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‘Into The Pit’
Hungary in World War II by Thomas Kane, Nov/Dec 1994 Issue of Command, pages 10-16
The bulk of this issue of Command was devoted to the battle for Hungary between the Third Reich and the Soviets in winter 1945, during what was a true end time struggle. I selected this story to review because it gives the Hungarian perspective on the political and military front over the course of the nation’s most trying time, from 1918—when it was beset by Czechs and the Romanians and screwed by the greater powers of Europe in the various armistice agreements. During this entire time the nation was run by one man—a former naval officer, steering a now landlocked remnant nation.
The Relationship of the Hungarian head of state, Miklos Horthy, with the greater powers his nation fell prey to, was testy and painfully nuanced. Having plaid Spain in Empires in Arms, stuck between England and France, I can attest to the abstract map stress and can only imagine what a nightmare this man’s life was as he tried to save his nation from regional and world superpowers. He went through at least 4 prime ministers while dealing with Hitler and the SS goons who would show up to have a talk with him for not sending enough of his boys to die in a foreign land fighting for Germany. One of his prime ministers committed suicide in the face of Nazi arm twisting.
Of the 200,000 men he sent to Russia 147,971 never came back, along with all their equipment, accomplishing nothing but yanking the Russian beard and bringing Soviet wrath down on Hungary on the way to Berlin.
In the bigger view it can be seen how WW II was inevitable after the way the Allies went about ripping apart the Central Powers at the peace table, not having been able to accomplish it on the battlefield without American intervention.
The Hungarian army had a good reputation based on sound training and the ethnic Magyar pride. They take a lot of posthumous heat from board gamers for being the weak link on the Russian front. But their equipment, supply and transport had largely been taken by German units and they were spread thin and hung out to dry. At the very least the German battle plan owed too much to Napoleon’s failed operation 130 years earlier, including using hostage allied soldiers to hold the flanks against a numerically superior force fighting on home ground. Later, when fighting on their own ground against the invading Soviets, the Hungarians did so well it pissed the Germans off, knowing as they did that the Hungarians had not gone all-in in Russia, having been dragged along.
Thomas Kane does a nice job of putting the Hungarian dilemma forth, including the fact that they hid ethnic targets from the Nazi deportation squads. Overall, if you are looking into gaming this campaign, this issue of Command magazine is a treasure, with unit breakdowns, battle maps, and information on Hungarian SS units. After reading this issue, I am not surprised that Syrian refugees are not having their way with the Hungarians like they are with the Germans.
Books by James LaFond
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