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The " Fast Moving Army Corps " (Gyorshadtest) was the most modern and best-equipped mechanized unit of the Royal Hungarian Army (Magyar Királyi Honvédség, or Defense Force) at the beginning of World War II. However, the "Fast Moving Army Corps" name was something of a misnomer as it was only "mechanized" compared to other Hungarian units. The corps was not particularly mechanized when compared to similar units fielded by countries like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Unionmarker.


The mechanized corps of the "Carpathian Group"

At the outset of the war, the Hungarian General Staff assembled a "strike force" consisting of the 1st Mountain Brigade, the 8th Border Guard Brigade, and the "Fast Moving Army Corps" (Gyorshadtest). This 40,000-man strong elite "Rapid Corps" of two infantry brigades and the mechanized corps was collectively known as the "Carpathian Group" (Kárpát Csoport). The commander of the "Carpathian Group" was Hungarian General (Vezérezredes) Ferenc Szombathelyi.

The "Carpathian Group" also included the integral 1st Air Force Field Brigade. This brigade included a collection of German and Italian aircraft. The brigade even included its own anti-aircraft gun units. On paper, the pilots of the 1st Air Force Field Brigade flew eighteen Italian Fiat CR.32 and eighteen Fiat CR.42 biplane fighters. They also had eighteen Italian Caproni Ca. 135 bis transport/bombers, eighteen German Junkers Ju 86 K-2 dive bombers, and eighteen German Heinkel He 170A reconnaissance/bombers. In general, the aircraft of the Hungarian air brigade were of older vintage and were no match for Soviet fighter planes and bombers.

While well trained and well disciplined, the "Carpathian Group" was poorly equipped and poorly supplied. Unfortunately for the Hungarians, these deficiencies were never remedied.

The commanders of the "Fast Moving Army Corps"

The "Fast Moving Army Corps" (and the I Armored Corps which succeeded it) had a total of four commanders from 1 March 1941 to 11 February 1945. The commanders were as follows:
  • 1 March 1940 to 1 February 1942 - Major General B√©la Mikl√≥s was the first commander of the "Fast Moving Army Corps." Mikl√≥s was awarded a German Knight's Cross on 4 December 1941.
  • 1 February 1942 to 1 April 1942 - No commander.
  • 1 April 1942 to 1 October 1942 - Brigadier General JenŇĎ Major was the commander of the "Fast Moving Army Corps."
  • 1 October 1942 to 15 September 1942 - On 1 October 1942 the name of the mechanized corps was changed to the "I Armored Corps." Major General Lajos Veress was the first commander of the "I Armored Corps."
  • 15 September 1942 to 16 October 1944 - Major General JenŇĎ Major was again commander, this time of the "I Armored Corps."
  • 1 November 1944 to 11 February 1945 - Major General Ferenc Bisza was the final commander of the "I Armored Corps."

The make-up of the the "Fast Moving Army Corps"

The 25,000-man strong "Fast Moving Army Corps" was organized as follows:
  • 1st Motorized Brigade
  • 2nd Motorized Brigade
  • 1st Cavalry Brigade

Each of the two motorized brigades of the the "Fast Moving Army Corps" had a "reconnaissance battalion" with obsolete light and medium tanks (useless against modern anti-tank weapons); two motorized infantry battalions; two bicycle battalions; one medium calibre howitzer division; and one antiaircraft battery. The necessary engineering, communication, and supply troops enabled the motorized brigades to perform as independent tactical units.

The cavalry brigade had two horse-mounted cavalry regiments; a reconnaissance battalion; two bicycle battalions; and horsedrawn as well as motorized artillery units, engineering, communication, and supply troops.

Directly subordinate to the commander of the "Fast Moving Army Corps" were two bicycle battalions, two medium artillery batteries, seven antiaircraft batteries, additional communication, engineering and supply troops, and one air force regiment.

The mechanized corps looked impressive on paper as a strategic unit there is no doubt that it included the most modern, best-equipped troops of the Royal Hungarian Army. In reality, it was less than a match for a Soviet motorized or tank corps. Because of the military leadership's wish to see the Hungarian troops in action as soon as possible, the mechanized corps was ordered to begin its march-up before completing mobilization. Therefore, the effective force was only 75-80 per cent of projected strength. Cars and trucks requisitioned for military operations failed to arrive on time at the mobilization stations. The horses requisitioned for the cavalry were untrained for military service.

The tanks of the armored units were woefully obsolete. 65 Italian Fiat L3 tankettes and 95 Hungarian Toldi I light/medium tanks were available. The L3s had two 8 mm machine guns in a fixed forward position. The L3s had no turret and were referred to as "tankettes" rather than light tanks. The Toldis were light tanks and had a 20 mm gun in a rotating turret. But this gun offered no serious armor piercing capability.

Neither of these vehicles was of much value. The Italian L3 barely provided protection against the poorly equipped troops Italy faced in its Ethiopian War. These lightly armored machine gun carriers were worthless against modern Soviet tanks and anti-tank guns. While marginally better than the Italian vehicle, the Hungarian Toldi I was not even a match for most Soviet light tanks.

Combat History

The "Fast Moving Army Corps" in Yugoslavia

The "Fast Moving Army Corps" was part of the Hungarian Third Army facing the Yugoslavian First Army during the invasion of Yugoslavia.

The "Carpathian Group" into action in Russia

On 1 July 1941, the German High Command directed that the two infantry brigades and one mechanized corps of the "Carpathian Group" be attached to General Carl-Heinrich von St√ľlpnagel's German 17th Army. As an attachment to the 17th Army, the "Carpathian Group" was to first attack and repel the 12th Soviet Army. The group was to then drive the Soviet troops from the Carpathian Mountainsmarker and pursue them to the Dniester Rivermarker. The Hungarians were to deny the Soviets any opportunity to launch a counter-attack against the right flank of the advancing German 17th Army.

The Hungarian troops were to attack no less than eight Soviet divisions on a front almost 180 miles wide. The "Carpathian Group" had a total of about 40,000 armed men to do this. The Soviet forces on the defensive had about 56,000 men.

Plan 9 and the dissolution of the "Carpathian Group"

The German High Command's plan for the "Carpathian Group" to shield the right flank of the German 17th Army was known as "Plan 9". During the morning hours of 1 July 1941, the Hungarians launched an attack against the 12th Soviet Army per this plan. By 9 July, the "Carpathian Group" pushed the stoutly-resisting Soviet forces back and penetrated Russian territory to a depth of 60-70 miles. The paid a high price in heavy losses to accomplish this.

Advancing on foot, the two infantry brigades (mountain and border guard) were unable to keep up with the "Fast Moving Army Corps." For this reason, Colonel-General Henrik Werth, the Hungarian Chief of Staff, dissolved the "Carpathian Group." Werth used the infantry brigades for policing and administrative duties of the occupied territory. He placed the "Fast Moving Army Corps" at the disposal of the German Army Group South (Heeresgruppe Sud). This army group was under the command of Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) Gerd von Rundstedt.

The success of the "Fast Moving Army Corps"

By August 1941, the Hungarian mechanized corps was a key participant in the Battle of Uman. The "Fast Moving Army Corps" represented one half of a pincer which was enveloping the 6th Army and the 12th Army. The German 16th Panzer Division represented the other half of the pincer. On 3 August 1941, the pincer halves met and the 6th Army and the 12th Army were trapped. Over 100,000 Sovietsmarker were captured.

The Hungarian mechanized corps weakens

Even victories cost the Hungarians dearly. The "Fast Moving Army Corps" grew weaker in the summer of 1941. By comparison, the retreating Soviet armies, far from growing weaker, seemed to be growing stronger.

Aware of the general situation, Hungarian Regent Admiral Miklós Horthy and the rest of the Hungarian political leadership tried to gain the release of the battle weary troops in the "Fast Moving Army Corps." Henrik Werth, the pro-German Chief of Staff, was replaced on 5 September 1941 by Colonel-General Ferenc Szombathelyi. Unlike Werth who supported the German offensive in Russia, Szombathelyi held the conviction that Hungarian troops should be employed only for the defense of Hungarian frontiers. Szombathelyi did not hesitate to communicate this view to the Germans. To force the Germans to release the "Fast Moving Army Corps," Szombathelyi neglected to replace either the armored vehicles or the personal carriers and trucks that the corps had lost during the campaign. Even so, the Germans continued to utilize the weak Hungarian mechanized corps.

If nothing else, the "Fast Moving Army Corps" proved that the sense of duty, discipline, comradeship, and extraordinary courage of the Hungarian officer corps and soldiers could prevail over a much better equipped enemy commanding superior forces.

Another limited success

The German commanders typically allowed little room for the Hungarians to take independent action. However, the commander of the "Fast Moving Army Corps," Major General Bela Dalnoki-Miklos, did make an independent decision on at least one occasion. Making this decision, forced Dalnoki-Miklos to disobey direct orders from Field Marshal von Runstedt.

On 19 October 1941, after the Battle of Kiev, General Carl-Heinrich von St√ľlpnagel's German 17th Army was advancing through Poltavamarker towards Voroshilovgradmarker. Facing von St√ľlpnagel were elements of the Soviet 18th army. Field Marshal von Runstedt had ordered von St√ľlpnagel to order the Hungarian mechanized corps to break through the Russian defenses directly in his way. As he was told, St√ľlpnagel ordered Dalnoki-Miklos to attack the Russian defenses and break through them.

Dalnoki-Miklos had many things to consider. The Hungarian mechanized corps was down to six battalions. The Russian defenses had already repelled the attack of forty German battalions. After assessing the situation, Dalnoki-Miklos decided to try something other than the ordered breakthrough. Instead, Dalnoki-Miklos, planned and performed a maneuver which led to the encirclement of the Russian defenses. As a result, a superior Soviet forces was neutralized and the road to Voroshilovgrad was opened up for the continuation of the German advance.

The German General Staff (Großer Generalsstab) had high praise for the outstanding achievements and tactical victories of the Hungarian mechanized corps. The mechanized corps fought for five months in a long campaign and covered over 1,000 miles of territory.

Yet once again these victories were too costly. And the costs was not limited to the mechanized corps itself. The costs were also too high to the whole Hungarian nation. For a country the size of Hungary, the losses were tremendous. By the end of 1941, there were over 200 officers and more than 2,500 rank and file dead. Over 1,500 Hungarians were missing in action. At a minimum, another 7,500 were wounded. Losses in material were high as well. Gone were over 1,200 personnel carriers, 30 airplanes, 28 artillery pieces, 100 per cent of the L3 tankettes, 80 per cent of the Toldi tanks, and 90 per cent of the armored cars.

In November 1941, the "Fast Moving Army Corps" returned to Budapest.

The Hungarian Second Army takes over for the mechanized corps

The withdrawal of the Hungarian mechanized corps did not mean the end of Hungary's military participation in the war.

On 7 September 1941, at Hitler's invitation, Admiral Horthy visited German headquarters to negotiate what this participation would be. Horthy was accompanied by Minister-President László Bárdossy, General Szombathelyi, and Counselor to the Hungarian Embassy in Berlin, Andor Szentmiklosy. During negotiations, the Germans confronted the Hungarian visitors with a surprising statement. According to the Germans, the former Hungarian Chief of Staff, General Werth, had stated that Hungary would send more Hungarian troops to the front when the Hungarian mechanized corps was retired. In other words, Horthy would gain Hitler's consent to withdraw the "Fast Moving Army Corps" only in exchange for an even larger Hungarian force.

The departure of the mechanized corps left the Hungarians with only a bicycle battalion, four infantry brigades, and two cavalry brigades on the Eastern Front. This force was poorly equipped to cope with the vast distances and appalling conditions found there. While this force included a total of about 63,000 men, only the cavalry was able to make any useful contribution to the war effort.

Germany continued to demand a maximum effort from the Hungarians and soon the Hungarian Second Army was dispatched. By the end of 1942, this ill-fated army was on the front lines north of Stalingradmarker protecting the doomed German 6th Army's northern flank.

The I Armored Corps and the end

In Budapest, the Hungarian mechanized corps was re-fitted and made ready for battle. On 1 October 1942, the unit was renamed the "I Armored Corps."

On 29 December 1944, the Battle of Budapest began. The "I Armored Corps" participated in the defense of Hungary's capital city.

On 13 February 1945, after a long siege, Budapest fell to the Soviets. On the same day, what was left of the Hungarian "I Armored Corps" was disbanded.

See also


  1. Andrew Mollo, p.207


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