Time, however, to train, to acquire heavy weapons, to prepare a credible defense was miserably short. The Russian invasion, launched Nov. 4, 1956, crushed the rebellion. Tanks, artillery and motorized infantry smashed the National Guard forces around Budapest.
I heard Kiraly, on two occasions, tell the story of the remnant resistance fighters' retreat from Budapest pursued by two Soviet tank divisions. Seeking ways to delay the Russians and gain time, he gave his engineers orders to blow up an ammunition dump as they fled toward Austria. The dump exploded, producing an unexpectedly large cloud and a seismic ground shock Kiraly described as extraordinary. The tank divisions stopped, however briefly. Kiraly and his men eventually escaped through the border wire. "I think the Russians thought the U.S. was intervening with nuclear weapons," Kiraly said.
Nagy was executed in 1958, and Kiraly sentenced to death in absentia. But armed perseverance by the Free World, led by the U.S., the poverty-producing "contradictions" of tyrannical Marxism and Eastern Europeans' unrepressed hope for liberation won the Cold War.
In 1989, as the Cold War ended, Bela Kiraly returned to Hungary, greeted as a heroic freedom fighter.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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