I ate my wafer...


Manipulation of the Media, Polish Weapons, and the Post Office

So, I've sort of acquired a reputation as a cynical and skeptical jackass for relentlessly demanding sources and good statistically valid evidence. When I was home for thanksgiving, I realized a bit of a background how I got to that point might be interesting.

When I was very young, my parents subscribed to the local papers, both the weekly one that covered my hometown news (Montpelier), and the area-wide daily based in Bryan, OH. There's been a long running local political battle over what share of the state library funding should be distributed to Montpelier which is independent of the county-wide library system based in Bryan.

Now, from reading the daily paper, both my parents and I were pretty much convinced that the Montpelier Library was unreasonable, and probably should get less money. At the time, I was devouring the excellent military history section at the Bryan Library, and had pretty much exhausted the Montpelier library.

As it turned out in fine small town journalistic tradition, the publisher of the daily newspaper, who also controlled the printing of the weekly newspaper was a board member of the Bryan Library, and was printing a pretty biased version of the Library funding issue. I've never really trusted the media since discovering the truth on this issue.

Now, what the heck does this have to do with Polish weapons? Well, one of the military history books that I had checked out from the Bryan Library was a decent overview of the various foreign manufactured weapons that the Wehrmacht used during the Second World War. Following a change in directors at the Bryan library, this book, along with ~75% of the military history books were surplussed and removed from circulation. At the time, the newspaper published articles champaign the thinning of the History section as a great move on part of the new director, and the fact that most of the space freed up was used for trashy harlequin romances was completely whitewashed.

I can't figure out exactly what the title of the book in question is, but I'd love to look at a copy of it again. It had brief descriptions of each captured weapon the Germans used, its German nomenclature, and what they used it for. At the time, I was mostly fascinated by the weapons involved, and thought the German naming scheme that used a letter to indicate national origin was pretty cool. (b for British, p for polish, etc).

Anyway, one of the reasons that the book was interesting is that it showed what an amazing job the Poles had done in the 1930's to modernize their weapons and prepare for an inevitable war with the Germans. The Poles had developed one of the world's best anti-tank rifles, a close copy of the Kar98, a modern pistol, and a much improved version of the U.S. Browning Automatic Rifle. Much as the Finns adapted 7.62x54R anticipating the use of Russian supplies, the Poles adopted 7.92x57mm and 9x19mm weapons anticipating the use of German weapons. The Polish light weapons were arguably superior to their German counterparts in all respects, and eagerly adopted by the Germans.

Most overviews of the Second World War don't give the Poles enough credit (which ties in with my distrust of unsubstantiated media reporting), and gloss over the excellent defensive actions at Modlin and Warsaw. Probably the most overlooked small unit action is the battle for the Danzig post office, where ~50 civilian employees fought off the German SS, supported by armor for fourteen hours. After fighting to a standstill, the Germans eventually flooded the post office basement with gasoline and burned a substantial number of the remaining defenders alive, then executed those who surrendered, which is a pretty good reason to never laugh at polish jokes. I doubt that the fine employees of my local USPS post office could fight off the SS for a day with a handful of light weapons.


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