Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Emilia Plater Independent Women's Battalion (1943–1945)

First Polish cohesive, all-female combat unit, consisting of volunteers forcibly resettled in the Soviet Union and ironically named after a leader of an insurrection in 1830 directed against Russia.

Initially attached to the lst Tadeusz Kosciuszko Division, the battalion swore the oath of allegiance on 15 July 1943. It became directly subordinated to the I Polish Corps in August 1943 and to the First Polish Army in July 1944. Unlike women's auxiliary units in the West, the battalion lacked special military regulations. Its command personnel were men, and its political officers were women.

In August 1943, the battalion included five companies (two infantry and one each of fusiliers, machine guns, and handheld antitank grenade launchers) and six platoons (mortar, reconnaissance, signals, medical, engineer, and logistics). In late 1943, one transport platoon was added. Because the battalion also provided basic training to women subsequently assigned elsewhere, its strength fluctuated.

Women subsequently trained at the Infantry Officers' School in Ryazan, and they commanded companies and platoons of the new Polish army because of the drastic shortage of male Polish officers (of whom about 15,000 had been killed at Soviet prisoner-of-war camps in 1940). Among these women was Second Lieutenant Emilia Gierczak, platoon commander of the 10th Infantry Regiment. She distinguished herself in the fighting on the Pomeranian Rampart, while leading an assault group in Kolobrzeg (Kolberg).

About 70 women in the battalion died in the war. In May 1945, its strength of roughly 500 women was only a small percentage of the total of women serving in two Polish armies formed in the Soviet Union, with estimates ranging from 8,500 to 14,000.

Kazimiera J. Cottam


Further Reading
Cottam, K. Jean. "Veterans of Polish Women's Combat Battalion Hold a Reunion." Minerva no. 4 (Winter 1986): 1–7.; Drzewicka, S. Szlysmy z nad Oki (We Came from Oka River shores). 2nd ed. Warsaw: MON, 1985.; Pawlowski, Edward. "Platerówki." Wojsko Ludowe no. 6 (June 1985): 93–95.
 

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