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Hungary's flag

Hungary's History

Formation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire

In April 1867 the Austro-Hungarian Empire was created. The Magyar Királyi Honvédség (Royal Hungarian Army) was created on December 5, 1868.


On November 3, 1918, Austro-Hungary signed a treaty that abolished the Common and Royal Hungarian Armies. Territories were also ceded.

On March 23, 1919, a Hungarian Soviet Republic was proclaimed; however, the Romanian Army defeated the Hungarian Red Army and occupied Budapest on August 4, 1919.

Vice Admiral Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya led the Nemzeti Hadseveg (National Army) and took control of Hungary on November 16, 1919.


Horthy was declared regent and ruled from March 1, 1920. However, he prevented Károly IV from regaining the throne.

The Treaty of Trianon was signed on June 4, 1920 which cost Hungary 67% of its territory. The Royal Hungarian Army was reduced to 35,000 cavalry and infantry. No heavy artillery, tanks, or planes were allowed.

On January 1, 1922 the National Army was declared the Royal Hungarian Army.

On May 11, 1922 seven mixed brigades, two cavalry brigades, one horse artillery battalion and one engineer battalion was created.

On April 10, 1924 the Légügyi Hivatal (Air Office) started planning the secret Royal Hungarian Army Air Force (M. Kir. Honved Légierö). On January 1, 1938 it was publically announced.


Fascist Italy signed the Roman Protocols on March 17, 1934 supporting Hungary’s claims to recover its territory in return for Hungary’s support of Austria against Germany.

On October 15, 1936 Italy and Germany became allies and the Germans supported Hungary’s claims.

On March 5, 1938, Prime Minister Kálmán Darányi announced a rearmament plan.

In September 1938 Hungary mobilized 200,000 – 350,000 troops on her border with Czechoslovakia in anticipation of Germans threatened invasion. After Germany occupied the Sudetenland, Hungary began to negotiate with Czechoslovakia over southern Slovakia and Ruthenia.

500 of the Rongyosgárda (Ragged Guard) was sent into Slovakia to intimidate the Czechoslovakians to negotiate. However they were defeated by Czechoslavak troops on October 11, 1938. The Rongyosgárda suffered 350 losses.

German and Italian diplomats were able to work out a settlement for 4,605 square miles of Slovakia and Ruthenia.

In March 1939 Hungary and Slovakia had border clashes over a border strip with Ruthenia. Germany was able to broker a cease fire which resulted in Hungary receiving 400 more square miles of territory.

Conscription of males began in 1939.

When Germany attacked Poland on September 1, 1939 Horthy granted Polish refugees transit through Hungary to France.

Early Design Work

During the 1930s Praga developed a prototype of an amphibious tank, the F-IV-HE.

From 1937-38 Nicholas Straussler designed an experimental light tank called the V-4. He later went to Britain and worked with Alvis and Vickers-Armstrongs and designed several armored cars and light tanks.

Foreign Tanks Purchased

In 1938, 104 CV 35 tankettes were purchased from Italy. These were modified by adding a small square commander's cupola. Also the Toldi was produced under license from Sweden (Landsverk L60B light tank) by Manfred Weiss company of Budapest.

Armored Forces In Action

The armored forces first fought against Slovakia in 1939.


On March 1, 1940, three field armies were created. On the same day the Gyorshadtest (Mobile Corps) was formed with two cavalry and two motorized brigades.

By June 1940 there were 5,734 men in the Air Force. They were formed into the 1 and 2 Fighter, 3 and 4 Bomber and 5 Tactical Reconnaissance Regiments. There was also the 1 Independent Strategic Reconnaissance Group.

The 1 Air Brigade was formed on June 6, 1940. This group fought in Yugoslavia in April 1941 when the 1 Parachute Battalion made its debut combat jump.

The Trianon Treaty awarded Romania 21,000 square miles of Transylvania. Hungary felt the territory should belong to them and on August 16, 1940 started negotiations for revisions. On August 30, 1940 German and Italian diplomats gave Hungary northern Transylvania.

Hungary joined the Tripartite Pact in November 1940.


The Hungarian Prime Minister, Pál Teleki, had signed a Treaty of “Eternal Friendship” with Yugoslavia. On March 29, 1941 Horthy joined the attack on Yugoslavia with the Germans. This betrayal led to the suicide of Pál Teleki on April 3, 1941 due to the shame he felt.

Hungary participated in the invasion of Yugoslavia on April 10, 1941. The 1st and 2nd Motorized Brigade and the 2nd Cavalry Brigade each had a company of 20 Toldis, a company of 20 CV 35s, and 10 Alvis Straussler Csaba armored cars.

On April 11, 1941, the Hungarian 3rd Army occupied the Bácska and Baranya regions. By April 19, 1941 Hungary also occupied Premurje and Medjimurje.

Once the invasion was over, Hungary had gained 11,417 square miles.

Invasion of the Soviet Union

When Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 the Royal Hungarian Army was not ready.

Horthy was waiting for an excuse to jon the attack and on June 26, 1941, three planes with Soviet markings attacked Kassa and Munkács and gave him that excuse. There is some dispute whether it was the Soviet that actually bombed them.

Hungary entered the war against Russia on June 27, 1941 and provided the 3rd largest contingent of armored forces on the eastern front. The Gyorshadtest (Fast Corps) comprised 3 brigades with 81 Toldis, 48 Csabas, and 60 CV 35s. During the drive to the Donets River loses were severe as the tanks weren't able to hold up in the tough terrain.

On June 29, 1941 the Carpathian Group invaded the Soviet Union. They reached the River Dniester on July 7, 1941.

The VIII Corps was left for occupation and the Mobile Corps joined the Germany 17th Army.

By November 10, 1941, the Mobile Corps return home after going 1,100 miles, sustaining 2,922 casualties and losing much of its armor.

Britain declared war on Hungary on December 7, 1941. On December 13, 1941 Hungary declared war on the United States. Then on June 2, 1942 the United States reciprocated.


Horthy wanted to keep his armies in Hungary to defend against Romania. However, on January 17, 1942, Romania added the 3rd and 4th Romanian Armies to the coming Germany summer offensive. This forced Horthy to add Hungarian troops, and these ended up guarding the northern flank of the German offensive.

The 1 Air Group formed on March 15, 1942 and was renamed the 2 Air Brigade on October 15, 1942. The Brigade suffered extensive loses while supporting the 2nd Army on the Eastern Front. It had its name changed again, on March 1, 1943, to 102 Air Brigade. It was returned home to Hungary in September 1944 to defend the homeland from Allied bombers. By this time there were over 25,000 men in 29 combat squadrons.

With the delay of the new Turan medium tank in production, the Hungarians bought tanks from Germany (see table). These were used by the 1st Motorized Brigade to form the 1st Hungarian Armored Division. The division fought in the Don and on the left flank at Stalingrad. During the Russian offensive of January 1943 the unit was smashed. Only 6 of the tanks made it back to Hungary in March 1943.

The 1 Armored Field Division was formed on March 24, 1942, to be used against the Soviet Union. It contained one motorized infantry regiment, and one tank regiment.

On April 11, 1942, the 2nd Army (209,000 men) was deployed with German Army Group B. It was able to reach the Don on July 7, 1942. This place the 2nd Army between the German 2nd Army, to the north, and the Italian 8th Army, to the south.

During the fighting Horthy’s son, István was killed in his fighter.

By October 1, 1942, this was reorganized into the I Armored Corps fielding three divisions. The 1st and 2nd Páncélos Hadosztály (armored division) was part of the Corps.


The Soviet winter offensive reached the Hungarian Army on January 12, 1943. The troops were lightly armed and started retreating.

On February 3, 1943 the last of the Hungarian Army was withdrawn from the front lines.

The 2nd Army suffered 105,000 casualties with 8,718 of those killed and 77,288 missing.

Occupation Duties

Ukraine was occupied by Hungarian forces starting on July 9, 1941. Starting in November 1943 the Red Army started pushing the Hungarians back towards Poland.

The Hungarians refused to take part in the Warsaw uprising as they felt the Poles were their friends.

In February of 1943 Horthy decided that the war was lost and south to an armistice with the Allies. Although this was refused, on August 9, 1943, the Allies agreed to not bomb Hungary if Hungary ignored the Allied bombers when they flew over on their missions.


In March of 1944 Germany occupied Hungary and forced them to commit all their armored units to the front.

Since Hungary refused to commit forces to the fighting Hitler launched Operation Margaethe I on March 19, 1944.

The Hungarian forces were ordered not to resist and the Germans occupied Hungary. Horthy remained in power but the Prime Minister was arrested and replaced with Döme Sztójay.

With the occupation by Germany, the Allies began bombing Hungarian targets on April 3, 1944.

Meanwhile the 2nd Hungarian Armored Division was being formed with the new Turan tanks. In April 1944 it was sent to Galicia in eastern Poland. The Turans were inadequate against the T-34/85s and the Germans sold the Hungarians more modern tanks (see table) of which the first were delivered in August 1944.

Starting in May 1944 Sztójay let SS-Ostubat Adolf Eichmann deport 440,000 Jews to the concentration camps.

Horthy sent Lt. General Faragho to Moscow on September 28, 1944 on a secret mission to ask for an armistice. The Germans learned of the mission and SS-Stubaf Otto Skorzeny was sent to Budapest in Operation Mouse to kidnap Horthy’s son Miklós. The next day Horthy abdicated.

Ferenc Szálasi, leader of the Nyilaskeresztes (Arrow-Cross) Party took over the Hungarian government. By December 8, 1944, the Soviet Army had reached the Attila Line that was to the east of Budapest.

Hitler declared Budapest to be a fortress city on December 6, 1944 and expected it to be held to the last man.

The siege of Budapest started on November 3, 1944 and lasted until February 13, 1945. Szálasi fled and eventually ended up in Munich.

On December 25, 1944 Romanian and Soviet forces entered the Pest suburbs. Pest was completely occupied by January 18, 1945.

On January 30, 1945 the final assault began on Buda and by February 13, 1945 all resistance ended.

Foreign Tanks

Tanks bought from Germany
Year Models Quantity
1942 PzKpfw I 8
  PzBfWg 6
  PzKpfw 38(t) 102
  PzKpfw IV 32
  PzKpfw III 10
1944 PzKpfw IV 62
  Panther 5
  Tiger I 3
  StuG III 40
  Hetzer 75, 100



9,300,000, 10,000,000, 11,137,993


  1. German Tanks of World War II, Dr. S. Hart & Dr. R. Hart, 1998
  2. The Royal Hungarian Army in World War II, Dr. Nigel Thomas, László Pal Szábó, Darko Pavlovic, 2008
  3. World War II in Numbers, Peter Doyle, 2013
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site