<b>Wersja Polska</b>

General Jozef Pilsudzki

Polish General Józef Piłsudski, Marshal of Poland from March 1920

Marshal of Poland Edward Rydz-Śmigły

Polish General Edward Rydz-Śmigły, Marshal of Poland from 11 November 1936

Polish General Jozef Haller

Polish General Józef Haller

Polish General Władysław Sikorski

Polish General Władysław Sikorski

The Magdeburg Sting 1936

Polish military leaders during Polish-Bolshevik War

Polska Organizacja Wojskowa (POW, Polish for Polish Military Organization) was a secret military union created by Józef Piłsudski in November of 1914, during the WW I.

The PMO was founded in November of 1914 as a merger of two previously-existing youth para-military organizations: the Drużyny Strzeleckie and the Związek Strzelecki. Active in the Russian-held Kingdom of Poland, the PMO served as the intelligence and sabotage arm of Piłsudski's Polish Legions. In fact, many members of the illegal and secret PMO were at the same time soldiers of the Austrian-backed Polish Legions. The PMO was commanded militarily by Piłsudski himself, while the political command was a secret "A" Convent headed by Jedrzej Moraczewski.

Initially active only in Central Poland, with time the PMO units were formed in all parts of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, including modern day Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. It was mainly preoccupied with intelligence and sabotage, as well as military training of its members and acquisition of arms from various armies fighting on Polish soil. The PMO members were seen as the core of the future Polish Army after Poland regains her independence. After most of Poland became occupied by the Central Powers in 1915, the PMO became semi-legal and unofficially supported by the German army, which saw it as a useful source of information on Russia and a useful reservoir of skilled officers. However, in July of 1917, after the Oath Crisis in the Polish Legions and the arrest of Piłsudski, the PMO returned to the underground and started covert operations against German and Austrian garrisons and supply lines. In place of Piłsudski, who was sent to a German prison in the fortress in Magdeburg, the commander of the PMO became his friend, Edward Rydz-Śmigły, also future Marshal of Poland.

With the collapse of the Central Powers during the final stages of the Great War, the PMO command decided to take an active part in the war and the organization went out in the open. In October and November of 1918 the revolutions in Germany and Austria-Hungary made the Ober Ost army collapse. The German units were struck by mass desertions of soldiers who simply left their posts and headed for their homes. The main tasks of the PMO during this period was to disarm the withdrawing soldiers and escort them to Germany. The campaign was successful and gave the new-born Polish state a large quantity of arms and military equipment. By mid-November, most of garrisons in Galicia surrendered to PMO members and the region became controlled by Poland. The PMO members continued the disarming actions in the former Congress Kingdom as well. Finally, the PMO was the core of Polish defenses of the city of Lwów in the Battle of Lwów against the attacking forces of the Western Ukrainian People's Republic (roughly 400 members in the initial phase of the struggle). In December of 1918, the members of the PMO were all conscripted into the newly-reborn Polish Army.

Contrary to the rest of units, the PMO in the Ukraine (most notably the areas controlled by both the Western Ukrainian government and the areas controlled by the Kyiv-based Directorate and Hetmanate) remained active until the Polish withdrawal from Kyiv in July of 1920. In February of 1918, a similar organization was formed in the German-held Greater Poland. It was modeled after the original PMO and maintained contacts with her predecessor. It assumed the name of Polish Military Organization of the Prussian Partition and its main aim was to liberate the region and attach it to Poland. The members of the PMO became the core of the Greater Polish Army during the Greater Poland Uprising of 1918-1919. After the uprising was won, the PMO members were also drafted into the Polish Army, together with other military units fighting in the Uprising. In February of 1919, the PMO was also formed in Upper Silesia. It had similar tasks to its Greater Polish counterpart and became the core of the Silesian Uprisings of 1919-1921. Afterward the members of the PMO members were either demobilized or integrated into the Polish Army.

Edward Rydz-Śmigły (March 11, 1886 - December 2, 1941); nom-de-guerre Smigły, Tarłowski, Adam Zawisza was a Polish politician, an officer of the Polish Army, painter and poet. After many successes as an army commander during the Polish-Bolshevik War, Rydz succeeded Józef Piłsudski as the Marshal of Poland (from 11 November 1936) and Commander-in-Chief of the Polish armed forces. He served in that post during the Polish Defense War of 1939, which was the first stage of the Second World War.

Edward Rydz was born in the village of Lapszyn near Brzelany, Tarnopol Voivodship, Galicia. He was the son of a professional NCO in the Austro-Hungarian Army, Tomasz Rydz, and Maria Babiak. The family endured rather humble circumstances and he was orphaned at the age of 13 years. He was then raised by his maternal grandparents and, after their deaths, by the family of Dr. Uranowicz, the town physician at Brzelany. After graduating with distinction at the local Gymnasium Rydz went to Kraków where he completed studies in philosophy and history of art at the Jagiellonian University. He then studied to be a painter at the arts academy (Akademia Sztuk Pieknych) in Kraków, and later in Vienna and Munich. In 1910-1911 he attended the reserve officers' academy in Vienna and received military training at the famous Austrian 4th Infantry Regiment "Deutschmeister" (so called after Archduke Eugene, a cousin of Emperor Francis Joseph I, who was Grand Master of the Teutonic Order).

He finished his military education with distinction and was offered a commission in the Imperial Army, which he declined. In 1912, Rydz was one of the founders of the Polish paramilitary organization Riflemen's Association (Związek Strzelecki). At the same time he completed his art studies; he was regarded as a very promising talent in landscape and portrait painting and praised by his professors and critics, who foresaw a great future for him.

Drafted into the Austrian army in July 1914, Rydz was transferred in August to the Polish Legions and fought in the famous Polish 1st Brigade of Józef Piłsudski. He took part in many battles against the Russians in the region of Southern Vistula and rose quickly in rank. By 1916, he was already a full colonel. However he did not forget his art and exhibited his work at a gallery in Kraków. In 1917, after refusing to swear an oath to the Austrian and German authorities, the Polish Legions were disbanded, their soldiers interned and their leader - Józef Piłsudski - imprisoned in Magdeburg fortress. (1) By Józef Piłsudski's appointment, Rydz (who escaped prison on the grounds of bad health) became commander of Polish Military Organization (POW) and adopted the nom-de-guerre Śmigły (Fast or Agile), which he later added as an integral part to his surname. In October 1918, Rydz entered the socialist government of Ignacy Daszyński in Lublin as Minister of War. Having been promoted brigadier general (one-star general in the Polish system), he emphasized that he had accepted the office as a deputy of Józef Piłsudski. At this time, he began using the double-barreled name of Rydz-Śmigły. On November 11, 1918, the Government relinquished all power to Jozef Piłsudski, who became Provisional Head of State. After some hesitation, Piłsudski confirmed him as a brigadier.

During the Polish-Bolshevik War of the years (1919 - 1921), Rydz commanded Polish armies in several offensives. Among victorious engagements, he captured Wilno and Dünaburg. After that he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of Latvian armed forces and liberated Livonia from Red Army oppression. Subsequently he achieved complete annihilation of the Red Army's 12th Division and took Kiev. He then commanded the Central Front of Polish forces during the famous Battle of Warsaw, known as the Miracle on the Vistula. In this decisive battle, Polish commander Jozef Piłsudski outwitted the Soviet commanders Leon Trotsky, Mikhail Tukhachevski, Semyon Budienny, Gayk Bzhishkyan and Jozef Stalin. Rydz-Śmigły's Central Front held against the Soviet attack and later blocked the escape routes for the defeated Soviet 4th and 15th Armies of Soviet general Mikhail Tukhachevski and the 3rd Cavalry Corps of Soviet general Gayk Gayk Bzhishkyan, which had to fly ingloriously to East Prussia, where they were interned by the Germans.

After the 1919-21 war, he was appointed the Inspector-General of the Polish Army in the Vilno district and later in Warsaw. In 1926, during Piłsudski's coup d'état (the May Coup), he took the Marshal's side and sent troops from Vilno to reinforce anti-government troops in Warsaw. Piłsudski never forgot this fidelity and in 1929 Rydz was appointed as the Marshal's deputy on all matters concerning the East. On May 13, 1935, in accordance with the last wishes of Józef Piłsudski, Rydz was nominated by the president and the government of Poland to serve in the capacity of the Inspector-General of the Polish Armed Forces and on November 10, 1936, he was elevated to the rank of Marshal of Poland. As such he reversed his name and called himself from now on Śmigły-Rydz.

He was now one of the most powerful people in Poland and was awarded the title of "Second Man in the State after the President". The government became increasingly authoritarian and conservative, though Śmigły-Rydz's power was balanced by the more moderate Ignacy Mościcki, who remained President. After 1938 he reconciled himself with the President, but the rulers were henceforth divided into the "President's Men" (or "Castle Group") - most of them civilians, and the "Marshal's Men" who were mostly old companions of Jósef Piłsudski and professional officers.


Order of the White Eagle, Commander and Knight of Virtuti Militari, Grand Cross, Grand Officer and Officer of Order of Polonia Restituta, four times Cross of the Valiant, Golden Cross of Merit (Złoty Krzyż Zasługi), and Cross of Independence with Swords. Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania, Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy, Grand Cross, Grand Officer and Commander of the French Order of Legion d'Honeur, Grand Officer of the Finnish Order of the White Rose, Grand Cross of the Order of the White Eagle (Yugoslavia) and Order of Saint Sava of Yugoslavia, Grand Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit, Grand Cross of the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun, Knight of Latvia's highest military award, Lacplesis Order, (the Order of the Bearslayer), Pulaski Medal (USA) and Italian Cross of Military Merit.

Honorary Titles

Rydz was Honorary Doctor of the Universities of Warsaw and Vilno and Warsaw Polytechnic and Honorary Citizen of various Polish cities.

General Józef Haller (1873-1960), right-wing politician. He studied in Vienna at the Technical Military Academy, subsequently serving with the Austrian Army. In 1916, during the First World War, he became the commander of the Second Brigade of the Polish Legion.

In 1918, in the aftermath of the "Charge of Rarancza," as commander of the Polish Auxiliary Corps with the Austrian Army, he crossed over to the Russian side. Subsequently, he arrived in France, where on behalf of the Polish National Committee, and on the side of France, he created what was known as "the Blue Army." As commander, in 1919, he arrived in the homeland on the Ukrainian front.


Knight of Virtuti Militari, French Military Cross with Palm, Commander of the Legion d'Honeur, Bravery Cross (4 times), Grand Officer of the Crown of Italy, Knight of the White Eagle, etc.

In 1920, he seized Gdańsk in the name of Poland, and during the Polish-bolshevik War he commanded the army of volunteers. He was also the Inspector General of the Army and a member of the War Council.

During 1920-1927, he was a Member of Parliament (Seym). He attacked Jozef Piłsudski in an aggressive manner. After the election of Gabriel Narutowicz as President of the Republic, hostile dispositions were developed against him. After the May Coup of 1926, he was ordered into retirement. He co-organized the opposition party, the so called "Morges Front," and also in 1937 created the Labor Party.
By the September campaigns (the Polish Defense War of 1939.) he lived abroad. During 1940-1943 he was the Minister of Education in the exiled government of Władysław Sikorski.

General Jozef Haller's Army, or the Blue Army, were informal names for the Polish Army formed in France during the later stages of World War I. The army was created in June of 1917 as part of the Polish units allied to the Entente. After the Great War ended, the units were transferred to Poland, where they took part in the Polish-Ukrainian War and the Polish-Bolshevik War. The earlier name comes from the French blue uniforms worn by the soldiers, while the latter was coined after the army's commander, General Józef Haller de Hallenburg.

The first units started to be formed after the 1917 alliance signed between the president of France Raymond Poincaré and the Polish statesman and renowned pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski. The recruits for the new unit came from all over the world. The main bulk of the recruits were Poles serving in the French army and former prisoners of war of the German and Austro-Hungarian armies (approximately 35 000 men). Additional 22 000 were Polish Americans. Another notable source of recruits was the former Russian Expeditionary Corps in France and the Polish diaspora in Brazil (more than 300 men).

The army was initially under French political control and military command of General Louis Archinard. However, on February 23, 1918, the political sovereignty was granted to the Polish National Committee and soon other Polish units were formed, most notably the 4th and 5th Rifle Divisions in Russia. On September 28, it signed an alliance with the Entente, which accepted the Polish units in France as the only, independent, allied and co-belligerent Polish Army. On October 4, 1918, the National Committee appointed General Józef Haller de Hallenburg as the new commander.

The first unit to enter combat on the Western Front was the 1st Rifle Regiment (1 pułk strzelców), fighting from July 1918 in Champagne and the Vosges mountains. By October, the entire 1st Rifle Division joined the fight in the area of Rambervillers and Raon-l'Étape. The Great War ended on November 11, 1918, but the army continued to gather new recruits, many of them from among ethnic Poles who, while serving in the Austrian army, had been taken prisoners by the Allies. In early 1919, it already had 68 500 soldiers, fully-equipped by the French government and highly-trained. Between April and June of that year, it was transported to newly-reborn Poland through the port of the Polish city of Gdańsk (Danzig), together with all the heavy equipment. Immediately after its arrival, the army was transported to the fronts of the Polish-Ukrainian War for the control over eastern Galicia. Its elements fought bravely in eastern Lesser Poland and in Volhynia, and the arrival of the Haller's army allowed the Poles to repel the Ukrainians and establish a demarcation line at the river Zbruch.

In July of 1919, the Blue Army was transferred to the border with Germany, where it prepared defenses against possible German invasion. Finally, in September of that year, it was completely incorporated into the Polish Army. The well-trained and highly-motivated troops of the Blue Army, as well as their airplanes and excellent FT-17 tanks formed the core of the Polish forces.

(1) - The imprisonment of Józef Piłsudski in Magdeburg fortress during I WW was later, in 1936, a significant reason why representatives of "Marshal's Men" were invited to Magdeburg for the meeting.

This document is not copyrighted.

BACK TO: cavalry