Slovak invasion of Poland (1939)

__NOTOC__The Slovak invasion of Poland (1939) occurred during Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland. The recently created Slovak Republic joined the attack and the Slovak field army (Field Army Bernolák) contributed over 50,000 soldiers in three divisions. The Slovakians met only weak resistance and suffered minimal losses.

Background

On March 14 1939, the Slovak Republic was created as a client state of Germany within the area of Slovakia. On November 2 1938, a large part of Slovakia was occupied by Hungary as a result of the First Vienna Award. Small areas of Slovakia were also occupied by Germany and Poland.

Political pretext for Slovakian participation in the Polish Campaign was the occupation of small part of Slovakia proper by Poland on December 1 1938. Poland did this in the aftermath of Munich Agreement (totally 226 km² with 4,280 inhabitants, almost all ethnic Slovaks). In addition, some Polish politicians suggested that Hungary should occupy the whole of Slovakia Fact|date=May 2008.

During secret discussions with the Germans on July 20-July 21 1939, the Slovakian government agreed to participate in the attack on Poland. The Slovakians also agreed to allow Germany to use its territory as the staging area for its troops. On August 26, the Slovak Republic mobilized (160,000 reservists called, 115,000 entering the service until September 20) its armed forces and created a new field army codenamed "Bernolák" with 51,306 soldiers.

Order of battle

The army group Bernolák was led by minister of defense Ferdinand Čatloš, had its headquarters in Spišská Nová Ves, since September 8 in Solivar near Prešov and consisted of:

* 1st infantry division "Jánošík" led by Anton Pulanich in sector Spišská Nová Ves - Prešov.
* 2nd infantry division "Škultéty" led by Alexander Čunderlík in sector BreznoPoprad.
* 3rd infantry division "Rázus" led by August Malár in sector east of High Tatra.
* A motorized unit "Kalinčiak" was created on September 5 but the campaign ended before it arrived on the front.

The group was part of the German Army Group South and was subordinated to the 14th Army led by Wilhelm List (five infantry, three mountain, two tank and one air force division). Bernolák's task was to prevent Polish incursion to Slovakia and to support German troops.

Their opposition was Polish Karpaty Army (Carpathian Army) consisting of infantry units with some light artillery and no tanks.

The Campaign

The attack started on September 1, 1939 at 05:00.

The 1st division occupied the village Javorina, town Zakopane and continued toward Nowy Targ protecting the German 2nd mountain division from the left. During September 4-5 it engaged in fight with regular Polish army units. On September 7 the division stopped, 30 km inside Polish territory. Later, the division was pulled back with one battalion remaining until September 29 as the guard in Zakopane, Jurgów and Javorina.

The 2nd division was kept in reserve and participated only in mopping up operations. In this it was supported by the Kalinčiak group.

The 3rd division had to protect 170 km of border, from Stará Ľubovňa to the border with Hungary. It fought minor skirmishes and after several days moved into the Polish territory, stopping on September 11.

Three Slovak air squadrons (the group was codenamed "Ľalia", Lily) were used for reconnaissance, bombing and as the close support for German fighters. Two planes were lost (one to anti-aircraft fire, one crashed), one enemy plane was shot down.

Total infantry losses were 18 dead, 46 wounded and 11 missing.

Aftermath

All Slovak units were pulled back until the end of September 1939. On October 5 a victorious military parade was hold in Poprad. The mobilized units were gradually demobilized and the Army Group Bernolák was disbanded on October 7.

Slovak Army took around 1,350 prisoners. In February 1940 around 1,200 were handed to Germans, some to the Soviets and the rest were kept in a Slovak prison camp in Lešť.

All the disputed territory, whether annexed by Poland in 1920 or in 1938 was given to Slovakia (this was confirmed by the Slovak parliament resolution on December 22). Hitler's offer to annex Zakopane was rejected. This arrangement lasted until July 1945 when the border line was returned to the state from year 1920.

The Slovak Army obtained some prestige lost during the Slovak-Hungarian War. In 1941 Slovakia joined the attack on the Soviet Union from its start.

Literature

* Charles K. Kliment and Břetislav Nakládal: "Germany's First Ally", Schiffer Publishing, 1998, ISBN 07-643-0589-1. The book covers the Slovak Armed Forces in World War Two. Czech edition in 2003, ISBN 80-206-0596-7.
* Igor Baka: "Slovensko vo vojne proti Poľsku v roku 1939" ("Slovakia during the war against Poland in 1939"), [http://www.dejiny.sk/Casop/V_h/v_h.htm Vojenská história] , 2005, No 3.

External links

* [http://www.valka.cz/newdesign/v900/clanek_11177.html Overview of the campaign] cs icon
* [http://vojenstvi.cz/vasedotazy_72.htm Another overview, more military details] cs icon
* [http://www.pulib.sk/elpub/FF/Fabrova1/07_murcko.pdf Changes in Polish-Slovak border between 1920-1945] sk icon


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