Home History World War II (1939-1945) 01.09.1939 Battle of Westerplatte

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Sunday, 16 October 2011 23:23
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The Battle of Westerplatte was the very first battle that took place after Germany invaded Poland and World War II began in Europe. During the first week of September 1939, a Military Transit Depot (Wojskowy Skład Transportowy, WST) on the peninsula of Westerplatte, manned by fewer than 200 Polish soldiers, held out for seven days in the face of an overwhelming German attack. The defense of Westerplatte served as an inspiration for the Polish Army and people as the successful German advances continued elsewhere and today is still regarded as a symbol of resistance to the invasion.


In 1925 the Council of the League of Nations allowed Poland to keep only 88 soldiers on Westerplatte, but secretly the garrison was gradually expanded to 176 men and six officers. The WST was separated from Free City of Danzig (Gdańsk) city by the harbour channel, with only a small pier connecting them to the mainland; the Polish-held part of the Westerplatte was separated from the territory of Danzig by a brick wall. Fortifications built at Westerplatte were in fact not very impressive: there were no real bunkers or underground tunnels, there were only five small concrete outposts (guardhouses) hidden in the peninsula's forest and the large barracks prepared for defense, supported by a network of field fortifications such as trenches and barricades.[1] In case of war, the defenders were expected to withstand a sustained attack for 12 hours.

SMS Schleswig-Holstein 1. Sep. 1939


At the end of August 1939, the German pre-dreadnought battleship Schleswig-Holstein sailed to Danzig (Gdańsk) under the pretext of a courtesy visit and anchored in the channel 164 yards (150m) from Westerplatte. On board was a Shock troop (Stoßtruppen) assault company with orders to launch an attack against the Westerplatte on the morning of August 26. However, shortly before disembarkation, the order to attack was rescinded. As a result of Britain and Poland having signed the Polish-British Common Defence Pact on August 25, and also being informed that Italy was hesitant in fulfilling its obligations regarding the Pact of Steel, Adolf Hitler postponed the opening of hostilities.[2]

The Germans had an SS-Heimwehr force of 1500 men led by Police General[citation needed] Friedrich-Georg Eberhardt and 225 Marines under Lieutenant Wilhelm Henningsen to attack the depot. Overall command was handed to Rear-Admiral Gustav Kleikamp aboard the Schleswig-Holstein. He moved his ship farther upstream on August 26. Major Henryk Sucharski put his garrison on heightened alert.

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