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In an Italian mini-series, Campi di Battaglia, in an episode about tanks, they claim that the Polish army ranked fifth worldwide just before the German invasion in 1939.

I think the claim refers to the number of soldiers, not weaponry.

Is this true?

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    As many claims about facts of the pass it's better suited to History SE – jean Dec 20 '18 at 9:46
  • @jean thanks. I didn't considered it – Alchimista Dec 20 '18 at 12:10
  • "Fifth largest" isn't necessarily meaningful. In 1991, the United States was preparing to take on the fourth largest army in the world, and we all know how that ended up. – Mark Dec 22 '18 at 1:12
  • @Mark. Except that if it was the 4th largest is indeed a good question for Skeptics SE. :))) – Alchimista Dec 22 '18 at 8:29
  • If I remember correctly the Polish army was large but un-modernised. It had large cavelry units for example. WW1 had already shown cavelry to be obsolete. There were stories of Polish lancers being sent into battle against mechanised infantry. Although undoubtedly brave, the Polish army just wasn't prepared for WW2. – Richard Dec 28 '18 at 23:44
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Regarding the episode is about tanks then yes. Poland was fifth army in the world.

  1. USSR 6000 tanks (number reported in various reports) (at the end of 1939, so after invasion on Poland, it was reported USSR have 11k light tanks)
  2. Germany 2800
  3. France 2600
  4. Great Britain 1150
  5. Poland 600

    http://www.1939.pl/uzbrojenie/porownanie.htm

It was fifth regarding tanks and planes but as you can see from above link the gap is quite large.

The number for Polish number of soldiers is AFTER mobilisation. Which is quite smaller than expected (around 1,35 million) due to lack of weaponry to equip soldiers. While at the same time Germany number is actual people serving in the army.

  • What about Czechoslovakia? tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww2/czech/ww2_Czech_Tanks.php and Italy and Japan? – DavePhD Dec 19 '18 at 17:16
  • @DavePhD The Czechoslovakian tanks are in the Germany total, since the claim is for just before the invasion of Poland. It would be good to see US, Japanese, and Italian totals. The Italians in particular had manufactured a lot of mediocre tanks in the 1930s and kept them around long after they were obsolete. US totals might be hard to establish, since legally only the Cavalry had tanks, so vehicles operated by the Infantry needed other names. – David Thornley Dec 19 '18 at 17:21
  • The US in 1939 had one regiment of tanks and it was around 490 tanks ( Raymond K. Bluhm Jr. _Us Army - a Complete history). Wikipedia report that Italy had 352 tanks produced before 1939. www.tanks-encyclopedia.com report that in 1937 Japan had around 1000 tanks BUT they had several battles with soviets from 37 to 39 when Japanese tanks were decimated. – SZCZERZO KŁY Dec 20 '18 at 8:52

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