Debrecen Operation of 1944

Debrecen Operation of 1944


an offensive operation carried out by the troops of the Second Ukrainian Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union R. Ia. Malinovskii) from Oct. 2 to Oct. 27, 1944.

The military and political objective of the Debrecen Operation was to begin the liberation of Hungary and to extricate it from the war as an ally of fascist Germany. The Soviet forces were faced by the fascist German Army Group South (commanded by Colonel General H. Friessner). The Soviet command assigned the following mission: to destroy the Debrecen grouping (the Sixth German and Third Hungarian armies), to clear the enemy out of northern Transylvania (the Eighth German and Second Hungarian armies), and to gain the rear of the enemy’s Carpathian grouping (the First German Panzer and First Hungarian armies), thereby supporting the offensive of the Fourth Ukrainian Front in the Carpathians. The Soviet offensive was supported by the Fifth Air Army, operating under difficult weather conditions.

From October 2 to October 6, the striking forces (the Sixth Guards Tank Army and part of the Twenty-seventh Army), advancing on Oradea, Debrecen, and Nyíregyháza, moved forward 20 km on the first day, repelling the fierce counterblows of the enemy between Oradea and Salonta.

Enemy resistance was broken on the southern flank when the Fifty-third Army and the mechanized cavalry group of Lieutenant General I. A. Pliev passed to the offensive on October 6 against Elek and Karcag and the Forty-sixth Army passed to the offensive against Subotica and Szeged. On October 8, Pliev’s group reached the southwestern approaches of Debrecen. The envelopment of the Debrecen grouping from the west threatened the German and Hungarian troops in Transylvania with encirclement. They began withdrawing the same day towardNyíregyháza, pursued by troops Fortieth and Twenty-seventh Soviet armies and the Fourth Rumanian Army. To support the withdrawal, the enemy threw its reserves into battle and, concentrating up to 13 divisions, including five panzer divisions, struck a series of powerful counterblows against the Soviet forces near the cities of Oradea, Debrecen, and Karcag. The Soviet troops were reinforced by the Seventh Guards Army and the mechanized cavalry group of Lieutenant General S. I. Gorshkov transferred from the vicinity of Reghin and Turda.

In the course of a fierce engagement, the Soviet troops seized Oradea on October 12 and Debrecen on October 20. By the end of October they had occupied advantageous positions for an offensive on Budapest. The development of the Debrecen Operation forced the enemy to abandon positions in passes of the Carpathians, which eased the Carpathian-Uzhgorod Operation conducted by the Fourth Ukrainian Front.

The success of the Debrecen Operation led to a change in the political situation in Hungary. Desertions to the Soviet side increased in the Hungarian Army. The government of M. Horthy was forced to negotiate with the USSR, the USA, and Great Britain. On October 11, a Hungarian delegation in Moscow accepted preliminary terms for Hungary’s shift to the side of the Allies. However, the Hitlerites overthrew Horthy on October 18 and replaced him with their henchman, F. Szálasi. This hampered the immediate withdrawal of Hungary from the war, delaying such a move until the creation on December 22 of a provisional national government in Debrecen, which declared war on Hitlerite Germany on December 28.