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Indulás: 2005-12-26
 
QUESTION MARKS ABOUT THE ÚZ-VALLEY

QUESTION MARKS ABOUT THE ÚZ-VALLEY

The Soviet troops broke into the Úz-valley on the 26th August 1944.  Following the Roumanian defection they practically flooded the Hungarian frontier defence.  The 11th Székely Frontier Guard Battalion, recruited from 17-18 year old boys, was an advanced guard and they got the first thrust.  Many of them fell in action.  It was very difficult to dig a mass grave in the stony, rocky soil, so many of them were buried in pits the depth of a spit just where they had been found.  Walking in the Úz-valley, we can see the scattered small mounds.  Lajos Sylvester, a writer and journalist, reported the events in his book and in the documentary film made from the book: “Landslide in the Úz Valley.”  Of course, not all the memoirs or reports could get into his book.  Lajos Sylvester collected the manuscripts, letters and put them at my disposal so that I could select the valuable data from them.  I read through the documents with the eyes of a military historian.  The writer does not need the critiques from multiple sources, but the chronicler of military history cannot forget about them.  There is no other valley block of the Árpád-line about which so many memoirs were written regarding the “King Matthias” fort in the Úz-valley.  The memoirs contradict each other in many places and from many points of view; I had to resolve the inconsistencies as much as possible.  It does not seem a difficult task, but it is, because the stream of memoirs branches off in many places.  I therefore tried to take into account only those data which took place in the presence of the informant.

The former police commander of Csíkszentmárton, Sándor Kovács, is a pensioner nowadays.  He collected the data about the events of World War II in the vicinity of the village of his childhood.  I would happily call him a local historian.  Lajos Sílvester taped the narrative of his material collected over decades, and I got the manuscript of this report from him, entitled “Memoirs of the days between 25th August and 11th September 1944.”

“23rd August, 1944.  The day of the German passing over. This day had a decisive role in the acceleration of the conclusion of the World War II, in the defeat of the German-Hungarian alliance, in the collapse of the Carpathian front line.  The German front section, running on the line of Iasi-Galati-Namoloasa localities collapse, the troops are forced to retreat.  A part of the very strong and well-equipped German divisions (two German armies) were surrounded in the area of Bucharest and the Roumanian oil fields, and they were forced to disarm by the Roumanians.  After this, only remnants of German units retreated fighting to the ranges of the Carpathians, knowing nothing about the strength of the Hungarian forces mobilised for the defence of the Carpathian Mountains.

In the morning of 25th August 1944 László Némay, fort commander, is informed from the barracks of the frontier guards that a German military jeep had arrived, with 3-4 high ranking officers who ask for an appointment with the fort commander.

After the identification, the car with the officers drove into the centre of the fort where – after the official introduction - the receptions and the acquaintance with the fort began.  The above mentioned “German” officers, perhaps a staff colonel, a lieutenant colonel and a major, prepare sketches about the Hungarian positions, they get to know the number of the soldiers, the composition of their arms, their exact emplacement, the quantity of the food and medicine reserves and the possibilities of supply.  This is followed by hearty eating and heavy drinking, and then, when saying “farewell” with a friendly handshake, the German ‘friends’ have one last question: can the Hungarian unit defend the fort or might they need help?  According to some information, the commander of the fort answered: “Even a bird cannot fly over us.” They were still talking about that retreating German armoured and infantry unit, which would march along the Úz-valley next day, and would help us in case of necessity.

Let us have a look at the fort in the Úz-valley.  It was built 3 kilometres from the Roumanian-Hungarian frontier of those days, supplied by strong stonewall tank obstacles, surrounded by ditches.  There were shark-fin obstacle system, barbed wire entanglement and electric lock, constructed in a crescent shape.  There were about 17 machine-guns in concrete pillboxes.  There were two armour-piercing guns and two trench mortars.  The number of people of the staff was 200 in total: officers, non commissioned officers, rank and file soldiers.  There was a Hungarian light air defence unit on the right bank of the Úz, on a hill.  A few weeks before, a battery of four mountain guns had been stationed on the Mogyorós peak.  Its task was to give fire support to the units fighting at the entrance of the Csobányos and Úz-valleys.106  It is also worth mentioning the several demolition shafts in the Úz-defile, behind the fort, which had not been blown up even then for lack of anything to ignite them with.  The ignition elements necessary for the explosion of the demolition pits had been sent to us by some rapidly trained young paramilitaries from Csíkszentmárton on 26th and 27th August.  They could not get to the demolition pits, because the retreating Hungarian officers did not allow them to go there saying: it is too late, the Russians are already at Kőkert (Aklos) and they are keeping the whole valley under fire.

Besides the staff of the fort, almost 200 soldiers,  there were still about 110 frontier guards in the barracks.  Most of them were doing their duty as patrols, or were in position on the Hungarian-Roumanian frontier.107 Their equipment was a platoon machine-gunner and hand weapons, trench mortars, mine throwers and an armour piercing gun.108

Many inconsiderate memoir-writers have tried over the past 50 years to bear witness to the treason of Captain Némay in the belief that the fort commander had been aware of the Russians disguised in German uniforms.  This is out of question; there was no secret password between the commanders of the German retreating troops and those of the Carpathian front.  We can state with a clear conscience that everything happened spontaneously, there were no Russian spies dressed in German uniform.  Apart from this, the King Matthias fort in the Úz-valley was one of the most modern bastions of the Carpathian front but alas, the necessary armament and the ammunition was not at the soldiers’ disposal.  Here I mean heavy guns, armour piercing units, mine throwers and larger staff, not to mention the fact that their state of mind and the morale were not perfect either.

As there was no Catholic priest, the last confession or the administering of the holy communion was made by a Unitarian pastor. He said to the soldiers: “God bless you, my sons, I am not convinced we will all meet again”.

The spring, summer and autumn of 1944 was rainy.  It was raining almost every day, except 26th August.  A 4-5 member reconnaissance unit, among them Lőrinc Potyó from Csíkkozmás, were on duty at about 50 metres from the Roumanian frontier, by the roadside, when a Muscovite tank appeared around the bend, from the direction of Moldavia (Darmanesti).  The patrol fired at the tank with hand weapons, of course, without any result.  The iron monster answered with a round of fire.  Lőrinc Potyó and one of his comrades were killed, two others were wounded.  Those who survived rolled into the Úz riverbed, and then fled towards the fort, bringing the first news of the arrival of the Russians.  The tank continued its way, crossed the Roumanian-Hungarian frontier, but was shot out by the frontier guards after 200 metres.  All this might have happened at about 11 a. m.

No events during the hour following . Luckily, this hour was at the disposal of the civilian inhabitants for flight. This flight took place on the carriages of the local railway used for timber transport.  Alas, the people could not bring more than a small package with them.  Here I would mention that the 800-1200 forced-labourer Jews were sent by the military leadership into the rear of the future front to build trenches.  (At the localities of Kőkert, Aklos, Sáros, Fióka.)  Only an old woman was in Úz when the Russians marched through the village (Aunt Vidics), because she could not escape.  She spent 20 hours in the WC.

So the units of the Second Ukrainian Front launched their attack at noon.  22 tanks appeared at the Pajer major (Tábla), with several thousand infantry behind them, who immediately put the Hungarian positions of the fort under artillery and mortar shell fire.  In the first 30 minutes they shot out the two Hungarian armour-piercing guns and smashed that frontier guard unit with its 40-50 members, almost without Russian losses.

Kalocsay, who served in the machine gun unit of the frontier guard company, was hit by a mine beside the railway bridge facing the barracks of the gendarmes as he was fleeing on horseback together with his equipment.  The advance of the Russian tanks was very slow, it is not known why, maybe, they were afraid of some surprises.

The military band of the frontier guard battalion, about 20 people, were shot not far from the mouth of the Magyarós stream, (Magyarós pataka száda) 109 in the vicinity of the memorial chapel of World War I .  About 2-4 musicians might have remained alive.  In the vicinity 8 Hungarian soldiers were killed out in the open by machine guns.

Then a whole ranged combat developed between the two parties.  Our men were not able to achieve anything against the Russian tanks but they caused some losses to the Russian infantry.  The Russians occupied the evacuated Hungarian trenches and gradually pushed the few Hungarian squads back to the fort.

I mark the places where Hungarian soldiers fell.  Epreskert 9 soldiers, beside the Rosemberg castle 6 , 2 soldiers at the upper end of the stubbed ground, 1 officer near the orchard (he had 3 big stars, according to some forces he was Colonel Virág). Eight soldiers in the orchard, a soldier in the Sóvető stream (at the house of Kybek), where the store of ammunition and arms were stored, a soldier at the cemetery, five soldiers at the football pitches, one on the hill of the air defence artillery.  36 soldiers at Csorgókert, 13 at Csuklyánka, one of them was German.  2 at the bridge of Acspataka: Sergeant Major Solymosi, who was the armourer; a corporal at the bridge of the cave, at the spring of Royal Prince Joseph. There were about 28  soldiers of the Matthias fort killed.

The fallen Hungarian soldiers were buried by local people of the Úz-valley, returning from flight, in most cases just at the places where they had been found.  The corpses of four German soldiers were buried by those who had came back from flight beside the well at the lower end of the orchard.  There are no data available on how they got there. The Russians carried their fallen soldiers into the neighbouring Roumanian village (Poiana Uzului).

What I still have to tell about the fights in the Úz-valley is that about 310 soldiers of the Hungarian Royal Army (the fort company with about 200 soldiers and a frontier guard company with 110 soldiers) defended themselves and the fort with almost nothing at their disposal from noon to 4 pm.  70-80 soldiers survived, the others fell. Those who survived retreated towards the Sajhavas peak and joined those two battalions, which arrived for their support, alas, too late.  One of these battalions still caused serious losses to the Russians that day.110  The other battalion was positioned at the place named Fióka (Kid) but alas those 30-32 German air planes which took off from Szászrégen and attacked on 27th August at 1 pm. dispersed them by mistake just as they had done with that other Hungarian battalion which was stationed at the place named Szállás.  They also shot out the German armoured train which ran at the time between Szentimre and Szentkirály.”

The fort company did not defend the Úz-valley alone.  On examining the defence system of the valley we can state that the main resistance was not at the fort.  There the terrain was not suitable for the tactics practised by the fort companies in the course of their training.  For this reason the line of main resistance was placed to the rear, at the Aklos Inn.  The vertically defensible strong point of the 26th Frontier Guard Battalion was built up there. Its flanks were closed off by several platoon and company strong points.  Furthermore the forces of two battalions were standing to the rear of the strong point.  They were prepared for the destruction of the outflanking Russian units.  Survivors remember and speak about “waving” combat from 27th August to 11th September when the withdrawal began.  But the essence of the defence, considered up-to-date at that time, was just this “waving” combat!

We can also get a picture of the strength of the defence in the vicinity of the Aklos Inn from the story of Sándor Kovács:

“The Faust tank destroyer had already been brought into action at Aklos, so the defence was more successful there.  Perhaps this was the reason why the Russians had not sent their tanks forward.  They were rather engaged in bush- fights.

A part of the surviving staff of the fort retreated under the command of Captain Némay to Aklos, where they joined the units stationed there.  Others of the survivors retreated towards the Sajhavas Peak, they just managed to avoid being surrounded.  These remnants of the troops retreated under the command of Némay into Szentmárton on 27th.  There they rested and reorganised, then they were thrown into the fights again in the region of Rugáttető on 30th.  They fought there until 10th September, but at that time Ensign Molnár was their company commander, and he fell in those fights.  Captain László Némay was appointed commander of the 16th  Battalion which took position on the Szellőtető.  Captain László Némay was wounded on 11th November at Tiszalök, but his wounds were not serious.  According to some data, he fell in Austria, or on German soil.

The line of the Germans ran to Orjospataka.  A company of soldiers equipped with light arms defended it.  Opposite them the front section on the line Csécsénytető-Havasútja-Rugáttető-Szállás-Radován-Győrötszege, Papszege-Harukály-Hurrogató-Békástöve-Kecskéstető was defended by about two battalions under the command of Colonel Radnóczy.  Disguised batteries placed at Szentmárton, Bákfalva and Csíkszentgyörgy, gave artillery support.  The guns of the armoured train running on the line of Gyimes-Gyergyó-Brassó also provided artillery support.

There was a mobile fight for a few days on the 12 kilometre section between the Aklos Inn and Kati Inn.  It can be proved that the Russians were drunk when they assaulted, otherwise their commanders would not have been able to persuade them to launch an attack.  They fell in piles, but even then they tried to attain the unattainable. The Hungarian units only retreated from there when the danger of being surrounded threatened.

The valley gets wider from the mouth of the Egerszeg stream, so the Russians drew up across the place called Dranicás to the top of the Leső mountain.  They prepared their artillery emplacement there.  Caterpillars had drawn their guns up.  They could fire at Györötszege, the Rugáttető, the Paphegye and the Kecskéstető from there without difficulty.  Then they were already fighting bush fights, and their advance guards tried to drive a wedge between the Hungarian-German defence lines which were becoming fewer and fewer .

Unfortunately the German air force could not help.  Brassó and Sepsiszentgyörgy were captured, the Hungarian right wing got into danger.  The German and Hungarian forces held on heroically until 27th September, then, gradually giving up the Rugát- Kecskés- Szellő- and Csellengér peaks, they marched towards Székelyudvarhely, giving up by this action the majority of Szekelyföld on 11th September.  (Author’s note: The German “South” Army Group ordered the emptying of the Székelyföld on 10th September.)

The last Hungarian resistance was offered at a place named Nagyárnyékalja between Rugáttető and Csíkszentmárton.  A Hungarian company covered the withdrawal there until the dawn of 11th September.  The late István Kovács, similar to others, saw Captain Némay at Szászrégen for the last time.  He was wounded, a bullet passing through one of his legs.  Nothing was heard of him afterwards.

The late Lajos Csillag, who was a heavy rifleman in the King Matthias fort (on the Csuklyánka-peak) and who fought continually to Szászrégen, was a lucky man -  he did not become a prisoner of war, so he got back into the Úz-valley at the end of 1944.  He told me everything, word by word, about the way from the Úz to Szentmárton and from there to Szászrégen.  He was the person who had identified the corpses of the fallen soldiers of the front company and of the frontier guard units.  The local people of the Úz-valley who came back from the flight and remained in the Úz-valley up to the end of their life did the same.

The distance of the Úz-valley from Csíkszentmárton is 33 kilometres.  The Hungarian losses of the combats fought on these 33 kilometres were 2000-2500 soldiers, with 200 officers and non commissioned officers among them.  The losses of the German side were about 120 officers, non commissioned officers and soldiers from the rank and file.  According to my collected data the Russian losses were 20-22 tanks, 16-20 trucks, 10-14 different batteries, 30-35 heavy and light machine guns, 18 mine throwers and 10000-15000 soldiers killed, wounded and missing in action.”

After the Roumanian defection the 4th  Heavy Armed Company of the 11th Székely Frontier Guard Battalion took defensive position in the vicinity of the frontier.  Samu Páll from Málnás was an artilleryman in the armour-piercing platoon.  He remembers the Soviet offensive as follows:

“I was ordered into the Úz-valley in July, 1944 when the front was already approaching.  I served in the armour-piercing unit.  We walked beside the guns up to Szentmárton and then out into the Úz-valley.  We, the armour-piercing unit and the machine-gun units were placed on the slope of the mountains, just at the thousand year old frontier.  The two armour-piercing guns were placed alongside the road, the machine-gunners on the slope, just over our head.

My comrades went out on the 25th and obtained a sheep from Darmanesti.  We were just roasting it near the positions.  We were talking, smoking.  It was maybe around 10 o’clock when a tank, with large guns in its throat, arrived.  There was a hairdresser among us, Uncle Török, who cried out: “Germans! Heil!” He ran to them, but he was captured immediately because the arriving soldiers were Russians.  It happened 30-50 metres from us. Our commander was Cadet Kiss, who immediately commanded: “Fire!” We were firing, but the effect was like water off a duck’s back.  We were firing at that enormous structure with our small armour piercing guns.  They turned the gun towards us and then bang!  They fired at the side of the mountain and the rocks and the soil began to collapse.  Then we fled!  Without caps, almost without clothes, straight to the mountain.  From there we got back to the barracks of the Úz-valley.  We were there in a good half an hour.  The Russians had not yet arrived.

An hour later one tank appeared first, then the others,  and also many infantrymen arrived.  There was resistance, but the Russians had overwhelming force, so we had to run away.  I do not know exactly how many of us there were.  There were the 34th Battalion and we, the frontier guards in the barracks.  We fled.  Eve in the old days there was no road there.  We had grave difficulties in climbing up with the armour piercing guns.  The horses behaved as if they sensed that we had to flee.  They were obedient, although we had had a lot of trouble with them before.  They were two buck-jumpers.  We were going on the railroad tie, behind the local train.  We arrived at Aklos late in the afternoon then we were detailed into the defence at Idecspatak.”

I had no opportunity to talk personally with anyone from the soldiers of the fort company.  I selected the memoirs of Andor Keresztes, a veteran from Csíkszentmárton from the manuscripts of Lajos Sylvester.  His report gives a picture of the fort company’s situation at the moment of the Russian attack

“I had been in the rifle company111 before I got to the fort company.  Then the rifle company was transferred to Gyimes, and we went over to Captain Némay, to the fort company.  Our company was the 32nd  Company.  I was the operator of a mine thrower.  Captain Némay was there until the annihilation of the fort company.  I was on holiday, but I was ordered to go back on 23rd August, when the Roumanian defection took place.  We were in the fort, in an state of alert.

We were doing our duty on the Csuklyanka in the evening of the 25th.  As we looked down through the defile at midnight we could see that the valley was full of trucks starting at the other side of the frontier, Dormány,112 towards us.  We saw their lamps flickering and everything was rumbling.  We could hear it easily.  We were still taken out to work in the morning.  The factory was still working, it was Saturday morning.  We got the command at about 9-10am to leave everything and move into position.  By the time we occupied the positions they had already started firing at the frontier line.  They came up so quickly that the logs were still in the log frame; whoever could get on the last train did so, because there were many people in the Úz-valley that time.  They fled with small luggage, with a pack in the hand, with a child in the lap.

The Russians stopped in front of the barracks, on the alert place at the factory.  They completely occupied that place, tanks and all other kinds of vehicles were assembling there.  The armour piercing guns were up on the facade of the fort, and we were behind them with the mine throwers.  The armour-piercing gun could not fire for long, because after ten minutes the Russians found its range, and it was shot out.

The factory was filled with them because they could not come towards the fort, because of the mine blockade and the tank obstacles.  Then a troop set off on the Mogyoróspataka.  But we had neither ammunition nor anything else.  There were only smoke grenades in the mine throwers too, we had used everything else.  A reservist ensign, Dénes Erőss, a teacher from Szépvíz113 in his civilian life, was our commander.  He said. “Székelys, do not let me down!”  But there was nothing to shoot with.  We shot even the smoke grenades amongst the Russians.

 We got orders for the withdrawal.  We were pulling back silently in the Rácpatala when it got dark.  There were about twenty people in our group.  The Russians were already in the Úz-valley, their infantry went up on the Rácpataka and returned on the line of the Sóvető stream into the Úz-valley, into the gear of the fort.  That day the Russians could not get into the Úz-valley at the fort.  We arrived at Sajttető by 11pm.  By the time we got there, the Russians had already reached Aklos.  There were many mines laid in the Úz-valley but none of them were live.  When we began to move on the side of the snowy mountain to get to Aklos as per orders, the firing had already begun in Aklos, under the Szenesmart.  There were the Boforz heavy guns.”

A company of the 11th Székely Frontier Guard Battalion and the heavy armament company served as outposts in front of the fort company.  Two companies of the battalion dug themselves in on the top of the Magyarós (Mogyorós) Mountain.  That mountain had a significant role in World War I, it had changed hands several times. Those who had the Magyarós Mountain in their possession had control over both the Úz and the Csobányos valleys.  The mountain gun battery and the two frontier guard companies got to the mountain for this reason.  The Soviet attack tried to gain ground in the valleys and they did not care too much about elevations.  The memoirs of Imre Boér show the fate of the defenders of the Magyarós Mountain.  We also get an answer as to  how the events took place in the valley, viewed from the mountain.

“Although I was born in Magyarhermány, I served in the 11th Székely Frontier Guard Battalion, as I was learning at Sepsiszentgyörgy114.  So I was with my company in combat readiness on the Mogyoróstető between the Úz-valley and the Csobányos in the hot August days of 1944.  At the beginning our task was to prepare the entrenchment and the shelters for the fight, and to equip them for defensive combat.

The commander of our company was Senior Lieutenant Géza Szabó, our platoon commander was Ensign István Nagy, both officers in reserve.  Our equipment: out-of-date rifles from World War I, a few egg hand grenades, 40 primed charges, and a calf-leather knapsack of about 40 kg that contained the side of a  tent, 2 blankets, an overcoat, some bullets, a ration pouch with food, and a mess-tin. It was difficult to move with it.

Later I saw that the Russian soldier serving in the same type of unit was prepared for action in light summer uniform, with hemp back thrown on the shoulder, and equipped with a submachine-gun with cartridge drum.  I do not think it is necessary to emphasise the advantages and disadvantages of the two kinds of equipment, Serving on the Mogyoróstető at night between August 25th 26th we could see the reflectors of heavy trucks, moving towards the Carpathians.  As we realised next day,  it was not the retreating rear-guard of the Germans, but the assembling of the Russians.  They wanted us to believe the first variation, but it was very suspicious because the German withdrawal went towards Munténia.

In the morning of 26th August we became suspicious and the silence around us was like the calm before the storm.  Our feeling was not without grounds because the guns of the Russians opened fire on the passes and defiles of the Eastern Carpathians from Tölgyes to Ojtoz between 9.30 and 10am.  We could see the flames by fieldglass in the timber yard of Úz ,which was ranged.  The air was filled with dust, smoke and dirt, civilians were running upwards, towards the fort.

Soon two Russian tanks appeared before the shark fin obstacle row, both to their regret.  They could topple over the obstacle easily, but our batteries opened fire at them with direct hits.  The Russians did not care, they “trotted” with their firearms pressed to the hips on the two sides of the road towards the two hit tanks.  The fort company fulfilled its duty until it was forced to retreat.

The first informants arrived gasping for breath, drenched with sweat, from the Úz-valley at about noon.  They were the lucky ones who were able to flee.  They were the first who encountered the Russians.  In spite of our combat readiness, not even one Russian soldier came towards the Mogyorós-tető.  There was no other possibility than but to go down into the valley on the treeless slope of the Mogyoróstető, sloping towards Csobányos.  This operation was certainly observed by the Russians, who made fire emplacements on both sides of the narrow valley and on the top of the trees.

Our platoons retreated in the defile in almost closed combat order.  The Russians bode their time, and opened terrible fire at us at the given moment.  Everybody fled surprised and threatened, among the trees.  Those who could not flee rushed down and were caught by the Russians.  There was such a tumult that I cannot give account of our losses.  It was the place where I got separated from my unit, and, together with some of my comrades, fell into the trap of the Russians in an incautious moment.

The stories told above can convince the reader that a well-constructed fort with weak equipment waited for the Russian assault in the Úz-valley.  The fort built around the Csuklyánka elevation safely closed the only passable direction from the Úz-valley towards Csíkszentmárton.  However, this road could be outflanked across Rácpataka and Sóvetőpataka.  There was not enough armament and ammunition in the fort.  Though the directions passable for tanks were closed perfectly by tank obstacles, that could only have had any real worth if the obstacles had been supplemented by effective armour piercing fire system in the proper quantities.

The ammunition was not enough for more than one day for the rifles and the heavy arms.  The way of the withdrawal was prepared in the Úz-valley but the mines, which could have stopped the pursuing enemy, were not primed.  The King Matthias fort was not the only part of the defence system of the Úz-valley.  The stronghold for all round defence of the 26th  Frontier Guard Battalion closed the exit of the valley at the Aklos Inn and – as it appears from the memoirs – this defence was successful as long as the field troops could prevent themselves from being outflanked.

There is an interesting but not provable motif of the fights in the Úz-valley.  On 25th August high ranked German officers appeared in the barracks of the Úz-valley.  They got acquainted with the fort.  They continued talks with the commanders of the fort company and of the 11th  Székely Frontier Guard Battalion.  Maybe they amused themselves, and they left the fort at dawn.  According to some reports, these German officers were members of the Russian intelligence in disguise who wanted to explore the fort.  The experiment was successful, the fort was captured.  “Everything was betrayed” – as we can read in one of the memoirs.

I have my doubts as to whether that was true.  Why did the Russian tanks go towards the fort, if they knew that they could not advance into the valley?  Why were the Russian trucks piling up before the barracks when the barracks were 300 metres from the fort?  How could the fort company hold on until they ran out of ammunition at 3.30pm. if the Russians knew exactly what they had to shoot at?  How could the remnants of the fort company retreat at night, why were they not all captured?  And how long could the fort company have held on without ammunition if there had been no brilliantly executed Soviet intelligence action?

We must also be aware that at that time the Russian troops did not even have maps, let alone organised intelligence units.  The reason for the majority of the troubles derived from the unknown terrain and the poor intelligence data for the Soviet commanders of the fighting troops.  They got all their data from the General Staff of the Front.  The information was superficial in most cases and outdated by the time it got to the troops.  The corps and divisions only undertook combat reconnaissance, they could explore only visible terrains, they knew nothing in depth about enemy placements.  This fact was one of the reasons why they lost several tanks in the Úz-valley.

Let us see some memoirs of those people who allegedly saw the Soviet spies disguised in German uniforms.  One of them was a gunner, operator of the armour-piercing gun, Samu Páll (we have already quoted him), who personally saw German officers that time, in the afternoon of 25th August 1944.

“We two were on sentry duty that night.  We checked their identity.  But what can two young lads check? They were Germans, they came in.  Our troop counted about fifty people near the road.  That night they had a spree, then they certainly discussed military secrets.  The next morning, when they arrived, they fired at the positions very precisely.”

The place where Samu Páll did his duty that night is 3 kilometres from the fort, among mountains, in dense forest.  He could not see where the German officers went or what they did after being checked.

The only thing he found suspicious was that the Soviet troops shot very precisely at the positions the next day. Those who fought against the Red Army can confirm that precise shooting was not at all unusual for them.

Larger and smaller retreating German units were moving continually in the valley, their rear units skirmishing with the Russians during the retreat.  We cannot say that the Soviet troops arrived undisturbed from Roumania to the Hungarian frontier, but as there had only been a state of war between Roumania and Hungary for a couple of days no Hungarian reconnaissance patrols were activated on the Roumanian side of the frontier.  That is why the Russian attack was a surprise for the Hungarian troops on 26th August.

The commander of the fort needed all the intelligence data he could obtain from the Germans.  It would therefore not have been unusual to have received German guests in the officer’s mess.  The Hungarian military leadership relied on German troops’ participating in the defence.

It is therefore understandable that the commanders of the German troops in the area tried to become informed about the fort’s defence capabilities.  Of course, there is also a memoir-writer who met the suspicious German officers in the fort.  Andor Keresztes, mine thrower operator remembers:

“We were inside the fort, in combat readiness. On the evening of 25th we were taken out into the fort because some German officers arrived to see Captain Némay and inspect the fort.  The captain told them that this was missing here and that was missing there, we did not have this, we did not have that.  The Germans answered that they would bring everything we currently need.  They went down to the officer’s mess and enjoyed themselves there.”

According to this memoir, the guests inspected the fort in the company of the fort commander in the evening. Even the best spy could not visualise the fortification system in the dark.  The spies might have been convinced by the discussion with Captain Némay that the fort was easy prey.  This was not the case.  We read in several memoirs that local people of Swabian origin had remarked that the Germans spoke very poor German.  However, Captain Némay and Lieutenant Colonel Serfőző learned at the Ludovika Military Academy where the German language was taught at a high level.  They would have been the first to notice that their high ranking German comrades spoke their own mother tongue poorly.

Nobody else remembered meeting the high-ranked German visitors.  However, after the publication of the book Lajos Sylvester, “Landslide in the Úz-valley”, suddenly all those who had never heard about this “letting the Russians in” before also began to remember.  This is how legends are born in history.  After all this, nothing else is needed than some references made by a well-known historian, and the legend comes true.  Dr. Dániel Szőts remembers this German visit as follows:

“But how could the Russian soldiers get into the Úz-valley on a Saturday morning?  One day before, on a Friday afternoon, two German officers appeared in regular uniform from the direction of Roumania.  One of them was a higher ranked officer.  At the headquarters of the battalion Jenő Vargha, corporal, candidate officer serving in the ranks, was on duty.  He led them to the commander.  The Germans informed the commander of the battalion that a German troop would retreat there next morning, with six German Royal Tiger tanks.  As there were no other German military units over the Carpathians, behind them the defile could be closed, covered and exploded.  They inspected the defence system of the fort then rode further westward alongside the Úz stream towards Aklos.  Senior Lieutenant Dr. Béla Dobay, physician, warned our battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Serfőző, that the visit should be reported to the supervising headquarters.  Serfőző answered that it was not necessary.”

After this, the events of the Russian attack are put down similarly to the other memoirs.  Then comes the following sentence:

“Soon it turned out that the two officers were Russians, disguised in German uniforms!”

So, Dániel Szőts, candidate officer serving in the ranks, mine thrower operator of the heavy armament company in the 11th Székely Frontier Guard Battalion only got to know about the events once everybody had already begun to remember the Russians.  This way of thinking cannot be regarded blameworthy, it was certainly not motivated by bad will, by the intention to deceive.  It was easier to explain the failure this way: we were not defeated, we were betrayed!  It is like the Görgey-problem of the 1848/49 War of Independence.  If we are defeated because of treason, it is not so painful as facing our own weakness.  The young Székely frontier guards did not know and could not know the defensive system of the valley, it was top-secret information.  As I have already mentioned, the main resistance line was at the Aklos Inn, where the 26th  Frontier Guard Battalion held on until it got an order to withdraw.



106 It was one of the batteries of the 24. (Marosvásárhely) mountain howitzer unit. (The memoirs of Dr. Daniel Szőts, in the possession of the author.)

107 The 4. Company of the 11. Székely Frontier Guard Battalion.

108 Sándor Kovács most probably mixes up the frontier guard outpost with the heavily armed company of the 11. Székely Frontier Guard Battalion because mine throwers and armour piercing guns were established at the heavily armed company. The report about this is given in he memoirs of Samu Páll.

 

109 Patakszáda: This is the Székely name for the mouth of a river.

110 The perpendicularly defendable strong point of the 26. (Nagyberezna) Frontier Guard Battalion closed the entrance of the Úz-valley at Akloscsárda.

111 One of the companies of the 32. Battalion was settled into the frontier guard barracks of the Úz-valley.  In the summer of 1944 the company was transferred into the barracks of the battalion at Gyimesfelsőfok, its former place was occupied by the fort company.

112 Darmanesti. In Hungarian: Dormányfalva.

113 Csíkszépvíz.

114 He was student at the Gróf Mikó Imre Grammar School.

 

 
CONTENTS
 
 

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