Hungarian–Romanian War of 1919: Wikis


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The Hungarian–Romanian War of 1919
Romanian Cavalry in Budapest
Date March-August 1919
Location Transylvania, Hungary, Slovakia
Result Romanian victory
Red flag.svg Hungarian Soviet Republic
Red flag.svg Slovak Soviet Republic
Flag of Romania.svg Romania
Red flag.svg Col. Aurél Stromfeld, Ferenc Julier, Vilmos Böhm, Béla Kun Flag of Romania.svg Gen. Traian Moşoiu, Gen. George Mărdărescu, Gen. Constantin Prezan
Romania Crown Prince Ferdinand
Czechoslovakia Tomáš Masaryk
Casualties and losses
 ? 3,670 dead, 11,666 total

The seeds of the Hungarian–Romanian war of 1919[1] were planted when Transylvania proclaimed union with Romania on December 1, 1918. In April 1919, the Bolsheviks came to power in Hungary, at which point its army attempted to retake Transylvania, commencing the war. By its final stage, more than 120,000 troops on both sides were involved. The destruction of the Hungarian Soviet Republic and the Romanian occupation of parts of Hungary proper, including its capital Budapest in August 1919, ended the war. Romanian troops withdrew from Hungary in March 1920.



Monument in Budapest erected in 1974, dedicated to the leaders of the Hungarian Soviet Republic: Tibor Szamuely, Béla Kun, Jenő Landler.


In 1918 the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy collapsed as a result of losing World War I. On October 31, 1918, the success of the Aster Revolution in Budapest brought the left-liberal Count Mihály Károlyi, an Entente devotee, to power as Prime Minister. Károlyi yielded to Woodrow Wilson's pacifism by ordering the full disarmament of the Hungarian Army. Hungary remained without national defense. Károlyi proclaimed the advent of the First Republic, of which he was President. By February 1919 the government had lost all popular support, having failed on domestic and military fronts. On March 21, after the Entente military representative demanded more and more territorial concessions from Hungary, Károlyi resigned. The Communist Party of Hungary, led by Béla Kun, came to power and proclaimed the Hungarian Soviet Republic. The Communists also promised equality and social justice. The Communists, or "Reds," came to power largely thanks to being the only group with an organized fighting force, and they promised that Hungary would defend its territory without conscription (possibly with the help of the Soviet Red Army). Initially, most soldiers of Hungary's Red Army were armed factory workers from Budapest. Later, the Hungarian Red Army become a truly national army, the ranks of which were filled out of patriotic rather than ideological reasons.


In 1916, Romania entered World War I on the side of the Entente, with the main goal of uniting all territories with a Romanian national majority into one state (see Treaty of Bucharest (1916)). In 1918, after the communists took power in Russia and signed a separate peace in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers, Romania was left alone on the Entente's Eastern Front, a situation that far surpassed its military capabilities. Therefore, it sued for peace, and reached an understanding with the Central Powers in May 1918 in the Treaty of Bucharest. Alexandru Marghiloman signed the Treaty of Bucharest with the Central Powers on May 7, 1918. However, this treaty was never signed by King Ferdinand, and on 10 November 1918, taking advantage of the Central Powers' precarious situation, Romania reentered the war on the side of the Entente with the same objectives as in 1916. King Ferdinand called for the mobilization of the Romanian Army and ordered it to attack over the Carpathian mountains into Transylvania. The end of World War I that followed very soon did not bring the end of fighting for the Romanian Army. The fighting continued later that year and into 1919 during the Hungarian–Romanian war.

Outline of the war

In the war's first phase, the Romanian Army advanced up to the Western Carpathian Mountains. In the second phase, after the communists took power in Hungary, the Romanian Army overcame the Hungarian Red Army to reach the Tisza river. Finally, in the third phase, the Romanian Army destroyed the Hungarian Army and occupied Budapest, ousting the communist regime of Béla Kun.

Phase I: November 1918 – March 1919

Following the Treaty of Bucharest, the bulk of the Romanian Army was demobilized. Only the 9th and the 10th infantry divisions and the 1st and the 2nd cavalry divisions were available at war-time strength, but they were used at the time to protect Bessarabia from the attacks of the Russian Reds. The 1st, 7th and 8th Vânători divisions, stationed in Moldavia, were the first units mobilized under these circumstances. The 8th was sent to Bukovina and the other two divisions were sent to Transylvania.

On December 1st, 1918, the Romanians of Transylvania proclaimed the union with Romania, being followed by the Transylvanian Saxons on January 8, 1919.

First, the units of the 1st and 7th divisions advanced in December 1918 up to the line of the Mureş river which was the demarcation line agreed upon by the representatives of the Entente and of Hungary in Belgrade on November 13, 1918. At the same time, units of the German Army, under the command of Marshal von Mackensen, retreated westward.

Following a Romanian request, the Allied Command in the East under the leadership of the French general Franchet d'Espèrey allowed the Romanian Army to advance up to the line of the Western Carpathians. The 7th Vânători division advanced in the direction of Cluj, and the 1st in the direction of Alba-Iulia. On December 24, units of the Romanian Army entered Cluj. By January 22, 1919, the Romanian Army controlled the entire territory up to this demarcation line.

At this point the Romanian Army in Transylvania was stretched thin, having to simultaneously deter the Hungarian Army and maintain order in the territories under its control. Hence, the Romanian High Command decided to send two more divisions into Transylvania: the 2nd Vânători division to Sibiu, and the 6th infantry division to Braşov. A unified command of the Romanian Army in Transylvania was also established, with the headquarters at Sibiu; General Traian Moşoiu was put in charge of this command.

Romania started organizing the territory it had taken, which at this point was far from encompassing the ethnic Romanian population in the region. Two new infantry divisions, the 16th and the 18th, were organized from Romanian soldiers previously mobilized in the Austro-Hungarian Army.

On February 28, the Allied council decided to notify Hungary of the new demarcation line to which the Romanian Army would advance. This line coincided with the railways connecting the cities of Satu Mare, Oradea and Arad. However, the Romanian Army was not allowed to enter these cities. A demilitarized zone was to be created, stretching from there up to 5 km beyond the border marking the extent of the Romanian territorial requests on Hungary. The retreat of the Hungarian Army behind the westward border of the demilitarized zone was to begin on March 23, 1919.

The notification reached Hungary on March 19 through French Lieutenant-Colonel Fernand Vix. The Károlyi government resigned rather than accepting the notification, and on March 21 gave control to Béla Kun, who instituted a Communist regime in Hungary.

Within this period of time, only limited skirmishes took place between the Romanian and Hungarian troops, and on one occasion between Romanian and Ukrainian troops. Some Hungarian elements engaged in the harassment of the Romanian population outside the area controlled by the Romanian Army.[2][3]

Phase II: April 1919 – June 1919

After 21 March 1919, Romania faced two communist neighbors: Hungary and the Soviet Union. The Romanian delegation at the Peace Conference in Paris requested that the Romanian Army be allowed to oust the Hungarian communists from power. Although well aware of the communist danger, the Allied council was marked by dissension between the US president Woodrow Wilson, the British prime minister David Lloyd George, and the French prime minister Georges Clemenceau about the guarantees required by France for its borders with Germany. In particular, the American delegation was convinced that French hardliners around Marshal Foch were trying to initiate a new conflict that would eventually lead to a new war, this time against Germany and the Soviet Union. Acting on these premises, the participants at the conference tried to defuse the situation in Hungary. Hence, the South African General Smuts was sent to Budapest on April 4 with a proposition for the Kun government to abide by the conditions previously presented to Károlyi. This action of the Allies also amounted to recognizing Communist Hungary. In exchange for fulfilling the conditions in the Vix Note, the Allied powers would lift the blockade of Hungary and adopt a benevolent attitude towards it in the question of the territories it had to yield to Romania, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Kun however asked that the Romanian Army be ordered back to the line of the Mureş river, and the discussions stalled.

Meanwhile, Kun sought to gain time in order to be able to build up a military force able of waging war with Romania and Czechoslovakia. On the Romanian front, there were some 20,000 troops in the first line facing the Romanian Army. Kun managed to mobilize another 60,000 in the second line by the use of recruitment centers in Oradea, Gyula, Debrecen, and Szolnok, among others. This Hungarian Army was a mix of some elite units and officers from the former Austro-Hungarian Army, and poor-quality volunteers. They were equipped with some 137 cannons and 5 armored trains. Although a colorful mix, this army was held together by nationalist rather than communist ideals, and was therefore highly motivated. Kun hoped also that the Soviet Union would come to its help and attack Romania from the east.

Once the discussions with Kun stalled, the Romanian Army was ordered by the Romanian government to take action and force the Hungarian authorities to comply with the Allied council decision on February 28 concerning the new demarcation line.[4] The Romanian Army in Transylvania comprised 64 infantry battalions, 28 cavalry squadrons, 160 cannons, 32 howitzers, 1 armored train, 3 air squadrons, 2 pioneer battalions, organized into two groups: North and South. The overall command of the Romanian Army in Transylvania was entrusted to General George Mărdărescu, while General Moşoiu was appointed commander of the Northern Group. The Romanian battle plan was to strike with the more powerful Northern Group and take Carei and Oradea, thus separating the elite Szekely division from the rest of the Hungarian Army, made primarily of volunteers. Then the Group should proceed with the flanking of the Hungarian Army. At the same time, the Southern Group would advance only up to Radna and Beiuş, and then serve as pivot for the flanking maneuver of the Northern Group. The overall advance was to stop only at the Tisza river. The start of the offensive was planned for April 16.

The Hungarian attack

Operations of the Romanian Army in the second phase of the Hungarian–Romanian War. The demilitarized zone proposed by the Allied council on 28 February is shown in gray.

Aware of the Romanian preparations, the Hungarians fortified the mountain passes in their possession and launched a preemptive attack on the night between April 15 and 16. The attack was stopped with the help of the reserve formations and the Romanians defensive lines held. Between April 16 and 18, the Romanians started their own offensive, forcing the mountain passes after heavy fighting. On the front of the 2nd Vânători division, a battalion of Hungarian cadets offered heavy resistance, and was defeated by the Romanian 9th regiment only towards the evening of April 16. On April 18, the first phase of the Romanian offensive was over, and the Hungarian front was broken. Carei was taken by the Romanian troops on April 19, Oradea and Salonta on April 20. At this moment, the Romanian Army reached the line set by the Allies in the Vix Note. However, the Romanian High Command decided to go over this line and advance to the Tisza river, for military reasons: Tisza makes a natural obstacle that is easy to defend, and at the same time the Hungarian Army was beaten but not destroyed. By doing so, the Romanians went against the wishes of the Allies.[5][6]

The fate of the Székely division

Making use of their cavalry, the Romanians hindered any attempts by the Hungarian Army to set a new defensive line between Nyíregyháza, Debrecen and Békéscsaba. At the same time on the front of the Northern Group, the best unit of the Hungarian Army, the Szekely division under the command of Colonel Kratochwil was retreating towards Nyíregyháza, being constantly harassed by the Romanian troops, mainly from the 2nd cavalry division. They tried to stop their retreat and fight around the city, but were dislodged by the Romanians, and Nyíregyháza was occupied on April 26. The Division tried to flee west over Tisza, but by this time the entire eastern bank of the river was controlled by the Romanians, the last Hungarian troops defending a bridgehead over the river being defeated on April 29 at Rakamaz. With their retreat route cut, the Székely division capitulated on April 29.

The Romanian Army reaches the Tisza line

The frontline between the Hungarian and Romanian Armies on 3 May 1919.

Debrecen was occupied by the Romanians on 23 April, and the Romanian Army started preparing for the assault on Békéscsaba. This began on 25 April and, on 26 April, the city fell after some heavy fighting. Most of the remains of the Hungarian Army converged towards Szolnok, where they tried to escape west over Tisza, establishing two concentric defense lines around Szolnok whose ends lay on the Tisza. Between 29 April and 1 May the Romanian Army managed to break through these lines, despite the reinforcements sent from the west bank of the Tisza. On the evening of 1 May 1919 the entire east bank of the Tisza was controlled by the Romanian Army.

On 2 May, the Kun government sued for peace. In the peace proposition sent through Lt. Col. Werth, Kun was ready to recognize all territorial demands of the Romanians and asked in exchange for a cessation of hostilities and no intervention in the internal Hungarian affairs. The Romanians offered only an armistice and this only under pressure from the Allied Supreme Command, as on 30 April the French foreign minister Pichon had summoned the Romanian representative at the Peace Conference, prime minister Brătianu, and asked him to stop the advance of the Romanian troops on the Tisza river and eventually retreat on the demarcation line imposed by the Allies. Brătianu promised that the Romanian troops would not cross the Tisza and would remain on the east bank of the river.

Gen. Moşoiu was named governor of the military district between the Romanian frontier and the Tisza river, being replaced at the command of the Norther Group by Gen. Mihăescu. At the same time, the Romanian 7th division was transported from the Hungarian front to the Russian front in Northern Moldavia.

The Hungarian counterattack in Upper Hungary

Allied operations in the Kingdom of Hungary, May–August 1919.      Territory occupied by Romania in April, 1919      Territory under the control of the Hungarian Soviet Republic      Territory retaken by the Hungarian Soviet Republic      Territory under French and Serb control
                     Borders of Hungary, 1918
                     New Borders of Hungary, 1920

Béla Kun tried to make use of the lull in fighting against the Romanians to improve his battered international position. He prepared an attack against Czechoslovak forces, which he deemed the weaker of its enemies, as he has just been defeated by the Romanians and believed that action against the Serbs was impossible due to the presence of allied French troops in Serbia. By attacking Czechoslovak troops, he tried to gain support from within Hungary, by making good on his promise to restore Hungary's borders. Kun also sought to establish a link to his Bolshevik allies in Russia. Internationally he argued that he acted on the belief that granting the territory where Hungarians were an ethnic majority to the newly-formed Czechoslovakia following World War I was unjust. To strengthen the army, Kun's regime recruited heavily from the male population between 19 and 25 years of age in the areas left under his control. Also many workers (mainly from the Budapest industrial area) joined the army. He also enlisted many former Austro-Hungarian officers, who joined the army out of patriotic rather than ideological reasons. For the offensive in Upper Hungary (today's Slovakia), the Hungarians concentrated two divisions, the 1st and the 5th, totaling 40 battalions with plenty of artillery.

On the 20 of May the Hungarians, under the lead of Colonel Aurél Stromfeld, attacked in force and routed the Czechoslovak troops in Miskolc. The Romanian Command tried to hold the link to the Czechoslovak Army and attacked the Hungarian flank with some troops from the 16th infantry division and the 2nd Vânători division. However, this action was to no avail and it could not stop the rout of the Czechoslovak Army. The Romanians retreated to their bridgehead at Tokaj and defended their position against Hungarian attacks between 25 and 30 May. The Hungarian attack against the Czechoslovak Army evolved well and consequently the Romanian troops in the North were in danger of being outflanked. On the 3 of June, the Romanians were thus forced to retreat from Tokaj on the east bank of Tisza, destroying all bridges over the river in the process and breaking any contact with the Hungarian troops. To deal with the danger of being outflanked and hinder the communication between the Hungarians and the Soviets, the Romanian troops along Tisza extended their defense line further North and linked with the troops of the Romanian 8th division, which since the 22 of May had advanced from Bukovina to meet them.

The success of their attack on newly forming Czechoslovak state allowed the Hungarian reds besides regaining Upper Hungary to also create a puppet Slovak Soviet Republic. At the end of the operations, the Hungarian Army had reached the old frontiers in the northeastern Carpathians. In the northwest, the campaign reoccupied important industrial regions around Miskolc, Salgótarján and Selmecbánya. They also started to plan to march against the Romanian Army in the east.

Involvement of Bolshevik Russia

On the 9 of April 1918 Bessarabia had united with Romania. The unification act that brought these old Romanian lands within the modern Romanian state was not recognized by the Bolshevik Russia, leading to a de facto state of conflict between the Kingdom of Romania and Russia. Having to fight the Whites, the Poles and the Ukrainians and later an allied invasion, the Russian Reds had no resources available to seriously threaten Romania. Before the communist takeover in Hungary they had limited themselves to sporadic attacks over the Dniester river. During the period of time the Romanian Army was being reorganized, such attacks were more or less successful. However, they were always met with force by the Romanian troops stationed in Bessarabia, which managed on all occasions to throw the Bolsheviks back over the Dniester. The most important attack took place at the end of January, when the Bolsheviks managed to take control of the Romanian city of Khotyn, which they held for a few days before being routed by the Romanian Army. After this, starting with February 1919, enough Romanian troops were present in Bessarabia to thwart most attack attempts of the Bolsheviks. Furthermore, a French–Greek army of five divisions (three French and two Greek) under the command of the French general d'Anselme and with support from Polish, Ukrainian and Russian volunteers, attacked the Bolsheviks in the direction of Odessa, which they also occupied. All these events led to a calm-down of the situation in Bessarabia over most of the next two months.

In support of the allied attack, Romanian troops of the 39th regiment occupied Tiraspol on the 21 of March. Fighting at the same time in Transylvania, the Romanian Army could not provide more soldiers. In April, the army under general d'Anselme was defeated by the Reds at Berzov, forced to evacuate Odessa and retreat through southern Bessarabia, abandoning some of their heavy equipment. At the same time, the Romanian Army started fortifying its positions in Bessarabia in preparation of a possible Bolshevik large-scale attack.

On the 1st of May, the Russian Bolshevik foreign minister Georgy Chicherin issued an ultimatum to the Romanian government, asking it to evacuate Bessarabia and threatening with the use of force in case of non-compliance. At the same time more Bolshevik troops were concentrating along the Dniester. By this they tried to ease the pressure against the Hungarian Bolsheviks, forcing the Romanian Army to prepare for an attack in the East. This is why the Romanians brought the 7th division as reinforcement from the Tisza front into Bessarabia.

After the ultimatum, the attacks on the Romanian troops in Bessarabia intensified, peaking on 27–28 May when a few hundreds of Bolshevik troops attacked Tighina. In preparation of this attack, they threw manifests out of a plane, inviting the allied troops to fraternize with them. However, only 60 French soldiers switched sides and supported the Russians crossing the Dniester. The Bolsheviks managed to enter Tighina, but were repulsed later that day by the Romanians with the help of some French troops in town.

To counter the Bolshevik threat, two more Romanian divisions were sent in the area: the 4th and the 5th infantry divisions. Furthermore, a territorial command was organized in southern Bessarabia, comprising mainly of the 15th infantry division.

Phase III: July 1919 – August 1919

The Allied council was deeply displeased by the Romanian advancing to the Tisza without their approval. There were even voices blaming the Romanians for the troubles in Hungary and asking for an immediate retreat to the original demarcation line, concomitantly with a downsize of the Romanian Army. The Council tried also to persuade the Romanians to start talks with the Kun government. However, the Romanian government stood by its decision and argued that the Tisza line was the sole military meaningful demarcation line until the final border line between Romania and Hungary was established and internationally recognized.

The Council put pressure on Kun to stop its advances into Czechoslovakia under the threat of a coordinated attack of the French, Serb and Romanian troops from the South and the East respectively. They also promised a favorable attitude towards Soviet Hungary in the peace talks to follow and in delineating Hungary's new borders. On the 12th of June, these borders were brought to the attention of the governments of Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Hungary. Under these circumstances, Hungary signed an armistice with Czechoslovakia on the 23rd of June and by July 4, the Hungarian troops retreated 15 km south of the demarcation line. The Council demanded that the Romanians leave Tiszántúl and retreat also to their new borders, but the Romanians replied that they would comply only after the Hungarian Army would have demobilized. Upon hearing the Romanian demands from the Council representatives, Kun answered that from now on he would rely solely on the might of his army.

This new turn of events swung the Council against Kun and on the 11th of July it decided to start a coordinated attack of the Serb, French and Romanian troops against Soviet Hungary. The planning for this attack was entrusted to Marshal Foch. However, immediately after the Czechoslovak armistice, Hungary started to mobilize its army against the Romanians along Tisza and on the 17th of July the Hungarians were the first to strike.

The opposing forces

The Romanians were facing the Hungarians on a front of some 250 km, along the Tisza, from south of Szeged, where they were neighboring with French and Serb troops, up to north of Tokaj, where they were neighboring with Czechoslovak troops.

In comparison to April 1919, the Hungarian Army facing the Romanians now along the Tisza river had greatly improved. It was better organized and equipped, and it had a high morale as it fought for its motherland. The morale was further boosted by the successes against the Czechoslovak Army. The communists held control of the army command through their political commissaries, but they were supported by experienced professional officers. At division level and below mostly professional officers were in command. The Hungarians mustered 100 infantry battalions, with some 50,000 men, 10 cavalry squadrons with 1365 men, 69 artillery batteries of calibers ranging up to 305 mm, and nine armored trains. The troops were organized for attack into three groups, North, Central and South, with the Central group being the strongest. They planned to cross the Tisza with all three groups, and then advance towards Satu Mare, Oradea and Arad respectively, expecting to ignite a communist revolt in Romania, as well and counting on some form of support from the Soviet Russia, which they hoped would launch an all-out attack into Bessarabia, on Romania's eastern border.

The Romanian Army had some 92 battalions with some 48,000 men, 58 cavalry squadrons with 12,000 men, some 80 artillery batteries of calibers ranging up to 155 mm, two armored trains, as well as some support units. They were positioned along three lines. The first line included the 16th division in the north and the 18th division in the south. In the second line more powerful formations were located, the 2nd Vânători division in the North, concentrated in and around Nyíregyháza, and the 1st Vânători division in the south, concentrated in and around Békéscsaba. The third line included the most powerful Romanian formations and had to be used as maneuvering mass; it was composed of the 1st and 6th infantry divisions, 1st and 2nd cavalry divisions, as well as some support units. These troops took positions along the railway link stretching from Carei, through Oradea, up to north of Arad. The 20th and the 21st infantry divisions were tasked with maintaining the security and public order behind the third line. The first line was rather thin, as it was supposed to fight delay actions until the true intentions of the attacking Hungarians were to be revealed. After that, together with the troops in the second line they were to hold the attackers until the counterattack of the troops in the third line could commence. For such maneuvering actions, the Romanian command planned to make use of the railway links in their control and had prepared a sufficient number of trains. The Romanians were also highly motivated, fighting for their dream to unify (into a single country) all the lands inhabited by ethnic Romanians. This long yearned dream was now supported by Woodrow Wilson's principles of self-determination and nation state. Most soldiers were experienced World War I veterans.

The Hungarian attack

Between the 17th and the 20th of July, the Hungarians bombarded the Romanian positions and conducted reconnaissance operations. On the 20th of July, around 3:00 AM, after a violent bombardment, the Hungarian infantry of all three groups crossed the Tisza and attacked the Romanian positions.

Operations of the Hungarian and Romanian Armies during the battle of the Tisza river in the third phase of the Hungarian–Romanian War.

Fighting on the flanks

In the North, on the 20th of July, the Hungarians took Rakamaz and some villages around it. Troops of the Romanian 16th division took back the villages but managed to retake Rakamaz only the next day, with the help of the 2nd Vânători division. However, the Hungarians renewed their efforts and, supported by their artillery, retook Rakamaz and two villages around it, but could not break out of the bridgehead. Therefore, they tried to outflank the Romanian positions and cross the Tisza further south at Tiszafüred with troops of the 80th international brigade but they were stopped there by troops of the Romanian 16th division. The Romanians brought also some troops of the 20th infantry division into combat and managed to clear the bridgehead at Tiszafüred on the 24th of July. Not being able to break out of Rakamaz, the Hungarians started fortifying their positions and redeployed some troops somewhere else. There was a lull in fighting in the north, as the Romanians followed suite. Only on the 26th of July do the Romanians attacked again and after some violent fighting that held until 10:00 PM, managed to clear the Hungarian bridgehead. After this, the Romanians were in complete control of the northern part of the Tisza's eastern bank.

In the south, the Hungarian 2nd division needed two days to take Szentes, which was being hold by the 89th and the 90th regiments of the Romanian 18th division. On the 21st and 22nd of July, Hódmezővásárhely changed hands several times between Hungarian troops and Romanian troops of the 90th infantry regiment supported by the 1st Vânători brigade. Then on the 23rd of July, the Romanians finally reoccupied Hódmezővásárhely, Szentes and Mindszent, thus throwing the Hungarians back over the Tisza and ending the fighting in this sector of the front. This allowed the Romanians to take the 1st Vânători brigade from the south front and use it in the center, where the Hungarian attack was progressing very well.

Fighting in the center

On the 20th of July, the Hungarians managed to establish a solid bridgehead on the east bank of the Tisza across Szolnok, despite the opposition of the Romanian 91st regiment of the 18th infantry division. The attackers brought the entire 6th and 7th divisions within the bridgehead and overwhelmed the troops in the first line of defense. The Hungarian 6th infantry division attacked to the east and took Törökszentmiklós, while the 7th division advanced towards Mezőtúr. At the same time, the 5th division was brought over the Tisza and attacked towards Túrkeve. On the 22nd of July, the Hungarians advanced towards Kunhegyes, after crossing the Tisza some 20 km north of Szolnok and defeating the Romanian 18th Vânători regiment. The Romanian troops of the 18th division were reinforced with formations from the second line, including some troops from the 1st cavalry division, and the entire 2nd Vânători brigade. On the 23rd of July, the Hungarians manage to take Túrkeve and Mezőtúr. On the night of the 23rd of July, the Hungarians controlled a 80 km-wide, 60 km-deep chunk of the right bank of the Tiza, opposite of Szolnok. Facing them to the east and to the south were the troops of the Romanian first and second line. To the north, a Romanian maneuver group was forming with troops from the third Romanian line, including the 1st infantry division of Gen. Obogeanu in the center, the 6th infantry division under Gen. Olteanu to the left and the 2nd cavalry division of Gen. Davidoglu to the right of the group, along Tisza.

The Romanian counterattack

The Romanian maneuver group attacked on the morning of the 24th of July. Elements of the 2nd cavalry division, supported by troops of the 18th infantry division took Kunhegyes. The Romanian 1st infantry division attacked the Hungarian 6th infantry division head-on and pushed them back, managing to take Fegyvernek. The Romanian 6th division was less successful, being counterattacked on the left flank by the Hungarian reserve formations. In total, on the 24th of July, the Romanians managed to push the Hungarians back some 20 km and retake the initiative. They reinforced the maneuver group with troops from the North, which became available when the fighting decreased in intensity there. These included the 2nd Vânători division and some cavalry units. The Romanian troops along the entire front received the order to attack the enemy the next day. On the 25th of July the fighting continued, being particularly violent on the front of the Romanian 1st infantry division, in and around Fegyvernek, where the Hungarians chose to counterattack. Towards the end of the day, the Romanians maneuver group started breaking through the Hungarian positions in the north. Also, Hungarian positions in the south were overrun. The Hungarians started a general retreat towards the Tisza bridge in front of Szolnok, which they blew up on the 26th of July in order to stop the Romanians from following them. On the evening of 26th of July, the entire east bank of the Tisza was again under firm Romanian control.

The Romanians cross the Tisza

The crossing of the Tisa
Romanian troops entering Budapest

After repulsing the Hungarian attack, the Romanians started planning to cross the Tisza and deliver the final blow to Soviet Hungary, despite some opposition from the Allied council. They brought the 7th infantry division back from the Bessarabian front, where the Russians were holding still, and also the 2nd infantry division as well as some smaller infantry and artillery units. For crossing the Tisza the Romanian command prepared 119 battalions with some 84,000 troops, 99 artillery batteries with 392 guns and 60 cavalry squadrons with 12,000 men. The Hungarians made efficient use of their artillery, attacking the Romanian concentration areas. Between 27 and 29 July, the Romanians tested the strength of the Hungarian defense with small attacks. They finally decided to cross the Tisza in the vicinity of Fegyvernek, where the river makes a turn. On the night of 29th to 30th of July, the Romanians crossed the Tisza. The main crossing at Fegyvernek was covered by decoy operations on other points of the front, where intense artillery duels took place. The Romanians managed to surprise the Hungarians at Fegyvernek who decided on the 31st of July to abandon the Tisza line and retreat towards Budapest.

The debacle of the Hungarian Army

Romanian sentry guarding the Liberty Bridge in Budapest

After the bulk of the Romanian troops crossed the Tisza, they started advancing towards Budapest. The Romanian cavalry covered the flanks of the main body of troops and tried to discover the points of concentration of the Hungarian Army. At the same time, it severed the links between the different corps of the Hungarian Army. On the 1st of August, most fighting took place in the south, in and around Szolnok, the town having been severely affected by the fighting. At the end of the day, the Hungarians sent representatives to negotiate their surrender. In the center and in the north, the Hungarian troops were completely surrounded by the evening of the 3rd of August and the units start to surrender or to disintegrate. The 3rd of August saw the end of the Hungarian Red Army.

The Romanians occupy Budapest

The Romanians continued their push towards Budapest. The first Romanian units to enter Budapest on the evening of the 3rd of August were three squadrons of the 6th cavalry regiment of the 4th brigade, under the command of Gen. Rusescu. The 400 men with two artillery guns were the only forces to occupy the city until midday on the 4th of August, when the bulk of the Romanian forces entered Budapest and a parade took place through the center of the city in front of their commander, Gen. Moşoiu.

Casualties, prisoners and war booty

The third phase of the Hungarian–Romanian War saw the most intense fighting of the entire conflict. The Romanians lost 123 officers and 6,434 soldiers: 39 officers and 1,730 soldiers dead, 81 officers and 3,125 soldiers wounded and three officers and 1,579 soldiers missing. Until the 8th of August 1919, they captured 1,235 officers and 40,000 soldiers, seized 350 guns, including two with a caliber of 305 mm, 332 machine guns, 52,000 rifles and 87 airplanes. They also seized large quantities of ammunition, and means of transportation.


On the 2nd of August 1919, Bela Kun fled Hungary towards the Austrian border and eventually reached the Soviet Union. A socialist government under the leadership of Gyula Peidl was installed in Budapest with the help of some representatives of the Allied council, but it was short-lived. Power was taken then by a nationalistic group trying to instate Archduke Josef as head of state and Stefan Frederic as prime minister. However, the Allies would not accept a Habsburg as head of state and hence a new government was needed. The Romanians advanced to Győr and occupied all Hungary, with the exception of a piece of land around the Balaton lakes. There, a center-right nationalist group formed around Admiral Horthy was preparing to take over after the Romanians would eventually leave. The troops supporting Horthy were supplied with arms by the Romanian Army.[7] In the regions under their control, the Romanians took over police and administration duties.

Hungarian stamps with Romanian overprint issued in Debrecen by the Romanian administration in occupied Hungary

The terms of the Romanian-imposed armistice were harsh on Hungary. When the Romanian troops finally departed Budapest at the beginning of 1920, they took extensive booty, including food, trucks, locomotives and railroad cars, and factory equipment, in revenge for the Central Powers' plundering of Romania during the war.[8] The Hungarians had to cede all war materials, excepting those weapons necessary for the troops under Horthy's command. Furthermore, they had to hand over to the Romanians their entire armament industry, 50% of the rolling stock of the Hungarian railroad, 30% of the livestock, 30% of all agricultural tools, and 35,000 wagons of cereals and animal feed. Also all the goods identified as war booty taken from Romania after the Peace of Bucharest in 1918 were confiscated.

The entire Hungarian–Romanian War of 1919 was waged over a period of nine months. The Romanians lost 188 officers and 11,478 soldiers, out of which 69 officers and 3,601 soldiers dead. The Romanians started retreating from Hungary in November 1919. Between February 14 and March 28, 1920 all Romanian Army units left the Hungarian territory.

Order of Battle

  • Phase I
    • Romanian Army
      • 1st Vânători division
      • 2nd Vânători division
      • 7th Vânători division
      • 6th infantry division
      • 16th infantry division
      • 18th infantry division
  • Phase II
    • Romanian Army
      • Northern Group (gen. Mosoiu)
        • gen. Olteanu Group
          • two infantry battalions
          • one cavalry brigade
          • one artillery battery
        • 2nd cavalry division (Baia Mare)
        • 7th Vânători division (Zalău)
        • 6th infantry division (Huedin)
        • Group Reserve
        • 16th infantry division (Dej)
      • Southern Group (gen. Mărdărescu)
        • 2nd Vânători division (Roşia)
        • Beiuş regiment
        • Group Reserve
        • 1st Vânători division (Deva)
      • Army Reserve
        • 18th infantry division
  • Phase III
    • Romanian Army
      • Northern Group
        • 16th infantry division (first line)
        • 2nd Vânători division
      • Southern Group
        • 18th infantry division (first line)
        • 1st Vânători division
      • Army Reserve
        • 1st infantry division
        • 6th infantry division
        • 20th infantry division
        • 21st infantry division
        • 1st cavalry division
        • 2nd cavalry division
    • Hungarian Army
      • Northern Group (Tokaj)
        • 2nd Székely brigade
        • 3rd Székely brigade
        • 39th infantry battalion
        • Szanto detachment
        • Group Reserve (Miskolc)
        • 1st infantry division
      • Central Group (Szolnok)
        • 5th infantry division
        • 6th infantry division
        • 7th infantry division
        • 80th international inf. brigade
        • Group Reserve (Cegléd)
        • half of the 3rd infantry division
      • South Group (Csongrád)
        • 2nd infantry division
        • Group Reserve (Kistelek)
        • 4th infantry division
      • Army Reserve (Abony-Cegléd)
        • half of the 3rd infantry division
        • one cavalry regiment

See also


  1. ^ Draganescu, Constantin (2008) (PDF). Spicuiri din razboiul Romaniei cu Ungaria din anul 1919 (in Romanian). Revista Document Nr3(41). Retrieved 2009-01-25.  
  2. ^ C. Kiriţescu: Istoria războiului pentru întregirea României, Vol. II, ed. Romania Noua, 1923, pp. 525
  3. ^ C. Kiriţescu: Istoria războiului pentru întregirea României, Vol. II, ed. Romania Noua, 1923, pp. 543–546
  4. ^ C. Kiriţescu: Istoria războiului pentru întregirea României, Vol. II, ed. Romania Noua, 1923, pp. 550
  5. ^ F. d'Esperey, Archives diplomatiques. Europe Z, R, April 12, 1919, Vol. 47, pp. 86
  6. ^ G. Clemenceau, Archives diplomatiques. Europe Z, R, April 14, 1919, Vol. 47, pp. 83–84.
  7. ^ C. Kiriţescu: Istoria războiului pentru întregirea României, Vol. II, ed. Romania Noua, 1923, pp. 612
  8. ^ "Romania and Transylvania to the End of the World War I, 1861–1919". A Country Study: Romania. Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. Retrieved 2009-01-19.  



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