Hungarian-Romanian War
Date March 1, 1958 - June 15, 1960
Location Transylvania
Result Stalemate; Treaty of Cluj

Flag of Romania.svg
Flag of Hungary (1915-1918, 1919-1946; 3-2 aspect ratio).svg
1,280,000 men,
639 tanks,
690 aircraft

950,000 men,
553 tanks,
492 aircraft
Military casualties:
149,894 killed,
216,301 wounded
11,112 missing

Military casualties:173,126 killed,
281,383 wounded,
11,421 missing

The Hungarian-Romanian War (Hungarian: Magyar–román háború, Romanian: Razboiul romano-maghiar), was a military conflict fought between the Kingdom of Romania and Kingdom of Hungary between March 1, 1918 and June 15, 1920 over the disputed territory of Transylvania, which was ceded to Hungary in the Vienna Awards in 1940.

When Hungary in 1940 demanded the concession of Transylvanian territory from Romania, tensions rose between Hungary and Romania, and a war was avoided when the German Führer Adolf Hitler helped Hungary with receiving significant portions of Transylvania while avoiding a war with Romania. The Antonescu government in Romania seriously considered a war with Hungary over Transylvania as an inevitability. However, these plans were delayed with the campaign against the Soviet Union, which ended in 1946.


Under the Second Vienna Award, Germany and Italy forced Romania to give half of Transylvania to Hungary. The Hungarians received a region referred to as "Northern Transylvania", while "Southern Transylvania" remained Romanian. Hungary had lost all of Transylvania after World War I in the Treaty of Trianon. They had never surrendered the ambition of regaining the territory. In addition, the Batarci incident also further antagonized relations. The Antonescu government seriously considered a war with Hungary over Transylvania as an inevitability. Of course this new war would have to wait until after the expected "victory over the Soviet Union", which took place in late 1944.

Opposing Forces


Romanian soldiers during an inspection by King Mihai I of Romania, May 10, 1956.

The Romanian Army gained much from its involvement in the Second World War. While the Romanian Army had been heavily influenced by the French Army in the interbellum years, they began to receive German military equipment during the war against the Soviet Union.

After the Second World War, Romania heavily rebuilt its army with large amounts of modern equipment brought from the Germans. While the Armed Forces was reorganised and retrained by German Wehrmacht advisors.

The Germans supplied Romania with many Panther IIs between 1946 and 1953.

Especially the armoured forces were modernised. By 1950, most Romanian tank units were equipped with the R-5 tank, which was the Romanian designation for the German Panther II, fitted with a gyrostabilized 88 mm KwK L/71. These were crushingly superior to any Hungarian tank at that time, apart from the 34/88M and the 44M Tas. Other tanks in service at that time were leftovers from the Second World War, such as the T-4 medium tank (Pz.Kpfw. IV) and TACAM R-2, and TAC III (Sturmgeschütz III) self-propelled guns. also present were 200 Maresal MO-4, a small tank destroyer similar to the Hetzer armed with 75mm Resita M1943 gun and based on captured Soviet T-60 chassis. The army had also been considerably motorised, with the addition of Opel-Blitz trucks, Famo halftracked tractors, Sd.Kfz. 251 halftracks and a few pre-war Malaxa tip UE haulers, which were mainly used to Tow anti-tank guns. In addition, small numbers of the Schutzenpanzerwagen 38(t) Ausf M and the Vollkettenaufklarer 38(t) Katzchen Armoured personnel carriers were used by the Premier formations.

The infantry not been developed much since the end of the Second World War. While new camouflage uniforms had been distributed, most soldiers were still equipped with World War 2 equipment, such as the Dutch M1923/27 helmets and ZB M1924 bolt-action rifles, although quite a lot of Orita M1943 carabines were in service . However, submachine guns were becoming more common among NCOs, and the Orita M1941 was the most common version in use. Some elite units used Stg 44 assault rifles.

In terms of anti-tank weapons, the equipment were predominantly of German origin. Panzerfausts and Panzerschrecks were used on company level, while anti-tank guns such as the powerful 75 mm Reşiţa Model 1943 were distributed at battalion and regiment level.

Artillery was almost the same as by the end of the war, most of them old Schneider and Škoda howitzers deriving from Austro-Hungary and France, with a few Czechoslovak howitzers from the interbellum period. Large stockpiles of Soviet artillery pieces, captured areas such as Odessa during the Second World War, was available in reserve or in units not yet modernized. Some new 210mm Reșița Model 1949 howitzers were availble for the attack.

Especially the Forţele Aeriene Regale ale României (Royal Romanian Air Force) were expanded with German military assistance. Large numbers of jet-engined aircraft, mainly the new Ta 183, the two-seater Me 262 (used as a Trainer and Nightfighter) and the older IAR 80s and Henschel Hs 129, along with the Hs 132 Jet Dive bomber and the IAR 471 Dive bomber. Some Romanian fighter jets were under development ar the IAR factory in Brasov.These gave the Romanians an immense superiority over the Hungarians.

Despite many advantages with the German military assistance programme, many branches of the military, most notably the artillery, resisted the German Reforms.


The condition of the Hungarian Armed Forces was in stark contrast to that of Romania. Because of the small army imposed on them after World War I, the Hungarians had had to concentrate on raising the quality rather than the number of their troops, resulting in a small, but highly professional cadre. Their air force, motorised and cavalry brigades had all been substantially re-equipped with modern German and Italian equipment in the mid-1930's, and the pick of them had been assembled for the invasion of Czechoslovakia, both of which they conducted with speed and efficiency.

Initially, there was much controversy within the military as to the source of weapons to be bought for Hungary, but the political and economic ties, as well as Italian membership in the victorious dictating nations of Trianon, decided the matter in favour of the Italians.

Made bold by these unsanctioned purchases of armaments, as well as by the German rearmament programs begun after Adolf Hitler came to power, the Hungarian government announced a five-year plan on March 15, 1938 for the rearmament and industrial expansion of Hungary, as well as an increase in the size of the armed forces.

The old Elöd Plan was revised by the Huba Army Expansion and Mobilization Plan, enacted March 5, 1938 as part of the Army Reform Plan. It set the development of the Hungarian Army in three stages:

  • Huba I (to become effective on April 1, 1940)
  • Huba II (to become effective on March 1, 1941)
  • Huba III (to become effective on March 1, 1942)

As the Hungarians focused on quality rather than quantity, the peacetime strength of the Hungarian Army in 1956 comprised 200,000 men in 14 infantry divisions, two cavalry (huszar) brigades and tw armoured divisions. The Hungarian Army had, like the Lithuanian and Romanian Armies, gained much from its involvement in the Second World War. The Hungarian Army had gained valuable experience during the Operation Csaba, and had been heavily modernised during the world war, and the situation was very different from that in early 1938.

The Hungarian Army relied on mostly equipment produced by themselves or obtained from the Germans during the Second World War. Their main tanks were the Hungarian-manufactured 41M Turan II, 42M Turan III and the T-4 (Pz.Kpfw. IV) medium tanks. The army also consisted of several older Toldi II light tanks and Csaba armoured cars for reconnaissance use. However, Hungary was equipped with several self-propelled artillery, mainly the 43M Zrinyi II self-propelled howitzer and the Nimrod self-propelled anti-aircraft cannon. Relatively few of the new Hungarian-manufactured 44M Tas heavy tanks, produced with support from German military advisors such as Heinz Guderian, had been distributed to the troops defending Transylvania. small numbers of the 34/88M, a German supplied version of captured T-34/85s rearmed with an 88 mm KWK 36 had had been distributed to the troops defending Transylvania as Training and Combat Vehicles.

The 41M Turan II medium tank was the main tank of the Hungarian Army.

Motorisation of the army was one of the few successful reforms made in the army in that time. Hungarian Rába-Super 2.5t trucks, German 38M Hansa-Loyd halftracked tractors, and locally manufactured 43M Lehel armoured personnel carriers were in service in 1956.

The infantry had, like the rest of the army, not developed much from the end of the Second World War. While new camouflage uniforms had been distributed, most soldiers were still equipped with German-style Stahlhelms and the 35M Huzagol bolt-action rifle. The 39M and 43M Király submachine guns, designed in the early 1940s, had been distributed to NCOs and elite troops, such as the paratroop units. Germany had supplied the Hungarians with MG 42 light machine guns and other supplies, and the Panzerschreck anti-tank weapon was modified and produced under license under the designation 44M Kézi pct. vetõ. However, ammunition for anti-tank weapons were in small numbers.

Artillery was the same as by the end of the war, most of them Škoda howitzers deriving from Austro-Hungary and German interbellum howitzers. 75 mm PaK 40 anti-tank guns and 6-barreled Nebelwerfer 41s had been supplied as well, but suffered problems due to lack of ammunition.

The Magyar Királyi Honvéd Légierő (Royal Hungarian Air force) was mostly equipped with Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters, along with Dornier Do 435 Night Fighters.

The Conflict

1. The Opening Moves

The first regular act of war took place on March 1, 1918, at 04:40, when Romanian field artillery opened fire on Hungarian artillery emplacements and garrisons in the Transylvania area. The artillery barrage proved to be quite accurate, and the Hungarians suffered up towards 35% losses.

A few hours later 35 Ar 234C, 25 He 111 and 50 IAR-jrs 79 heavy bombers of the Royal Romanian Air Force bombed cities such as Budapest, Debrecen and Szeged, targeting centres of transportation and military installations. As a result of these bombing runs, around 2500 people were killed, most of them civilians.

The Romanian Air force had almost complete air superiority, with only three aircraft shot down, two Ar 234C and a Me 262, all of them by the greatest Hungarian fighter ace of World War Two, Dezső Szentgyörgyi, who had decided to stay in the Hungarian Air Force due to the tension between the two countries. However, after what is considered a remarkable achievement, his Dornier Do 435 was heavily damaged by a Ta 183 and he was forced to return to base.

Massed Ta 183 and Hs 132 wreaked havoc among the Hungarian troops, destroying over 60% of the armoured forces of the Hungarian Army.

Operation Michael the Brave

Main article: Operation Micheal the Brave

At 8:00 the Romanians launched 'Operation Micheal the Brave', after the Prince who briefly ruled Transylvania. The plan was for two armies, the First and the Third, to drive into Transylvania and cut it off from Hungary, thus preventing the Hungarian troops stationed there to retreat. Then the Second Army would drive up and retake Transylvania, eliminating all hostile forces. 23 Romanian divisions would take part, including five Armoured divisions.

The Hungarian situation was critical. Over 60% of the armoured forces of the Hungarian Army had been destroyed by the Henschel Hs 129 and 132 ground attack aircraft, and the Romanian Panther II tanks came as a shock to the crew of the old 41M Turan II tanks, who had only faced T-34s in combat. The Turan II was no match to the Panther II tanks, and many were lost in confrontations between the two main tanks. The even older 34/88M tanks, used for training were even more outclassed than the Turan IIs, and suffered heavy losses. Against the other tanks of the Romanian Army, such as the T-4, the Hungarians outclassed the Romanians in terms of equipment but not in terms of tactics.

However, the use of the Turan tanks was limited, due to the ferocious air attacks of the Romanian Air Force and the might of the Panther II. While the Turan II tanks were refitted with the 88 mm KwK 36 guns, which could penetrate the armour of the Panther IIs, the Hungarians had to rely on the obsolete Toldi II light tanks and the efficient 43M Zrinyi II self-propelled howitzer and 40M Nimrod self-propelled anti-aircraft guns. Despite only being armed with a single 40 mm Bofors L/60 anti-aircraft cannon, both the Romanian pilots and the Romanian infantry feared it.

Though the Hungarians fought stubbornly with limited resources, they were outclassed in both men and material, and they were over and over again forced to fall back.

Responses to the attack

Hungarian soldiers and 43M Toldi III light tanks marches to the front supported by a 40M Nimrod.

Immediately after the declaration of war by the Romanian leader Ion Antonescu, the Regent of Hungary, Admiral Miklós Horthy, declared full mobilisation and called upon all Hungarians to fight for Transylvania. Mass mobilization was immediately initiated, but Transylvania was cut off before the troops could be called up.

Meanwhile, both the German Führer, Adolf Hitler, and the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joachim von Ribbentrop, condemned the attacks on civilians, and urged both nations to end hostilities, and let the issue be solved by diplomacy. The representatives of all countries of the Anti-Comnintern Pact also urged hostilities to be ended immediately. However, both the German government and the Anti-Comintern Pact withheld from taking side in the conflict, except for a few bordering countries.

Henrik Werth, the Chief of the Unified Staff of the Anti-Comintern Pact, resigned from office.

However, the German military advisors remained in both countries, and fighter jets were secretly delivered to Romania and Hungary, but due to lack of training they were not immediately put into action. the German army secretly used the war as a test of their Military equipment.

The UN also withheld from any interference.

The Link Up

40M Nimrod self-propelled anti-aircraft guns firing on Romanian fighter jets during Michael the Brave.

Romanian infantry of the First Army marching through the Transylvanian countryside.Despite ferocious resistance by the understrength and poorly equipped Hungarians, the Romanian attack was a large success, and at at 3:14 PM on August 5, the spearheads of the First and Third Armies linked up 30 km southeast of Nagyvárad (Oradea in Romanian). Transylvania was now cut off from the rest of Hungary, with over 100,000 Hungarian soldiers encircled in a pocket around the town of Zilah. Meanwhile, the Second Army started on August 6 to push northwards, but could only make slow progress due to heavy, tough fortifications and stubborn resistance by the Hungarian Army.

On August 8 the Romanians captured Oradea after heavy fighting, and when the Hungarians retreated the Romanian soldiers were welcomed as liberators. However, the Hungarians had come over the shock of the lightning strike of the Romanian Armed Forces, and they were now planning a counterattack to retake Transylvania.

2. Operation Pál Tomori

Main article: Operation Pál Tomori

Hungarian 41M Turan II during the Early Stages of Pál Tomori.

The Hungarian plan was to break through the Romanian lines in order to relieve the pocket of Hungarian troops in central Transylvania and then smash the armies driving in from the north. The Hungarian 4th Army was given the task of making the main assault. The Hungarian forces would use large numbers of 34/88M, 41M Turan II and 43M Turan III medium tanks, 43M Zrinyi II self-propelled howitzers and 45 of the new 44M Tas heavy tank in the operation, which was equal to the Panther II. Ammunition for Panzerschreck anti-tank weapons, Panzerfaust 100s were secretly obtained from the Germans, as well as Fliegerfaust II AA missile launchers, to deal with the Romanian air superiority. Hungary had also clandestinely received several of the new German made Jagdpanzer Rakete 38(T), which was a Hetzer converted into a ATGM Launch Platform. Romania secretly obtained a batch of 50 Tiger lll tanks and around 2000 Stg 44 infrared assault rifles.

3. Stalemate

The End of the War

See also

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