Case White: The Invasion of Poland, 1939, by Robert Forczyk, Osprey Publishing, New York, 2019, $30
The first chapter of this book contains an apt quote by Winston Churchill: “The heroic characteristics of the Polish race must not blind us to their errors, which over centuries have led them through measureless suffering.”
Author Robert Forczyk analyzes the political, economic and military status of both Poland and Germany at the outbreak of a conflict that brought victory for the as-yet-untested Wehrmacht and torturous defeat for a nation that had already endured war and upheaval in the short 21 years of its existence.
The conventional narrative of the actions during Case White (German: Fall Weiss) is that the Wehrmacht conducted a devastating, coordinated and innovative campaign, easily defeating a poorly equipped Polish military. Forczyk provides a fresh, well-researched and well-presented account disputing that notion. While many of the German actions reflected a military that would soon become the most feared in the world, he points out instances of poor planning, and execution, as well as outright failure. On the Polish side, its army and air force were in many instances able to stand up to the Wehrmacht and give as good as they got. Forczyk makes it clear the defeat of Poland was not the walkover the Germans expected and which is often portrayed.
The author is dispassionate in explaining how Poland’s allies dithered and evaded action on their treaties, thus emboldening Adolf Hitler. The French provided large sums of aid for military materiel but required Poland to purchase everything from them. Britain, while trading openly and sharing technology and finance with Germany, was never willing to do so with Poland. In his chapter on the Soviet invasion of Poland after the German attack, Forczyk describes how Soviet forces decapitated Polish society.
Case White narrates the invasion in broad chapters, each covering the action in a specific region of Poland, such as along the Bzura and Vistula rivers and on the southern border, or the invasion from East Prussia and action around Warsaw. Forczyk presents specifics regarding units of both armies, including their commanders and actions. In Chapter 8 the author concludes, “While the Germans had the initiative, the Poles proved capable of striking back whenever favorable opportunities arose.” A listing of participating units in the German, Polish and Soviet armies is included.
The book concludes with an analysis of the effect the campaign had on German military preparedness and doctrine, and how that affected the course of World War II and postwar events in Poland. The author notes Poland was sold out by its Western allies before the war, during the campaign and at the conclusion of hostilities in order to placate first the Nazis and then the Soviets, leading to almost 50 years of communist oppression in Poland.
—Dennis D. Chappell
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