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Summary: National Uprising in Hungary 1956 - The Young Armed Forces’ First Deployment

Norbert Sinn

The crisis in Hungary of 1956 was to become the first test of the Armed Forces just set up. The first 13.000 recruits had hardly been called up in the middle of October, when a demonstration of students escalated to become an armed national uprising in Budapest on the 23rd, which made the Soviet forces stationed in Hungary intervene.

Although at first the Soviets, impressed by their losses in Budapest, appeared to be willing to retreat, during the night from 3rd to 4th November they finally attacked in expansive lines, arrested a Hungarian people’s delegation, and installed a counter-government dependent on Moscow which belatedly requested an intervention. In Budapest fighting in order to put down the uprising lasted up to the 11th of November, and in the provinces up to the 15th of November 1956, which made about 200.000 Hungarians take refuge with Austria. The uprising claimed more than 1.500 lives and 20.000 injured among the civil population.

News about the events in the neighbouring country was contradictory, but they were sufficient to alert the Armed Forces as a precautionary measure on 24th October, and to reinforce the constabulary forces. When the situation escalated in Budapest on 25th October, the decision to massively deploy the Armed Forces was arrived at. The troops transferred to the border were ordered to keep away from the border line for at least 500 m, but to make use of their firearms in case fighting troops were unwilling to turn back or be disarmed.

Considering the streams of refugees, soon also mingled with Hungarian troops, the Armed Forces were required to place not only barracks and depots at disposal, but also dressing stations and other facilities. After the Soviet major offensive had started, the Chief of Federal Armed Forces Staff ordered a headquarters to be put up which was to act as an army headquarters. Thus, the protection mission suddenly resulted in a concrete threat for Austria which had to be opposed. First of all, however, the aim was to help the executive coping with the streams of refugees.

On 12th November already the alarm companies of the military academy could be transferred back to Enns, and on 23rd November the order to reduce the protection mission was possible. On 10th December the Ministry of Defence ordered a suspension of reinforced patrol activities as per 15th December. Due to a deterioration of the relations with Hungary in the beginning of 1957 a new restricted area was installed at the Austrian-Hungarian border, and the Armed Forces were asked for. Finally, on 23rd April 1957 the Armed Forces’ mission, which had been carried out because of the uprising in Hungary, was brought to an end.

Despite conflicts of powers within the highest-level political and military management, and in spite of poor equipment, the Armed Forces coped with this crisis in a pleasing manner. The decision of the Chief of Federal Armed Forces Staff to order defence readiness was a distinct signal from a military point of view that March 1938 must not be allowed to happen again. The unambiguousness of the order to fire bears witness to this, too. Considering the fact that the Armed Forces had only been put up shortly before, it does not surprise that there were deficiencies concerning command and control means, air surveillance, and ammunition supply, and that there was lack of personnel in staffs.

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Eigentümer und Herausgeber: Bundesministerium für Landesverteidigung | Roßauer Lände 1, 1090 Wien
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