Instead, the Polish army spread its forces out along the entire border with Germany, from the Carpathian Mountains in the south, up past the Silesian border, on into the Corridor, and then east to the frontiers of East Prussia. Some seven frontline armies were formed out of the slender Polish resources in an attempt to hold the line everywhere. It was a prescription for disaster. Yet apparently not content with this gross error in judgment, the Polish high command next failed to pursue a rigorous program of fast mobilization, and spent their more imaginative moments planning for an eventual counterattack into Germany.
As he had said he would, Hitler ordered the German army to attack on August 26, and on the 25th German troops began to move toward the Polish frontier. But within hours an emergency message arrived at the headquarters of both army groups: The attack was canceled, and the troops were to be pulled back. Whether Hitler still had one or two eleventh-hour diplomatic tricks to try or simply balked when the moment of decision came is unclear - but despite the immensely difficult job of recalling five advancing armies, the German commanders were not displeased. As even Guderian said, "We did not go lightheartedly to war and there was not one general who would not have advocated peace." The mood at Army Group South headquarters was positively jubilant. Blumentritt recalled that "Rundstedt had some bottles of Tokay fetched from the town of Neisse to celebrate...this happy release."
The celebration was short-lived. On August 31, a terse new order was received by both army groups: "D = 1.9; H = 0445." And at 4:45 on the morning of September 1, 1939, the Wehrmacht swarmed over the borders of Poland.
Reprinted from No End Save Victory Edited by Robert Cowley by permission of G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2001 Edited by Robert Cowley. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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The Angel of Losses
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