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Russo-Polish War - 1920 Operations

When the Poles appealed, in the summer of 1920, for help against the Bolsheviks an attempt was made by the British Government to secure peace. Lord Curzon, acting on behalf of the Government, proposed the acceptance of this line as the basis of the peace terms. The Poles being unwilling to sacrifice lands which were inhabited by an incontestably Polish population would not agree to this settlement.

In early August of 1920, it seemed possible that the Russians might break through the Polish army into Germany in an attempt to spread the Bolshevist revolution through Europe. Three hundred thousand Poles were at death grips with 600,000 Russian Bolshevik troops in a war which may involve the whole of Europe. The drive of the Bolshevik forces carried them into Polish territory when they forced Zbruez River, on the southern front. This brought the fighting close to the Allies, as they were pledged to maintain the integrity of new Poland. Aside from this, it had a direct effect, as, if an invasion of Poland was accomplished, it offered a base for the invasion of Germany from this territory. With Germany disarmed by the Allies, such an invasion, aside from the danger of another overturning of its government, the Allies would face a demoralization of German industries and the repudiation of the indemnity.

This phase was made the base of a request by the German Government for a modification of the order reducing the German army. Scouting detachments of the Soviet armies were reported to be within little more than forty miles of the German border, and it was expected Trotzky's cavalry would be within touch of the East Prussian frontier by the middle of August 1920. Coincidently with this advance the north wing of the Polish army was being turned.

With the fear of an imminent Soviet sweep across the German border spreading like wildfire, the clamor for forming a German army of defense was growing louder, while at the same time activity among radical elements in East Prussia looking toward co-operation with the Bolsheviki was intensified. According to Paris reports, should the Kussian Soviet commander refuse to accept Poland's plea for an armistice, Allied troops would be rushed to the RussoFohsh front by way of Germany, disregarding altogether the German Government s declaration of strict neutrality. A perfunctory demand for permission to speed allied troops through German territory was to be dispatched to Berlin, but it was stated that plans already had been made to cross the former empire whether the Berlin Government consented or not.

Marshal Pilsudski personally led the main Polish attack in the center, and by Aug. 20 the Poles entered Brest-Litovsk. Cut off on the right flank, driven across the Prussian frontier and pushed back on the east, the Bolsheviki attempted a diversion by cavalry attacking toward Lemberg in the south, but accomplished little at this time, the Poles having taken all precautions against surprise. The Bolshevist cavalry General, Budenny, was repelled in an attempt to encircle Lemberg. The Poles continued their successes, taking other towns. They announced the capture of 35,000 prisoners on Aug. 22. The Reds along the Prussian frontier, harassed by Polish cavalry, were retreating panic-stricken, refusing to obey their officers, and thousands crossed the frontier, preferring internment to further attempts to cut their way out of the trap in which they had been caught.

On 19 August 1920, Polish peace commissioners, in conference with Bolshevist delegates at Minsk, refused disarmament terms unless reciprocal; the retiring Red troops lost 10,000 prisoners; General Pilsudski personally led the Polish troops. On August 20, Soviet peacemakers at Minsk demanded reduction of the Polish army to 60,000 "workers," prohibition of war imports, and retirement of Poles 33 miles west of the Russian lines to create a neutral zone; the Reds offered the Curzon boundary to Poland. On August 23 the Poles trap the Red Fourth Army and Third cavalry corps in the Northwest; Bialystok was captured; Budenny's Red cavalry retreated from Lemberg in the South. On August 25 Poland rejected the Russian Bolshevik peace terms at Minsk. The defeated Russian army was entirely disorganized.

Ignace Daszinski on Aug. 23 sent a letter to the French General Weygand, under whose direction the new offensives had been undertaken, expressing Poland's gratitude and admiration for his aid in Poland's time of need.* Weygand, having accomplished his task, returned to France and met with an enthusiastic reception, being called the " Savior of Poland " and receiving the highest public commendation by Marshal Foch.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:29:26 ZULU