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Photo: Wojna obronna Polski 1939, KAW 1979.

Poland 1939 - The Diary of Luftwaffe Atrocities.

Written by Dariusz Tyminski and Grzegorz Slizewski .

Painted on a German Ju 52 airframe: "People, fuel, bombs or bread - we're carrying Poland's death." The Blitzkrieg of September 1st, 1939 clearly showed this was not an idle propaganda slogan...
Unlike the myths fostered in popular accounts of World War I, not all fighter pilots in World War II were "honorable Knights of the Air". Among the many reasons were human nature, pilots' discipline or lack thereof, and the "detachment" of mechanized war. Pilots of powerful aircraft were in a sense removed from seeing an enemy pilot being sawed in half by large caliber slugs or exploding cannon rounds. Bomber pilots could rarely see or know of the carnage they created when payloads hit targets.

It is well documented that some Allied pilots and even some aces shot at Axis pilots hanging in their parachutes, even as the Axis pilots shot at defenseless Allies. Some Polish pilots looked for cruel revenge after September 1939. The pilot of Pursuit Brigade (123. Eskadra), Corporal Eugeniusz Nowakiewicz battled in the French campaign of 1940 in with the Polish section of Groupe de Chasse II/7, led by Lt. Wladyslaw Goettel. On 4 June 1940, in Besancou area, Nowakiewicz succesfully attacked an He 111 and after crash landing he shot at the surviving German crew. On 15 June 1940, in Caumont-Toinville area, Nowakiewicz again got an enemy bomber, an Do 17 this time. Two German airmen bailed out, but the Polish fighter pilot killed one of them in the air, and the other second was 'shared' with French pilots after the crewman got to the ground.

In a later instance, an American Ninth Air Force ace of Polish ancestry shot an Me 262 Luftwaffe ace after destroying his jet. When the U.S. airman landed, he had his crew chief destroy the gun camera film. In a debriefing, the Squadron commander asked why the pilot (whose family had been killed by Germans) did what he did. The pilot explained that these were experten , the cream of the Luftwaffe crop. And if they were not killed, they'd simply reappear the very next day in another fighter, to kill more U. S. airmen.

The tone for total war against defenseless civilians and military personnel was set early... (Preface and English translating by John Crump - thanks!)
1 September 1939, 4:50 - 5:30 a.m., Wielun city. On this morning, despite the complete lack of military installations in the city, and with the nearest Polish troops of the 28th Infantry Division situated southwest of Wielun, German bombers of I./KG76 (4. Luftflotte), commanded by Oblt. Walter Sigel, brutally bombed the center of the city. And, after releasing their bombs, Luftwaffe pilots shot at panicked, escaping civilians. Three waves of bombers, totalling 120 aircraft took part in the attack, dropping more than 70 tons of bombs. The effect of the raid was the killing of more than 1200 civilians, the injuring of thousands more (the city's population was about 16,000 people), and the destruction of about 70% of the city's buildings.

There are those who argue that members of the Luftwaffe held to a professional military code heralding back to the "Knights of the Air" of World War I. Yet, any such argument contradicts the experiences of several Polish fighter pilots, whose personal accounts are written here.

As one example, on 1 September 1939, in the Modlin area, about 16:30 , pilots of the Polish Pursuit Brigade encountered a group of forty German bombers escorted by twenty Bf 109 and Bf 110 fighters. During combat, Lt. Aleksander Gabszewicz was forced to bail out of his aircraft. While hanging in his parachute, Gabszewicz was shot at by a Bf 110. Second Lt. Tadeusz Sawicz, who was flying nearby, attacked the German plane and another Polish pilot, Wladyslaw Kiedrzynski spiraled around the defenseless Gabszewicz until he reached the ground.

In the same battle, pilots of 123. Fighter Eskadrille, flying obsolete PZL P.7a fighters, were surprised by Bf 110's of I/LG1 (commander Maj. Grabmann was wounded in a morning fight, so the unit was led this time by Hauptmann Schleif). Cpt. Mieczyslaw Olszewski, 123's commander, was quickly shot down and killed, his P.7 crashing near Legionow. Three other pilots shot down, bailed out and parachuted: Sec.Lt. Stanislaw Czternastek, Sec.Lt. Feliks Szyszka and cadet Antoni Danek. Only Czternastek safely reached the ground : Szyszka and Danek were attacked in the air. Strafed by a German fighter, Danek got down without injury. Szyszka wasn't so lucky, suffering 16 wounds. He was transported by civilians to a hospital. During that combat on 1 September 1939, I.(Z)/LG 1 escorted the He 111s of KG 27 and LG 1 against the airport of Warsaw. The Bf 110s claimed 5 PZL-fighters shot down - 3 by Hauptmann Fritz Schleif, one each by Unteroffizier Sturm and Unteroffizier Lauffs. More details about this combat you can discover in 1 September 1939 over Warsaw - The first air battle of WW2 story.

2 September 1939, about 16:00, Lodz area. Eight PZL fighters of III/6 Squadron clashed with 23 Bf 110's of I./ZG76. In the battle, Sec.Lt. Jan Dzwonek was shot down. Hanging in his parachute, he was attacked twice by a Bf 110. Apparently, the Luftwaffe pilot was so busy attacking the defenseless Dzwonek, that Corporal Jan Malinowski, flying an obsolete P.7 fighter, downed the German plane without any problem. See details in the story: Jan Dzwonek - within an ace of death.

3 September 1939, about 10:00 six PZL P-11c of 112. Eskadra Mysliwska (Fighter Eskadrille), leaded by commander of III/1 Dywizjon (Squadron) Cpt. Zdzislaw Krasnodebski took off against German Bf 110 fighters. In hard combat over Wyszkow city, Krasnodebski was forced to bail out. The German pilot who shot him down, aimed to finish his victim, shooting at Krasnodebski while he slowly glided down in his parachute. But Lt. Arsen Cebrzynski saw this deadly pass and the Luftwaffe pilot soon became a victim. Leutnant Barents, a veteran of "Legion Condor", bailed out safely, and became a POW.

This same day, 3 September 1939, 26th Obserwation Escadrille was evacuated from Malachowo to Balice airfield. Corporal Franciszek Ciepinski, flying an unarmed RWD-8 over Wisla river, was attacked by three Bf 109s. He managed to crash-land the damaged plane on the bank river, climbed out of the cockpit, yet still found himself to be a target. The Germans wanted more than an aerial victory and began hunting the pilot in strafing passes. Before Ciepinski could reach the safety of the forest, he had been hit in one leg.

6 September 1939, afternoon. A lone PZL P.23 "Karas" of the 34. Reconn Escadrille took off on patrol, in the area of Warta-Sieradz-Zdunska Wola. The crewman were: Lt. Edmund Gorecki (observer), Corporal Marian Pingot (pilot) and Corporal Jan Wilkowski (gunner). During their way back from the mission, over the village of Borecznia near Kolo city, they flew at 1500 meters altitude. Suddenly they were attacked by four Bf 109's. The "Karas" caught fire. Corporal Pingot was killed in the plane, but Lt. Gorecki continued to fly until he was down to 1000 meters. When he bailed out "Messers" shot and killed him in the air. Corporal Wilkowski witnessed this act, and because he bailed at the last moment, at only 300 meters, he injured his legs.

11 September 1939. The 53rd Observer Escadrille moved from Kaluszyn area to Brzesc, over the Bug river. In formation flew two "Czapla" and a single RWD-8 aircraft. About five kilometers west of Biala Podlaska the three planes were attacked by Luftwaffe twin-engined planes. The RWD-8 was downed and its crew, Sec.Lt. Stanislaw Hudowicz and Sec.Lt. Oskar Sobol were killed. One "Czapla" aircraft, piloted by Lt. Stanislaw Waszkiewicz was forced to land and here he was twice bombed(!) and strafed by machine gun fire.

13 September 1939, the town of Frampol , with a population of 3000, and without military or industrial targets, nor any Polish Army defenders, was practically annihiliated by Luftwaffe bombing practice. In the opinion of Luftwaffe analyst Harry Hohnewald: "Frampol was chosen as an experimental object, because test bombers, flying at low speed, weren't endangered by AA fire. Also, the centrally placed town hall was an ideal orientation point for the crews. We watched possibility of orientation after visible signs, and also the size of village, what guranteed that bombs neverthless fall down on Frampol. From one side it should make easier the note of probe, from second side it should confirm the efficiency of used bombs." (after Wolfgang Schreyer's book "Eyes on the sky.")
Small city Frampol before (left) and after (right) the Luftwaffe test bomb attack. The photos are probably from Luftwaffe documentation resources.

Frampol city before/after.

Photo: Wojna obronna Polski 1939, KAW 1979.


1998.08.08, WW II Ace Stories.