The German invasion of Poland, which began on September’s first day in 1939, wasn’t originally scheduled for that date. It had been set to start nearly a week earlier, on the 26th of August. But it was delayed at the last minute when Adolf Hitler got wind of a new pact that Britain had signed with Poland, one which promised military assistance should Poland be attacked. So the German Chancellor slammed the brakes hard on Fall Weiss (Case White) to evaluate this new development. And almost everybody got the message.
Lt. Albrecht Herzner did not.
Lt. Herzner’s small band of 24 commandos, which was officially called “Construction Training Company 800 for Special Duties”, were charged with capturing a railroad station at Mosty, Poland. Located on the border with Czechoslovakia (which had been taken over by Germany earlier in the year), this target was important not so much for the station itself, but for the railroad tunnel to which the tracks led. He and his men didn’t hear anything about a delay.
At 4:00am on August 26, 1939, Herzner’s band of men arrived at the station. Within minutes, they had captured the station and taken a few prisoners. He convinced the Polish Lieutenant on duty that Germany was invading Poland and that bloodshed was unnecessary. What Herzner didn’t know was that the station had a basement with a fully functioning military phone…and someone was frantically dialing for help. The alarm had been sounded.
Polish soldiers arrived on scene to protect the tunnel and drive back the invaders. Herzner wisely realized that his raid wasn’t going well (and reinforcements hadn’t arrived) and he and his men scattered to the surrounding forests, suffering two wounded, and requiring half a day to extricate themselves.
And then the Germans had a lot of explaining to do. Herzner had given away not only his team’s objective for Fall Weiss, but he had told Polish officers that an invasion was at hand. The Polish military may have been out-manned, out-gunned, out-tanked, and out-planed, but they certainly were not out-brained. They knew something was up. The Germans tried to cover over their huge communications gaffe by saying one of their low-level officers had gone insane, made up the invasion story, and launched an attack on his own. They hoped the Poles bought it.
When the actual invasion was launched, that railroad tunnel near Mosty was one of the first things the Polish army blew up, so I’m guessing the story of an insane office didn’t pass muster.
Recommended Reading: Best Little War Stories From World War II