Poland's major weakness, however, was its lack of a modernized military. In the 1920s, Poland had had the world's first all-metal air force, but had since fallen behind other powers. Poland was a poor, agrarian nation without significant industry. While Polish weapons design was often equal or superior to German and Soviet design, it simply lacked the capacity to produce equipment in the needed quantities. One example was the P-37 Łos bomber, which at start of the war was the world's best medium bomber. Another example was the "Ur" anti-tank rifle which was the first weapon to use tungsten-core ammunition.
To motorize a single division to German standards would have required use of all the civilian cars and trucks in the country. This occurred despite heroic efforts by Polish society to create a modern military which included fundraising among civilians and the Polish communities in the USA to buy modern equipment. As a percentage of GNP, Polish defense spending in the 1930s was second in Europe, behind the Soviet Union but ahead of Germany. Yet, in real dollar terms, the budget of the Luftwaffe alone in 1939 was ten times greater than the entire Polish defense budget. Yet even this did not give the full picture, since the Polish defense budget included money to upgrade roads and bridges and to build arms factories.
Poland's strategic position in 1939 was weak, but not hopeless. German control over Slovakia added significantly to Poland's already overly long frontier. German forces could attack Poland from virtually any direction.
Since Britain and France had given Germany a freehand in annexing Czechoslovakia, some people of Central and Eastern Europe placed a distrust on the democratic nations of Western Europe. They used the word "betrayal" to describe their western allies who failed to fulfill their treaty responsibilities to stand by the countries they swore to protect. Britain and France's lack of initial response to the German invasion convinced them that their western allies had indeed betrayed them.
- Germany quits the League of Nations.
Throughout the first two and half weeks of September 1939, Germany threw its entire air force, all of panzer forces, and all of its frontline infantry and artillery against Poland. Its border with France was held by a relatively thin force of second and third string divisions. The French army, from its secure base behind the Maginot Line, had overwhelming superiority in men, tanks, aircraft, and artillery. A concerted push into western Germany would have been a disaster for Hitler. Yet the French stood aside and did nothing. The British were equally inactive, sending their bombers to drop propaganda leaflets over a few German cities. Had the Allies acted, the bloodiest and most terrible war in human history could have been averted.
Canaris was a German patriot and a man of character.
By the middle of September, Polish losses had been severe and the German advance had captured half of the country. The high command's fateful decision to leave Warsaw had resulted in more than a week of confusion, rescued only by the courage of Army Poznań's doomed counterattack. By the middle of September, however, Polish defenses were stiffening. Local commanders and army-level generals now directed defenses around the key bastions of Warsaw, the Seacoast, and Lwow. German losses began to rise (reaching their peak during the third week of the campaign). Small Polish units isolated by the rapid advance regrouped and struck at vulnerable rear-area forces.
German intelligence during the War was nothing short of a disaster.
The fast German advance took little account of Army Poznań under the command of Gen. Kutrzeba which had been bypassed on the Nazis' quick drive toward Warsaw. On September 8-9, Army Poznań counterattacked from the north against the flank of the German forces moving on Warsaw. The Nazi advance halted in the face of the initial Polish success on the River Bzura. The Nazis' superiority in tanks and aircraft, however, allowed them to regroup and stop Army Poznań's southward push. The counterattack turned into a battle of encirclement. Although some forces managed to escape to Warsaw, by September 13, the Battle of Bzura was over and Polish forces destroyed. The delay, however, had allowed Warsaw to marshal its defenses, turning the perimeter of the city into a series of makeshift forts. In the south, German forces had captured Kraków early in the campaign but their advance slowed down as they approached Lwow. The defenders of Westerplatte had surrendered after seven days of fighting against overwhelming odds, but the city of Gdynia and the Hel Peninsula still held as Polish coastal batteries kept German warships at bay.