(Hungary 1956)

International Operation Name:  Not applicable

International Operation Dates: Not applicable

Mandating Organization:  Government of Canada

Region Name: Europe            

Location: Hungary                           

Canadian Operation Name: (Hungary 1956)

Canadian Operation Dates:  1956/10/29 – 1956/11/04

Mission Mandate: To deliver humanitarian aid to Austria for refugees of the Hungarian Revolution.                     

Mission Notes:

On 23 October 1956, Hungary’s population, led by university-aged students, rose up against their government, seeking economic and political reform. At the same time, the Hungarian communist party was divided between reformers and Stalinists.

On 23 October, students began marching in the streets of Budapest in support of the revolution in Poland and demanding that the Soviet Union withdraw its occupation troops. Hungarian soldiers, instead of putting down the march, began to remove the Red Star on their hats and uniforms in sympathy. The number of marchers soon reached about 100,000. At this point the protest was peaceful, but the Hungarian Security Police (AVO) opened fire on the crowds. A riot started, while supportive arms factory workers began to hand out weapons to the protesters.

The government called in the Soviet troops that were installed around the country; and they intervened starting on 24 October. Hungarian youth fought the Soviet tanks with Molotov cocktails and rifles. The Hungarian military was also called in, but they soon ceased attacking the protesters and reached informal cease-fires with them. The Soviet troops also reached informal cease-fires with the protesters in some areas, but in other locales put down the protesters violently. The fighting continued until 28 October.

Throughout Hungary, the people began electing Municipal Councils, while workers elected Workers Councils. Political prisoners were released, while Premier Imre Nagy declared Hungary a neutral state. It was at this point that the Soviet leadership decided to crush the revolution with extreme force. On the morning of 4 November, newly-arrived Soviet armoured regiments supported by the AVO entered Budapest and other major cities where they did not shy away from opening fire. The Hungarian people fought back, but it was an unequal contest and order was restored in most of the country by 10 November. By then thousands of Hungarians had fled the country, making their way to Austria.

As soon as the fighting started on 24 October, medical supplies began to arrive in Hungary from communist bloc neighbours. Hungarian expatriates around the world also began to collect humanitarian aid. The Hungarian-Canadian community reacted quickly, gathered supplies in Toronto which were picked up by a 426 Squadron North Star on 30 October. The North Star arrived in Vienna on November 1st, expecting to be met by the Canadian Ambassador and Austrian Red Cross officials. Dressed in their best uniforms, they were shepherded by the police to an office, after which a heated exchange occurred between various officials. Finally, an elderly gentleman asked the crew if they had any civilian clothes, to which they replied affirmatively. They were immediately ordered to put them on. Returning to the lounge in civilian clothes, they were met with a warm welcome. Unknowingly, the crew had broken a 1955 Peace Protocol between the western allies and the Soviet Union that prohibited foreign military forces in Austria.

Canada would eventually welcome 8,000 of the more than 200,000 Hungarians who left the country before the Soviet army sealed the borders.


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