D+24 continued on and the air of impending doom circulated around Poland. With the vast number of Soviet airbases, supply depots, headquarters and other military bases on Polish soil, an overwhelming majority of Poles expected their country to be next. News of additional nuclear explosions in the GDR and West Germany enhanced the panic. Shelters filled up quickly. In the absence of shelter space, many families came together on the surface in homes and on farms, determined to spend what they anticipated to be their final hours surrounded by loved ones. Then there was the third group of citizens who took to the roads, searching for the elusive safety from atoms and radiations. Few Geiger counters were available for Poles to determine how much, if any, radiation was reaching their areas from points to the west. There were even fewer individuals with enough competent training to make sense of the readings.
Wojciech Jaruzelski and most senior Polish government officials had departed Warsaw for pre-stocked bunkers in the countryside. Lech Walesa did not accompany them. The Solidarity strongman instead chose to remain in the capital city with many of his followers and a cordon of loyal Polish militia and army soldiers as protection. Walesa’s attitude was regarded as courageous by most of his countrymen, however, post-war writings have revealed that Walesa admittedly adopted a fatalistic air in the final hours of the Third World War. Whatever was fated to happen would, in his eyes, and there was little he could do to prevent it.
Through the late morning and afternoon an informal ceasefire developed between anti-Soviet Polish forces and their enemies. Both sides had far greater concerns and from the Polish point of view it was wise to keep as much distance from anything or anyone Soviet. Yet still, the business of war continued on. Soviet mobile missile launchers continued to move between multiple launch site locations in Western Poland. At Western TVD’s forward command post at Legnica, efforts remained underway to coordinate conventional operations in the west while simultaneously preparing for possible escalation. In the late afternoon and early evening, as communication with Moscow became less consistent, Soviet troops started deserting their posts. The number was small at first, increasing as the hours went by. Some of the soldiers were, like the Poles, determined to put as much distance between themselves and their bases as possible. Others seemed equally as determined to just go home. The numbers increased and eventually the first casualties came about as firefights between the deserting troops and still-loyal soldiers broke out. It would continue for hours until the new government in Moscow took hold.
In the evening, rumors of Moscow’s destruction reached Warsaw. Even though this news turned out to be semi-inaccurate, the seeds were already planted. Discussions were held as the Jaruzelski-Walesa government wrestled with coming up with a plan to remove the Soviets from Polish territory as rapidly and bloodlessly as possible. This will discussed down the line in D+25 entries.