk remains intact.
"The gaining of time for the concentration of the Fifth Army and the development of the maneuver of this army impose similar requirements upon the eastern sector of the Warsaw front from Sierotsk up to Gura Kalvarija.
"The gaining of time for the concentration of the Fifth Army and the development of the maneuver of this army impose similar requirements upon the eastern sector of the Warsaw front from Sierotsk up to Gura Kalvarija.
"On the basis of the information at my disposal with respect to issued instructions and instructions about to be issued, I wish to stress the following:
"1. The northern sector of the MOdlin -Sierotsk line will be defended only by one brigade and a few battalions. The control of these forces is so far poorly organized, and these may be subjected to an attack by the entire Red Fifteenth Army and part of the Red Fourth Army.
"2. The Fifth Army - the final force that may be utilized against the hostile turning movement, should be employed only after its forces have been duly concentrated, and in a properly selected area. The necessity of having these forces properly concentrated, and of gaining proper information concerning the direction of the action of the hostile Fourth Army, preclude any premature employment of the Fifth Army in an attack. Otherwise a situation may be brought about wherein this army, after gaining a partial or temporary victory, will be driven back on the Warsaw bridgehead, which would enable the enemy to continue his enveloping movement.
"I believe, further, that as soon as the maintenance of the Modlin - Sierotsk line has been insured, the Fifth Army should open it and deploy under cover of the Wkra river to the northeast of Modlin, resting its right flank on Modlin - checking the enveloping movement of the enemy, in the event that it should make itself felt, and preparing for a vigorous advance in a northeasterly direction at the appropriate time.
"General, I have emphasized this morning the differences of opinion with respect to the missions of the Fifth Army existing between you and the commander of the North Front (General Haller}, and I am unaware as to whether you have issued appropriate written instructions covering the same. After my yesterday's meeting with the French general attached to General Haller, I find it necessary to point out that there is still disagreement in the matter, which threatens the successful execution of the operation involved.
"On the other hand, delay in the transfer of the 18th Infantry Division and the 17th Infantry Brigade, the withdrawal of the 17th Infantry Division, and the mission assigned to the Siberian brigade,* in my opinion, require careful observation and accelerated activity with a view to insuring the timely concentration of the Fifth Army.
"Finally, I am taking the liberty of calling your attention to the large number of fords that are apparently to be found below Modlin. These might provide surprises, that must be avoided."*
We believe it necessary to mention also the final variants and revisions of the Polish plan of operations introduced at time when the general engagement on the Vistula had already begun but which, for the sake of convenience, might well be presented at this point. The clear concepts of General Weygand were unsuccessfully and rather poorly interpreted in the orders issued by General Rozvadovsky, (No. 8576/111), on August 12th in connection with General Weygand's "note." In these orders, General Rozvadovsky required the Fifth Army "to halt the advance of the enemy through Pultusk and Stary Golymin" and to "insure the free withdrawal of those units of the Fifth Army that were engaged at Pultusk to Nasielsk." At the same time, the Fifth Army was to defend the line of the Wkra river up to Glinoyetsk, inclusive, and, while checking the advance of the Red cavalry on Sierpets, secure its communications to Thorn. With this in view, the 18th Infantry Division was to be directed to Ratsionzh, and the Siberian brigade was to be sent to Plonsk.* Obviously, the execution of all of the above missions by the Fifth Army, which essentially involved the formation of a cordon around the gap between Modlin and the Prussian frontier, was to result in the complete dispersion of the forces of the Polish Fifth Army. On the other hand, General Haller, commanding the Polish North Front, completely disregarding the turning movement of the Red Fourth Army, considered only the attack of the main northern Red army forces on the Warsaw - Modlin - Zgierz front with a view to capturing Warsaw at the earliest possible moment.
Consequently, in his field orders, No. 3702/111 of August 12th, in which he set forth in detail the missions of each and every unit of the Fifth Army, General Haller completely overlooked the commander of this army, and simply deployed the Fifth Army on one line with the single mission of defending the Dembe - Nasielsk - Borkovo - Ionets front, i.e., in a semi-circle before Modlin, while at the same time sending the 8th Cavalry Brigade to Sokhotsin.** As Sikorski has so aptly pointed out, this order reflected the confusion and panic which prevailed at Warsaw.
All this testified to the continuing lack of harmony among Generals Rozvadovsky, Haller and Sikorski. The latter found a strong supported in General Weygand, and on the insistence of the latter, both of the above orders were rescinded on the very same day.*
Only on the 12th of August did General Sikorski obtain an opportunity to proceed with the execution of his plan for the regrouping of his forces. The substance of this plan was as follows: under cover of the screening forces of the Baranovsky group, which was transferred to the control of Colonel Zarzhitsky, and the 17th Infantry Division, there developed in second line the 18th Infantry Division, the Siberian Brigade, and the 8th Cavalry Brigade, with right flank resting on the Modlin fortress. There had been left in the garrison of the latter several separate volunteer battalions with three armored trains and tank company. Upon the occupation of the second line by the troops, the forces comprising the screening units were to cross this line and form the army reserve which, after the reorganization of the volunteer units, were to comprise the 9th Infantry Divison, the 17th Infantry Division and Volunteer Division ( made up of various volunteer detachments.)** On his left flank Sikorski maintained a strong force, made up of the 18th Infantry Division and cavalry, for active employment against the Red fores engaged in their turning movement. The entire Polish Fifth Army was protected by the line of the Wkra river.
On the 12th of August there was added a final touch to the general plan of action of the Polish G.H.Q. by the Polish Minister of War, General Sosnovsky. The letter, responsible by virtue of his office, for the flow of supplies of military equipment and material from France and, because of this responsibility, more concerned than anyone else with the security of Polish communications with the sea, vigorously undertook the security of Polish communications with the sea, vigorously undertook the formation of the "Lower Vistula Group" of General Osikovsky and the fortification of the Wyszgrod, Plotsk and Wlozlavek bridgeheads, concentrating thereat various volunteer detachments.*
We shall now proceed with a comparison and an analysis of the two plans in question. Before doing so, however, let us see just what the strength of the opposing forces was after the adoption of the final plans in question.
To the north of the Western Bug river our assault group of forces of the Northern armies comprising 37,742 infantry and cavalry were to face 25,836 infantry and cavalry of the Polish Fifth Army nd the group of the "Lower Vistula" with 452 machine-guns, 172 light and heavy guns,9 armored cars, 46 tanks and 2 armored trains. To the south of the Western Bug were 10,328 infantry and cavalry of the Red Sixteenth Army that was to reach the Middle Vistula on a 120-km front, extending from the south of the Western Bug up to Kozenits, exclusive, confronted by about 33,000 infantry and cavalry of the Polish First Army and part of its Second Army , whose situation was strengthened by the fortifications of the Warsaw bridgeheads and the line of the MIddle Vistula. Finally, the Mozyr group, consisting originally of 6,600 infantry and later, upon the suggestion of the commander of the Western Front (group of armies), to be reinforced by the Twelfth Army and the First Cavalry Army, with an additional 26,225 infantry and cavalry troops, on which the commander of the Western Front counted on August 3d, thus bringing this group of forces up to a total of 32,825 infantry and cavalry (15,000 of which were cavalry) - came upon 29,500 infantry and cavalry of the Polish "Central Group of Armies." Thus, notwithstanding the general numerical superiority of the enemy on the Vistula we were supposed to enjoy a numerical superiority in the decisive flanking areas. This was due to the fact that the commander of the Western Front extended the Sixteenth Army against the powerful Polish center, whose mission was strictly of a defensive nature in the Warsaw area.
The guiding thought of the plan of the commander of the Western Front (group of armies) was the delivery of an assault with the powerful right wing against the strong Polish group of forces in the Modlin - Warsaw area, coupled with the simultaneous advance of another assault group against the Lublin - Demblin area, which was intended to paralyze any possible Polish counterattack from behind the Wieprz and was considered the best means for insuring the success of the operation. The crushing of the hostile manpower was to lead to a collapse of the line of the MIddle Vistula, including the fall of Warsaw, capital of the country, which was to amount to the collapse of the entire Polish defense. Now that we have seen from Sikorski's book that the Polish forces were actually based on the Danzig corridor there is no point in entering into any polemics with those writers who claim otherwise. The full danger of our plan for the enemy was first of all recognized by General Weygand of the French Army. The depressed state of mind of most of the Polish generals tended to absorb most of their attention anent the fate of Warsaw, and their strategic viewpoints did not extend beyond the immediate approaches to this city.
After we have illustrated to the reader the great confusion of the Polish military minds on the eve of the general engagement, and after Marshal Pilsudski so well acquainted us with his own trials and tribulations in his book, the praiseworthy actions of our Western Front should become quite clear to the reader, the commander of which utilized to the full our superior morale. The uninterrupted, swift advance of our forces, according to the admission of General Sikorski, had the effect of completely undermining the Polish armed strength both as regards morale and material means. The disposition of powerful forces on the right wing at the same time secured the operation and properly covered our main lines of communications from Grodno to Byalistok, on which most of our military forces were based. We wish finally to stress the sound judgement involved with respect to the terrain and the aspects connected therewith. The crossing of the Vistula in the sector opposite Warsaw was accompanied by much difficulty, which the reader may note from the description of the theater of operations presented in one of our preceding chapters. The crossing of the Vistula below Warsaw was less difficult, among others, for the reason that there were the bridges there at Wyszgrod, Plotsk and Wlozlavedk.* Rejecting plans for a frontal attack on Warsaw from the east, which was disadvantageous for a variety of reasons, the commander of the Western Front, considering the particular terrain involved, should have adhered to the very plan which he actually adopted.
*Sikorski - On the Vistula and Wkra, p. 100.
Aside from the advantages gained upon crossing the Vistula, this led the main forces of the Red northern armies to high grounds that were suitable for the employment of large forces, the Mazowice plateau, whence it was only one step to the line of the Vistula river, and thence to Warsaw, that was demoralized by this movement, and also to the line of the Danzig railway. This movement, took the Red forces around the dangerous corner situated between the Vistula and Bug-Narev rivers with their fortifications.* There is nothing that we could add to the considerations offered us by General Sikorski.
But, as already stated, the execution of the plan as a whole did not prove successful. An essential part of the plan, involving the assault in the Lublin - Demblin area ( of the Twelfth Army and First Cavalry Army) miscarried owing to a variety of unfavorable circumstances. We merely wish to add that we would have gained considerably if the Field Headquarters had provided for the obviated the technical difficulties involved, and accomplished the preliminary functions pertaining to the organization of the South Group (Fourteenth, Twelfth, and First Cavalry armies ) and duly provided for the control of this group. In that event the commander of the Western Front (group of armies) would have been able to transfer his Field Headquarters from Minsk between August 12 and 14 to somewhere in Malkin, which would have greatly facilitated the matters effecting the control of the Northern Group of armies.
The task of the historian is indeed a difficult one where he has to write history at a time when the participants of the same are still alive. With the impartiality of the historian evaluating transpiring events and the activity of individuals, however, we are assuming the task of studying the experience of our civil war with a view to its possible utilization in our forthcoming revolutionary wars.
We have gone into so much detail in our analysis of the operations of the Red forces for the reason that wars of movement call for decisiveness, boldness and utmost efficiency in the functioning of the agencies of control. Every effort must be made to develop this. At the same time, our loss of the campaign on the Vistula leads certain writers, perhaps without being aware of it to the enunciation of the principle of cautiousness as the main element of military art In our presentation of the course of events on the Vistula we are endeavoring to stress the importance of decisive, bold action in gaining proper results. We have assumed that mobility, the ability of armies to effect bold regrouping, their ability to overcome tactical "inertia," combined with bold and firm control, and the brave action. of troops - are the surest means of success
The accumulation of considerable unforseen and extremely unfavorable difficulties affecting our forces had deprived us of the desired success in the general engagement on the Vistula. If a critic would condemn our plan of operations, declaring it to have been too hazardous in the circumstances, he should, without stopping short with the deficiencies involved, either offer new variants for the undertaking of indicate the improvements that should have been made in the adopted plans on the basis of the data that were available at the time.
Comrade Shaposhnikov, in his On the Vistula, considers the feasibility of two other plans; A direct attack on Warsaw with the main Red forces directly from the east, or the crushing of the Lublin - Demblin group of the enemy (Polish Center group of armies), with a subsequent crossing to the left bank of the Vistula in the Demblin area. But, as we have since seen from Sikorski's book, the first combination was precisely what the enemy wished us to do, especially General Weygand. It led to a frontal attack on the part of our powerful center against the strong defense system: Warsaw bridgehead - Modlin Fortress - Zgierz, while our weak and exposed flanks might have been subjected to an envelopment from Demblin and Nasielsk ) Fifth Polish Army). The maneuver of the enveloping Polish groups of forces would have been greatly accelerated and threatened the creation of a Cannae, Sedan or Tannenberg situation for our crowded central forces. Hence this variant must be discarded. Comrade Shaposhnikov himself, however, admits that the consequences of a desperate attack of this nature were difficult to foresee and that "the selection of this direction for the main effort was quite impossible."*
The second variant demanded first of all a complete regrouping of the armies of the Western Front in the direction of their left flank. To effect.this regrouping there was first of all neither the necessary time or space. It would have had to be started in advance, perhaps before crossing the Western Bug river; and would there have been any reason for this after the transfer of the armies of the Polish wing of our Southwest Front to the control of the commander of the Western Front had already been decided upon in principle? Finally, assuming even that such a regrouping of forces had been properly accomplished. Our right wing would, under the circumstances, have faced the same menace as existed in the case of the left wing. The difference consisted in that an assault on the right wing of the Western Front immediately threatened also the main line of communications of the Western Front extending through Byalistok and Grodno.
*B. Shaposhnikov, On the Vistula, p. 142
Furthermore, the disposition contemplated by Shaposhnikov would have strengthened the left wing of the Western Front only by 6.000 men and would have led to a practically even distribution of the forces of this front (group of armies). Shaposhnikov himself agrees that in the plan adopted by the commander of the Western Front the principle of "speedy decision" was more pronounced, though it involved greater risk; and that the second variant "failed to promise a quick decision."* And still further, Comrade Shaposhnikov adds: "Both the political and the strategic situations, in view of the situation on other fronts, demanded a quick decision, and we are not disposed to placing any particular blame on any one for the hazarded plans."**
General Sikorski, in his book On the Vistula and Wkra, offers his variant in the premises. This consists of the following - after consolidating positions along the lateral railway: Khorzhele - Ostrolenka _Malkin -Sokolov - Siedlce - Lukov - Parchev - Lubartov - Lublin, the forces should have been halted and regrouped in the direction of their left flank.*** General Sikorski is this elaborating upon Shaposhnikov's second variant and, consequently, everything pointed out above with respect to this particular variant applies also to this case with the following further comment; The suggested regrouping of the forces by General Sikorski was difficult owing to the condition in which the railway transport was at the time, and was perilous in view of its proximity to the already established line of the Polish armies, the launching of an offensive by which might well have disrupted completely and started regrouping of forces on our part.
Turning to an analysis of the plan of the enemy, let us note once more first that it involved elements of exceptional risk and was the product of cumulative creative efforts in which General Weygand assumed a major role. General Weygand's efforts resulted, first, in the expansion and clarification of the scope of the plan and provided for a clear conception of the aims and objectives of the plan and brought about the formation of the northern assault wing which somewhat lowered the vulnerability of Pilsudski's original plan.
We have followed closely the inception, evolution and perfection of this plan from August 4th to 12th. There is no doubt but that the wide strategic experience of General Weygand went far toward the execution of this plan. We have shown above how General Weygand prevented the attempts of General Rozvadovsky and Haller at converting the Polish North Assault group into a loose defensive cordon. Weygand found a highly capable performer in General Sikorski in the execution of the plans involved.
Pilsudski admits the great risk which his plan entailed. On the basis of his own admissions we are inclined to regard the original variant of his plan of August 6 in the nature of a desperate gesture rather than the fruit of any sober deliberations. Aside from his immediate objective, that of saving Warsaw, Pilsudski could see nothing whatsoever. The counter-maneuver of his "central group of armies" was essentially a form of active defense, rather than anything involving an extensive offensive, For, the objective of these armies consisted merely of the elimination of the immediate threat to Warsaw from the east: true, the direction of the attack had been selected quite properly, but the execution of the attack from beginning to end was vague, and as a consequence, Pilsudski himself was rather amazed by the results achieved. An unusually lucky instance the equal of which is hardly to be found in military annals, served to save Pilsudski's plan from complete failure. In the decisive general engagement Pilsudski's plan succeeded primary because of the fact that the gap that had developed between our Western and Southwestern fronts (groups of armies) opened the way for it. General Weygand apparently placed scant hopes on Pilsudski's success and personally exerted much effort from the very b ginning on the organization of the battle in the Warsaw - Modlin area.