After serving as the Vancouver Chapter Leader of the World Federation of Hungarian Veterans from 1998 until 2008, Peter Czink decided he could better serve the interests of Hungary and the English speaking world by founding the International Hungarian Military History Preservation Society.
The IHMHPS is apolitical, and welcomes everyone. Our mission is to facilitate English speaking people in the scientific study of Hungarian military history, while promoting the importance of national defence, peace-keeping, honourable traditions and camaraderie. The IHMHPS promotes this important subject to military enthusiasts, fosters a closer relationship between the descendants of emigrants and official Hungarian military and historical institutions, encourages the preservation and conservation of historical artefacts, and supports scientific and academic projects connected with Hungarian military history.
Are you looking for Hungarian military records of a family member?
For a soldier that served, was wounded, killed or taken prisoner in WW II, write (in Hungarian) to:
Hadtörténeti Intézet és Múzeum Központi Irattár
1076 Budapest, Verseny u. 12. Hungary
For WW I records (for personnel born before 1900), you can write in English (but Hungarian is preferred) to:
Hadtörténeti Intézet és Múzeum Hadtörténelmi Levéltár
1014 Budapest Kapisztrán tér 2 - 4. Hungary
Magyar nyelvű kérdéseikkel, kérem, forduljanak
v. Laborc Péterhez, az IHMHPS magyarországi elnök-helyettese
Fragen, in Deutscher Sprache beantwortet Ihnen gerne
Vizeleutnant Manfred Winter Vizepräsident der IHMHPS in Österreich
Cергей Слакаев, Вице-президент Международного Венгерского
Военно-исторического общества в России.
Sergey Slakaev, IHMHPS Vice-President Russian Federation
1967.X.20. - 2014.VII.15.
A CENTURY OF HUNGARIAN MILITARY HISTORY
by Ferenc Bálint, edited by Peter Czink
After the political and economic compromise of 1867 between Austria and Hungary, the military force of the newly formed Austro-Hungarian monarchy was also completely transformed. Three acts, passed in 1868, served as a basis for the new military structure: Franz Joseph I signed Act XL on the armed forces, Act XLI on the Royal Hungarian Honvéd Army and Act XLII on the Volunteer Militia, on 5 December. Pursuant to the newly adopted laws, the military force of the Austro-Hungarian state consisted of five major units: the common Imperial-Royal, later renamed Imperial and Royal Army (k. k. – kaiserliche-königliche, later k. u. k. – kaiserliche und königliche), which included the Navy, the Royal Hungarian Honvéd Army (Magyar Királyi Honvédség), and its Austrian equivalent (for which the German expression Landwehr was used). These units were completed by the Royal Hungarian Militia (Magyar Királyi Népfelkelés) in Hungary, including former aged soldiers and the Landstrum in Austria. Initially, the two national armies were meant to be second line armies to the common army, however, by the eve of World War I, the Honvéd and Landwehr corps became equal to the troops of the Imperial and Royal Army.
Due to the original secondary role, the peacetime footing of the Hungarian Army was not defined, only the units were supplied with troops, therefore only 10,000 soldiers served in the new Hungarian Army in the early years. In the beginning, the number of new recruits was 11,000 per year, which was increased to 21,500 by 1913.
The officer corps were either redeployed common army officers, or those who applied for transfer, or volunteers or former Honvéd officers from the 1848 Hungarian Army. The reinforcements were trained first in courses, then in 1872, with the opening of the Ludovika Academy, the Hungarian Army obtained its own military officer’s academy, which reached the level of the military academy of Wiener Neustadt by the end of the century. However, neither the Hungarian Army, nor the Austrian Landwehr had its own generals, these posts were held by the generals of the common army.
The language of command of the Honvéd units in the Kingdom of Croatia – joined in union with Hungary – was Croatian, and they used the Croatian arms on their regimental flag.
In 1869, eighty-two honvéd infantry battalions and thirty-two cavalry companies were set up, and another ten infantry battalions were added to that after the dissolution of the Military Borderlands. According to the original plan, in case of war, the corresponding units of the common army would have provided the artillery and technical support to the Hungarian Army.
The lack of artillery was quite a sensitive point in the political battles of the period of dualism, and Hungarians managed to achieve the establishment of a Hungarian artillery only in 1913. There was no independent technical team in the Hungarian Army, the combat engineers served as the technical team of the units.
In the first half of the 1870s, the cavalry companies were organized in regiments, then, in 1890 the independent Honvéd battalions were equally transformed into infantry regiments. As a consequence of the continuous expansion of the military structure, by 1914 the Royal Hungarian Honvéd Army consisted of thirty-two Honvéd Infantry Regiments, ten Honvéd Hussar (Cavalry) Regiments, eight Honvéd Field Artillery Regiments and one Cavalry Artillery Battalion. Until the outset of the World War, the units of the Hungarian Army participated in only one serious armed conflict, during the occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1878.
At the outbreak of World War I, the total war footing of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was 1,800,000 persons, 30% of whom were provided by the countries of the Hungarian Holy Crown. Sixteen corps were stationed in the territory of the monarchy comprising forty-nine Infantry Divisions (thirty-three common, and eight each of Honvéd and Landwehr), fourteen Field Artillery Brigades, three Mountain Units and five Fortress Artillery Brigades.
During World War I, Hungarian soldiers served in the common army, in the Hungarian Honvéd Army, and in the Royal Hungarian Militia. The extremely complicated and vastly researched order of events of the war might be presented via the story of one of the divisions of the monarchy serving all through the war on different fronts, the Royal Hungarian 20th Honvéd Division (from Oradea, Romania).
The 20th Honvéd Infantry Division was mobilized on 26 July, 1914, and from 26 August it fought as part of the 7th Corps of the Second Austro-Hungarian Army on the Russian Front, in East Galicia, in the region of Halych and Rohatyn, and later along the Dniester River. From 27 September to mid-December, it participated in defensive battles in the Carpathian Mountains, east from the Dukla Pass and in its vicinity. Its total loss until the end of 1914 was 535 officers and 30,232 servicemen. From February 1915, it held its position in the region of Mezőlaborc-Homonna; after the breakthrough at Gorlice, it participated in the chase of the Russians north-east of Sanok. From the 6 June, at the time of the First Battle of the Isonzo, it was already on the Italian Front defending the massif of Monte Krn. The 20th Honvéd Infantry Division fought through the Second, the third, the fourth, the sixth and the eighth Battles of the Isonzo as part of the 7th Corps of the Imperial and Royal Army on Mount San Michele and in its vicinity, in the Inferno di Doberdo (Hell of Doberdo). From 25 November, 1916, it fought on the Russian Front, North of Brody, in the region of Styr and Lypa in the army of the German General Linsingen, in the corps of General Diffenbach.
From 14 September, 1917, the division defended Monte San Gabriele on the Italian Front incurring huge casualties: it lost half of its effective force until the end of October. Simultaneously with the operations of the Caporetto breakthrough, the division also went on the offensive, it reached Isonzo on the 29 of October, then reached Piave, East of Belluno as the reserve of the Isonzo Army on 8 January, 1918. There it held its position North of Monte Tomba until 29 October, 1918, and started its retreat on the 30th. Its infantry was transported back to the garrisons from Villach by train from 14 November.
In World War I, out of the 8,000,000 enlisted soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, 1,016,200 were killed in action, 1,943,000 were injured and 2,128,600 became prisoners of war. 13.5% of the officers, 9.8% of the junior officers and troops died. Hungary had a higher number of casualties in proportion to its territory and population than the provinces of the monarchy beyond the river Leitha.
The death toll was especially high in Fejér, Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok, Baranya, Bács-Bodrog, Csongrád, Zala, Vas, Csík, Udvarhely, Somogy, and Arad counties, as well as in certain parts of Croatia. In Austria, the death rate was the most severe in the Alps, in South Moravia and in the Sudeten German territories of Bohemia. The reason for this was that the Austro-Hungarian high command trusted the German, Hungarian, Slovene and Croat national corps above the others, therefore in most cases they were the ones sent to the more dangerous frontlines. The Hungarian Honvéd divisions undoubtedly belonged to the most reliable corps of the army of the monarchy, fighting most gallantly. The great number of Hungarian and foreign medals awarded to the officers and men of the Hungarian Army during the war can also be considered proof of that.
After the military collapse in 1918, the armistice signed in Padua, on 3 November only declared the end to military actions. Hundreds of thousands of Hungarian soldiers ending the battle on the Italian Front, on the Balkan or on the Western Front, flocked home to the agitated hinterland.
Taking advantage of the dissolution of the monarchy, the Bohemian Army invaded Upper Hungary (Felvidék) on 8 November, but the Hungarian Army still made them retreat.
In November-December 1918, the partition of Hungary started under the shadow of the of Entente powers. Romanian troops invaded Transylvania, Serbian ones Vojvodina, then the South of Hungary (Délvidék), and Bohemian troops occupied Upper Hungary (Felvidék), while 1,200,000 soldiers were being demobilized in the country in mid-December.
Under these circumstances, the new military force, the Red Army of the Hungarian Soviet Republic created in 1919, took up arms to defend Hungary against the attacks of the foreign troops. In this army, the soldiers were mostly officers and men who served in World War I, who wished to defend the territory of the country, independently of their political view.
Almost at the same time, the National Army (Nemzeti Hadsereg) was set up, and a powerful army was created in Szeged under the leadership of Vice Admiral Miklós Horthy, the last commanding officer of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, under the auspices of the Entente power. Miklós Horthy entered Budapest at the head of the National Army on 16 November, 1919 and started to organize a new military force in full possession of political power.
The National Army formed the core of the military force, which was once again re-designated the Royal Hungarian Honvéd Army in January 1922.
The new national army, although aspired to represent the Hungarian traditions in its image, naturally followed the example of the former Imperial and Royal Army. The regulations, training and even the uniform of the Royal Hungarian Honvéd Army showed a striking similarity to those used in the Austro-Hungarian Army before 1918, however, its efficiency did not reached the same level. The reasons for that were the restrictions concerning the Hungarian Army defined in the Versailles Peace Treaty, ending World War I. The dispositions of the treaty limited the Hungarian Honvéd Army to 35,000 men, and forbade universal conscription. The Hungarian Army was forbidden to possess tank corps, air force and anti-aircraft corps.
The use of medium and heavy weapons was forbidden, a maximum of three light weapons and two each of light and medium mortars were allowed per 1,000 soldiers. The only types of fast-moving corps permitted were the horse and cycle mounted units. The victors did not agree to set up a General Staff.
The Hungarian government, hoping for a future release from these obligations, hid the most valuable units of the disbanded army in the service of the gendarmerie, the police, the river forces and the air office. The officers and specialized troops were trained in similar cover organizations. For example the soldiers of the armoured corps were trained in the Police Recruit School. Part of the military industry was made invisible by administrative means.
The secret development of the army became possible when the strict control of the Entente powers ended in 1927; however, the necessary financial resources were only available after the worldwide economic depression. Weaponry and military equipment were provided by foreign – mostly Italian and to a smaller extent Swedish – sources until the renewal of the hidden defence industrial capacities.
The open development of the military force became possible in 1938, when the agreement signed in Bled, Yugoslavia, in August 1938, as a result of the negotiations started in January 1937, declared Hungary’s equal rights to armament.
In anticipation of this decision, a resolution was adopted on 3 February, 1938 on the reorganization of the Royal Hungarian Honvéd Army under the guidance of the Minister of Defence, Vilmos Rőder. The peacetime strength was defined as consisting of 107,000 men, which later grew to 118,297. They wished to carry out a revised order of battle in three phases (Huba I-II-III) in five years, that is, by the end of 1942 as follows: twenty-five Brigades (two Infantry Regiments each), one Cavalry Division, two Armoured Divisions, two Mountain Brigades, one Border Ranger Brigade, one River Patrol Brigade, and two Air Brigades (with twenty-eight Squadrons and ten Reconnaissance Companies).
Prime Minister Kálmán Darányi announced a rearmament plan, the so-called Program of Győr, on 5 March, 1938, which allotted an excessive amount of money to the development of the Hungarian military force and defence industry, considering the capacities of the country.
Apart from Italy, procuring weapons became possible to a smaller extent from Germany. This latter mainly provided transport vehicles and field and anti-tank artillery equipment. Several important licences were obtained from Switzerland and Sweden to modernize the military industry.
The country’s armament programme was dominated by national developments. The army was equipped with locally developed machine guns, repeating rifles and automatic pistols. Heavy weapons for anti-tank tasks and heavy machine guns for armoured troops, were developed and put in operation. The communication troops’ equipment was also developed and manufactured in Hungary.
The guns of the artillery included improved Italian, Swedish and former Austro-Hungarian types, the ammunition production rose to unprecedented levels. Airplanes – apart from the ones produced in Hungary – came from Italy.
Despite all these efforts, the level of equipment of the Royal Hungarian Honvéd Army showed the inadequacies imposed by the peace treaty of World War I. Its motorization level was very low, possessing fewer tanks, airplanes, automatic weapons and armour-piercing weapons than the average nation of the age.
The First Vienna Award – born as a result of the Munich Agreement deciding the fate of Czechoslovakia – declared the return of the southern part of the former Upper Hungary (Felvidék) to Hungary. Four appointed corps of the Royal Hungarian Honvéd Army entered the territory on 5 November, 1938.
Ruthenia was recaptured between 15 and 18 March, 1939, after the declaration of Slovakia’s independence. Thus, Hungary’s border with Poland, considered very important from a political point of view, was established once again.
The Second Vienna Award of 30 August, 1940, divided Transylvania into two parts and awarded the northern portion to Hungary. The Hungarian Army's occupation of the designated territories was finished by 13 September, in eight days.
Two motorized brigades were set up instead of the two armoured divisions initially planned during the revision of the army. The tanks of the armoured battalion attached to them were mostly Fiat Ansaldo CV-35 light tanks, which were already considered outdated. The manufacturing rights of the Swedish Landsverk L-60 light tank were bought to replace the CV-35s, and eighty tanks were manufactured and sent to the troops in 1941, under the name of Toldi I. The M1940 Turán middle tank was developed in Hungary based on the design of the Skoda T-21 medium tank prototype, and was sent to the troops in 1942.
As the next step of regaining territory, the Royal Hungarian Honvéd Army crossed the southern border on the day after the declaration of independence of the Kingdom of Croatia, on 11 April, 1941, and occupied Novi Sad (Újvidék) by 14 April.
On 26 June, 1941, three unidentified planes bombed the city of Kassa (today Košice). The Government of Hungary declared war on the Soviet Union the next day. On 28 June, Hungarian troops crossed the border, and on 30 June the “Carpathian Group” was formed from the staff of the Royal Hungarian VIII Corps and its subordinated units, the Rapid Deployment Corps, the 8th Border Rifle Brigade and the 1st Mountain Brigade. Lieutenant General Ferenc Szombathelyi was commissioned as its commander. His task was to chase the Soviet troops retreating toward the River Dniester. The Karpat Group was replaced by the Hungarian occupying forces in the course of October-November, 1941.
On 22 January, 1942, under German pressure, it was decided that a Hungarian Second Army would be deployed and sent to the Eastern Front. Lieutenant General Gusztáv Jány became its Commander.
The mobilized Hungarian Second Army was equipped far beyond the Hungarian average, but even so, it remained far behind the usual level of the German or the Soviet armies. The army lacked vehicles, haulers, clothes, equipment and often even food.
The Second Army took possession of its position along the Don River on a 200 kilometre frontline by 25 August, after heavy fighting. Three Soviet bridgeheads were the critical points of the defensive line, the Uriv among them. The successive and very exhausting bridgehead battles did not yield results; by the end of September the Hungarian troops settled down for defence.
The Soviet troops, having a great advantage in numbers and in materiel, broke through at the Uriv and Schutsje bridgeheads on 12 and on 14 January, 1943, respectively. The opposing German, Hungarian and Italian corps were forced to continuously retreat to avoid being encircled. Self-sacrificing efforts of the Hungarian soldiers proved insufficient against the superior numbers: the Second Army collapsed by the end of January. The total loss of the Second Army, including the wounded and those taken prisons of war, is estimated to be 120,000 persons.
On 19 March, 1944, German troops invaded Hungary to prevent its withdrawal from the war. Pursuant to the order of General Ferenc Szombathelyi, Chief of Staff, the Royal Hungarian Honvéd Army did not resist.
On 28 March, Hitler decided on further military use of the Hungarian Army. The First Army – previously prepared for blocking the passes of the Carpathian Mountains – was sent to the front under the command of the German Army Group South Ukraine. After the Soviets had broken through the front line in July, its task became the defence of the mountain passes of the Carpathians.
However, after Romania had changed sides on 23 August, 1944, the war definitely reached the territory of Hungary. Admiral Miklós Horthy’s attempt at an armistice on 15 October failed, following his forced abdication, the Germans appointed Ferenc Szálasi as Prime Minister. The Szálasi government, as a committed supporter of the Third Reich, put all the resources of the country to military use. However, the Soviet Army could not be stopped; Budapest surrendered on 13 February, 1945, and about two months later the last German and Hungarian troops left the territory of Hungary. The last units of the Royal Hungarian Honvéd Army surrendered at the end of the war on German territory.
With the end of fighting, the country’s reconstruction could start, which was rendered more difficult by the Soviet occupation, and by the fact that a considerable number of the adult male population was held as prisoners-of-war. Not only had the infrastructure needed reconstruction, but also the state organization, including the armed forces. The core of the new, so-called “Democratic Hungarian Honvéd Army” consisted of the army of the Provisional National Government operating on the territory occupied by the Soviets and the remnants of the troops, which joined the Soviets. The government of Debrecen declared war on Germany on 28 December, 1944, however the soldiers of the new Honvéd Army – with a few exceptions – did not participate in the battles against the German troops. Some units (like the First Railway Engineer Regiment, later Division) were set up from the Hungarian soldiers taken prisoner by the Soviets, and had mostly engineering tasks and, among others, took on the important job of deactivating mines and other explosives remaining from the battles.
On 1 February, 1946, the almost thousand-year-old Kingdom of Hungary ceased to exist, and the new constitutional form of the country became a republic.
The Paris Peace Treaty ending World War II, signed on 10 February, 1947, was significantly responsible for the reconstruction of the Hungarian military force. Among others things, it limited the standing army and the armament of Hungary. Pursuant to this, the country was allowed a peacetime strength of 65,000 men, and an air force of 5,000 men with seventy fighter aircraft and twenty planes for other purposes.
In the meantime, political changes were taking place in the country - the Communist Party was quickly gaining ground, the height of which was the falsified “blue slip election” of 31 August, 1947. The Hungarian Working People's Party (Magyar Dolgozók Pártja), formed by a forced merger of the Hungarian Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party in 1948, gained more and more of the country’s leading positions, such as that of the Minister of Defence, to which position Mihály Farkas was appointed on 9 September. In parallel with the Communist takeover, an intensive development of the military force started in Hungary as the Hungarian party leaders – as instructed by the Soviets – tried to prepare for a war against the “imperialists.”
A good example of this intensive development was the order of battle named Pilis I, coming into effect on 15 April, 1948 and Pilis II, approved at the beginning of October the same year. While in Pilis I the peacetime strength of the Hungarian Army was somewhat above 18,000, the order of battle of October described double the number - 36,000 men.
Naturally, as the above example shows, the modernization of the military force was carried out in “internationalist spirit” based on the Soviet model, under the guidance of Soviet advisors. At the same time, the soldiers judged “politically unreliable” were removed. This process started immediately after the war by setting up political scrutinizing committees and culminated after the communist takeover. That was when they “disposed” of those old officers, whom they had had to employ due to their professional expertise. For the officers concerned, this often meant court martial, demotion, prison sentences and more than once, the death penalty. Their places were taken over by hastily trained cadres, which led to an significant decrease in the quality level of the army.
On 20 August, 1949, the constitutional form of Hungary became People’s Republic, and the Hungarian Army was renamed the Hungarian People’s Army, in 1951.
The peacetime strength of the Hungarian military force reached its peak in 1952, when the Hungarian People’s Army counted more than 200,000 soldiers, and the related costs consumed almost a fourth of the national income. The combat value of the mass army was very doubtful because most of the new units were only partially supplied with troops and most of the technical equipment was missing. At the same time, the political leaders started to have a defence line built in the south of the country to prevent a potential Yugoslav attack, which was mostly useless from a military point of view, but was very expensive.
By 1953, the country’s economy became unstable, mostly as a result of the disproportionate military expenses. Owing to that, and to the political changes, the peace footing of the People’s Army was reduced - several units were dissolved or reorganized, and many officers were dismissed. In 1955, the Warsaw Pact gave new direction to the reorganization; however the negative effects of previous inconsiderate decisions could not be overcome. By 1956, the structure and management system of the Hungarian People’s Army became practically impossible to follow, which made uniform central control impossible.
During the first days of the revolution, the Hungarian military forces were ordered to defend the military objects and arsenals and to participate in eliminating the “counter-revolutionary” focal points. While carrying out orders, they often faced armed conflicts with the revolutionaries. Yet, most soldiers sympathized with the ideas of the revolution. This was further reinforced by the position taken by the Prime Minister, Imre Nagy on 28 October, as he described the revolutionary events as a “national democratic movement.” This development created a new situation for the People’s Army, and as a result, their primary aim became to defend the achievements of the revolution.
The Prime Minister appointed Colonel Pál Maléter Minister of Defence on 2 November, and promoted him to Major General at the same time. The new minister, as the head of a negotiation delegation, fell into captivity of the KGB the next day in Tököl. At dawn on 4 November, a Soviet invasion started against the capital, and the forces of the People’s Army put up organized resistance at several places, such as the 51st Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion in Budapest at Juta Hill, or the subunits of the 142nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment in Dunapetele.
The superiority of numbers finally vanquished the resistance of the revolutionaries and the People’s Army, and eliminated its focal points. In the course of the revolution, 279 soldiers of the People’s Army lost their lives. During the subsequent reprisal, between 1956 and 1963, several thousand soldiers suffered retaliation, the death penalty, long-term imprisonment or were discharged from the military service.
After the revolution of 1956, the reorganization of the army started. At the beginning of January, 1957 the peacetime strength of the military force – shrank almost a third compared to that before the revolution – just exceeded 43,000 men. In the course of the modernization of the army, attention centered on increasing the number of tanks and aircraft, and expanding local air-defence units. The peace footing of the army rose to above 84,000 in the very same year.
The Presidential Council promoted Lajos Czinege to Lieutenant General and appointed him Minister of Defence. Czinege was one of the emblematic figures of this historical period, who held this office for almost twenty-five years.
In the 1960s, one of the main tasks of the modernization of the army was the improvement of the local air defence and air force. The army’s armour-piercing effectiveness was increased, and to that end a new type of anti-tank missile battery was brought into service. At the same time, the T-54 and T-55 middle tanks were introduced.
During the troops’ rearmament, the Motorized Rifle Units received armoured personnel carriers manufactured in Hungary (the D-944) and the Reconnaissance Units were equipped with amphibious armoured scout cars (the FUG).
The most complete, elite units of the army were mostly stationed in the western parts of the country in accordance with the Soviet concept. Today, it is common knowledge that in case of a possible war, the designated Hungarian units were meant to reach Austrian and North-Italian targets.
In 1968, as a result of the political changes in Czechoslovakia, the troops of the Warsaw Pact – including the designated units of the Hungarian People’s Army – carried out the military occupation of Czechoslovakia. Under the code name of ZALA’68, disguised as a military exercise, the 8th Armoured Rifle Division (Zalaegerszeg) was mobilized together with its reinforcement and support units.
The occupation of Czechoslovakia was ordered during the night of 20 August. The only significant incident happened in Nitra (Nyitra), where the Hungarian unit broke up the local demonstrators with warning shots. The Hungarian troops were the first to leave Czechoslovakia between 23 and 31 October.
In the 1970s, the continuous decrease of the duration of the conscript military service began. In 1976, the upper limit of the conscript military service was fixed in twenty-four months, in 1981, it was reduced to eighteen months, and in 1989 to twelve months.
In 1984, General Lajos Czinege was replaced by General István Oláh as Minister of Defence, who, being a well-prepared, authentic soldier, was accepted by all the personnel of the army. After his tragic death in 1985, General Ferenc Kárpáti became the next Minister.
In 1988, the peace footing of the Hungarian People’s Army was 106,800 men. During the period immediately preceding the changeover, thirteen Armed Rifle Brigades, four Tank and Artillery Brigades, four Anti-tank Artillery Regiments, seven Engineering and three Signal Regiments, one Operational-Tactical Missile Brigade, three Tactical Missile Battalions, four Reconnaissance and one Airborne Assault Battalion, one Radio Reconnaissance Brigade, eleven Anti-aircraft Artillery and Missile Regiments, one Combat Helicopter Regiment, three Tactical Wing Regiments, and the Danube Flotilla defended the borders and the air space of the country.
That is how the Hungarian People’s Army was structured when the political changeover took place, equally imposing new requirements toward the military force and its structure.
As a result of the changeover, the armed forces of the country also underwent a transformation. The Hungarian Army replaced the Hungarian People’s Army from 1990. Soviet troops left the country a year later, and the Warsaw Pact Contract was dissolved. Due to the changed circumstances, it was high time to reform the army. In the course of this reform, the peace footing was drastically reduced, and many, already outdated technical materials were discarded from the order of battle. The armed force got a new image, which – among other things – is reflected in the new uniform, designed in accordance with Hungarian traditions.
Yugoslavia’s disintegration and the conflict that followed, meant a new task for the new armed forces, as the southern borders of the country needed increased defence. The end of the Yugoslav War brought a serious challenge for the Hungarian Army: in the frame of the NATO’s IFOR mission, the Hungarian troops also participated in the tasks performed on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia. The first successful Yugoslav mission outlined the new, major task of the Hungarian Army, namely peacemaking and peacekeeping missions carried out in international cooperation.
Hungary became a member of NATO in 1999, and this set new tasks for the Hungarian Army. The Hungarian soldiers have had to meet severe professional requirements within the scope of the alliance. As a result, Hungary gradually adopted a professional army composed of volunteers. Since 2004, only professional and contract soldiers serve in the Hungarian Army.
At present approximately 1,000 members of the Hungarian military forces serve abroad in crisis zones. Out of these, NATO’s ISAF mission in Afghanistan counts the most Hungarian soldiers, and means the highest security risk. In the frame of this mission, the Hungarian Army runs a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and an Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT) in the country. Apart from that, Hungarian soldiers serve in Kosovo (KFOR), in Bosnia (EUFOR) and in Cyprus (UNIFCYP), but they also participate in smaller missions all around the world (Lebanon, West-Sahara, etc.).