The Battle of Murowana Oszmianka of May 13–May 14 1944 was the largest clash between the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa, AK) and the Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force (Lietuvos vietinė rinktinė, LVR); a Lithuanian volunteer security force subordinated to Nazi Germany. The battle took place in and near the village of Murowana Oszmianka in Nazi-occupied Poland (modern Muravanaya Ashmyanka, Belarus). The outcome of the battle was that the 301st LVR battalion was routed and the entire force was disbanded by the Germans soon afterwards.
In late April and early May 1944, the German authorities decided to transfer a significant part of the police duties in Lithuania to the newly created LVR formation, which was ordered to initiate a wide anti-partisan operation against the Polish
and Soviet partisans
in the area. Three Lithuanian battalions were dispatched to man garrisons in and around the town of Oszmiany
(modern Ashmyany, Belarus). The AK commander for the Vilnius (Wilno) region
, Aleksander Krzyżanowski
"Wilk" mobilized the reguion's partisan troops in response, but they were ordered not to engage the Lithuanian forces in order to prevent the escalation of Polish-Lithuanian hostilities. The Lithuanian troops, however, satisfied by their perceived superiority, started suppressing the local Polish communities suspected of harboring the partisans; numerous war crimes
were committed by the Lithuanians, notably atrocities against Polish civilians in Pawłów
. Faced with the need to protect Polish civilians, the AK decided to fight back in early May, and organized a concentrated assault against the fortified Lithuanian positions around the village of Murowana Oszmianka
. On May 10
, AK units were ordered to prepare an assault against one of the larger Lithuanian units in the region.
Major Czesław Dębicki "Jarema" was chosen as the commander of the five AK brigades (3rd, 8th, 9th, 12th and 13th) that were to assault the Lithuanian positions in Murowana Oszmianka. The AK reconnaissance judged enemy's strength as four companies in Murowana Oszmianka (with the local Lithuanian headquasters), two companies in Tołominowo and a strong German garrison (with armored elements) in Oszmiany
. Numbers and quality of the enemy's forces were judged to be higher than those of the AK forces, hence the need for a surprise attack was vital for the Polish plan.
On May 12 a detailed plan was created. It called for:
- 4 platoons of the 8th brigade will assault Murowana Oszmianka from the south-east, converging on the church
- 3rd brigade will assault Murowana Oszmianka from the north-west
- 13th brigade will secure the Murowana Oszmianka-Tołominowo road, possibly assault Tołominowo, prevent cooperation between enemy's forces and prevent any attempt of them to unite
- 9th brigade will secure the Murowana Oszmianka-Oszmiany road
- the Oszmiana-Murowana Oszmianka bridge will be blown up to prevent German armor from crossing
- communications lines on Wilno-Oszmiana will be cut
- 12th brigade and remaining cavalry platoon of the 8th brigade will be in reserve
- field hospital will be established in the village of Wasiowce
- positions will be taken at dusk; all units will disengage by dawn to avoid German airforce
- assault will begin at 2300
On the night of May 13
, the 3rd Brigade of the AK assaulted the village from the west and north-west, while the 8th and 12th Brigades attacked from the south and east. The remainder of the Polish forces (13th and 9th Brigades) secured the Murowana Oszmianka-Tołminowo
road. The defences, reinforced with concrete bunkers and trenches, were manned by elements of the 301st (1st and 2nd company) of the LVR. This detachment was already wavering following a defeat at Graużyszki on May 5
, where they were dispersed by the 8th and 12th Brigades of the Home Army and suffered 47 casualties. The assault was a success, partially because other Lithuanian garrisons in nearby towns did not move from their posts; German reinforcements were stopped by sabotage of bridges and delaying actions (carried out primarily by the 9th Brigade).
The 3rd company of the 301st battalion was also engaged in the vicinity of the nearby Tołminowo village by the 13th Brigade. This engagement also ended with a decisive Polish victory.
During the battles in Murowana Oszmianka and Tołminowo, the 301st battalion was practically wiped out; only the 4th company managed to evade Polish forces and retreat.. The Lithuanian force lost at least 50 men, with 60 more wounded and more than 300 taken prisoner of war
(117 Lithuanians in Tołminowo). After the battle, all Lithuanian prisoners of war were disarmed (the Polish resistance was able to capture one mortar
and seven machine guns
) and released with only their long johns
on. The Lithuanian officers were given letters from the Vilnius region AK commander, Aleksander "Wilk" Krzyżanowski
, addressed to the LVR commander, general Povilas Plechavičius
, appealing for a stop to Lithuanian-German collaboration, an end to Lithuanian anti-Polish
policies and a joint effort to combat the Germans; he received no reply.
After their defeat in the battle of Murowana Oszmianka and other skirmishes against the Home Army, the LVR became so weakened that Povilas Plechavičius and his officers were judged to be useless by the Germans and were relieved of command. Soon afterwards, they were arrested and their unit dissolved.
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