Budapest Operation of 1944-45

Budapest Operation of 1944-45

 

an offensive operation during the Great Patriotic War carried out by the troops of the Second and Third Ukrainian Fronts from Oct. 29, 1944, to Feb. 13, 1945. The Budapest Operation began in the midst of a crisis in the Hitlerite coalition, when Rumania, Bulgaria, and Finland were forced to leave the coalition under the blows of the Soviet troops and when the Soviet troops reached the borders of East Prussia and the Vistula.

The troops of the Second and Third Ukrainian fronts were developing an offensive along the Belgrade and Budapest axes on the southern wing of the Soviet-German Front. At the beginning of the Budapest Operation, the Second Ukrainian Front (five Soviet and two Rumanian combined arms armies; one tank army and one air force; a total of 40 rifle divisions; two fortified regions; three tank, two mechanized, and three cavalry corps; and one tank brigade), under the command of Marshal of the Soviet Union R. Ia. Malinovskii, reached the line extending from Chop to Polgár to the eastern bank of the Tisza River to Tiszaug and farther on to Baja. This front was opposed by the fascist German Army Group South (Colonel General J. Friessner) composed of 35 divisions, including nine panzer and motorized divisions and three brigades. The troops of the Third Ukrainian Front, commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union F. I. Tolbukhin, regrouped in Hungary to participate in the Budapest Operation after completing the Belgrade Operation of 1944. The Second Ukrainian Front had no time to prepare the Budapest Operation. The operation was begun on October 29, on the second day after the completion of the 1944 Debrecen Operation, by the sole forces of the Forty-sixth Army, which was reinforced by two mechanized corps. Upon the order of the Headquarters of the Supreme Command, this grouping delivered a frontal blow aimed at capturing Budapest, but it was not strong enough to do so and its task was not carried out. The offensive on Budapest was halted but continued in other sectors of the front with alternating success until the end of November. In early December a new attempt was undertaken to route the enemy’s Budapest grouping with the forces of the center and the southern wing of the front. As a result of the offensive, the troops of the Second Ukrainian Front reached the Danube north and northwest of Budapest, cutting off the German Budapest grouping’s route to the north. The troops of the Third Ukrainian Front (three Soviet and one Bulgarian combined arms armies; one air force; a total of 31 rifle divisions; one fortified region; a naval infantry brigade; and one cavalry, one tank, and two mechanized corps) had by that time forced the Danube, reached Lake Balaton from the northeast, and created conditions for joint operations with the Second Ukrainian Front to complete the encirclement and rout of the enemy in the area of Budapest.

From December 10 to December 20 the troops of both fronts were preparing for an offensive (Headquarters directive of December 12). According to the plan, the troops of both fronts were to complete the encirclement and rout of the Budapest grouping and capture Budapest through combined blows from the northeast, east, and southwest. By the beginning of the offensive, the Second Ukrainian Front had 39 rifle divisions; two fortified regions; two cavalry, two tank, and two mechanized corps; and 13 Rumanian divisions. The Third Ukrainian Front had the same composition as before. They faced the troops of the fascist German Army Group South and part of Group F, which comprised 51 German and Hungarian divisions and two brigades (including 13 panzer and motorized divisions and one brigade). Starting the offensive on December 20, the Soviet troops broke through the enemy defense north and southwest of Budapest and, exploiting the success, completed the encirclement of the Budapest grouping on December 26. To avoid unnecessary losses among the population and the destruction of the city, the Soviet command sent a surrender ultimatum to the surrounded garrison on December 29; but the fascist command ordered the Soviet negotiators to be shot. After this, fierce combat began, aimed at liquidating the garrison of 188,000 men; the battles continued all through January and the first half of February 1945. In January 1945, in the course of the Budapest Operation, the troops of the Third Ukrainian Front, reinforced by units and formations of the Second Ukrainian Front, repulsed three strong counterattacks of the fascist German troops that tried to relieve the grouping encircled in Budapest. This explains the long duration of the battles for Budapest. The Buda Regiment, the Hungarian volunteer unit commanded by O. Variházi, courageously fought with the Soviet troops. On February 13 the Soviet troops completely cleared Hungary’s capital of the enemy; 138,000 soldiers and officers were taken prisoner.

The successful completion of the Budapest Operation drastically changed the whole strategic situation on the southern wing of the Soviet-German Front and made it possible to develop a close deep envelopment of the whole southern flank of the fascist German troops. A threat was created to the communications of the Balkan grouping of the enemy, who was forced to speed up withdrawal of troops from Yugoslavia. The troops of the Second and Third Ukrainian Fronts were able to begin operations in Czechoslovakia and along the Vienna axis. The liberation of Hungary by the Soviet troops thwarted the plans of the reactionary circles of the USA and Great Britain to preserve the bourgeois system in Hungary and opened to the Hungarian people the path of true democracy and the opportunity of deciding their own social system.

REFERENCES

Istoriia Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny Sovetskogo Soiuza 1941-1945, vol. 4. Moscow, 1962.
Budapesht—Vena—Praga. Moscow, 1965.
Minasian, M. Osvobozhdenie narodov Iugo-Vostochnoi Evropy. Moscow, 1967.
Malakhov, M. M. Osvobozhdenie Vengrii i Vostochnoi Avstrii. Moscow, 1965.

M. M. MALAKHOV

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