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The Death Heads, Hungarys Airborne Forces 1938-1945


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#1 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 06:45 PM

The Death Heads, Hungarys Airborne Forces 1938-1945

By Michael M. van Lauesen

Parachute Forces

In 1938, the Hungarian Ministry of Defense decided to create an airborne infantry force the, "Ejtoernyos" (paratroopers). A parachute test center was established on Szent Endre, an island in the Danube river near the capital city of Budapest. Even though parachuting was in it's infancy in 1938, many enthusiastic Hungarian army infantry NCOs and officers volunteered to join this new unit. Parachutes and other airborne equipment were purchased from all over Europe and from the USA. The Italian Salvadore parachute, the German Schrodor parachute, and the U.S. Irving parachute were all utilized by the Hungarians. This elite, special unit made many parachute drops with the newly acquired equipment from WW1-era Italian Caproni 101 aircraft.

Later, in 1939, the Hungarian army developed its own locally-manufactured airborne equipment, knee and elbow pads and a jump smock, as well as the H-39M parachute. The Hungarians also updated their aircraft inventory with the Savoia-Marchetti SM-75, purchased from Italy, and other modern aircraft.

The Hungarian Army Chief of Staff was impressed by the first training exercises of the paratroopers and recognized many practical applications for the new force within the regular army. The Hungarian army command expanded the paratrooper training program in 1940 and moved its location to the Papa Airport, where it established a standardized paratrooper school. The Hungarian paratroopers comprised one battalion of three companies with a total nominal strength of 410: 30 officers, 120 NCOs, and 250 enlisted men. The first operational battalion was soon ready in 1941.

In April 1941 the German army wanted to use Hungary as a jumping off point for their invasion of Yugoslavia. Permission was granted by the Hungarian authorities for the Germans to pass through Hungarian territory to launch their attack. The Hungarian army was indecisive in regarding their role. The Hungarian army leadership waited until Croatia, now an autonomous region of Yugoslavia, declared its independence on 10 April 1941. Their was much protest in the Hungarian military establishment against attacking the new Croatian state, a country that had not acted against Hungary.

When the Hungarian troops started to invade Croatia on 11 April 1941, they attacked the Batchka region. The Hungarian parachute battalion was placed on alert for possible deployment and kept in reserve by the Hungarian 3rd Army (commanded by Colonel-General Novák). When the Hungarians attacked from the north, the Yugoslav troops retreated from their first defensive line along the border with Hungary, behind the Franz Josef Canal. The Canal divides the Batchka area and the two canal bridges at Szenttamas and Verbasz had to be taken before the Hungarian Mobile Corps (Commanded by Major-General Béla Miklós) could occupy the rest of the region. The Hungarian Parachute Battalion was to be dropped behind this line, approach the bridges from the rear, and seize them. The Hungarian airborne forces made their first operational combat jump over the northern Yugoslavian district of Delidek on April 12, 1941. After the drop, the Hungarian paratroopers marched over 30 kms to their objectives at night, then took the bridges after brief fighting with Yugoslav forces.

Following the invasion of northern Yugoslavia, in June 1941, the Hungarian paratrooper battalion was named in honor of Major Árpád Bertalan, a pioneer of Hungarian parachuting. Major Bertalan, a winner of the Order of Maria Theresa in W.W.I. (Honvéd -IR.4, awarded ten years after the action on 25 October, 1927), Austria's highest award for valor, and the Parachute Battalion's first commander, died tragically in a plane crash on April 12, 1941 the circumstances of which remain somewhat controversial. The plane crash that claimed Major Bertalan's life occurred at Veszprém Air Field, to which operations had been shifted because rain had left the runway at Papa Airport, composed of compressed dirt and gravel, too muddy for use. The airfield at Veszprém was the only military air base with a cement runway, so it was used by the paratroopers that day for the airborne assault on Yugoslavia. The plane carrying Bertalan was over loaded with equipment and crashed as it was trying to take off: Bertalan returned to the crash site and tried to retrieve equipment and ammunition from the wreckage. Bertalan, the pilot, and 22 paratroopers died as the plane caught fire and exploded. The other three planes involved in the operation, dropped the remaining paratroopers: 3 officers and 57 men, at Ujverbász that same day.

Zoltan Szügyi

Starting in late 1941 a new commander was nominated for the elite Hungarian paratrooper battalion, Colonel Zoltan Szügyi. Szügyi had a very distinguished record from the First World War and held many important infantry commands before being appointed as the new officer in charge of the Hungarian paratrooper force. Szügyi was a decorated solider in the First World War in the Austro-Hungarian Army, he started his military career as a private and then earned rapid promotion to Sergeant and then finally in 1918 to Lieutenant. General Szügyi decorations included the following Austro-Hungarian awards, the Order of the Iron Crown with war decoration and swords, The Military Merit Cross, 3rd Class with war decoration and swords, the Golden Bravery Medal (this was the highest award for valor an enlisted man could receive, date of award: May 15, 1915). The Silver Bravery Medal, First Class and the Silver Bravery Medal, Second Class, the Silver Military Merit Medal with swords, the Bronze Military Merit Medal with swords and the W.W.I German Iron Cross, Second Class. In the Second World War Szügyi was to further receive the German Iron Cross, First Class and the German Knights Cross (January 6, 1945).

In 1942 and 1943, Colonel Szügyi and a small cadre of officers and NCOs of the airborne force were moved to the Russian front in an advisory role, for special operations of Hungarian infantry against the Russian army. In 1943 Szügyi help conduct and advise equipment, arms and medical supply drop operations in the Ukraine to relieve elements of the Hungarian Second Army that had retreated from the Don River front following the Axis disaster at Stalingrad. The Hungarian air lift brought relief to many trapped Hungarian military units, allowing the units to retreat and escape from the Red Army.

In August 1944, Romania, Germany's ally but Hungary's opponent in many past conflicts, defected from the Axis powers and joined forces with the Russian Red Army, thus endangering the southern flank of the Axis forces in the Balkans. With the German occupation of Hungary starting in March 1944, many German and Hungarian units rushed to shore up the southeastern flank of the collapsing Axis eastern front. The Hungarian paratrooper battalion was rushed to meet the threat to Hungary's southeast border posed by their new opponents, the Romanians.

Colonel Szügyi, set up a strong defensive perimeter in the Carpathian mountains, the last natural defensive position to the east, along with many German units of the Wehrmacht. Out numbered 10-to-1, Szügyi's paratroopers put up a valiant struggle before being overwhelmed by the combined forces of the Red and Romanian armies.

Many survivors of the First Hungarian Paratrooper battalion, along with personnel from other units, including the Regents Body Guard and college students of the Levente Youth, were formed into the St. Lászlo Division (named for the victorious medieval king, Saint Ladislas I) on 20 October 1944. The Szent Lászlo Division was put under the command of now General Zoltan Szügyi (Szügyi having been promoted to Major General in October 1944 to lead this new, elite division). While the St. Lászlo division comprised three light infantry battalions, its strength fell far short of that of a regular division. In November 1944, the St. Lászlo Division was moved to the lake Balaton area, trying to stem the Russian south-west advance, after ten days of brutal combat the St. Lászlo was pulled back to defend Budapest, the battle for the Hungarian capital city was soon to follow.

On December 31, 1944, Budapest was surrounded by the Red Army, the city surrendered officially to the Russians on February 12, 1945. The Red Army and their allies then began their steam roller offensive west, pushing the remaining Hungarian forces and their German allies back into Austria. On 10 May 1945, General Szügyi and the remaining paratroopers of the St. Lászlo Division surrendered to the British army. According to General Bor (Lieutenant-Field Marshal Jenö nemes halmaji Bor),* there were many Hungarians who wished to return to their homeland, in 1945. Although the Russians had overrun Hungary, there was not yet a Communist regime in place, and there may have been hopes that Hungary's independence would be preserved once the war was over and the Allies withdrew from their respective zones of occupation.

In hindsight, of course, this was unrealistic when considering the Russians, but Hungary didnt have the "benefit" of experiencing a prior Russian occupation. Russia continued as the de facto governing authority over the central European countries it had liberated from the Germans by installing Communist regimes in each that, effectively, sympathetic to the government of the Soviet Union and Russian Communism and were controlled by Moscow.

Ultimately many high ranking Hungarian military officers in the west were turned over to the Red Army or arrested by either the Soviet authorities and transferred to the Hungarian Communist authorities. Many Hungarian officers were put on show trials, deported to Siberia or executed, by the new Hungarian or other Communist regimes in Central Europe, (Lt. General Szombathelyi, C n C of the Hungarian Army in 1941, was turned over to the Yugoslavian authorities in 1945, put on a show trial in Belgrade and executed by impalement in 1946).

General Szügyi was no exception. Delivered to the Red Army by British military authorities in May 1945, General Szügyi was tried by the new governing body of Hungarian Communists who found him guilty of treason and with collaborating with the Hungary's Fascist government (The Arrow Cross). He was sentenced to life in prison. Szügyi signed several false confessions, so it is reasonable to believe he was subjected to torture by his captors.


Sources:

Anyakönzvi Lap (Army Daily Register), Szügzi Zoltan, 1941-1945.

Hadtörténelmi Levéltár (Hungarian Army Archives) Fourteen pages of documents from the 1 rst. Parartrooper Batl., to include 4 pages of awards issued to the unit in 1944, 3 pages of after action reports from 1941. Also 8 pages from the Magyar Honvéd Miniszter Katona Politikai Ostzalz (Elhártó Alosztálz), from 1947.

The Hungarian Paratroopers 1938-1945. Huszár János. Privately published, Budapest 1999.

A magyar katonai felso vezetes 1938-1945

The Royal Hungarian Army Gazette. 1940-Order a 1042/ein 2/r 1940 sz. körrendelethez.

Hungarian Airborne Forces 1938-1945 [Archive] - Military Photos
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#2 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 12:00 AM

:bump:
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#3 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 08:10 AM

Hungarian paratroopers during WWII
http://www.vorosmete...lom/03/krog.pdf
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#4 wtid45

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 10:41 AM

I was only thinking the other day of countries in ww2 who had Paratroops but were little heard of or not known of at all. With this informative post you have helped in part answer that thought cheers JC.By the way can you read minds;):D
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#5 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 04:53 PM

Thanks my friend. Right now Im still searching for some good info on the Romanian Airborne forces. :)
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#6 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 05:11 PM

You may be interested in these threads too :).

http://www.ww2f.com/...941-1942-a.html

http://www.ww2f.com/...935-1945-a.html
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#7 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 02:23 AM

Posted Image

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#8 Trud3r

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 06:05 PM

The Insignia

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Several flamboyant badges were created for this elite airborne fighting force. The basic paratrooper qualification badges (known as the Death Head Badge) were instituted in February 1940 (Royal Hungarian Army Gazette Nr. a 1042/ein. 2/r). The badges were designed and created by the paratroopers themselves. The basic badge was awarded after five successful training jumps.

The basic parachute badge depicted outstretched wings, to the center of the badge, there is a bronze skull, from which derives the badge's name, Death Head Badge. Beneath the skull are crossed swords, pointing downwards. The basic paratrooper badge exists in three grades: officer, made from gilt bullion wire; NCO, in silver bullion wire; and EM, a stamped brass badge with bronzed finish.

Some of the EM metal basic paratrooper badges were chromed with a bright silver finish for formal wear. The EM brass badge measured 80mm from wing tip to wing tip and 36mm from the lower base of the badge to the top of the badge, the bullion wing had the same measurements but variances in size occurred due to different manufactures or custom tailoring for the officers wing in bullion wire.

In 1942 a second type EM metal badge was designed for wear, which had a more stream lined, slightly different design wing and slightly larger then the first type, the skull and swords logo was retained. The second type wing was made from stamped brass, some manufactures employed a gilt finish to the EM basic paratrooper badge. Although there are several different finishes employed with this brass metal basic EM paratrooper badge they were issued for enlisted personnel only and are not for NCOs or officers.

In 1940 a _First Class Parachutist Badge_ was authorized for wear by parachutists who had completed at least 25 first class (perfect) jumps. This badge depicts a large, bronze parachute rising above a skull and crossed daggers, surrounded by an ornate wreath of darkgreen enamel. A cloth version of this badge with bullion embroidery was also authorized for wear by officers and NCOs. The author has seen one example of the Hungarian gilt master parachutist bullion badge, in the holdings of the Hungarian Military Museum in Budapest, that has a crown of St. Stephen to the top of the badge; this was described to the author as a prototype badge. The First Class Parachutist Badge came in one grade with the bronzed or bronzed gilt skull, chute and crossed daggers. The basic measurements of the master badge are 64 mm high, by 47 mm wide, the width of the canopy measures 25 mm.
Just saying...

#9 Trud3r

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 06:05 PM

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Der Adler 27 July 1943
Just saying...

#10 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 11:21 PM

Equipment canister

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#11 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 06:14 PM

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#12 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 09:49 PM

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#13 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 02:36 AM

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#14 bradsmokes

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Posted 05 May 2010 - 09:44 AM

sounds good to me :P




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