Operation Battle of Osuchy

The 'Battle of Osuchy' was one of the largest engagements between the Germans and the Polish resistance in occupied Poland, and was part of the 'Zamość Uprising' (25/26 June 1944).

The battle took place near the village of Osuchy in the Solska Forest during the German 'Sturmwind II', and ended with the defeat of the local resistance forces, which suffered heavy losses.

The German oppression of Poland since 1942, within the context of the 'Generalplan Ost', in the Zamość region in occupied Poland had led to the appearance of large numbers of active resistance units. Polish partisans of the Armia Krajowa, Bataliony Chłopskie and Armia Ludowa, with the support of some Soviet partisan groups, made the region almost ungovernable by the Germans. The German garrison in the key town of Biłgoraj was mostly cut off from overland communication with other forces, and the town of Józefów was under resistance control, as too were many villages and wilderness regions. German lines of communication vital to the existence of the German forces on the Eastern Front were threatened, and many German troops had to be diverted from the front to deal with the resistance and partisan elements.

The Germans carried out a major security operation early in June as 'Sturmwind I', but this undertaking failed to defeat the resistance partisan groups, which broke out of an encirclement in the Janów Forests: according to some estimates, the Germans suffered higher casualties than the resistance groups in 'Sturmwind I'. Some partisan units moved to the Solska Forest and the Germans decided to launch another operation as 'Sturmwind II' in a renewed effort to destroy them. By 15 June most of the forest was surrounded by German troops. The resistance and partisan leaders believed that the Germans would not enter the forest region, but were proved wrong on 21 June, when an artillery barrage and air bombardment prefaced the start of a German advance into the forested area.

On 22 June the Armia Ludowa unit, numbering about 700 men, broke through the German lines in the area of the village of Górecko Kościelne, suffering heavy casualties. Soviet partisans under the command of Podpolkovnik Nikolai Prokopiuk and totalling some 1,900 persons, tried to break free on the night of 22/23 June in the area round the village of Hamernia: the partisans initially failed, but then succeeded during the following night in the area near the villages of Borowiec and Huta Różaniecka. Although Polish and Soviet commanders met, they were unable to agree on a common plan. By then only the combined Armia Krajowa and Bataliony Chłopskie units under Major Edward Markiewicz ('Kalina'), numbering about 550 people, remained within the closing circle. The partisans were exhausted, and were driven into a swampy area of 3.75 by 2.5 miles (6 by 4 km) between the Tanew and Sopot rivers. Markiewicz, suffering from a nervous breakdown, transferred his command to Rotmistrz Mieczysław Rakoczy ('Miecz'), and committed suicide. Rakoczy in turn transferred command to Porucznik Konrad Bartoszewski ('Wir'), who decided that the partisans' only hope was to break through along the Sopot river toward Biłgoraj.

The German losses in the two 'Sturmwind' operations amounted to about 1,300 men killed and about the same number of wounded, while the resistance and partisan groups losses were similar.

The German forces were drawn from Generalleutnant Alfred Thielmann’s 154th Reserve-Division, Generalleutnant Friedrich-Georg Eberhardt’s 174th Reserve-Division and Generalleutnant Alex Göschen’s 213th Sicherungsdivision as well as some smaller units, and air support was provided by Generaloberst Otto Dessloch’s Luftflotte IV.

On the night of 24/25 June, the Armia Krajowa units of Porucznik Jan Kryk ('Topola') and the Bataliony Chłopskie units of Porucznik Jozef Mazur ('Skrzypik') attempted to break through the road near the villages Fryszarka and Borowiec, but were stopped by the German forces and dispersed. Both Polish commanders died.

In the meantime, the main resistance and partisan forces reached the village of Osuchy near the Sopot river. At dawn on 25 June they launched an assault on the German line. The Germans had fortified their position, however, and the partisans of Major Stanisław Basaj ('Ryś') encountered a minefield. The Poles found themselves under German machine gun fire, soob supplemented by artillery support. Finding themselves outgunned, the partisans retreated, suffering heavy casualties. The partisan unit under Porucznik Jan Kędra ('Błyskawica') and Porucznik Antoni Wróbel ('Burza') managed to break through the first German line, only to encounter a second one 330 yards (300 m) beyond it. The most elite of the Polish units, the company of Porucznik Adam Haniewicz ('Woyna'), broke through the second line, but was stopped at a third line. Running out of men and supplies, the partisans were forced to retreat, and were further pushed back by a German counterattack. The unit of Porucznik Józef Stegliński ('Cord') broke through all three lines but was then engaged and destroyed by German reinforcements. The unit of Porucznik Konrad Bartoszewski ('Wir'), which was fighting nearby, did succeed in breaking cleanly out of the German encirclement in the confusion of the battle. The remaining Polish units were forced back into the encirclement, and eventually all these partisans surrendered or were killed.

It is estimated that about 400 out of the 1,200-strong resistance and partisan forces which engaged the Germans on 24/25 June were killed. Most of the rest surrendered, and some of these were executed on the spot, while many others were tortured for additional information about the resistance; survivors were sent to concentration camps. Nonetheless, while the Germans had weakened the partisans, they had failed to eliminate them. In July the Polish resistance carried out the country-wide 'Burza', and in the Zamość region the town of Szczebrzeszyn and Zamość were freed by the partisans. Soon afterward, the Soviet forces 'Lublin-Brest Offensive Operation' cleared the Germans from most of the region.