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During the first week of September 1939, a completely surrounded Military Transit Depot (Wojskowy Skład Transportowy, WST) on the peninsulaof Westerplatte, manned by only 182 soldiers, held alone for seven days in the face of an overwhelming German force of more than 3,000 soldiers attacking from land, sea and air, and inflicted heavy losses on the attackers. The heroic defense of Westerplatte served as an inspiration for the country while successful German advances continued elsewhere in Poland; it also helped the later similarily besieged larger garrison of Hel Peninsula to hold until the first week of October.
In 1925 the Council of the League of Nations allowed Poland to keep 88 soldiers on Westerplatte. The small Polish garrison of 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. There were no underground fortifications built on Westerplatte, but there were five small concrete posts (guardhouses) hidden in the peninsula's forest and a large barracks building prepared for defense; these were supported by a network of trenches and barricades. In case of war, the defenders were supposed to withstand a sustained attack for 12 hours (during this time, the aid from the Polish main forces was supposed to reach them).
At the end of August 1939, the German pre-dreadnought battleship Schleswig-Holstein came to Danzig (Gdańsk) under the pretext of a "courtesyvisit" and anchored in the channel near Westerplatte. Onboard was the Hennigsen 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 However, shortly before disembarkation, the order to attack was rescinded. Having heard of Britain and Poland having concluded a treaty of assistance and also having heard that Italian dictator Benito Mussolini refused to join the war, German dictatorAdolf Hitler postponed the opening of hostilities.
On September 1, 1939, at 0445 local time, as Germany began its invasion of Poland, the Schleswig-Holsteinsuddenly opened broadside salvo fire on the Polish garrison, unleashing a massive barrage of 280 mm and 170 mm shells. This sneak attack was followed by the advance by German forces (Lt. Willhem Henningsen’s storm unit from the Schleswig-Holstein' and the Wehrmacht's Pioneer force) hoping for an easy victory. However, soon after crossing the artillery-breached brick wall, the attackers came into a Polish ambush and were caught them in small arms, mortar and machine gun crossfire from concealed and well-positioned firing points. Another two assaults that day were repelled as well, with the Germans suffering unexpectedly high losses. The first day of battle ended with Polish success. The only Polish field gun was put out of action after firing 28 shells at German positions across the channel (silencing several firing positions and hitting a command post). A group of the defenders also counter-attacked and destroyed a German police guard post using hand grenades but two Poles were mortally wounded in this action.
Wire trippers and barbed wire entanglements effectively blocked quick movements around its grounds. Guardhouse no. 2 also successfully took part in the exchange of fire. Even though the Poles retreated from the Wał and Prom outposts (and for a time also from Fort), tightening the ring of defence around the New Barracks in the centre of the Peninsula. On the first day of combat, the Polish side lost one man killed and seven wounded (three died later, including two captured who died in a German hospital), while the German naval infantry company lost 17 men killed and 54 seriously wounded out of 225 deployed (or third of the company, including its mortally wounded commander). In all, 40-50 German troops were reported killed on this day according the German sources. The German losses would have been even greater if not for the order by the Polish commander, Major Henryk Sucharski, for the mortars to cease fire in order to conserve ammunition after just a few salvos (because of this order only 104 out of 860 grenades were fired when the mortars were destroyed the next day).
Over the following days, the Germans bombarded the peninsul with naval and heavy field artillery, including 210 mm howitzers. A devastating dive-bombing raid by Junkers Ju 87 Stuka bombers on September 2 (26.5 tons of bombs in two waves) destroyed the Polish mortars, directly hit one guardhouse with a 500 kg bomb (destroying it completely) and killed at least eight soldiers. Major Sucharski became shell-shocked and Captain Captain Franciszek Dąbrowski briefly took over command of Westerplatte. After the Stuka raids, which covered the whole area of Westerplatte in enormous clouds of smoke, the Germans believed that no one could possibly have survived the bombing; however, it later turned out the relatively few Polish soldiers were eliminated and the defence was not broken. Several cautious probing attacks by the German naval infantry, Danzig SS and police and Wehrmacht were again repulsed by the Poles. During one of the attacks, a German armoured draisine was hit and destroyed by a Polish AT gun. As Polskie Radio broadcasted every day, "Westerplatte still fought on".
In all, approximately 3,400 Germans (including support troops) were tied-up by being engaged in the week-long action against the 182-strong Polish garrison. On September 7, Major Sucharski decided to leave what he decided was the hopeless fight. Capt. Mieczysław Słaby, the WST doctor, was unable to maintain basic care of wounded soldiers. The garrison lacked sufficient water and medicine. In reality, Polish fortifications of the Westerplatte were neither impressive, nor very numerous. Even though many of his officers and soldiers were against the idea, hesurrendered the Military Transit Depot on the same day. The Polish defence impressed the German commanders so much that the German commander, General Friedrich Eberhardt (who later became the military governor of Kiev during the Soviet-German War), allowed Sucharski to retain his ceremonial szabla (Polish sabre) in captivity. At the same time Polish wireless operator Kazimierz Rasiński was murdered by Germans after the capitulation; after brutal interrogation, he refused to hand over radio codes and was shot.
German land forces, including the naval infantry company, were armed with several ADGZ heavy armoured cars, about 65 artillery pieces (2 cm FlaK 30 anti-aircraft guns, 3.7 cm PaK 36 anti-tank guns, 10.5 cm leFH 18 light howitzers and 21 cm Morser 18 heavy howitzers), over 150 machine guns, and an unknown number of light and medium mortars and flamethrowers(Flammenwerfer 35).
By August 1939, the garrison of Westerplatte had increased to 182 soldiers (there were also 27 civilian workers).
The WST was armed with one 75 mm 75 mm wz. 02/26 field gun, two Bofors 37 mm wz. 36 anti-tank guns, and four Stokes 81 mm wz. 31 medium mortars. The strong side of the garrison was a disproportionately large number of machine guns at their disposal (41 machine guns, including 16 heavy machine guns).
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