Hot war rages on in Poland, with the Germans continuing to advance against determined Polish opposition. The Germans use the advantage of mobility to punch through gaps in the Polish lines, heading for the bridges over the Vistula River, leaving their own infantry (and supply columns) behind.
As the Germans advance, the Poles retreat. The Germans don’t know that the Poznan Army is nearing Kutno, while the Pomorze Army is recovering from the fighting in the Corridor and is marching southwards in good order. Combined, these two armies represent 10 infantry divisions and two-and-a-half cavalry brigades.
German intelligence is not good. They mistake evacuation transports for troop transports, and bomb the tar out of fleeing refugees and retreating Polish troops alike. A retrograde operation is difficult to carry out under any circumstances, and even more so, on the Polish 200-mile front. The troops must retreat between 100 and 125 miles, under heavy bombing and over poor roads, amid hordes of fleeing civilians. With troops going one way, refugees the same way, and supply columns in the opposite direction, logistical arrangements break down quickly.
Simultaneously, the Germans begin to exert great pressure on the extreme wings of the Polish front. In the south the German 14th Army attacks the Krakow Army and forces it across the Dunajec River. The Germans move their armor into the gap made when the Karpaty Army is forced to retreat to the San River before the Krakow Army crosses the Dunajec.
On the northern wing, the German 3rd Army hits the reserve group Wyszkow in the Rozan area. Due to a misunderstanding of orders, the Poles evacuate Rozan, allowing the Germans to seize the crossing there and penetrate deep into the Polish front. This move cuts off the Narew Group from the Modlin Army, and when the Polish High Command’s order for the Narew Group to retire does not arrive, the group remains on the Narew line, cut off from its neighbor and in a dangerous forward position.
That evening, facing continued pressure, the Poles issue final orders for a general withdrawal to the Narew-Vistula-San line, and the Polish government packs its kit, evacuating to Brzesko on the Bug River.
The Poles fight with valor, determination, and skill. The 13th Polish Infantry Division slugs it out with the 1st Panzer Division, holding its positions all day at great cost. By the time the covering forces are ordered to withdraw, only the remnants of four battalions are left. The Polish 10th Armored Brigade, under General Maczek, loses two companies of tanks to the 2nd Panzer and 3rd Mountain Divisions around Dobczyce. Joined by the 1st KOP Regiment, the 10th Armored Brigade hangs tough, only yielding 15 kilometers against the enormous German force.
At Pabianice, an important crossing point on the Warta River line near Lodz, the SS Liebstandarte and the 23rd Panzer Regiment are ordered to attack positions held by the Polish 30th Infantry Division. The Poles are dug in on a ridge just west of town. The SS men are a supposed elite – a regiment of Hitler’s bodyguards, all selected for their blond hair and Aryan bearing – and attack with the fanaticism of the true believer, and gain little ground against the determined Polish defenses.
The Polish regulars are joined by civilians – mostly local farmers and woodsmen – who know the terrain cold. They dig in hills in open dugouts and tall, isolated treetops, picking off motorcycle dispatch riders, and small patrols. “They clung like body lice to the tops of tall trees,” writes a Leibstandarte man. “Every bush and wood became suspect. Two grenades and a few clips of ammunition was usually enough to settle our nerves. Either the Pole dropped out or enough foliage blew away that we could see the branches over which he was draped.”
The Germans advance through large and parched cultivated fields of corn and sunflowers. Under hot cloudless skies and in uniforms stinking of sweat and fear, German and Polish troops stalk each other in the standing corn. The SS are uncomfortably hot in their camouflage jackets and helmet covers. One weary sergeant writes, “Every field had nests of Poles. Some of their dugouts were connected by underground tunnels. No sooner had we blown up one with a grenade bundle than up they popped from another. Why a few dugouts even had crops growing on top of them and were impossible to see until you step on one! It took us hours to clear the fields in our sector but it had to be done. We couldn’t leave any of the enemy behind to stab us in the back.”
Losses are heavy – so much so that Hitler is later stung by them, and complains to his officers, including Sepp Dietrich, the boss of the Liebstandarte. Why were the SS men “thrown away?”
Dietrich blames the Army, for failing to provide enough support. General von Brauchitsch retorts that the SS officers have not been adequately trained for battle and have no knowledge of strategy and tactics. “They had to pay the price for being policemen in Army uniforms.”
According to General Walther Warlimont, watching this scene, Hitler thumps the table and says he is “sick of the everlasting feud between the army and the SS and will stand no more of it.” The two will have to work together or there will be wide plans for alteration in command.
Meanwhile, Hans Von Luck’s troops reach a village on the edge of the Lysa Gory, and find strong resistance. After fierce fighting, the Germans overpower their opponents and head for Lodz.
The German advance is relentless, though. So is Hitler’s. He drives to visit the battlefield at Tuchola, where he gets word that Poland’s third-largest city, Krakow, has fallen to the Wehrmacht, putting 250,000 people, including 60,000 Jews, in Nazi hands.
The Polish Air Force fights on, with numbers dwindling. The Kosciuszko Squadron and its parent Warsaw Pursuit Brigade are down to 19 operational aircraft and short on fuel and spare parts. They are ordered to withdraw to a base near Lublin in southeast Poland. The order means that Warsaw loses what fighter cover it has. Miroslaw Feric flies south over a blasted country. “There was so much destruction,” he writes, “and we were so powerless.” He flies over the Deblin training school and finds the airfields pitted with bomb craters, the buildings he trained in gutted. It is “a sight of utter misery.”
In Lublin, the pilots find confusion. No orders, no ground crews, no fuel, no communications. Siphoning fuel from cars and trucks, the crippled squadrons get back to work.
Nazi brutality continues in occupied Poland. While occupying Zdunska Wola, the district capital of the Lodz province, the Nazis burn down the town’s well-known wooden synagogue, along with all of its liturgical objects. They also unleash anti-Jewish terror upon their occupation of a small town in central Poland named Dzialosyce.
Anti-Polish brutality is also the order of the day in the fields outside the Polish village of Mrocza, where the Nazis shoot 19 Polish officers who have already surrendered, after fighting tenaciously against a German tank unit. Other Polish POWs are locked into a railway man’s hut, which is set on fire, with everyone burned to death. Henceforth, POWs can only guess if they will be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
Back in Berlin, Bill Shirer learns that the crack German liner Bremen has succeeded in evading the British naval blockade, and put in at Murmansk in Russia after a dash from New York. Shirer is about to report this news when the military censor rushes into the studio and cuts him off. Later, he writes, “Britain and France will not shed much blood on the western front, but will maintain an iron blockade and wait for Germany to collapse. In the meantime Poland will of course be overrun.”
South Africa’s Premier, Jan Christiaan Smuts, brings that nation into the war against Germany. There are caveats: the South Africans will not send conscripts outside of Africa…and blacks will not carry firearms.
Another declaration of war comes from Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the elder statesman of the Jewish Zionist movement, who writes to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, to say that the Jews will fight on the side of the democracies against Germany – The Times of London publishes the letter on the 6th.
In Australia, a Labor MP, E.J. Ward, says, “Australia, with its huge territory and sparse population, cannot afford to send men out of this country to take part in the conflict overseas. They will be required to defend Australia…I believe that if we can defend Australia, we shall do all that can reasonably be expected of us.” The Australians will send troops to the Middle East anyway.
The same day, Capt. H.B. Farncomb’s light cruiser HMAS Perth, in New York for the World’s Fair, is assigned command of the Oil Fuel Protective Service in the West Indies.
Sir Alexander Cadogan, the permanent Undersecretary of the Foreign Office in London, writes in his diary, “Very depressed. We shall fight to the last, and may win – but I confess I don’t see how! Italy is merely waiting to see which side wins. Poland is sunk, and it will look to Italy as if Germany was winning. And I don’t see what we can do. However, the only thing to do is not to be despondent in these early stages. We have a long row to hoe! I have no definite work, and feel I ought to be active somehow, and that probably contributes to my depression.”