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Post-war reverberations from the deployment of Slovak state pilots in the Polish campaign

Author : 🕔13.03.2011 📕35.011
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Establishment of the Slovak Air Force

In the 1930s, the Czechoslovak Air Force had a total of six air regiments, of which the 1st, 2nd and 3rd were mixed, the 4th Fighter and the 5th and 6th Bomber. The 3rd Air Regiment of General-Airman Milan Rastislav Štefánik was deployed on the territory of Slovakia. The headquarters was located in Piešťany and the last First Republic commander was the Czech Air Force Colonel Gustav Studený . The Slovak Air Force after March 14, 1939 was logically created on the basis of the 3rd Air Regiment. He was subsequently subordinated directly to the Slovak Ministry of National Defense, headed until 1944 by Lieutenant Colonel General Staff ( later General ) Ferdinand Čatloš . The new commander of the regiment became a Slovak, Major Karol Sojček .


Starting Ju 87B Stuka are heading over Poland. During the Polish conflict, Slovak fighters accompanied these German dive bombers in particular.

Almost 300 military aircraft remained on Slovak territory or were later delivered from the Protectorate. However, most of them were hopelessly obsolete at this time. The only combat-ready machines were, in fact, only the fighter Avia B-534 and observation Flight Š-328 , which could also act as light bombers. The Slovaks had 71 fighters at their disposal. These were 60 standard Avia B-534 and 11 Avia type Bk-534, which already carried cannon armament. There were 73 pieces of Š-328 flights in the Slovak Air Force. Furthermore, Slovak pilots had 14 Aero A-100 reconnaissance aircraft. Heavy bombers were represented by only one machine Bloch MB-200 , Fokker F-VII . The only modern machine in the armament of the Slovak Air Force was the only Avia B-71 , which was a licensed Soviet Tupolev SB-2 .

Conflict with Hungary

The commander of the Air Force became a well-known pre-war Slovak pilot and acrobat Lt. Col. Ján Ambruš . At that time, the Slovak Air Force was struggling mainly with the lack of pilots and the obsolescence of the air fleet. Despite this handicap, his men had to take part in the so-called Little War. So the March conflict with Hungary. In March 1939, the 45th and 49th Fighter Squadrons with approximately twenty Avia B-534 fighters were deployed in Spišská Nová Ves. The first was commanded by Lieutenant Ján Svetlík , the second by Lieutenant Ján Prháček . Furthermore, in the Ves placed 12th observation squadron (Lt. Francis Wagner), which, after it has been incorporated into the 13th observation squadron, had in its state of about twenty machines Letov S-328 and Aero AP-32 . However, due to the departure of Czech pilots to the Protectorate, these squadrons had an average number of only 6 pilots. For this reason, they were quickly replenished from the 15th observation squadron from Žilina and pilots and aircraft from the 37th, 38th and 39th.fighter squadrons from Piešťany under the command of Ondrej Ďumbala.


Letov Š-328, one of the key aircraft of the Slovak Air Force in its initial phase

Shortly after the establishment of the Slovak state, on March 23, 1939, Tiso signed the so-called Protection Treaty with Hitler in Vienna. Unexpectedly for its ratification, the Wehrmacht occupied the so-called Schutz zone in western Slovakia and occupied all local military facilities. Among them was the airport in Žilina, where the 15th observation squadron and the Malacky-Nový Dvor air shooting range were deployed. At both bases, about 40 military aircraft were confiscated for the Luftwaffe. On the same day, Slovak pilots underwent a baptism of war.

The conflict ended at the end of March 1939. Slovak pilots lost 12 machines and seven pilots. Among them were both commanders of the 45th and 49th Fighter Squadrons. Germany intervened against the action, which took place without his consecration, forcing both sides to declare an armistice and to sign a peace treaty on March 31, 1939. She legalized the Hungarian occupation. A total of 110 km 2 with 79 villages, with a predominantly Slovak population, became part of it. The total Hungarian losses in Subcarpathian Russia and Eastern Slovakia amounted to 72 casualties, 144 wounded and 3 missing. The officially announced losses of Slovakia amounted to " only " 22 casualties.

Invasion of Poland

Before the Slovak army managed to consolidate properly, it soon took part in another conflict. The Slovak state participated in the invasion of Poland as the only German ally. The reason for the intervention was the Polish participation in the Pomnich division of Czechoslovakia, when the Poles occupied a large part of the Těšín region, parts of Opava, Spiš, Kysúc and Šariš. However, the fact that some Polish politicians supported Hungary's efforts for a common border also played a role. In other words, the Hungarian annexation of the whole of Slovakia. After the end of secret negotiations, at the end of July 1939 the Slovak government provided the German army with its communication network, including selected airports located near the Polish border.


Rudolf Galbavý as a lieutenant colonel in the Czechoslovak army

By the end of August 1939, eight years of the advance had been mobilized in Slovakia. The mobilization did not go smoothly. By September 9, only 68,658 men out of a total of 133,140 were called to join the units. The Slovak sector was part of a section of the German Army Group " South ", or its 14th Army under the command of Colonel General Wilhelm List . The Slovaks were to cover the eastern wing of the 14th Army, and further prevent the possible penetration of Poles into Slovakia. The Polish army did not miss these preparations. Therefore, she placed the army group " Carpathians " at the border. It consisted mainly of poorly armed infantry units, which had only countless artillery at their disposal. The " Air Force " of the " Carpathian " army numbered only 16 reconnaissance and observation machines.

On September 1, 1939 at 5:00 an attack was launched. In fact, the Slovak villages occupied by the Poles after Munich were occupied without resistance. Some Slovak troops advanced 60 to 90 km into the Polish hinterland, getting into skirmishes with retreating Polish soldiers. The fighting claimed 18 dead, 46 wounded, and 11 missing Slovak soldiers. Hitler sent a telegram of thanks to Tis and awarded the Slovaks three Iron Crosses.

Slovak pilots in the Polish conflict The Slovak air force actively participated in the Polish campaign with three squadrons. This group received the code name " Lily ". These were the 39th and 45th.fighter squadron ( later 13th Squadron under the command of Lieutenant Ondrej Ďumbala ) armed with about twenty Aviemi B-534 and 16th Observation Squadron armed with ten Letov Š-328. Slovak aircraft conducted reconnaissance flights over the front, bombed roads in the Polish rear, scattered leaflets and provided courier service. Although the Slovak Fighter Air Force was also to provide background protection against Polish aircraft, in the first days of the war, flights of Polish observation aircraft over Slovak territory were common.


Michal Danác as captain of the Czechoslovak army

Fighter Avia taking off from the field airport Kamenica nad Cirom was accompanied by German Junkers Ju 87, which operated from Vinná near Michalovce. During about eight raids on southern Poland, the Slovaks lost two machines. Sergeant Viliam Grúň was shot down and captured on September 9 during the Stuk attack on the Drogobyč and Stryj railway stations. In the end, he managed to break back to the advanced Slovak lines during dramatic events. The second Avia was lost the same day when Corporal Viliam Jaloviar died with her while landing near Prešov.

Slovak pilots achieved a single air victory. According to Slovak authors, this happened on September 6 near Prešov, when a three-member swarm shot down a Polish reconnaissance aircraft. One of the winners was to be Corporal Jaloviar. According to Czech authors, it was Sergeant Grúň who shot down a Polish reconnaissance aircraft Lublin R-XIII near Prešov.

Post-war reverberations of the deployment of Slovak pilots in the Polish conflict

The deployment of Slovak pilots in the Polish campaign had its completion three years after the end of the war. In January 1948, the General Staff of the Ministry of National Defense launched an investigation into whether they were Slovak pilots who bombed the Polish village of Hluboczek Wielki near Tarnopol on September 15 and 17, 1939, where the Legion of Czechs and Slovaks, who took part in on air defense. At the beginning of January 1948, a protocol was written in Bratislava with the Air Force Major Rudolf Galbavý . He stated that the task of Slovak fighters was only to accompany the German Stuks attacking Polish positions. At that time, all Slovak aircraft were marked with the Slovak coat of arms. However, he considered it impossible for Slovak fighter squadrons number 39 and 45 to participate in the bombing in the area of Hluboczek near Tarnopole. The radius of action of Avia was limited to 1 hour and 15 minutes at a speed of 250 km / h. Galbavy added that if he remembers well, these Avia did not even have accessories for carrying bombs. Avia could carry 6 pieces of 10kg or 4 pieces of 20kg bombs. The armament consisted of four synchronized machine guns caliber 7.92 mm with 250 rounds per weapon.


Lieutenant Ludovít Jasik, who as a member of the 39th Squadron completed six actions over Poland

Air Force Staff Captain Štefan Píša, who took part in the rank of sergeant of the Polish battlefield as part of the 45th Squadron, said that in September 1939 he carried out about four operations aimed at accompanying Stuka. However, Slovak fighter pilots did not have bombs with them during any of these events. Also, the 39th Squadron was not to be armed with bombs. His other statement seems a bit insincere: " I have never even heard of Slovak planes bombing anything. I also didn't see German planes bombing anything. Sometimes we didn't even see the German planes we were accompanying. I've never heard anything about the bombing of Hluboczek Wielki. Our flights went to the area of Drohobycz, Stanislawów and towards Stryja. Píša further stated that his squadron had a total of 9 Avia B-543 aircraft, whose radius of action lasted a maximum of 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours at a speed of 250 km / h.

Staff Captain Viliam Grúň also served in the incriminated period at 45.squadron in Kamenice nad Cirokou. As a fighter pilot, he participated in six accompanying events of German dive bombers. Attacks by German aircraft were directed to the area of Sambor-Drohobycz. During these years, Slovak fighters only had ammunition for their onboard weapons. However, they never carried bombs with them. According to Grúňi, there should never have been any clashes with Polish aircraft or ground defenses during the operations. Slovak fighters allegedly operated at an altitude of 3,000 to 4,000 m, with the Avia B-534's approach being 10,600 meters and never to attack ground targets. It sounds a bit spicy when we know that Grúň was shot down by Polish fire from the ground.


Rudolf Galbavý as a member of the Slovak Air Force with war decorations for his successful work in the Polish and Soviet campaigns

According to Grúň, the radius of action was a maximum of two and a half hours of flight at a speed of 240 to 330 km / h, an hour and a half. The maximum speed of the Avia B-534 was 380 to 390 km / h. Staff Captain Grúň further stated that it was not possible to operate further than 200 km over enemy territory, unless the pilot wanted to risk not returning to the base. The maximum range of the Avia B-534 was 600 km. Grúň ruled out the possibility that some Slovak aircraft operating from Kamenica nad Cirom airport would bomb the Tarnopol - Hluboczek Wielki area. According to him, this was not possible with regard to the radius of action of Avia.

However, investigators came to the conclusion that the 45th and 39th Fighter Squadrons, and the 16th Observation Squadron, respectively, could take part in the attack on the Legion of Czechs and Slovaks, which was located on 15 September 1939 near the village of Hluboczek Wielki near Tarnopol. The direct distance from the airport Kamenica - Tarnopol was approximately 270 km. From the airport Spišská Nová Ves it was about 375 km by air to Tarnopol. Investigators also found staffing of air units that participated in the Polish campaign. In the 39th Squadron served at that time: Commander Major Vladimír Kačka, Sergeant Grúň, Lieutenant Goralík, Sergeant Šáři, Company Matúšek, Company Mrákava, Sergeant Jasik. Personnel of the 45th Squadron: Commander Major Ďumbala, Thurs. Danác, čet. Fic, rtm. He writes, chat. Setvák, lieutenant colonel. Hergot. Staff 16th Observation Squadron: Commander Maj. It confused ( only until September 1, 1939 ), then a few days Capt. Expected and finally Maj. Wagner. Allocation: Galbavý, Kolembus, Kováč, Gurský, Výrostko and Koreň.


Witnesses state that they were attacked in Hluboczko by Wielki Dorniery Do 17, who was incriminated on September 15, 1939.

Interrogations of Slovak fighters continued. At the end of February 1948, Capt. flight. Michal Danác, who served in the 45th Squadron during the Polish campaign. Like his colleagues, he stated that the maximum flight time was around two hours. At the same time, however, he added that the fighter Avia were armed not only with machine guns, but also hinges for attaching bombs. His squadron accompanied Stuky starting over Polish territory from the Slovak Michalovce. The order for operations was issued by the Germans. Slovak pilots flew in groups of three or six machines. However, Danac, who allegedly performed only one operational flight, doubted that Avia would carry a bomb load at some events. He also doubted that their Avia could fly to Tarnopol and back. At the end of the report, he stated that the insignia on the planes bore a blue cross with a red circle, all in a white field. The characters were therefore similar to the German ones.

Reserve Lieutenant Ján Hergot was interrogated on March 9, 1948. He repeated much of what his colleagues from the 45th Squadron had told investigators. He stated that he had participated in five operations.According to him, it was completely out of the question for their Avia to fly to Tarnopol, adding: " From my experience I know a case where I achieved maximum performance by flying for two hours at a cruising speed of 220 km / h, so I flew about 440 km , but I landed with the tanks completely empty. We operated flights from Kamenice from one hour to an hour and fifteen minutes at most. It is possible that the observers may have been wrong between the Slovak and German aircraft, as they had the same cross markings, but in different colors. "


Fighter Avia B-534 formed for a long time the backbone of the Slovak Air Force

Lt. He expressed the same opinion. flight. Ludovít Jasik, who as a member of the 39th Squadron completed six actions over Poland. The task of his squadron was, in addition to Stuk, to accompany the Slovak Flight Š-328, which operated from Spišská Nová Ves. Jasik stated that he had never heard of the Slovak Letovs ever bombing Polish territory. Their cruising speed was 180 km / h, the flight time reached 4 hours, so they could not reach Tarnopol, as they had a base in Spišská Nová Ves. It must be emphasized that Jasik was a bit misty at this point.

The cruising speed of Flight Š-328 was not 180 km / h, but 250 km / h. The maximum speed was then 328 km / h. The range was a full 1280 km. From Spišská Nová Ves to Tarnopol it is about 300 km as the crow flies. There and back it would be about 600 km, which Letov Š-328 would safely manage. This machine could also carry up to 500 kg of bombs. According to Jasik, Czechoslovak members of the Legion, staying on September 15, 1939 in Hluboczek Wielki, were to confuse Slovak aircraft with German ones, whose designation was similar.

Other Slovak pilots who took part in the Polish campaign also testified in the same way. After the interrogations, the General Staff of the Ministry of National Defense gave a similar assessment of the investigation to the Minister of National Defense, General Ludvík Svoboda, from which no further instructions were given on how to proceed in this case. So the case was empty.

It is possible that the whole investigation was set in motion thanks to Svoboda himself. In his recently published diary from the time of weighing gether s to 17 September 1939 he stated: "The German aircraft (9) bomb Hluboczek Wielki. Two civilians killed, several wounded; lightly wounded 2 soldiers from the group. German aircraft had Polish characters. "It is possible that an erroneous transcription occurred during the preparation of the issue, when Ludvík Svoboda stated that the German aircraft had Slovak characters. Otherwise, his information would lack logic. Why would German planes bear Polish characters? It was the Slovak characters that were similar to the German ones.

Other authors state that on September 17, the Slovak fighters were actually accompanied by German bombers heading for the airport near Tarnopol, whose anti-aircraft defense was in charge of the Czechoslovaks. As the Red Army crossed the eastern Polish border that day, the raid was prematurely terminated so that German aircraft would not come into contact with the Soviet ones. There should have been no clash of Slovak and Czechoslovak soldiers in Poland.


Heinkel He 111 . It is probable that it was this type of German bomber that attacked the Legion on September 15, 1939

The fact that two Czechoslovak soldiers died in Hluboczek Wielki contributed to the post-war investigation into the incident. However, as the witness of those days stated, German, not Slovak, pilots were responsible for their deaths: “ In the morning of September 15, Hluboczek Wielki was attacked by three Dorniers. From the station of my PL platoon on the hill south of the village and the track, it was clear that the station building itself and our empty train on the siding were not damaged. The bombs hit a large warehouse of railway sleepers in front of the station.Their stacks were scattered in the air like chips and matches. The machine gun PL platoon on the opposite slope above the village suffered its first losses. Sergeant Sergeant JUDr. Grünbaum, a sympathetic slender boy, was mortally wounded by shrapnel in the abdomen, and even the immediate help and improvised surgery of our doctors (MD Mahler, MUDr. Kodíček, MUDr. Blitz) did not save him. Freelancer Josef Peipler died after being injured and transported to Tarnopol Hospital. Lieutenant Otto Procházka was slightly injured by shrapnel in the calf. "

Already on September 18, 1939, members of the Legion were captured in Podhájky by the Red Army. It remains to add that during the defense of Tarnopol, respectively Hluboczek Wielki station, they shot down two German planes.


Army General Lev Prchala , commander of the Legion of Czechs and Slovaks in Poland

That incriminated on September 15, 1939 it was most likely II. group of bombing squadron KG 55 , which with its seven Heinkel He 111 machines bombed around noon targets in the Tarnopol area. However, if someone does not discover the operational documents of the Slovak Air Force from September 1939, we will not be able to make a definitive end to the whole matter.

Published with the kind permission of the author.
Published in the magazine Fakta a svědectví 7/2010 published by Naše Vojsko

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Author : 🕔13.03.2011 📕35.011