Wednesday, September 02, 2009


In late August, 1939, under the suspect pretense of an amiable courtesy visit, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein dropped anchor in the channel off Westerplatte and on September 1, at exactly 04:45 local time, began it's barrage of the Polish outpost with its superior 280 and 150mm guns. Thus began Germany's invasion of Poland, igniting the powderkeg that would explode into World War II.

Expecting an easy victory, the German offensive was sternly repelled by Polish small arms and machine gun fire, and suffered unexpected losses during two more assaults upon Westerplatte the same day. The only Polish 75mm gun was destroyed after discharging 28 shells into the German position across the channel. Despite a German naval infantry invasion, sustained bombardment by heavy artillery and diving airraids from German warplanes, the Polish garrison repulsed the Germans for seven days, before the depleted unit, suffering from exhaustion, severe injury and a shortage of food, water, ammunition and medical supplies, was forced to surrender on September 7th.

Over the course of the violent engagement some 2,600 German soldiers fought against the 205-strong garrison of stalwart Poles. The exact number of German casualties has never been disclosed, but is assumed to be quite high in comparison to the Polish figures - of the 205 Polish soldiers defending the outpost, only 14 perished (including the Polish radio operator, later executed for refusing to divulge radio codes to the German side) while 53 were wounded...

The following video shows you how the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein shelled the small peninsula of Westerplatte and its handful of defenders. Despite the fireworks, despite the Stukas, despite repeated assaults by three thousand plus Germans... the barely two hundred Polish soldiers under Major Sucharski... held out for one week.

Thus started World War II. Seventy years ago.


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