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Thread: Boy Soldier: The Defense of Budapest

  1. #1
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    Default Boy Soldier: The Defense of Budapest

    This book is based on the war diary of an adolescent soldier Ervin Galántay during the siege of Budapest by the Red Army in 1944-45. The narrative focuses on the day-by-day account of the defence of a key sector of 'Fortress Budapest' by a volunteer unit. This unit, the Vannay Battalion, held off a division's worth of Soviet infantry and armour for seven weeks in unimaginably tough winter conditions. The author served as a 14-year-old officer cadet in the Hungarian Army, working as a dispatch runner. The battle of Budapest lasted 102 days and ended with an breakout attempt of the encircled garrison on 12 February 1945 - by contrast, the siege of Berlin lasted just two weeks. The defence of the city was fought out over the heads of the 800,000 non-combatant civilians, of whom some 38,000 died during the siege. The Hungarian and German soldiers who died in the battle bring the total losses for the defenders to 76,000; the attacking Red Army and their Romanian allies also lost 80,000 men. The defence of the city of Budapest is a story of urban combat in atrocious conditions.

    The innovative tactics of the author's battalion are described in some detail and will provide valuable observatio on urban warfare for professional readers and scholars. The book also attempts to give the reader a whiff of the stench and exaltation of battle, and in doing so also provides us with an insight into the mind of a child caught up in one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.

    http://juristel.free.fr/boysoldier.htm

    What the experts say :

    "BOY SOLDIER MUST BE PUBLISHED!"
    Lester W. Grau, Foreign Military Studies Directorate (Ft. Leavenworth. USA)

    "GRIPPING! IT GIVES AN AMAZING INSIGHT INTO
    A BATTLE THAT DESERVES TO BE BETTER KNOWN..."
    Chris Donelly, Senior Fellow, Defense Academy of the United Kingdom

    "A PREMIER IN URBAN COMBAT...
    LESSONS BY THE INNOVATIVE VANNAY BATTALION"
    Lt. General Daniel Petrosky ret., Former Commander of tbe Eigbt US Army

    "THIS UNIQUE PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF THE GRIMLY FOUGHT
    1944-1945 SIEGE OF BUDAPEST IS A "MUST READ"
    FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN URBAN COMBAT..."
    Col. Peter Zwack US Army Commanding 66th US Mil. Int. Brigade

    "EXCITING AND ACCURATE..."
    Krisztian Ungvary, author of the "Battle for Budapest" (Tauris, London 2002)
    Last edited by imi; 10-27-2015 at 12:25 PM.
    "The consciousness that I am alive, makes me wild dreams every day"
    (Helmut Wolff lieutenant colonel, one who survived the breakout of Budapest)

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Boy Soldier: The Defense of Budapest

    Ervin Y. Galantay from Wikipedia
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ervin_Y._Galantay
    "The consciousness that I am alive, makes me wild dreams every day"
    (Helmut Wolff lieutenant colonel, one who survived the breakout of Budapest)

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Boy Soldier: The Defense of Budapest

    Interesting reference, imi, thanks. Must try to get my hands on it. Interesting that the Wikipedia notice contains no mention of the fact that he was awarded the (German) Iron Cross, Second Class, something he does not seem to have had much reservation about himself. Regarding this fascinating subject, and the breakout in particular, I am reminded for some reason of the fact that one unit that did get out was a small contingent of the 8th SS Cavalry Division, "Florian Geyer". Their de facto commander subsequently attributed their escape to the fact that, unlike most of the Division, they had not been mechanized; they were still riding horses. Best regards, JR.

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    Default Re: Boy Soldier: The Defense of Budapest

    Quote Originally Posted by JR* View Post
    Interesting reference, imi, thanks. Must try to get my hands on it. Interesting that the Wikipedia notice contains no mention of the fact that he was awarded the (German) Iron Cross, Second Class, something he does not seem to have had much reservation about himself. Regarding this fascinating subject, and the breakout in particular, I am reminded for some reason of the fact that one unit that did get out was a small contingent of the 8th SS Cavalry Division, "Florian Geyer". Their de facto commander subsequently attributed their escape to the fact that, unlike most of the Division, they had not been mechanized; they were still riding horses. Best regards, JR.
    You're welcome any time!
    Ervin Galántay as a 14 year old boy soldier from the Royal Hungarian Military School
    He was a hungarian - german military courier under the siege of Budapest, wounded three times under the siege
    He was in the outbreak forces, but he was wounded (a russian shoot through his neck with a SVT 40 rifle) and eventually stayed in Budapest in a medical shelter and lived through the violent Russian takeover in february of 1945
    After a few years he immigrate to the USA and he lectured at military academies the urban warfare as honorary colonel, later he lives in England and Switzerland
    "The consciousness that I am alive, makes me wild dreams every day"
    (Helmut Wolff lieutenant colonel, one who survived the breakout of Budapest)

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    Default Re: Boy Soldier: The Defense of Budapest

    Hmmm.

    I seem to remember 8th SS "Florian Geyer" as onre of the better equipped Hungarian SS units.

    a quick look at an old "Command" magazine confirms it.

    "The Waffen SS contributed two cavalry divisions. The 8th SS Cavalry Division "Florian Geyer" had fought well in Russia since 1942. with a nucleus of tough and experienced German officers and NCOs, about half the 8,000 men were ethnic Germans from Hungary, Bessarabia, Transylvania and the Banat. Key combat multipliers were it's anti-tank battalion, which included 10 'Hetzer' assault guns, and one 150mm and two 105mm towed artillery battalions. this division also had an effective 'Flak' battalion comprised mostly of the dreaded (towed) 88mm guns that would prove deadly in the Buda Hill fighting."
    Doen't sound like a hellava lot of horseflesh to go around. Probably all eaten. Combat wise, it doesn't look like they had much use for their 'harses' even if they had them present...

    As the 4th SS Panzer Korps moved south, the battle for Budapest itself had already begun. During the final days of December, three corps of the Soviet 46th Army (23rd Guards, 37th Guards, and 10th Guards) engaged the 8th SS "Florian Geyer" Cavalry Division in the hilly suburbs of Buda, on the river's left bank..
    Sgt Freiderich Buck, then 22 and commanding a 400 man battle group of the 8th SS, later recalled that early stage of the street fighting:

    "It was the most savage I had ever seen. we fought man to man with bayonet, entrenching tools and grenades. The Soviets hit us night and day without let-up."

    Buck's group held it's own against combined armoured and infantry attacks, often outnumbered 15 or 20:1. But no matter how many casualties the Soviets took, their superiority in men and equipment allowed them to fill gaps in their ranks and attack again.
    The Axis forces in Budapest fought hard for every block. Red Army Colonel M.M. Malakov later recalled...

    "The closer Soviet troops drew into Budapest, the more desperate the enemy resistence became....the advancing troops had to overcome a maze of ditches and concentrated fire from all kinds of weapons. They had to take each building by storm and blast their way through raodblocks and barricades."
    I know from my own reading that Soviet troops, by this stage of the war, had become very proficient at street fighting generally. One particularly favoured technique when enagaed in room to room fighting was to bring in dogs, and using a tennis ball or two, covered in urine, they would throw the ball down a hallway to 'flush out' any lurking enemy positioned in other rooms. The fighting got to be very intence indeed, as many of the SS troopers could also speak Hungarian, and were, nominally, fighting for home and hearth. But the Soviets were practiced and professional at this time of the war, no peasant boys anymore, especially not here, with all the Guardsmen...

    Inside the Axis lines the agony grew as unburied bodies lay rotting in the streets. Soviet artillery added to the carnage already being caused by the Red Air Force. Wood, coal and heating oil quickly became scarce, and many older people and young children froze to death. Luftwaffe pilots flying JU-52 transports, were able to bring in some ammunition and fuel, while He-111 bombers were used to drop other supplies by parachute. Soviet anti-aircraft guns brought down several of the planes every day, but enough got through to keep the garrison fighting. the morale of the fighting men remained high even though they were encircled. Garrison scuttlebutt told of a coming relief attack.
    Yep. no room for 'harses' in that sort of fighting. When breaking out of Budapest, they had to go on foot. the Febraury 11th breakout was on foot by approx 30,000 desperate German and Hungarian troops. They were betrayed by informants, however, and a truly large Soviet artillery shoot caught the breakout just as it was getting underway. Only 5,000 odd made it out, to be rounded up by a massive Soviet manhunt. 785 men made it to German lines.

    Other Hungarian units, apart from 8th SS "Florian Geyer" included...

    22nd SS Cavalry Divison "Maria Theresa", 8.000 mainly Hungarian speakers, (not many German speakers at all.)

    Hungarian 10th Infantry divison, also with about 8,000 men, another veteran unit like the 8th SS.

    Hungarian 12th (Reserve) Infantry division, about 6,000, organized late summer of 44'. weak, poorly trained, unreliable, fought feebly with many desertions.

    Honved 1st Tank Divison (remnants), about 2,000 strong with 20 hungarian turan and Mark IV tanks.Additionally, about 40 excellent "Zyrinyis" assault guns. This unit fought with 'distinction.

    Hungarian Cavalry Divison (700) + the Hadik Armoured Hussar Regiment (2,000) on Csepel Island. these men 'fought hard' to prevent Soviet capture of the huge Weiss Company Munitions Werk.

    5 battalions of "Gendarmes" (4,000), mostly WW1 former NCOs, described as a "tough group".

    Budapest Watch Battalion (600) and Royal Guards Battalion (600), adding "solid infantry" to the garrison. Guards picked for their height and fierce features, with plumed helmets and old fashioned uniforms. Very Italian.

    Budapest Engineer Regiment, (3,000), and the Budapest Air Defence Regiment, with 144 FLAK pieces (eighty 80mm and 40mm 'bofors', a dozen '88s', many captured Soviet pieces, reconfigured for Hungarian ammunition. Both units regulars, deployed to Castle Hill.

    Paramilitary "Vanny" Battalion, formed from scratch from mostly WW1 vets now working for city departments, like firemen, subways, sewers, engineers. Well equipped with weapons scrounged from all over Budapest incl. 75mm anti-tank guns on 'loan' from the 22nd SS. Excellent fighters with a distinguished record in Budapest.

    1st and 2nd Technical University Assault Battalions. Students avoiding labour in Germany or not wanting Soviet rule. Both units barely trained, the 2nd mostly high school students with few weapons. The 1st halted the initial Soviet encroachment into the city from the west, and 40 of them fought to the last man in the Ministry of Defense Building on Castle Hill as a rearguard for the mass breakout. Pity it failed, rendering their brave sacrifice almost worthless.

    "Arrowcross" militia. Poor discipline but fought ferociously, knowing they would be probably hanged if captured. Well armed, nearly all with excellent Hungarian "Kirarly" machine pistols, often committed by their superiors against Soviet tanks and infantry pentrating forward positions. Unruly off duty, these thugs in uniform terrorized the Budapest Jewish Ghetto until finally stopped by regular German and Hungarian units.

    This garrison was described as "unusual...but proved a cohesive force: the Russians have still not released their casualty figures.
    Last edited by Clarkson; 01-09-2016 at 09:34 AM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Boy Soldier: The Defense of Budapest

    thanks for the detailed info Clarkson
    The book shows the child's point of view of the two month siege, he was a military cadet teenager that time
    Last edited by imi; 02-10-2016 at 04:32 AM. Reason: correction
    "The consciousness that I am alive, makes me wild dreams every day"
    (Helmut Wolff lieutenant colonel, one who survived the breakout of Budapest)

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