The Slovak-Hungarian War
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseIn mid-1938, the relations between Hungary and Czechoslovakia were tense. The Hungarians held an invasion force on the border, threatening to take the Ruthenia region of Czechoslovakia. This threatening stance was encouraged by Germany in mid-1938, but both Germany and Italy preferred not to have it escalate it into a full-scale war because they were not ready for an Europe-wide war, which a conflict involving Czechoslovakia might trigger since it was allied with Poland, France, and the United Kingdom. On the other side of the border, Czechoslovakia defended its borders from about 2,000 well-placed, albeit small, concrete positions and natural obstacles. On 2 Nov 1938, Germany and Italy forced Czechoslovakia and Hungary to sign the Arbitration of Vienna, which allowed Hungary to annex Southeastern Slovakia and Ruthenia, regions which were heavily populated by ethnic Hungarians. This action calmed the Hungarians somewhat, although border clashes continued to take place.
ww2dbaseIn the evening of 13 Mar, Germany forced Slovakia to declare independence from Czechoslovakia, threatening that a rejection would mean German-authorized invasion of Slovakia by Hungary within days. Slovakia complied at 1700 hours on the next day. Adolf Hitler claimed that the unrest in Czechoslovakia was a threat to German security, and sent troops into Czechoslovakia for a forceful annexation. Germany soon declared support for the Slovakian regime. On 15 Mar, Hungary declared recognition for the new Slovakian nation, but only two days later the Hungarian Foreign Ministry requested Germany to mediate further transfer to territory from Slovakia to Hungary. Before any final agreement came to fruition, however, Hungarian troops invaded Slovakia on 23 Mar and starting the Slovak-Hungarian War, also known as the Little War.
ww2dbaseOn 23 Mar 1939, Hungarian troops crossing the border largely surprised Slovakian troops, penetrating the border. The Slovakian Air Force, however, was slightly better prepared and was able to launch a bombing run on the Hungarian cities of Roznava, Mukacheve, and Uzhorod, causing minor damage. Nevertheless, Hungarians won the air war during the conflict, as 11 Slovakian aircraft were destroyed at the cost of no Hungarian aircraft. On the ground, by the second day of the war, the Slovakians were able to organize a counterattack, supported by armored cars. The main counterattack was launched at 2300 hours on 24 Mar, pushing within one kilometer of the Okna River. Near the Okna River, Hungarian forces countered with field artillery and anti-tank gun fire, destroying several armored cars, at first faltering Slovakian morale and then turned the Slovakians back in a panicked retreat. Early on 25 Mar, after the arrival of four armored cars, three light tanks, a 37-millimeter anti-tank gun, elements of the Slovakian 41st Infantry Regiment, and a battery of the Slovakian 202nd Mountain Artillery Regiment, Slovakian troops were calmed and was able to resume the advance again. On the same day, Hungarian aircraft raided the Slovakian airfield at Spisská Nová Ves, killing 13. On 26 Mar, the remaining units of the Slovakian 202nd Mountain Artillery Regiment arrived on the Hungarian border, followed by elements of the 7th and 17th Infantry Regiments; Slovakian forces now totaled 15,000 men. A major counter offensive was now being planned by Slovakian leadership, but by now the Hungarians were well-entrenched and had ample anti-tank weaponry to counter Slovakian armored cars and light tanks, plus Germany began the assert pressure for an end to fighting. The war embarrassed Germany, as Germany had the obligation to protect Slovakia while it also enjoyed friendly relations with Hungary.
ww2dbaseFighting largely ceased by 31 Mar. On 4 Apr, a peace treaty was signed in Budapest, Hungary, which forced Slovakia to cede 1,697 square-kilometers of territory to Hungary. Eight Hungarian military, 15 Hungarian civilians, 22 Slovakian military, and 36 Slovakian civilians were killed.
Last Major Update: Nov 2009
The Slovak-Hungarian War Timeline
|23 Mar 1939||The Slovak-Hungarian War, also known as the Little War, began.|
|24 Mar 1939||Slovakian forces counterattacked the Hungarian invaders, pushing Hungarian troops nearly to the Okna River.|
|25 Mar 1939||Slovakian forces resumed their counterattack against the invading Hungarian forces. Hungarian aircraft raided the Slovakian airfield at Spisská Nová Ves, killing 13.|
|26 Mar 1939||Slovakian forces gathered on the Hungarian border in preparation of a renewed counteroffensive, planning on pushing into Hungary if possible.|
|31 Mar 1939||The fighting between Slovakia and Hungary largely ceased.|
|4 Apr 1939||Slovakia and Hungary signed a peace treaty, ending the Slovak-Hungarian War (Little War).|
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Winston Churchill, 1935