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Poland Table of Contents


Territorial Defense Forces

The National Territorial Defense Forces (OTK) were founded in 1965 to help defend Polish territory when the Polish People's Army was engaged under Warsaw Pact obligations outside the country. Although their primary mission was defending the homeland, the OTK also had the Warsaw Pact mission of transporting Soviet forces and supplies across Poland in wartime. Formed mainly from units shifted from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the OTK went under a new Inspectorate for National Territorial Defense in the Ministry of National Defense. The OTK included the Internal Defense Forces (Wojska Obrony Wewnetrznej-- WOW, the largest unit) and several smaller territorial defense units. Immediately after World War II, the WOW had suppressed the Home Army, which had been loyal to the London government-in- exile; the WOW had also played a large part in suppressing the Poznan workers in 1956 (see The Communist Era , this ch.).

The WOW, which totaled 65,000 troops in 1982, were equipped as mechanized infantry units, including tanks. The component units, which were organized at district level, had the missions of engaging hostile troops on Polish territory and eliminating local underground elements. The units were to receive the same individual training as regular ground forces, although they did not participate in large-scale coordinated exercises.

By 1990 the OTK was not a credible military force. The organization included many nonmilitary patriotic and social groups, such as the boy scouts, and many military retirees found soft assignments in OTK units. Although the force had a military commander, it was not under direct control of the Ministry of National Defense. By 1991 budget cuts were reducing personnel significantly, and plans called for transforming many OTK units into civil defense formations that would support production and service in the civilian economy. The OTK units remaining armed and attached to districts as regional defense forces would count as part of the ground forces' planned mid-1990s allotment of about 150,000 troops. They would function as cadre units reinforcing operational ground forces within their territorial boundaries.

Data as of October 1992