November 27, 2014

Mokra - September 1, 1939


Mokra is a village in southern Poland. In 1939 it was close to the Polish-German border and it was situated on the main approach route towards Warsaw from the southwest. The German OKH conceived a double envelopment of the Polish Army which was to be carried by two strong Army Groups that were to trap the Polish armies in western Poland. In this pincer movement the southern arm was to be launched from the Silesian-Polish border northeastward and was to join the northern arm east of Warsaw. The German Tenth Army was to carry the main thrust. It struck out in the direction of Warsaw with the largest concentration of armor. Tenth Army’s strongest element was Erich Hoepner’s XVI Armeekorps (mot.).

The 4th Panzer-Division
General Georg-Hans Reinhardt
2. General Georg-Hans Reinhardt

XVI Armeekorps (mot.) contained two panzer divisions, the 1st and the 4th, and two infantry divisions. The 4th Panzer-Division was commanded by Generalmajor Georg-Hans Reinhardt. The Division Ia was Major (i.G.) Freiherr von Schleinitz. The main elements of the Division were:
  • the 5th Panzer-Brigade, CO: Generalmajor Max von Hartlieb
  • the 35th Panzer-Regiment, CO: Oberst Heinrich Eberbach
  • the 36th Panzer-Regiment, CO: Oberstleutnant Hermann Breith.
  • the 12th Rifle regiment, CO: Oberst Konrad von Czettritz und Neuhauẞ
  • the 103rd Artillery Regiment, CO: Oberst Kempny
  • the 7th Reconnaissance Battalion, CO: Major Marzahn
  • the 49th Antitank Battalion, CO: Major Wedra
  • the 3rd Co/79th Engineer Battalion
  • the 79th Signal Battalion, CO: Major Loibl

The Division’s tank strength was:
  • Panzer I tanks: 183
  • Panzer II tanks: 130
  • Panzer IV tanks: 12
  • Command tanks: 16
The “Wołyńska” Cavalry Brigade

The Brigade was commanded by Colonel Julian Filipowicz and was part of Piotrków Operational Group, under Army “Łódź”, in central Poland. The main elements of the Brigade were:
  • the 12th, 19th, 21st Uhlan Regiments (of battalion size)
  • the 2nd Mounted Rifle Regiment (of battalion size)
  • the 11th Rifle Battalion
  • the 4th Battalion of the 84th Infantry Regiment
  • the 21st Armored Battalion (8 X wz.34 armored cars, 13 X TKS tankettes), CO: Major Stanislaw Glinski
  • the 2nd Mounted Artillery Battalion
The anti-tank capability of the Brigade came from the use of:
  • 18 Armata przeciwpancerna wz.36 anti-tank guns (Polish manufactured Bofors 37mm)
  • 60 “kb ppanc wz.35” anti-tank rifles (7.9mm)
  • 16  wz.1902/26 75mm guns (Russian 3-inch guns modified to fire 75mm shells)

Polish 37mm A/T gun during training
3. Polish 37mm A/T gun during training.

The Brigade was placed between the 30th and the 7th Infantry Divisions and had the mission to maintain contact with them. Moreover, the Brigade was supported by the armored train “Smialy”.

The Battle

Mokra battle 06:30 – 08:30 hrs

06:30 – 08:30 hrs. Motorcycle squads made contact with 4/84 Infantry Battalion in the south and the 19th Uhlans in the north. A force of 25 tanks of 36th Panzer-Regiment advanced as far as Wilkowiecko, but was repulsed by antitank fire from 37mm A/T guns.

Mokra battle 10:00-11:00 hrs

10:00 – 11:00 hrs. In the north the 19th Uhlans withdrew to a wooded area, pressed by German tanks. The 12th Uhlans were sent to reinforce them. The Germans outflanked the 19th Uhlans and forced them to retreat behind the railway line. In the center the 36th Panzer-Regiment tried to penetrate into Mokra and mounted an attack with tanks only. The attack was broken up by artillery fire and fire from “Smialy”. Later on the attack was renewed with infantry support but fared no better. Part of the 12th Uhlans was sent to reinforce the positions of the 21st Uhlans. In the south the 4/84 Inf. Btn. was attacked by German infantry and withdrew. The Brigade Commander ordered the 2nd Mounted Rifle Regiment to counterattack.

Mokra battle 12:00-16:00 hrs

12:00-16:00 hrs. The 36th Panzer-Regiment launched a full scale attack and reached the village of Mokra. The 21st Uhlans retreated to the railway line. As the German tanks were advancing further they received direct fire from the 2nd Mounted Artillery Battalion, and many were lost. The German force withdrew and repeated its attack at 15:00 hrs. The situation turned critical for the Poles, although they had destroyed many enemy tanks. The 2nd Mounted Rifle Regiment and the 21st Armored Battalion were ordered to counterattack. In the north the position of the 19th Uhlans was endangered when German tanks started crossing the railway line at Izbiska, but the timely arrival of “Smialy” repulsed them. “Smially” was hit by Stukas but was not destroyed. After receiving heavy tank losses the 4th Panzer-Division withdrew to its jump off positions at Wilkowiecko. Only 12. Infanterie-Regiment (mot.) remained close to the railway line. To the south of the 4th Panzer the 1st Panzer-Division took Klobuck and outflanked the Mokra position. Cavalry Brigade “Wołyńska” withdrew during the night.

Armored train “Smialy”
7. The armored train “Smialy”.

In this early stage of the war there were signs of nervousness, confusion and poor coordination with the accompanying infantry amongst the panzer divisions. Panzer-Division “Kempf”, of Army Group North, also failed in its first attack. There was no previous experience of massed tank operations and the new ideas needed some time to mature. However, such initial shortcomings were quickly overcome and the panzer divisions played the decisive role in the Campaign.

Polish reenactment of the Battle

Monument to the soldiers of the “Wołyńska” Cavalry Brigade
8. Monument to the soldiers of the “Wołyńska” Cavalry Brigade at Mokra.

Bibliography & internet sources
Jentz, Thomas L. Panzertruppen vol. 1. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 1996.
Mitcham, Jr., Samuel W. The Panzer Legions. 2000. Reprint. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2007.
Zaloga, Steven J. Poland 1939 The Birth of Blitzkrieg. Oxford: Osprey, 2002.

Photos attribution
2. Bundesarchiv/CC-BY-SA-3.0-de, via Wikimedia Commons
3. “Armata przeciwpancerna wz.36” z 1977, via Wikimedia Commons
4., 5., 6., operational details: author
7. Wikimedia Commons
8. Jose Luigi, via Wikimedia Commons

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