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Zaolzie Campaign (Munich Goes Sour)

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Zaolzie Campaign
Fall Grün Zaolzie Campaign 1
Polish Vickers Mk. E light tanks during the advance into Zaolzie, October 9, 1938.
DateOctober 8 - October 13, 1938
LocationCzech Silesia, Czechoslovakia
Result





Decisive Axis victory
  • ČSR territory split between Germany, Hungary and Poland
  • German-Hungarian Protection Treaty
Belligerents
Flag of Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakia Flag of Poland (with coat of arms) Poland
Commanders
Flag of Czechoslovakia Valentin Pozdíšek Flag of Poland (with coat of arms) Władysław Bortnowski
Strength
Czechoslovak Army:
• Various SOS units
• 16. divize ”Jablonský”
• 22. divize ”Hviezdoslav”



Samodzielna Grupa Operacyjna Śąsk:
• 4. Dywizja Piechoty
• 21. Dywizja Piechoty
• 23. Dywizja Piechoty
• Wielkopolska Brygada Kawalerii
• 10. Brygada Kawalerii
Losses and casualties
650 killed,
1,710 wounded,
1,200 captured


521 killed,
1,166 wounded,
8 tanks destroyed,
13 tankettes destroyed

The Zaolzie Campaign (Polish: Kampania Zaolzie, Czech: Těšínské kampaň) was a military conflict fought from October 8 to October 13, 1938 between the Republic of Czechoslovakia and the Second Polish Republic over the disputed areas of Cieszyn Silesia (Śląsk Cieszyński/Těšínské Slezsko), Orava Territory (Orawa/Orava) and Spiš (Spisz/Spiš).

Though it is contemporaneous with the German invasion, the Polish military operation was a result of a decision of the Polish government, and both Germany and Hungary was not consulted when the operations begun.

Prelude to the campaign

After World War I, a territorial dispute between Poland and Czechoslovakia erupted over the Cieszyn Silesia area in Silesia. To calm down friction which developed, Polish Rada Narodowa Księstwa Cieszyńskiego and Czech Národní výbor pro Slezsko, regional bodies representing the two nationalities, agreed on interim borders after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That agreement was to be ratified by the central governments of the two nascent republics.

Czech side built its argumentation on historical, economic and strategic reasons, while Poland based her demand on ethnicity. The disputed area was part of the Bohemian Crown since 1339. The only railway from Czech territory to eastern Slovakia ran through this area (Košice-Bohumín Railway), and access to the railway was critical for Czechoslovakia: the newly-formed country was at war with Béla Kun's revolutionary Hungarian Soviet Republic, which was attempting to re-establish Hungarian sovereignty over Slovakia. The area is also very rich in black coal, and it was the most industrialized region of all Austria-Hungary. The important Třinec Iron and Steel Works are also located here. All these raised the strategic importance of this region to Czechoslovakia. On the other hand, majority of the population was Polish with substantial Czech and German minorities.

Map of Zaolzie

Map of Zaolzie with territorial changes.

The Czechoslovak government in Prague requested that the Poles cease their preparations for national parliamentary elections in the area that had been designated Polish in the interim agreement as no sovereign rule was to be executed in the disputed areas. Polish government declined and the Czech side decided to stop the preparations by force. Czech troops entered area managed by Polish interim body on January 23. Czech troops gained the upper hand over the weaker Polish units. The majority of Polish forces were engaged in fighting with the West Ukrainian National Republic over eastern Galicia at that time. Czechoslovakia was forced to stop the advance by the Allies, and Czechoslovakia and Poland were compelled to sign a new demarcation line on February 3, 1919 in Paris. A final line was set up at the Spa Conference in Belgium. On July 28, 1920, the western part of the disputed territory was given to Czechoslovakia while Poland received the eastern part, thus creating a Zaolzie with a substantial Polish minority.

At the Paris Peace Conference in 1920, Poland requested northwesternmost Spiš (including the region around Javorina). What are virtually the present-day borders were set by a conference of ambassadors held at Spa (Belgium) on July 28, 1920: Edvard Beneš agreed to cede to Poland 13 villages (especially Nowa Biała, Jurgów and Niedzica; 195 km²; pop. 8747) in northwestern Spiš and 12 villages in northeastern Orava (around Jabłonka; 389 km²; pop. 16133), in matter of fact the Czechoslovak authorities officially regarded their inhabitants as exclusively Slovak, while Poles pointed out that the dialect used there belonged to Polish language. The Polish government was not satisfied with this results. The conflict was only resolved by the Council of the League of Nations (International Court of Justice) on 12 March 1924, which decided that Czechoslovakia should retain the territory of Javorina and Ždiar and which entailed (in the same year) an additional exchange of territories in Orava - the territory around Nižná Lipnica went to Poland, the territory around Suchá Hora and Hladovka went to Czechoslovakia. The new frontiers were confirmed by a Czechoslovak-Polish Treaty on April 24, 1925.

Czech-Polish tensions

Throughout the summer, Germany had been trying to increase pressure on Czechoslovakia by encouraging Czechoslovakia's other neighbours to press their own claims. As part of the pre-Munich mobilisation, the Czechoslovaks had deployed Slovak mountain troops on the Polish border, which had been in dispute since both states had been set up after the First World War.

The Polish government decided to take advantage of the political crisis between Czechoslovakia and Germany and laid pressure on Czechoslovakia on ceeding the Zaolzie territory to Poland, with no success. On September 13, 1938 the Committee of Fight for Rights for Poles in Czechoslovakia was created in Katowice, which began infiltrating the Zaolzie territory to conduct clandestine operations against the Czechoslovak government and the soldiers stationed there. Along them members of the K-7, a nationalist organization that was strictly covert (both in Poland and abroad) and was elite rather than large-scale in nature, which proceedings were directed from Warsaw by Wiktor Tomir Drymmer and Edmund Charaszkiewicz, and on the ground by Captain Feliks Ankerstein and later Lieutenant Colonel Ludwik Zych.

Germany conspires with Poland

Hitler and Beck

Polish Foreign Minister Józef Beck with German Führer Adolf Hitler.

Meanwhile, Hitler was giving his own primary attention to the Hungarian and Polish minority claims. At Berchtesgaden he had told Chanberlain that "in the long run it would be impossible to ignore these demands," but had given no indication that he would insist on their settlement in connection with the Sudeten problem. Now, however, both he and Göring took steps to persuade the Hungarian and Polish governments of the necessity of pressing their demands immediately and forcefully, if they expected to profit by the Sudeten crisis.

The two countries were not equally bold, for Hungary was much weaker than Poland and was further inhibited by the agreements linking the Little Entente, which would have required Yugoslavia and Romania to go to the aid of Czechoslovakia if she were attacked by Hungary. On September 16, Göring invited the Hungarian Minister, Döme Sztójay, to Karinhall, and sought to allay these fears by giving his personal assurance. The Poles, on the other hand, needed no persuasion. On the same day, when Göring met with Ambassador Lipski, he found that the Pole had already informed Weizsaecker that “the Polish Government would categorically request” a solution to the Cieszyn situation. Lipski informed Warsaw that Göring was obviously “anxious to separate Slovakia from the rest of Czechoslovakia, in order thus to create a Czech state economically dependent on the Reich.” On September 19, Hitler summoned to Berchtesgaden for the following day and separately requested Lipski to come later the same day. The Hungarians were given the rough edge of the Führer’s tongue and told in to uncertain terms what to do. The Hungarians departed with the earful, and at four o’clock that afternoon Lipski was received. Unlike the Hungarian delegation, Hitler treated him with complete courtesy and there was no lecturing.

Hitler opened the interchange by declaring that, while he had no definite information about the proposals which Chamberlain would bring to Godesberg, he had reason to think that the principle of Germany’s claims would be honoured. However, there was a report that “the settlement… will be executed not by self-determination (i.e., plebiscite), but by a delineation of frontiers (i.e., cession). Hitler “declared that he preferred a plebiscite and is standing firm on it. He would of course insist on a plebiscite in order to secure votes for people who left the territory after 1918. The status of 1918 must be restored. Otherwise, it would mean acceptance of Czechisation, which has been underway since 1918.” Hitler’s real point was that a plebiscite in which Sudeten Germans who had left the area since 1918 would be included while Czechs who had since entered the area would be excluded, would establish a frontier much more favourable to Germany than a line drawn on the basis of present majorities.

Hitler then told Lipski, as he had the Hungarians, that a forceful occupation of the Sudetenland would be the best option. “Howecer,” Lipski reported, “in case his claims are recognised, it would not be possible for him not to accept them before his people, even if the rest of the Czechoslovak problem remained unsolved.” What, then, should be done about the Polish and Hungarian claims? Lipski replied by stating the geographical bounds of the claimed Cieszyn area, and declaring that Poland was prepared to use military force if necessary. He and Hitler then agreed that neither country would join in guaranteeing the new Czech borders until all the minority claims were satisfied, and the Führer added that Italy should be brought into the guarantor group in order “to counterbalance the French and British guarantees.”

The rest of the talk was desultory and inconclusive. Lipski, under instructions previously received from Warsaw, also endeavoured to raise some nagging problems of German-Polish relations, including Danzig and the Corridor, but he made little progress because “the Chancellor was very much absorbed by his approaching talk with Chamberlain.” After the interview a communiqué was issued which conformed only the fact of the meeting without revealing anything to the discussion.

The Polish ultimatum

Jozef Beck Speech 1938

Polish Foreign Minister Jozef Beck in a speech, demanding that the Czechoslovak government cede Cieszyn and other territories in northern Slovakia which had a Polish majority.

As the crisis between Czechoslovakia and Germany continued, skirmishes with Polish irregular infiltrators ensued, with casualties on both sides.

The news of the refusal of the Czechoslovak government to abide by the dictates made at Munich between Hitler and Chamberlain, Mussolini and Daladier on September 30 hit the world as a bomb shell, including the Poles. Most countries, such as the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Poland were in shock, Adolf Hitler was furious by the Czech refusal and the Soviets applauded the Czechs refusal to capitulate to the fascists.

However, shortly after the refusal, Foreign Minister Józef Beck delivered a speech in the Polish Sejm the same day, saying that "Czechoslovakia must cede the territories of Zaolzie, Orawa and Spisz which they stole from their native homeland Poland, or else they would take them by force.

On October 1, 1938, at 04:40, the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) began bombing the Czechoslovak capital Prague, and at 08:00, the German troops of the Second, Eight, Tenth and Fourteenth armies, still without a formal declaration of war issued, crossed the Czech-German frontier. While most countries condemned the German attack or declared their neutrality in the conflict, Poland, on the other hand, continued demanding that the Czechoslovak government should cede Cieszyn and the three other territories in northern Slovakia. When the news of the invasion reached Poland, Polish government presented an ultimatum to Czechoslovakia through the Polish embassy in Prague:

  • Cede the areas of Těšín (Cieszyn) of Moravia, the Orava Territory (Orawa/Orava), Spiš (Spisz/Spiš) and a third area of Slovakia, which contained a group known as the Gorals, of intermediate Polish/Slovak culture, to Poland.
  • Withdraw all Czechoslovak military personnel and equipment from the ceded territories.
  • Demilitarise an area running 25 km from the newly established frontier.
  • This has to be done within September 7.

Busy with the newly developed situation with Germany, the ultimatum was rejected immediately, much to Beck's dismayal. Shortly after the refusal Prime Minister Felicjan Składkowski ordered Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły to mobilise the Operational Group Śląsk to war time strength. A week later, on October 7, the Czechs had still not complied by the Polish ultimatum. At 10:00 AM Prime Minister Składkowski ordered Marshal Rydz-Śmigły to begin military operations against Czechoslovakia the following morning.

Opposing forces

Poland

Main article: Polish Order of Battle - October 7, 1939
Wladyslaw Bortnowski

General Władysław Bortnowski was the commander of the Independent Operational Group Śąsk.

Between 1936 and 1939, Poland invested heavily in industrialization in the Central Industrial Region. Preparations for a defensive war with Germany were ongoing for many years, but most plans assumed fighting would not begin before 1942. To raise funds for industrial development, Poland sold much of the modern equipment it produced. In 1936, a National Defence Fund was set up collect funds necessary for strengthening the Polish Armed forces. The Polish Army had approximately a million soldiers, but less than half of them were mobilized by September 1. Latecomers sustained significant casualties when public transport became targets of the Luftwaffe. The Polish military had fewer armoured forces than the Germans, and these units, dispersed within the infantry, were unable to effectively engage the enemy.

Experiences in the Polish-Soviet War shaped Polish Army organisational and operational doctrine. Unlike the trench warfare of the First World War, the Polish-Soviet War was a conflict in which the cavalry's mobility played a decisive role. Poland acknowledged the benefits of mobility but was unwilling to invest heavily in many of the expensive, unproven inventions since then. In spite of this, Polish cavalry brigades were used as a mobile mounted infantry and had some successes against both German infantry and cavalry.

The Polish Air Force (Lotnictwo Wojskowe) was at a severe disadvantage against the German Luftwaffe, although it was not destroyed on the ground early on, as is commonly believed. The Polish Air Force lacked modern fighter aircraft, but its pilots were, like in the case of the Czechoslovak Air Force, among the world's best trained. The tank force consisted of two armoured brigades, four independent tank battalions and some 30 companies of TKS tankettes attached to infantry divisions and cavalry brigades.

On September 7, 1938, the Polish High Command created the Operational Group Śląsk under the command of General Władysław Bortnowski. An Operational Group (Polish: Grupa Operacyjna, abbreviated GO) was the highest level of tactical division of the Polish Army before and the Invasion of Poland. It was corps-sized, although various Operational Groups varied in size. They first appeared in Polish tactical scheme during the Polish-Bolshevik War, most probably under the influence of French Military Mission to Poland. After the war they were dissolved.

Originally the Operational Group Śląsk consisted of the 10. Brygada Kawalerii. In case there would be clashes with the Germans over the Zaolzie/Cieszyn area, the 10th Cavalry Brigade retake the land immediately after the Czechoslovaks had withdrawn from the area, before the Germans could do the same. If needed, the brigade would be reinforced with two infantry divisions.

On September 16, the KOP Regiment "Osowiec " was sent to Silesia, and on September 19 it was decided to send the 21. Dywizja Piechoty and 10. Brygada Kawalerii to the region close to the Polish-Czech frontier. There the GO merged with the 23. Dywizja Piechoty. On September 21, 1938 the Independent Operational Group Śąsk (Samodzielna Grupa Operacyjna Śąsk, SGO) was created, which was further strengthened with the 4. Dywizja Piechoty, Wielkopolska Brygada Kawalerii and an improvised Tank Group. The air fleet at disposal for the operation conisted of 5 fighter squadrons(among them were 111th, 112th, 121st and 131st esk.), 2 squadrons of light bombers (21st and 22nd), 1 reconnaissance squadron and 5 platoons of support aircraft.

In total the operational group amounted: 35,966 men and officers, 8371 horses, 267 cars, 707 trucks, 459 motorcycles, 103 tanks, nine armoured cars, 1,012 light machine guns, 445 heavy machine guns, 117 cannons, 117 anti-tank guns and 103 planes. However, the units weren't fully mobilized, and thus were at peace time level. The same situation ruled for the artillery, which lacked eight artillery divisions. The tank forces of the SGO consisted mainly of TK-3 and TKS tankettes, with a few Vickers Mk. E light tanks.

Czechoslovakia

Vojtech Boris Luza

General of the Army Vojtěch Boris Luža was the commander of the II. armáda ”Jirásek”.

Unlike Poland, Czechoslovakia did not deploy large forces on the Czech-Polish frontier, as most units were deployed at the Czech-German and Czech-Hungarian frontiers, where the threat for an enemy attack was higher. As a result, only limited resources were available.

The Tesin area was defended by SOS and a few infantry units of the Hraniční pásmo XIII “Rostislav“, under the command of Div. Gen. Emil Fiala, which had its headquarters in Hranice. The Hraniční pásmo XIII was one of the corps-sized units subordinated to the II. armáda ”Jirásek”, under the command of Arm. Gen. Vojtěch Boris Luža.

The (Stráž obrany státu - State Defense Guard) was a military service established in 1936 to protect borders of Czechoslovakia. From 1918 to 1936 border of Czechoslovakia was protected by "finance guard" (finanční stráž), an armed branch of the Ministry of Finance. Their main task was to carry on customs duty, border protection was secondary. For over decade army and police leadership had suggested to set up an organisation of higher military value. Amid international tensions the new service was established in 1936.

Task of the defense guard was:

  • protect the border
  • keep order and rule of the law
  • support execution of customs duty

Members of the guard were local policemen (četníci), existing finance guards and members of state police. Later citizens loyal to Czechoslovakia were incorporated (for example many members of sports organisation Sokol or active anti-fascist Germans). Plans were created to support the guard with regular army units to handle local conflicts.

Planned size of the service were 38 battalions, but only 31 had been mustered (one of these inland, in Prague). Their equipment were pistols, rifles, light machine guns and grenades. There was not enough of time to equip the units with heavy machine guns. In case of attack the guard was to stop the enemy until main body of the army gets ready for response - more less suicidal mission. Manpower of the guard in September 1938 were 29,611 men (4,917 local policemen, 1,674 members of state police, 6,438 finance guards, 14,755 army reservists, 1,827 army members).

Further southeast, two divisions of the Reserves of the Main Headquarters were deployed:

  • 16. divize ”Jablonský”, under the command of Brig. Gen. František Marvan, was stationed in Ružomberok,
  • 22. divize ”Hviezdoslav” under the command of Brig. Gen. Josef Beránek, was stationed in Žilina.

As both divisions were part of the Reserves of the Main Headquarters, they were under the direct command of the Chief of the Army, Arm. Gen. Ludvík Krejčí.

Details of the Campaign

Since the German 2. Armee had begun its offensive into the northern Moravian territories of Czechoslovakia on October 1, the Polish and local border guard and police units had been on full alert.

In Bogumin on October 6, the Polish command got the information about Czechoslovak-German skirmishes not far from Ostrava, which alarmed them even further. Following orders by General Władysław Bortnowski, it was decided to initiate the military campaign to capture the Zaolzie region and Český Těšín, before the Germans could do the same.

Opening stages

Map Zaolzie Operation

Situation up to October 13, 1938.

At 0600 hours on October 8, Polish artillery and heavy machine guns opened fire on Czech border guards and soldiers positioned along the border, and two hours later the begun its offensive.

To the north, a motorised company began pushing into Czech territory at 1000 hours, without facing much resistance. However, some local units did engage them, but these clashes were mostly hit and run operations. By the end of October 9, they had captured the villages of Karviná, Stonava, Albrechtice, and Horní Suchá.

Farther southeast, the began military operations at 0800 hours. With support from heavy machine gun fire, mortars and 75 mm guns, the began capturing Český Těšín. However, heavy resistance from , mortars, heavy machine guns and a few howitzers made the conquest heavy, and the Poles suffered heavy casualties. Subsequently, the first attack was repulsed. After they had regrouped, they attacked the Czech positions at the villages of Mosty and Dolní Žukov in a series of flanking manoevres, and then pushed southwards and northwards, thus encircling the town. They then attacked the Czech defenders again, and this time they began to pushing into the city. By the end of the day the Poles had made several headways into the city. At 1300 hours the following morning the Czech defences collapsed, and they capitulated to the Poles.

Fall Grun Zaolzie 1

Polish soldier marches into Czechoslovakia on October 8, 1938.

Southeast of Český Těšín, the 21. Dywizja Piechoty also began military operations at 0800 hours, and pushed with maximum speed into Czech Silesia, only encountering a few units. By the end of the day, they had captured Dolní Láštná, Nový Borek, Třinec and Závist. Tne next morning the advance continued, and by 1000 hours they had reached Smilovice. However, at Střítež the 24th Uhlan Regiment ran into an ambush made up by Czech soldiers equipped with 37 mm vz. 37 anti-tank guns and heavy machine guns, and they were forced to pull back, losing 35 men and three TKS tankettes. However, when the Vickers Mk. E tanks and artillery were put into action, the Czechs were forced to withdraw, sustaining around 20 casualties.

This advance was supported by thrust southwards by the 23. Dywizja Piechoty, which began pushing towards Čadca (Czaca). By the end of October 9, they had captured the villages of Čierne, Svrcinoveč and Podzávoz. But on October 9, they encountered heavy resistance from the 22. divize ”Hviezdoslav” outside of Čadečka, and thus was forced to fall back to Podzávoz.

The fighting around Český Těšín had resulted in the 22. divize ”Hviezdoslav” to be positioned along the Český Těšín sector, which worsened the Polish situation significantly.

Mistřovice incident

Fall Grun Zaolzie 2

Polish officers discussing the next assault in the outskirts of a Czechoslovak village on October 9, 1938.

While the Poles were still engaging Czech soldiers in Český Těšín and at Mosty, the Infanterie-Regiment 29 and the Maschinengewehr-Battalion 8 had been ordered to advance further southeast by the commander of the 3. Infanterie-Division, Gen.Lt. Walter Petzel, against the orders of the commander of the II. Armeekorps, Gen.d.Inf. Johannes Blaskowitz. The 3. Infanterie-Division had on October 6 captured Ostrava afrer heavy fighting, and had as the only division of the army been given orders to wait until the remnants of the Second Army had broken through the border fortifications.

On October 7 the Infanterie-Regiment 29 had captured the villages of Šenov, Havířov, Dolany, Polany, Pacalůvka and Albrechtice while Maschinengewehr-Battalion 8 had captured Dolní Datymě, Horní Bludovice and Teřlicko. On October 8 Maschinengewehr-Battalion 8 captured Pitrov, Rozsudek, Hradiště and Kostelec while the Infanterie-Regiment 29 had reached Dolní Těrlicko and Stanislavice.

The Poles had noticed activity alreadt at Albrechtice, but did not engage them, as they were unsure whether they were Czechs or Germans. At 0800 hours on October 9, the Germans captured the village of Mistřovice facing little resistance from Czech soldiers. However, at 0900 hours they came under fire from Czech 81 mm mortars and heavy machine gun fire from soldiers positioned in Podlesí and Mosty.

The Germans fired back with both light guns, machine guns, small arms and mortars, unknowing that the Poles were also engaging the Czechs at Mosty. The Polish delegation to the German forces hadn't reached the area, and coincidentally the Poles now came under German fire. For about an hour the fighting continued; the Germans mistaking the Poles as Czechs and vice versa.

The Poles, who just received reports that there actually were Germans operating in the area, was faced with a problematic situation, as the Poles had not consulted neither the Germans nor the Hungarians about their military operation in the area. And as the Bogumin was an important railway junction in the area, the Polish commander decided to support Czechoslovaks in defensive action of Těšín with the 21. Dywizja Piechoty. A reconaissance company, equipped with TKS tankettes, was also sent forward on the flank, in case the German assault continued, and would launch counterattack if Germans won't stop their assault.

Still unknowing that they were now engaging Polish troops, the Germans started their major assault towards Těšín at noon. However, thanks to the informations of local citizens, Polish and Czechoslovak forces knew of German plans and succesfully held the line, except for the villages of Podlesí and Mosty, which the Germans captured by 1500 hours. Thus, the German attack failed.

Fall Grun Zaolzie 3

Czech soldiers with a Tk vz. 24 heavy machine gun waiting for the advancing Polish troops on October 10, 1938.

After the failed assault, a delegation of Polish officers led by Colonel Dworak and German officers led by Major Hohennau met at Mosty. The assaults were described as an mistake, and the Germans excused for the attacks, blaming the incident on poor intelligence and similarity in Polish and Czech military uniforms. Thus, the German units halted the assault, and the situation was stabilized.

Another incident occured on October 10, when first a staffel of Junkers Ju-87B Stuka dive bombers and later a group of Henschel Hs-123 ground attack planes of the 4./St.G.165 strafed a column of Polish troops northeast of Albrechtice, killing 40 soldiers and destroyed several vehicles. 10/11 October fights for Gruszow, German attacks on railway station were pull back.

After the battle, no further incidents or fights occured between Poland and Germany.

Fighting escalates

Fall Grun Zaolzie 4

Polish TKS tankettes of the 10. Brygada Kawalerii during the Zaolzie Operation. October 8, 1938.

Following the incident at on October 8, the Polish offensive continued. In Zaolzie, the Poles now faced the troops of the 22. divize ”Hviezdoslav”, which gave the Poles a hard time. The Czechs defended their positions effectively, and at times counterattacked.

Despite the heavier resistance, the Poles continued, and by October 10 the 21. Dywizja Piechoty had captured the towns of Podlesi, Horní Žukov, Dolní Žukov, Podlesí, Šusov and Třanovice. On October 11 the Czech soldiers of the 22. divize seriously contested the Polish advance along a line running from Horní Třanovice and Fifejdy, where the I/4 Battalion came under heavy artillery fire. The Poles thus thrusted towards Horní Třanovice, where they encountered heavy resistance from well-trained and relatively well-equipped Czech soldiers. After four hours of heavy fighting, the Poles had cleared the village for Czech soldiers. However, at 1340 hours a local civilian silently led a Czech unit close to the positions of the III/4 Battalion, which now were taking a break from the heavy fighting. The Czech put in a surprise attack and some still bayonet fighting resulted before they were driven off. The next day the Czechs put in a powerful counterattack, supported by howitzers and heavy machine guns. The Poles were taken by surprise, and after two hours of further heavy fighting the Poles fell back from Horní Třanovice and set up their positions along the line of Třanovice-Horní Žukov-Vělopolí. The Poles were further reinforced with a reconnaissance company, consisting of a few TKS tankettes, which hadn't been disabled by German anti-tank cannons.

A couple of hours later the Czechs attacked again, but this time the Poles managed to hold the line, forcing the Czechs to fall back. Despite this, fighting continued for a couple of hours, mostly in form of artillery shelling and machine gun firing. At 1730 the Poles sent a reconnaissance patrol to check out the Czech's positions, but discovered that Horní Třanovice had been abandoned. Thus, the Poles were sent in again, and fortified their positions there.

Fall Grun Zaolzie 5

Polish TKS tankettes of the 10. Brygada Kawalerii during the Zaolzie Operation. October 10, 1938.

On October 11 the Czechs attacked again, this time supported both by artillery and heavy machine guns, but also by a group of Letov Š-328 army cooperation aircraft from Pozorovací letka 8, Peruť II/2 of the Letecký pluk 2 Dr. E. Beneše, operating as light bombers. The Czechs stormed towards the position at 0900 hours, but the Poles were better prepared this time, but sustained heavy casualties in the first assault, which failed. Two hours later the Czechs attacked again, but this time they made flanking manouevres, which threatened the III/4 Battalion's flanks. When the Pole's counterattacked with the I/4 Battalion and TK-3 tankettes, they were attacked by five Letov Š-328 army cooperation aircraft, which dropped bombs on the approaching Poles. Five tankettes were destroyed, and the counterattack thus failed. Meanwhile, the Czechs recaptured Horní Třanovice, capturing a handful of Poles in the process. After the battle the Poles fell back to regroup, and prepared for a counteroffensive the following morning, this time with air support from PZL. P-11 fighter aircrafts.

Fall Grün Zaolzie Campaign 1

Polish Vickers Mk. E light tanks during the advance into Zaolzie, October 9, 1938.

Further southeast the 10. Brygada Kawalerii continued their offensive without meeting much resistance. On October 10 they recaputed the village of Strítez (which they had abandoned following the clash on October 9) and continued westwards. At noon they captured Hnojník without a fight, while the captured Komorní Lhotka after encountering a company of the 22. divize ”Hviezdoslav”. Reports which reached the commander of 10. Brygada Kawalerii, reported that there was a possible strong presence of Czech troops in the area, and the TKS tankettes and the Vickers Mk. E light tanks were subsequently moved to the front, accompanied by infantry on wz. 34 halftracks (which also brought a couple of 37 mm wz. 36 anti-tank cannons to the new frontline).

Suddenly the Poles came under heavy machine gun and mortar fire from the Czech soldiers positioned at Poloniny and Stonávka. The Polish motorised infantry and tanks moved into position and began firing back at the Czechs. After a couple of hours of fighting, the shooting ended, and both sides prepared to attack the following day.

Fall Grun Zaolzie 6

Polish wz. 34 halftracks transports infantry of the 10. Brygada Kawalerii to the front during the Zaolzie Operation. October 10, 1938.

At dawn on October 11, the Czechs began shelling the Polish positions yet again, this time accompanied by a counterattack supported by 37 mm KPÚV vz. 37 anti-tank cannons. The Poles were taken by surprise at Komorní Lhotka, forcing them to retreat. The Czechs thus set up positions there, and subsequently began to fire on the Poles positioned at at Hnojník. However, the Czech attack on Hnojník failed, due to the presence of Vickers Mk. E light tanks and TKS tankettes and due to bad coordination. After several hours of heavy fighting the Czechs halted the counterattack. Meanwhile, the Letov Š-328 army cooperation aircraft of the Peruť II/2 again was sent on a bombing mission, but after dropping their bombs on the Polish troops at Hnojník and Střítež, the aircraft were ambushed by a group of PZL. P-11c fighters, which shot down a total of three Š-328s and damaged the remaining. However, shortly afterwards, several Avia B-534 fighters of the Stíhací letka 33 of the Peruť III/1 appeared at the scene, and a fierce air-to-air fight began. When it ended eight PZL P-11 and nine Avia B-534 fighters had been shot down, while a dousin others were damaged.

On October 12 the 10. Brygada Kawalerii continued the advance, capturing Podlesí, Dobratice, Hranice and Bukovice by the end of the day. The following morning military operations was ended.

The same day, the 23. Dywizja Piechoty continued their advance from Podzávoz and captured Čadečka after a hours fight. At noon the Poles attacked their target town of Čadca (Czaca) defended by the 22. divize ”Hviezdoslav”, and major fighting began at the town's railway station. Surprisingly, for such heavy fights, losses were very small: Only 100 Poles were killed and 250 wounded, while the Czechs suffered 56 killed and 160 wounded.

This was the last regular battle between Poles and Czechoslovaks. Poland had now secured the areas with a Polish population, and the Poles saw the growing power of Germany with increasing fear.

Conclusion of the fighting

In the evening of October 12, the foreign ministers of Czechoslovakia and Poland, Kamil Krofta and Józef Beck, signed an armistice through their embassies in Estonia.

In the agreement, the Czechoslovak government agreed to cede the already occupied territories to Poland, while Poland was to make no further border revision and refuse any agreements with Germany. The armistice was to come into effect by noon on 13 October 1938.

Aftermath

The Czechs ceded approximately of Czechoslovak territory with a Polish majority to Poland.

In March 1939, when the German and Hungarian victory over Czechoslovakia was eminent, the Poles allowed the many Czech and Soviet troops escaping captivity to cross the border into Poland. Most of these continued to France and the United Kingdom, while some remained in Poland to fight the Germans in September.

See also

Invasion of Czechoslovakia
Battle of the Border
(Opava    Operation Freudenthal    Šatov    Znojmo   České Budějovice)

Bohemian front
(Plzeň    Prague)


Moravian front
(Olomouc    Brno)


Hungarian front
Komárno    Zvolen    Kosiče)

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