Home Army, Armia Krajowa (AK), Armed Forces for Poland (Siły Zbrojne w Kraju, SZK), cryptonym: Polski Związek Powstańczy (Polish Uprising Association, PZP), a conspiratory pro-independence military organisation, part of the Polish Armed Forces operating in the period of the Second World War in the country, subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief and the Polish government-in-exile. In 1944, it was officially recognised by the Western Allies (the United States and the United Kingdom) as an integral part of the Polish Armed Forces (PSZ). It was established on 14 February 1942, when the Union of Armed Struggle, created on 13 November 1939 in Paris, was renamed to Home Army. The task of the AK army was to rebuild the Polish state by means of armed struggle.
A nationwide uprising was supposed to be its culmination. The Army was headed by a commander (commander of the Armed Forces for Poland). This function was exercised successively by: General S. Rowecki (“Grot” until 30 June 1943), Genera; T. Komorowski (“Bór” until October 1944; on 5 October, captured by Germans), General L. Okulicki (“Niedźwiadek”, from October 1944). Its deputy commanders, and heads of the HQ staff at the same time, were successively: Genera; T. Pełczyński (“Grzegorz”), Colonel J. Bokszczanin (“Sęk”). The command authority of the Army commander was its HQ staff which consisted of:
- Oddział I Organizacji (its heads, successively: Colonel A. Sanojca “Kortum”, Lieutenant Colonel F. Kamiński “Zenon”),
- Oddział II Informacyjno-Wywiadowczy (its heads, successively: Lieutenant Colonel W. Berka “Brodowicz”, Lieutenant Colonel M. Drobik “Dzięcioł”, Colonel K. Iranek-Osmecki “Heller”, Lieutenant Colonel B. Zieliński “Tytus”),
- Oddział III Operacyjny (its heads, successively: General S. Tatar “Erazm”, Colonel J. Szostak “Filip”, Mayor-Lieutenant Colonel J. Kamieński “Cozas”),
- Oddział IV Kwatermistrzowski (its heads, successively: Colonel A. Świtalski “Dąbrowa”, Colonel K. Iranek-Osmecki “Antoni”, Mayor-Lieutenant Colonel A. Waluś “Kornel”),
- Oddział V Dowodzenia i Łączności (its head: Colonel K. Pluta-Czachowski “Kuczaba”), from which the following were derived: Wydział V–K Łączności Konspiracyjnej (heads, successively: Mayor J. Karasiówna “Bronka”, Captain J. Piwońska “Henryka”) and
- Wydział V–O Łączności Operacyjnej (heads, successively: Colonel Pluta-Czachowski, Mayor S. Jodłowski “Grabowski”),
- Oddział VI BIP (heads, successively: Colonel J. Rzepecki “Prezes”, Captain K. Moczarski “Grawer”), Oddział VII Biuro Finansów i Kontroli (heads, successively: Colonel S. Thun “Leszcz”, Mayor J. Michalewski “Jerzy”, Mayor-Lieutenant Colonel E. Lubowicki “Seweryn”), the Directorate for Subversion Kedyw (Colonel A.E. Fieldorf “Nil”, Lieutenant Colonel J. Mazurkiewicz “Radosław”),
- Szefostwo Biur Wojskowych (Lieutenant Colonel L. Muzyczka “Benedykt”),
- Szefostwo Służby Sprawiedliwości (Colonel W. Szulborski “Mora”),
- Szefostwo Służby Duszpasterskiej (priests: Colonel T. Jachimowski “Budwicz”, Colonel J. Sienkiewicz “Juraha”),
- Szefostwo Wojskowej Służby Kobiet (Lieutenant Colonel M. Wittekówna “Mira”),
- Szefostwo Lotnictwa. The exact staff consisted of: the first deputy chief of staff and operation chief (General Tatar, Colonel Bokszczanin, General Okulicki), chief of the 4th Division acting at the same time as the second deputy chief of staff, chief of the 5th Division acting at the same time as a chief of the command staff as well as a chief of the 1st Division, i.e. a deputy chief of the organisation staff.
The AK territorial structure was based on the pre-war administrative division; the area included several voivodeships, province — voivodeship, district — county, station — one or more communes. At the end of 1943, 4 areas and 8 districts were directly subordinated to the HQ of the Home Army:
- Area I (Warsaw), headed by Colonel (from August 1942, General) A. Skroczyński (“Łaszcz”), comprising the following sub-areas: the Easrern — Colonel H. Suszczyński (“Szeliga”), the Western — Lieutenant Colonel F. Jacheć (“Roman”) and Mazovia — Lieutenant Colonel T. Tabaczyński (“Mazur”);
- Area II (Białystok), headed by Commandant Colonel E. Godlewski (“Izabelka”), comprising the following districts: Białystok — Colonel W. Linarski (“Mścisław”), Navahrudak— Lieutenant Colonel J. Szlaski (“Prawdzic”) and Polesie — Lieutenant Colonel S. Dobrski (“Majster”);
- Area III (Lviv), headed by Commandant Colonel W. Filipkowski (“Janka”), comprising the following districts: Lviv — Colonel S. Czerwiński (“Stefan”), Ternipil — Mayor B. Zawadzki (“Soroka”) and Stanyslaviv — Captain W. Herman (“Globus”);
- Area IV (West), headed by Colonel S. Grodzki (“Sadowski”, “Zamek”), comprising the following districts: Poznań — Colonel H. Kowalówka (“Dziedzic”) and Pomerania — Colonel J. Pałubicki (“Janusz”);
independent districts: Warsaw-City — Colonel A. Chruściel (“Monter”), Kielce — Colonel S. Dworzak (“Daniel”), Łódź — Colonel M. Stempkowski (“Barbara”), Cracow — Colonel J. Spychalski (“Luty”), Silesia — Colonel Z. Janke (“Walter”), Lublin — Colonel K. Tumidajski (“Marcin”), Vilnius — Lieutenant Colonel A. Krzyżanowski (“Wilk”) and Volhynia — Lieutenant Colonel J.W. Kiwerski (“Oliwa”). The Army was also comprised of a division in Hungary — Oddział AK Węgry (Lieutenant Colonel J. Korkozowicz “Barski” from mid-1943) and the Samodzielny Wydział ds. Kraju Sztabu Naczelnego Wodza (the so-called Oddział VI — Lieutenant Colonel M. Protasewicz “Rawa”). The Army had an organisational network in German POW and concentration camps (such as Auschwitz). An area or a province was headed by a commandant and his staff, subordinate to the AK Commander.
Provinces were divided into districts which at the beginning of 1944 amounted to 278. Sometimes, a sub-district was an intermediate link. For the purposes of the planned uprising, several districts were commonly combined into zonal inspectorates which at the beginning of 1944 amounted to 87 (the inspectorates were also involved in organisational tasks and the supervision of current battles). Districts were divided into zones (sub-districts), comprising parts of given counties.
Record fighting units of the Army were full (35–50 people) and skeleton platoons (16–25 people; they became full ones at the time when a state of alertness to start an uprising was declared). In February 1944, the Home Army (according to record data) had 6287 full platoons and 2613 skeleton platoons. In 1944, it exceeded 300,000 people. From 1943, companies and battalions (such as “Baszta” or “Zośka”) were formed in guerrilla branches and units subordinate to the HQ. In 1944, depending on needs, larger units were created: regiments, brigades, divisions as well as regimental and divisional groups (e.g. the Home Army Corps in Kielce). Substantial dynamism in organizational growth between 1941 and 1943 was achieved, i.a., due to the so-called consolidation action which was carried out from the beginning. Its aim was to achieve a complete consolidation of the whole armed conspiracy within the Army.
Between 1940 and 1944, several dozens of conspiracy organisations were subordinated to the Union of Armed Struggle ZWZ-AK (i.a. Muszkieterowie, Organizacja Orła Białego, Konfederacja Zbrojna, parts of Komenda Obrońców Polski, Polska Niepodległa, Unia). From among the military organisations created by the Polish Socialist Party PPS (Gwardia Ludowa WRN), the People’s Party SL (Bataliony Chłopskie) and the National Party SN (Narodowa Organizacja Wojskowa and Narodowe Siły Zbrojne, NSZ – National Armed Forces), only the PPS-WRN management unreservedly subordinated its combat troops to the Union of Armed Struggle.
Most controversies aroused from the signing of an agreement (7 March 1944) with the National Armed Forces. The massiness of organisation and the consolidation action resulted in the fact that the Army, as a nationwide underground army, was not politically homogeneous, which was reflected in its social structure and that people with different political views served in its ranks. This diversity was evident among both ranks and files of the Army, as well as officers.
The general plan of action of the Army foresaw three phases: conspiracy, general uprising (taken at the time of a victorious offensive of the Western Allies) and recreation of the country’s armed forces. In the first phase, the main emphasis was put on training, information and propaganda. The plans for a general uprising, developed at the turn of 1940 and 1941, as well as in 1942, despite expecting different operational variants, were called into question when it was certain that the Red Army will be the first to reach the Polish territories. Therefore, in 1943, an alternative plan of action under the cryptonym “Tempest” was developed and a separated network (1944) was created, which as the “NIE” organisation had to take action after the occupation of the Polish territories by the Soviet Army.
The Polish strategic objectives and the Home Army’s plans, although taking into account the politico-military changes after the USSR entry into the war in the composition of the anti-Hitler coalition, differed from the actual Polish possibilities of recovering a sovereign, territorially intact, Polish state, which was primarily the result of hostile attitude of the USSR to restore the independent and territorially intact Republic of Poland. The concept of a universal uprising as the main purpose which the Home Army sought, defined the framework, scope and size of the undertaken initiatives. It ordered frugal management of human resources (so destroyed by the Germans), i.e. — not to bleed them out in actions of little importance for the course of the war (with the exception of self-defence and attacks on the enemy’s terror apparatus), and to preserve them up to the general decisive attack in the final phase of the war.
Sabotage-diversionary activities were conducted from the spring of 1940 by the Union of Retaliation which constituted a stand-alone department on the level of HQ and district commands. In autumn 1941, it was set about building the vertical organisational “Wachlarz” sector which undertook subversive activities in the base of the Eastern Front. At the turn of 1942 and 1943, the Directorate for Diversion (Kedyw) was established, the core of which became the Union of Retaliation, “Wachlarz”, Storm Groups and Combat Schools of the Grey Ranks. Operations within the ongoing sabotage-diversionary and revenge, and later guerrilla, action was supported outside by the Kierownictwo Walki Konspiracyjnej which after merging in mid-1943 with the Kierownictwo Walki Cywilnej transformed into the Kierownictwo Walki Podziemnej.
The Home Army had a highly developed and efficient department of propaganda and publications, led by the Bureau of Information and Propaganda (BIP). The BIP activities headed toward the consolidation of the Polish society and the ranks of its own organisation on the basis of the Polish war objectives formulated by the Polish government and the politico-military objectives of the Home Army. The basic instrument of propaganda was press which was mostly printed by the Secret Military Publishing House. The central bodies of the Home Army were, i.a., “Biuletyn Informacyjny”, “Wiadomości Polskie”, “Insurekcja”, “Żołnierz Polski”, “Agencja Prasowa”. In total, the Union of Armed Struggle ZWZ-AK published more than 250 titles of conspiratory journals, and the one-time circulation of the press exceed 200,000 copies.
Specific forms of propaganda were the psychological diversion among Germans, the so-called operation “N”, as well as the anti-communist propaganda campaign (operation “K”) and the participation in the work of the Anti-communist Social Committee. The work of the military intelligence of the Home Army was at high level. The long-range intelligence was conducted by the so-called central intelligence network, directly subordinate to the 2nd HQ Unit of the Home Army. Its operations were supported by terrain intelligence networks of individual districts. The biggest successes of the Home Army intelligence include: the recognition of the German preparations to invade the USSR, the acquisition and transmission of information to the Allies about the German work on the V-weapons in the area of Peenemünde, the acquisition of an entire bullet and the transfer of its part to Great Britain (Operation “Most” III), the recognition of the German synthetic petrol production centres, which contributed to their destruction. Between April and July 1941, the Home Army’s intelligence passed information directly to the Soviet side.
Plans for a general uprising and tasks resulting from it were decisive in establishing two specialised sectors within the Home Army which were supposed to conduct protective (Służba Ochrony Powstania, then Wojskowa Służba Ochrony Powstania) and administrative tasks (Biura Wojskowe Armii Krajowej). These initiatives caused numerous discussions and allegations among political parties grouped in the Political Consultative Committee. They found that these initiatives could serve other, non-military objectives of the Home Army.
The basic core of the commanding staff of the Home Army constituted officer cadets and non-commissioned officers (95,000, in a total of 106,000 of the second staff 1944). Among the officers reserve officers dominated, especially in the field cells. Officers trained in Great Britain and redeployed via air to the country (Cichociemni) constituted an essential complement of the commanding staff. The country’s primary source of complement were trainings (Zastępcze Kursy) at the Szkoła Podchorążych Rezerwy and Szkoła Podoficerów Piechoty from which 8,547 cadets graduated between 1942 and 1944. Regardless of this, specialised training was organised for current needs and needs of the future insurgent fight.
The Home Army carried out conspiratory production of weapons and military equipment. In August 1942, various initiatives were centralised, establishing the KG Kierownictwo Produkcji Konspiracyjnej. Serial productions of: two types of machine guns (sten, błyskawica), two types of grenades (filipinka, sidolówka), explosives (cheddite and ammonite) and boosters (mercury fulminate and tetryl), flamethrowers and sabotage-diversionary equipment (anti-tyre spikes, incendiaries, detonators, mines). To a larger extent, communication equipment was also produced. The underground production meet the needs of the Home Army to a minimal extent. Allied airdrops constituted an important addition to weapons and equipment – between February 1941 and December 1944 (excluding the Warsaw Uprising in 1944), 10,200 pieces of machine-gun ammunition out of 8.12 million, 1,300 LMGs out of 3.99 million pieces of ammunitions, 575 PIATs with 9,100 bullets, 230 carbines, 68,900 grenades, 40 tonnes of plastic were sent to the country via air. More than one third of the sent materials did not reach the Home Army.
In late February 1944, the Home Army had more than 53,000 weapons, 30% of which constituted short firearms. From the spring of 1943, the Home Army within the Directorate for Diversion began to form guerrilla units, e.g., in 1943 the Cracow district — 9, Navahrudak — 8. At the turn of 1943 and 1944, the Home Army had approximately 60 guerrilla units, 21 diversionary branches and 195 diversionary squads. A significant increase in the number of partisan occurred in 1944, when the Home Army started to create larger units within the Operation “Tempest”. The diversionary and guerrilla branches of the Home Army carried out a number of military and sabotage actions and, such as: blowing up tracks around Warsaw (“Wieniec”), the simultaneous intersection of the railway line in the Rzeszów region (“Jula”), attacks on German watchtowers (“Taśma”).
At the turn of 1942 and 1943, the Home Army’s troops took the fight to defend the population of the pacified Zamość region, and on the Eastern lands to defend the population against Ukrainian nationalists (Przebraże, Huta Stepańska). A lot of actions was carried out on prisons and arrests, those arrested at, i.a., the Warsaw Arsenal and Celestynów were rescued from prisons in Biłgoraj, Siedlce, Jasło, Kalwaria, Kielce, Końskie, Mielec, Opatów and Pinsk.
As part of retaliatory operations, attacks on the leading representatives of the occupational forces were carried out, i.a. on F. Kutschera, F.W. Krüger, W. Kopp. Bombings in the Reich and expropriation actions (“Góral” operation) were also conducted. Initially, the operation were camouflaged. From 1943, they were signed with the Fighting Poland’s anchor and by publishing messages in the underground press. The Home Army also helped the Jewish conspiracy, supplying it with, i.a., fighting means.
According to incomplete data, the Home Army’s soldiers between January 1941 and June 1944 derailed 732 trains, blew up 38 bridges, damaged 28 aircrafts, more than 6,900 locomotives and more than 19,000 wagons; more than 4,300 cars were destroyed or damaged, 130 military stores were burnt down and 443 trains set on fire; more than 5,700 attacks on Germans and Volksdeutsche were carried out. Over 25,000 sabotage operations were conducted. Production was temporarily suspended in 7 factories and 2,872 important machines in factories were damaged.
Nearly 100,000 aircraft engine parts, barrel guns, artillery bullets and air radios were defectively made. Between January 1943 and June 1944, 169 battles were fought, in which 945 Germans were killed; 16 prisons were crashed and more than 200 agents were eliminated. The losses incurred in the course of operations between March 1941 and February 1944 amounted to more than 34,000 people (according to incomplete data), including 1.800 people from the HQ of the Home Army.
At the end of 1943, the general uprising plan was replaced by the Operation “Tempest” that the Home Army started to implement in the spring and summer of 1944. Large units were formed. They were given names of regiments, brigades and divisions of the Polish Army from before 1939. They took part in the battles against the Germans on immediate hinterland of the front, i.a., in Volhynia – the 27th Volhynian Infantry Division of the Home Army, in Polesie – the 30th infantry division of the Home Army, in the Vilnius and Navahrudak regions – Vilnius brigades of the Home Army and the Navahrudak grouping (“Gate of Dawn”), in the Lublin region – the 3rd and the 9th infantry divisions, in the Eastern area of the Warsaw district – the 8th infantry division, in the Kielce region – the 2nd and the 7th infantry divisions which fought against German forces until late autumn of 1944 (Przysucha forests, Republic of Pińczów, Diabla Góra and in many places). In late July 1944, the command of the Home Army decided to include Warsaw to the Operation “Tempest”. On 31 July, the commander of the Home Army General T. Komorowski ordered to start military operations on 1 August in the capital city (the Warsaw Uprising of 1944). The action to seize the city ended in failure and the uprising fell on 2 October 1944.
The collapse of the uprising led to disruption in the command of the Home Army and despondency in its ranks. The HQ, reconstituted by General L. Okulicki, started to work in October 1944. On 19 January 1945, the Home Army was disbanded under the command of its leader. Part of the Home Army’s soldiers remained in the conspiracy, i.a. because of fear of being arrested by the Soviet military authorities or security organs (NKVD), as members of the organisation combated by the Polish Communists and the Soviet security authorities (it is estimated that until December 1944 in the areas of so-called Lublin Poland about 30,000 Home Army’s soldiers were arrested). Some of the former AK soldiers remained in guerrilla. For some time, it fought against the communist regime by force of arms and was mainly against the apparatus of terror and the Polish Workers’ Party. In the People’s Republic of Poland (especially until 1956), many former AK soldiers were systematically persecuted and discriminated in various ways by the communist authorities (i.a. secret murders, death sentences, imprisonment, removal from work or inability to obtain it), which was abandoned after 1956.
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The content of this entry has been prepared on the basis of the source materials of the Polish Scientific Publishers PWN.