THE LIQUIDATION OF NEUTRAL ZONE BETWEEN POLAND AND LITHUANIA IN FEBRUARY 1923. MILITARY ASPECTS
The truce signed on 29 November 1920 between (Kowno) Lithuania and Central Lithuania foresaw the establishment of a neutral strip of land some 10-12 kms wide and stretching from the border with Latvia to Orany in order to prevent further armed confrontation. The state affiliation of this terrain was to be resolved in the future. The expectations that it would become an oasis of pace were never fulfilled. On the contrary, the titular zone became a source of constant clashes and bloody conflicts involving Poland and Lithuania. On 3 February 1923 the Council of the League of Nations decided to divide the area in question. From 15 February Poland and Lithuania could assume full control over the terrains granted to them. Marshal Pilsudski entrusted this operation to a specially formed Group under Colonel Stanislaw Paslawski, composed of four battalions of the State Police Force, ten Border Guard battalions, and formations of the National Security Union (two battalions). Regular Polish Army detachments were not to be deployed but constituted a reserve, capable of joining the campaign should the situation grow tense. On the first day of the operation, i. e. 15 February, the main forces under Colonel Paslawski were to secure the terrain crossed by the strategic Grodno-Wilno railway line. On 15 and 16 February the remaining detachments were to abstain from all activity. The process of taking over the assigned part of the neutral strip of land was not to be initiated until two days later (17 February). At 7.00 a.m. on 15 February 1923 Border Guard and State Police battalions entered the neutral zone and, in accordance with plans, overcame the resistance of Lithuanian partisans and assumed control over the rail line. To the end of 17 February the detachments led by Colonel Paslawski occupied the whole terrain granted to Poland. In several localities they were forced to wage fierce battles with Lithuanian partisans assisted by regular detachments of the Lithuanian armed forces. The losses of the Polish battalions totalled to almost 70 persons.
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