Tank Strength

German Tank Forces

During the invasion of Poland, Germany fielded a total of 11 tank divisions, five of which were light divisions. Together, these divisions had the following tanks:

Number of German tanks fielded during the invasion.
Tank Number
Panzerkampfwagen I 973
Panzerkampfwagen II 1127
Panzerkampfwagen 35 (t) 112
Panzerkampfwagen 38 (t) 55
Panzerkampfwagen III 87
Panzerkampfwagen IV 198
Kleiner Panzerbefehlswagen 128
Befehlspanzer 35 (t) 8
Befehlspanzer 38 (t) 2
Total 2690

Polish Tank Forces

Polish tank strength at the beginning of the invasion.
Tank Number
TK-3 300
TKS (machine gun only) 272
TKS (20 mm gun) 20
Renault FT-17 (some 37 mm gun, some machine gun only) About 170
Vickers 6-Ton (heavy machine gun only) 16
Vickers 6-Ton (47 mm gun) 22
7TP (machine gun only) 24
7TP (37 mm gun) 108
Total 932

Summary

Of the 2546 German combat tanks, only 446 (17.5%) were modern designs (Panzerkampfwagen 35 (t), 38 (t), III, and IV). Of the 932 Polish tanks, only 130 (13.9%) were modern designs (Vickers 6-Ton with 47 mm Vickers and 7TP). The modern tanks that each side did field were roughly equivilant.

Order of Battle

German Order of Battle

This order of battle does not include border guard units.

  • Heeregruppe Nord
    Generaloberst Fedor von Bock
    • 10. Panzer-Division (reserve)
      Generalmajor Ferdinand Schaal
    • 73. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
      Generalmajor Friedrich von Rebenau
    • 206. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
      Generalleutnant Hugo Höfl
    • 208. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
      Generalleutnant Moritz Andreas
    • 3. Armee
      General der Artillerie Georg von Küchler
      • 217. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
        Generalleutnant Richard Baltzer
      • 1. Kavallerie-Brigade (reserve)
        Oberst Kurt Feldt
      • I. Armeekorps
        Generalleutnant Walter Petzel
        • 11. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Max Bock
        • 61. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Siegfried Haenicke
        • Panzerverband Ostpreußen
          Generalmajor Werner Kempf
      • XXI. Armeekorps
        Generalleutnant Nikolaus von Falkenhorst
        • 21. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Kuno-Hans von Both
        • 228. Infanterie-Division
          Generalmajor Hans Suttner
      • Korps zum besonderes Vervendung
        Generalleutnant Albert Wodrig
        • 1. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Joachim von Kortzfleisch
        • 12. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Ludwig von der Leyen
      • Gruppe Brand
        Generalleutnant Albrecht Brand
    • 4. Armee
      General der Artillerie Gunther von Kluge
      • 207. Infanterie-Division
        Generalleutnant Karl von Tiedemann
      • 23. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
        General der Infanterie Walter Graf von Brockdorff-Ahlefeldt
      • 218. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
        Generalmajor Woldemarr Freiherr Grote
      • II. Armeekorps
        General der Infanterie Adolf Strauß
        • 3. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Walter Lichel
        • 32. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Franz Böhme
      • III. Armeekorps
        Generaloberst Curt Haase
        • 50. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Konrad Sorsche
      • XIX. Armeekorps
        Heinz Guderian
        • 3. Panzer-Division
          Generalleutnant Leo Freiherr Geyr von Schweppenberg
        • 2. Infanterie-Division (mot.)
          Generalmajor Paul Bader
        • 20. Infanterie-Division (mot.)
          Generalleutnant Mauritz von Wiktorin
  • Heeresgruppe Süd
    Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt
    • 56. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
      Generalmajor Karl Kriebel
    • 57. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
      Generalleutnant Oskar Blümm
    • 252. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
      Generalleutnant D. von Boehm-Bezing
    • 257. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
      Generalleutnant Max Viebahn
    • 258. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
      Generalleutnant Walther Wollman
    • 1. Gebirgs-Division (reserve)
      Generalleutnant Ludwig Kübler
    • 2. Gebirgs-Division (reserve)
      Generalleutnant Valentin Feurstein
    • VII. Armeekorps (reserve)
      General der Infanterie Eugen Ritter von Schobert
      • 27. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
        Generalleutnant Friedrich Bergmann
      • 68. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
        Generalmajor Georg Braun
    • XXII. Armeekorps (reserve)
      General der Kavallerie Ewald von Kleist
      • 62. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
        Generalmajor Walter Keiner
      • 213. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
        Generalleutnant Rene de l'Homme de Courbiere
      • 221. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
        Generalleutnant Johann Pflugbeil
    • 8. Armee
      Generaloberst Johannes Blaskowitz
      • 30. Infanterie-Division (reserve)
        General der Infanterie Kurt von Briesen
      • X. Armeekorps
        General der Artillerie Wilhelm Ulex
        • 24. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Friedrich Olbricht
      • XIII. Armeekorps
        General der Artillerie Herbert Osterkamp
        • 10. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Conrad von Cochenhausen
        • 17. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Herbert Loch
        • SS-Infanterie-Regiment (mot.) LSSAH
          Obergruppenführer Josef Dietrich
    • 10. Armee
      General der Artillerie Walter von Reichenau
      • 1. leichte Division (reserve)
        Generalmajor Friedrich-Wilhelm von Loeper
      • 3. leichte Division (reserve)
        Generalleutnant Adolf-Friedrich Kuntzen
      • IV. Armeekorps
        General der Infanterie Viktor von Schwedler
        • 4. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Erick-Oscar Hansen
        • 46. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Paul von Hase
      • XI. Armeekorps
        General der Artillerie Emil Leeb
        • 18. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Friedrich-Carl Cranz
        • 19. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Günther Schwantes
      • XIV. Armeekorps (mot.)
        General der Infanterie Gustav von Wietersheim
        • 4. Panzer-Division
          Generalmajor Georg-Hans Reinhardt
        • 13. Infanterie-Division (mot.)
          Generalleutnant Moritz von Faber du Faur
        • 29. Infanterie-Division (mot.)
          Generalmajor Joachim Lemelsen
      • XV. Armeekorps (mot.)
        General der Infanterie Hermann Hoth
        • 2. leichte Division
          Generalleutnant Georg Stumme
      • XVI. Armeekorps (mot.)
        Generaloberst E Hoepner
        • 1. Panzer-Division
          Generalmajor R Schmidt
        • 14. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant P Weyer
        • 31. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant R Kaempfe
    • 14. Armee
      Generaloberst W List
      • VIII. Armeekorps
        General der Infanterie Ernst Busch
        • 5. Panzer-Division
          Generalleutnant Heinrich von Vittinghoff-Scheel
        • 8. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Rudolf Koch-Erpach
        • 28. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Hans von Obstfelder
        • 239. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Ferdinand Neuling
        • SS-Infanterie-Regiment (mot.) Germania
          Standartenführer Karl-Maria Demelhuber
      • XVII. Armeekorps
        General der Infanterie Werner Kienitz
        • 7. Infanterie-Division
          Generalmajor Eugen Ott
        • 44. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Albrect Schubert
        • 45. Infanterie-Division
          Generalleutnant Friedrich Materna
      • XVIII. Armeekorps
        General der Infanterie Eugen Beyer
        • 2. Panzer-Division
          Generalmajor Dr. Alfred Ritter von Hubicki
        • 4. leichte Division
          Generalmajor Rudolf Veiel
        • 3. Gebirgs-Division
          Generalleutnant Eduard Dietl
  • Field Army Bernolák
    General Ferdinand Catloš
    • 1st Infantry Division Janošík
      General Antonin Pulanich
    • 2st Infantry Division Škultéty
      General Alexandr Cunderlik
    • 3st Infantry Division Razus
      General Augustín Malár
    • Mobile Group Kalinciak
      Colonel Ivan Imro

Polish Cavalry Charges Against Tanks

One of the most stubborn myths of the invasion of Poland is that of Polish cavalry charging German tanks, unaware of the nature of armored warfare. Originating with German propaganda, the myth has been repeated in post-war litterature.

The Polish Pomorska Cavalry Brigade, in ignorance of the nature of our tanks, had charged them with sword and lances and had suffered tremendous losses.

Guderian, p. 73

The attack that Guderian refer to did in fact happen, though not in the way he describes.

During the retreat of the Polish forces on 1 September, the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans Regiment covored the withdrawal around the city of Chojnice. On the evening of 1 September, the regiment came across resting German infantry of 76. Infanterie-Regiment, part of 20. Infanterie-Division (mot.) of Guderian's XIX. Armeekorps (mot.) The Polish regimental commander, colonel Kazimierz Mastalerz, ordered 1st and 2nd Squadron (a total of about 250 troopers) to charge.

The attack was successful in forcing the German infantry to withdraw, but the Polish cavalry came under attack as German armored cars unexpectedly appeared. The Polish cavalry retreated on horseback, suffering relatively heavy casualties.

After the engagement, a group of German and Italian war correspondants came upon the battlefield, and concluded that the Polish cavalry had charged German tanks. The story was brought in the magazine Die Wehrmacht, as well as Russian propaganda.

There were several other Polish cavalry charges throughout the Polish campaign, but none were against tanks. After the war, however, Russian propaganda continued to propagate the myth to discredit the pre-war Polish leadership. Likewise, Poles themselves kept the myth alive as a symbol of courage in face of a superior enemy.

Polish Knowledge of Tanks

The notion that Polish forces thought that Germany still used wood tank mock-ups, or even that they did not know what tanks were, is easily disproven.

Germany had been very open about their tank force throughout the mid- and late-thirties. Foreign press had reported from large tank parades in Berlin, as well as during the annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia was furthermore a tank-exporting country. Thus, it was well-known that Germany had a significant armored capability.

Polish knowledge of tanks was furthermore quite good. As can be seen from the numbers above, Poland had almost 1000 tanks at the beginning of the war, including 130 modern tanks, some of which had been built in Poland.

The Polish army had about 1200 37 mm anti-tank guns; 27 for each infantry division, and 14 for each cavalry division. Both infantry and cavalry divisions received 92 anti-tank rifles. made a significant impression on the Germans from the very beginning of the invasion. In total, 236 German tanks were completely destroyed during the campaign. In addition to the anti-tank capabilities, armored battalions with the TK-3 and TKS tankettes were assigned at army level, including one assigned to the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans Regiment

Cavalry During the Second World War

The use of cavalry during the Second World War might seem anachronistic. Especially on the Eastern Front, however, where tanks and trucks became bogged down in the mud, and fuel supplies were unstable, they were a valuable resource.

During the invasion of Poland, the Polish army had 38 cavalry regiments, while the German army had only two. By the end of the war, Germany fielded 20 cavalry regiments, 16 of which were with the Waffen-SS, including two full-strength divisions of Russian Cossacks. Hungary, Italy, and Romania all used cavalry on the Eastern Front on the German side.

Like the Axis countries, Russia used cavalry throughout the war. Notably, cavalry was used instead of armored personel carriers to support tank advances.

In light of the heavy use of cavalry during the Second World War, the redicule of the Polish army for their use of cavalry is misplaced, even more so seing as it was spread mainly by the countries relying the most on cavalry in the European theater.

German Ammunition Usage

As can be seen in the table below, ammunition usage during the invasion of Poland far exceeded the production during the same period. Especially the use of 9 mm pistol ammunition, 37 mm tank and anti-tank ammunition, and 105 mm howitzer and artillery ammunition surprised the German high command.

German ammunition usage during the invasion of Poland, from 1 September to 1 October 1939.
Ammunition Type 3. Armee 4. Armee 8. Armee 10. Armee 14. Armee Total 1 September stock September production
Small Arms
Pistol and submachine gun 3 717 140 2 056 960 4 468 900 4 572 000 4 814 458 19 629 458 79 416 000 1 154 000
Rifle and machine gun 197 901 670 23 845 600 54 848 000 63 355 000 58 209 234 398 159 504 6 174 963 000 167 274 000
Tank and Anti-tank Artillery
20 mm anti-tank 172 580 233 620 560 000 615 000 406 734 1 987 934 18 547 000 121 000
20 mm high-explosive 423 670 136 240 685 000 677 000 133 027 2 054 937 2 171 000
37 mm anti-tank gun 1 000 300 154 431 179 000 212 000 262 469 1 808 200 11 953 000 183 000
37 mm tank gun - 26 331 57 770 52 100 27 916 164 117 518 000 -
75 mm tank gun 29 040 20 458 42 400 33 024 12 224 137 146 715 000 194 000
Mortars and Field Artillery
50 mm mortar 259 640 64 833 192 300 217 000 211 323 945 096 4 371 000 394 000
80 mm mortar 167 490 38 514 94 940 102 800 81 141 484 885 2 030 000 29 000
210 mm mortar 1 290 450 - - 2 054 3 794 18 000 -
305 mm mortar (Czechoslovak) 150 - - 33 334 517 1 500 -
75 mm infantry gun 177 108 27 314 64 800 75 600 68 795 413 617 3 425 000 180 000
150 mm infantry gun 7 840 1 200 5 540 5 967 4 526 25 073 153 000 49 000
105 mm howitzer 672 030 67 878 229 200 244 200 187 085 1 400 393 15 193 000 238 000
150 mm howitzer 117 881 23 654 43 100 57 000 46 270 287 905 3 066 000 106 000
105 mm artillery 15 890 4 525 23 100 23 600 17 131 84 246 1 070 000 -
150 mm artillery 5 190 135 - - 841 6 166 25 000 -
240 mm artillery - - - 12 - 12 482 120
Explosives
Hand grenades 516 410 91 350 170 000 175 440 227 006 1 180 206 7 072 0001 180 000
Mines 2 20 386 3 500 1 000 31 346 56 232 827 0001 64 000
Smoke grenades 2 23 972 8 500 12 200 31 534 76 206 - 56 000

Polish Soldiers and Equipment Captured by Germany

Polish Prisoners of War in Germany

Number of Polish prisoners of war captured , from 1 September to 1 October, 1939.
Warsaw Modlin Heln Campaign Total
Generals - - - 6
Officers 5 031 2 000 250 11 446
Soldiers 113 425 40 000 4 250 576 902
Total 118 4563 42 000 4 500 588 354

Captured Weapons

  • 208 273 rifles
  • 7681 machine guns
  • 116 anti-tank guns
  • 506 mortars
  • 1596 guns
  • 111 tanks
  • One armored rail car
  • One armored train
  • 818 motor vehicles4
  • 351 aircrafts5

Captured Weapons

  • 462 000 rounds and 246 tons of infantry weapon ammunition
  • 1600 anti-tank gun rounds
  • 5000 mortar rounds
  • 100 tons of artillery ammunition
  • 6000 hand grenades
  • 1000 mines
  • 51 tons and two train wagons of explosives
  • 4700 tons and 72 train wagons of miscellaneous ammunition

Fuel and Oil

Actual captured stocks were supposed to be higher, as these numbers does not include captured fuel used by field units.

  • 10 800 cubic meters of fuel
  • 8 train wagons of diesel oil
  • 3 train wagons of machine oil
  • 1000 liters and two train wagons of lubricating oil

Other Captured Items

  • 6000 horse carriages6
  • 33 800 horses7
  • 3300 saddles
  • 8 horse carriage shafts
  • 1000 harnesses
  • 50 pontoons
  • 19 968 pieces and seven train wagons of gas masks
  • One train wagon of headlights
  • Two train wagons of aircraft parts
  • 12 train wagons of radio equipment
  • Eight train wagons of engineer equipment
  • Three field hospital trains
  • One field hospital
  • 360 glider aircrafts
  • 2100 ammunition pounches
  • One engineer equipment warehouse

Notes

  1. Calculated Back
  2. Not reported Back
  3. Hereof 16 000 wounded Back
  4. Hereof 348 captured in Warsaw Back
  5. Hereof 63 useful for military service Back
  6. Hereof 3642 captured in Warsaw Back
  7. Hereof 106 studs Back

Sources

  1. Verlust- und Verbrauchsmeldungen des Gen.Qu. an der Ostfront vom 1.9. - 1.10.1939. Berlin : Allgemeines Heeresamt, 1939. 5 p. AHA 3102/39 g.Kdos. AHA I b. NARA T78 R866 H37/102.
  2. Übersichten über die Munitions- und Großwaffenversorgung. Berlin : Heereswaffenamt, 1939. 5 p. Wa Stab Ia3 Nr. 1451/39 g.Kdos. NARA T78 R143.
  3. Auszug aus der Zehntagemeldung des Generalquartiermeisters vom 27.9.39. Berlin : Allgemeines Heeresamt, 1939. 6 p. AHA 3011/39 g.Kdos. AHA I b.. NARA T78 R866 H37/102.
  4. GUDERIAN, Heinz. Panzer-Leader. London : Penguin Books, 1996. 528 p. ISBN 0-141-39027-1.
  5. JENTZ, Thomas L. Panzertruppen 1 : The Complete Guide to the Creation & Combat Employment of Germany's Tank Force, 1933-1942. Atglen, PA : Schiffer Military History, 1996. 288 p. ISBN 0-88740-915-6.
  6. NIEHORSTER, Leo W. G. Mechanized Army and Waffen-SS Units (1st September 1939). Hannover : Self-published, 1990. 196 p.
  7. RICHTER, Klaus Christian. Cavalry of the Wehrmacht 1941-1945. Atglen, PA : Schiffer Military History, 1995. 208 p. ISBN 0-88740-814-1.
  8. ZALOGA, Steven J. & GERRARD, Howard. Campaign 107 - Poland 1939 : The Birth of Blitzkrieg. Oxford : Osprey Publishing, 2002. 96 p. ISBN 1-84176-408-6.