Service in the country
After the quality of the documents held by the paratroopers was checked, and everything was in order, they were directed to special locations and points, most often in Warsaw. After settling all the administrative formalities, they were gradually introduced to the brutal realities of the occupation y by passing in the ”acclimatization” process lasting from two to six weeks. This task rested on the women from the „Import” section „Ewa-Pers” commonly called „aunts”. Their task was to prepare the paratroopers for service in the occupied country for situations Cichociemni knew only the t courses taken abroad. „Aunts” had their hands full, even if they did not take care of any paratrooper at the moment. The time between the discharges was spent on many tasks, including organizing new premises, checking old ones, preparing equipment for future mentees, etc. They were also in constant contact with the head of „Import” and with the head of the „Ptaszki U” (Birds U) unit of KG Branch I, to which they gradually handed over the paratroopers.
„Aunts” and their cell had at their disposal three types of premises: contact, often called London, for „birds” (Cichociemni) coming to the capital from outposts, cantonments, where the paratroopers underwent acclimatization and a few contact points for a meeting or picking up the mail. Premises could not stand out, the hosts mostly lonely people and the apartment itself had to be easy to find and located in a busy place, so that a new person did not arise the curiosity of the neighbors. An indispensable element of the equipment there was a telephone, used to inform the host by means of secret passwords about the arrival of the Cichociemni. There were a dozen or so of such „auntie” places over 4 years. The manager of „Ewa” got to know the newcomers „birds” and informed the commander of the team about who had arrived (the pseudonym, military rank, type of weapon). The newcomers were checked for carrying any items that could reveal their origin. The personal weapon was hidden in caches and kept until Cichociemny became independent. Then a paratrooper was escorted by an „aunt” to the cantonment. „Aunts” also exchanged the paratroopers currency for certain sums in the occupation currency, helped in getting new lodging, in completing underwear, towels, handkerchiefs and other items that were needed by Cichociemni for everyday functioning. At the cantonment the „aunt” together with the hosts helped to create an Armia Krajowa (AK) paratrooper legend, an identity in force during his whole stay at the place. After a few days of staying, Cichociemny started taking walks with the „aunt”, during which he learned a new reality, an occupational language, and got used to the sight of German patrols on the streets. In time, the „aunt” visited the paratrooper less and less often, until the moment in which he gained full independence and was ready to serve in the country.
Depending on his skills and current needs of the AK, a paratrooper was assigned to the appropriate service. It is impossible to list all of the examples, but it is worth mentioning some of them. 27 Cichociemni were assigned to the „Wachlarz” (Fan) started in September 1941. It was a separate subversive and intelligence organization of the Union of Armed Struggle (ZWZ), then of the Home Army (AK), created in connection with the outbreak of the German-Soviet war. The purpose of the organization was to conduct subversive actions on the supply routes of the German army fighting in the USSR and to organize a cover for a widespread uprising planned in the Polish lands against Germans withdrawing from the Eastern Front and the Red Army troops following them. The „Wachlarz” (”Fan”) action zone covered the USSR areas east of the pre-war border of the Second Polish Republic, from the Baltic Sea to Kiev and Podole. The realization of the „Wachlarz” members’ tasks was held in extremely difficult conditions. Polish communities east of Bug river, already exterminated and dispersed by Soviet occupants in 1939-1941, were additionally pressed and terrorized by local authorities, both German and the partially collaborating Lithuanians, Belorussians and Ukrainians. This forced the „Wachlarz” command to a prompt transfer of personnel from General Government in order to carefully blend them into the local environment. An important problem was also the extensive area and the variety of tasks to be carried out by „Wachlarz” soldiers. This, combined with the lack of equipment and weapons, made their service even more difficult.
In spite of these unfavorable conditions, the „Wachlarz” soldiers persisted with their activities. As a maximum goal, the plan was to destroy 100 bridges, on 8 major communication routes behind-fronts and on two parallel ones to the front lines. At minimum the plan was to cover the destruction of 45 bridges, including 15 main bridges and 30 ones with access roads to them on both sides. The action begun by commander of the Sector III, CPT dr A. Paczkowski „Wania”, who among others blew up a river monitor on the Królewski Canal on April 11 and set fire to German aviation gas in May. From May 1942, about 30 soldiers from Warsaw, commanded by MAJ Tadeusz Sokołowski’s „Trop” operated in Minsk and its vicinity. Their most spectacular action was to cut off Minsk, an important railway junction, for a few days by blowing up railway tracks. Saboteurs from the V Sector, commanded by MAJ Leon Poklewski pseudnym „Bezmiana”, organized several observation points near bridges on the border of Lithuania and Latvia. Sector II was organized by 1LT Jan Piwnik „Ponury„, supported by another Cichociemny, Jan Rogowski „Czarka„. In turn, in December 1943, the Sector IV became active, making a series of cuts on the German railway lines. Only Sector I remained in the organizational phase and had not played any meaningfull role in the subversive activities in the East in the ”Wachlarz” operation. In the face of difficulties with the development of activities and in the face of ever-larger challenges on the Eastern Front, where the Red Army began to be successful military, the Home Army Head Command decided to liquidate both the field and organizational structures of the „Wachlarz„. At the end of 1942 (formal order of the Armia Krajowa Commander-in-Chief GEN Stefan Rowecki „Grot” of 22 January 1943), „Wachlarz” and, acting since 1940 – Związek Odwetu (Revenge Union) were subordinated to the Sabotage Direction – Kedyw.
Cichociemni from the first discharges trained in sabotage were also directed to other organizations in need of specialists in this field. Many Cichociemni were sent to „Związek Odwetu” in paritcular, later renamed the Sabotage Direction (Kierownictwo Dywersji – Kedyw). Kedyw included many complex activities: planning and implementation of subversive and sabotage actions, studies on methods and organizing subversive acts, sabotage and guerrilla actions, developing and issuing guidelines and instructions, training of sabotage and technical team commanders and instructors, examination and evaluation of materials, equipment and ideas in the area of sabotage-subversive action, organization of partisan units, central production of sabotage means (mainly grenades and ignitors). Already in the initial phase of the sabotage activities the 6 Cichociemni were delegated to „Związek Odwetu”. The assignment to Kedyw was also received by another 113 paratroopers (of which 20 were directed to partisan units). Cichociemni proved their high qualifications not only in fights but also as an excellent instructing staff for AK soldiers.
Cichociemni, as it soon turned out, were particularly predestined to be the organizers and inspectors of the AK intelligence network , prepared by the training received abroad and exposure to the secrets of intelligence work. The paratroopers were directed primarily to the Intelligence of the Second Division of the Home Army Head Command (KG AK), to various command posts at the headquarters and in the field. Due to the nature of their service, however, they were highly exposed to death or denoutiation. Losses in the 37-strong group of Cichociemni assigned to the intelligence amounted to 15 arrested and killed, which was about 40% of the total. This fact best illustrates how wildly they were being hunted down by the Gestapo and the Abwehr.
Three paratroopers after their jump were sent to serve in the Department of Technology and Legalization of Division I of the KG AK (code name „Park”, „Leta”, „Izba”). It supplied counterfeit German documents to all KG’s cells with the exception of Division II, which included the Cichociemni legalization cell led by 1LT Stanisław Jankowski, „Agaton”. In December 1942 CPT Julian Kozłowski „Silent” was apointed as the head of the Division I. In spring of 1943, the :Park” was strengthened by two Cichociemni: 2LT Witold Strumpf „Sud” and 2LT Wilhelm Pluta „Pion”.
The original plan for the general uprising, before changing it to the „Burza” (Storm) plan, assumed strong air support from the West, in the form of the landing of transport air-crafts, parachute landing, and ferrying air combat units to Poland. The great amount of planning work on the shoulders of the Aviation Department of the KG AK was supported by 20 Cichociemni. Their effort, however, has not been fully exploited due to the change of plans. Individual paratroopers later took part in the Warsaw Uprising or battles fought as part of the „Burza„.
The systematically expanded communication network of the KG AK required an influx of appropriately technically prepared professionals – organizers, radio communication and radio operators. From the spring of 1943 many of the Cichociemni who specialized in radio communication started to reach the occupied country, but the quantitative demands of the AK commander were never fulfilled. The paratroopers were assigned to the „Iskra” battalion, subordinate to Division V of the Home Army Head Command (KG AK), which included radio companies „Kram”, „Orbis” and instructor company „Omnibus”, as well as field radio cells. Cichociemni worked on equipment that was air-dropped, or on prewar and conspiracy produced equipment. Still being hunted down by German wiretapping, they could not feel safe, even despite the guards of guerrilla detachments. Eight of the Cichociemni-radio players were arrested and killed, about 25-30% of the entire group. Only three of them were caught at work, which testifies to their clandestine level of organization. Thanks to good preparation, they made a significant contribution to the smooth functioning of the AK radio network.
Cichociemni as armored troops soldiers trained in serving German armored equipment, were to be the commanding staff of armored units recreated after the outbreak of a widespread uprising. Due to changes in the command plan, their skills were not fully utilized. Because the sabotage was often their second specialty, they were directed to Kedyw or to the forest. Still others took part in the Warsaw Uprising, among others the oldest Cichociemny transferred to the country, GEN. Tadeusz Kossakowski „Krystynek”.
A partrooper, properly trained outside the country, also served in conspiratorial staffs. Before leaving, they completed the Higher Military School courses and completed the necessary internships. They were directed as intended for work in KG AK staffs, areas, districts or regions. The qualified officers were mainly engaged at the positions of chiefs-of-staff and heads of operational departments. The highest-ranking officer of the staff in Cichociemni was GEN Leopold Okulicki „Kobra”, appointed as the successor of the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Army after the fall of the Warsaw Uprising.
The Warsaw Uprising, the 63-day struggle for the capital of Poland in 1944, was particularly important for Cichociemni staying near Warsaw and in the Kampinos Forest. Almost a hundred of them (or about 1/3 of the AK paratroopers dropped into the country) took part in the Uprising. Some of them already had assignments in the capital, some were just waiting for assignments, while others came to the capital by an order. In addition, two fully-completed teams arrived in Warsaw for acclimatization. The outbreak of the Uprising surprised many Cichociemni, which means that not everyone received assignments in line with their military qualifications. In the middle of August one general who additionally supervised the conspiratorial production of battle means was fighting in the uprising with the first-line weapon, and one captain instead of commanding the battalion, hunted German tanks in Aleje Ujazdowskie, while a lieutenant attacked with a flamethrower German bunkers near Sejm (parliament) building. Gradually, paratroopers were involved in activities corresponding to their training. Cichociemni found themselves in the first and second cast of the Head Command, in the ranks of the „Radosław„ Group, they fought in the Old Town, in Środmiescie, Ochota, Mokotów, and Żoliborz, or moved to the defense of the fighting capital in the areas of the Kampinos Forest.
After the capitulation of Warsaw, some of the paratroopers were taken prisoner of war. Others left the city together with the civilian population to continue working in the Underground until the end of war. Regardless of the assignment, the Cichociemni fighting in the Warsaw made a significant contribution to the Uprising.