When the Allies decided to implement D-day in Normandy instead of the Balkans, it became clear for the political leadership that Hungary will be occupied by the Soviet forces. However, even today, not many know that most of the important Hungarian industrial and transport infrastructure was destroyed by American and British bombers coming from Italy.
When in March 1942, Miklós Kállay became Prime Minister, his task was to keep a very delicate balance between Nazi Germany and the Anglo-Saxon Allies. This was because, in 1919, Hungary had already experienced 133 days of communism and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and nobody wanted to be occupied by the communist Soviet Union. The Hungarian political leadership (part of which admired the British parliamentary system) knew that in the neighbourhood of Germany, Berlin’s alliance could not be rejected. However, they wanted to keep doors open both in Washington and London and
hoped that Hungary could be occupied by the Western Allies.
Little did they know about the fact that the Western Powers decided to open a new front in France instead of the Balkans. Moreover, when Churchill and Roosevelt met in Casablanca in January 1943, they agreed to launch strategic carpet-raids against Germany and its allies.
When the Allies occupied Southern Italy, the plans were already made about how to destroy Hungary’s most important industrial and transport facilities. But the Hungarian leadership thought that the air raids had not started yet because of the two-timer policy of the Kállay Cabinet – in any way, the German forces occupied the country on March 19, 1944.
air raids started on 3 April 1944,
with a deadly attack against Budapest demanding the lives of 1,073 civilians. All the attacks came from bases near Foggia and Bari (Southern Italy) and were executed by the 15th American Air Force that had 1,500 four-engined heavy bombers and 800 fighters.
The biggest attack happened on July 2nd when 620 four-engined B-17 „Flying Fortress” and B-24 „Liberator” bombed the two biggest train stations of Budapest, the Manfréd Weiss Steel and Metal Works (in Csepel), as well as two oil refineries and factories in Győr. Since the first wave of the bombers hit both of the refineries, the next ones could not see from the smoke, so they released their bombs blindly. Therefore,
they bombed the civilians living in
Pesterzsébet, Soroksár, and Nagytétény – today, these are the southern districts of Budapest. Since later raids targeted the Western and Eastern Railway stations, some bombs hit houses in the 6th and 7th districts, taking many civilian lives.
German and Hungarian air forces were easily overpowered by the Anglo-Saxon air force,
so, they could not defend the country from the attacks. Hungary suffered further enormous airstrikes on July 14th, July 27th, and July 30th, but the attacks did not stop until November when the Red Army arrived at the gates of Budapest. The targets were mostly factories, oil refineries, and train stations in Budapest and other cities, like Győr, Pécs or Szolnok.
The strategic bombers destroyed most of Hungary’s industrial and transport facilities, but the worst was yet to come for Hungarian civilians. The Red Army crossed the country’s borders in September, against which the Hungarian and German troops fought hard, resulting in, for example, the
almost complete destruction of the capital, Budapest,
in the second-longest siege of WWII after Stalingrad. It took until 1949 for Hungary to rebuild the destroyed industrial, agricultural, transport, and other infrastructure and facilities.
If you want to see how WWII bombs explode, click HERE.