Cichociemni (Polish for Silentdark) were a secret unit of the Polish Army in exile created to maintain contact with occupied Poland during World War II.
Initially the name was informal and used only by the soldiers who volunteered to be dropped over Poland. However, since September 1941 it became official and was used in all official documents ever since. It is used both for the secret training detachment of the Polish Headquarters created to provide the agents with necessary knowledge, money and equipment, as well as for all the agents that were transported to Poland and other German-occupied countries.
On December 30, 1939 Captain Jan Gorski, a Polish Army officer who managed to escape to France after the Polish Defensive War of 1939, prepared a report for the Polish Chief of Staff in which he proposed the creation of a secret unit maintaining contact with the ZWZ by a group of well-trained envoys. The report was initially ignored, so GĂłrski repeated it several times. Finally commander of the Polish air forces, General Zajac, replied that although creation of such a unit would be a good move, the Polish Airforce had no means of transport and no training facilities for such an unit to be created.
However, Gorski together with his colleague Maciej Kalenkiewicz continued to study the possibilities of paratroopers and special forces. After the capitulation of France they managed to get to the United Kingdom. They studied the documents on German paratroopers and prepared a plan of recreation of Polish Airforce in exile as a military unit specialized in covert operations support. According to their plan the airforce was to be prepared solely for the purpose of aiding the future uprising in occupied Poland. Their plan was never accepted, but on September 20, 1940, the Polish commander-in-chief, General Wl‚adysl‚aw Sikorski ordered the creation of the 3rd Detachment of the Polish General Staff (OddziaĹ‚ III Sztabu Naczelnego Wodza). The purpose of the newly-established unit was theoretical preparation of covert operations in Poland, arms and supplies' delivery by air and - last but not least - training of the paratroopers.
The 3rd Detachment started to accept volunteers soon afterwards. Those who were chosen left their units silently and at night - hence the name, Cichociemni. Among 2,413 candidates, only 605 managed to finish the training and passed all the exams. 579 of them qualified forthe airlift. Among the volunteers were:
* 1 general
* 112 staff officers
* 894 officers
* 592 NCOs
* 771 privates
* 15 women
* 28 civilian envoys of the Polish government in exile
The training prepared by the Polish 6th Detachment of the General Staff (OddziaĹ‚ VI Sztabu Naczelnego Wodza) and the British Special Operations Executive consisted of five parts:
* preparation and physical training (kurs zaprawowy)
* psychological and technical research (kurs badaĹ„ psychotechnicznych)
* parachute training (kurs spadochronowy)
* conspiration, covert operations and partisan warfare (kurs walki konspiracyjnej)
* final course (kurs odprawowy)
During the first phase of the training all the volunteers were taught to use all weapons (including British, Polish, German, Russian and Italian) and mines. Additional courses were organized on which the soldiers were trained in basic covert operations, topography, cryptography, and sharpshooting. They were also taught all the details of life in occupied Poland, from the laws imposed by the Germans to the fashion popular in Warsaw under occupation. The fourth course included all sorts of covert operations, jiu-jitsu, and shooting at invisible targets,
The final course included learning of a new, false identity. All the soldiers who passed the training were sworn in as members of the Armia Krajowa.
The first air bridge was organized on February 16, 1941. The Allied air commands carried out 483 air bridges altogether, losing 68 planes to air crashes and enemy fire. Apart from the Cichociemni themselves, approximately 630 tonnes of war material were delivered in special containers. In addition, the agents delivered the following amounts of money to the Armia Krajowa:
* 40 869 800 forged Polish zloty
* 26 299 375 dollars in banknotes and golden coins
* 1 755 pounds in golden coins
* 3 578 000 German marksUntil December 27, 1944 an overall total of 316 soldiers and 28 envoys were successfully paradropped over Poland. Additional 17 agents were dropped over Albania, France, Greece, Italy and Yugoslavia. Anunknown number of Poles were also dropped over France by the SOE to start an underground movement among the half-a-million strong Polish minority (among them the best known was Krystyna Skarbek). Although the unit was organized in collaboration with SOE, it was largely independent. The Polish section of the SOE was the only one which chose its own men freely and operated its own radio communication with an occupied country. Also, the identities of the Polish agents were known to the Polish General Staff only.
Among those transported to Poland were soldiers of all grades. The oldest of them was 54 years old, the youngest was 20. As a rule, all volunteers were promoted one rank upwards at the moment of their jump.
In Poland the Cichociemni were transferred mostly to various special units of the ZWZ and AK. Most of them joined Wachlarz, ZwiÄ…zek Odwetu and KeDyw. Many became important staff officers of the Polish Secret Army and took part in the Operation Tempest and the Uprisings in Wilno, LwĂłw and Warsaw.
The cichociemni took over various duties in occupied country:
* 37 started working for the intelligence
* 50 were radio operators and envoys
* 24 were staff officers
* 22 were airmen and airdrop coordinators
* 11 were instructors of armoured forces and professors of anti-tank warfare in secret military schools
* 3 were trained in forging documents
* 169 were trained in covert operations, diversion and partisan warfare
* 28 were envoys of the Polish government