Hungary – Operation Frantic 1944, Debrecen

Photo albums can be a great source of historic information but sadly often the context of the photo’s has been lost over time. This blog is in regard to such an album that has been in my collection for a long time. Recently I dove into it again and now with the modern digital sources I found an interesting background.

The photos seem to be of an NCO in a Hungarian military unit that is involved in railway repairs. There is family crest with name in the beginning of the album and next to the military photos there also some pictures of the man with his family but I have not been able to establish anything beyond the family name.

Two groups of photo’s help to establish the exact timeframe and specific context of a part of the album. They show two heavily bombed railway stations in Debrecen and Szolnok and their damaged surroundings, railways and trains.

Both cities were bombed as part of American shuttle raids which were executed during Operation Frantic that took place between June and September of 1944. This was one of the few direct operational cooperations between the Russian and American forces. Bombers of the 8th and 15th US Army Air Force would undertake bombing flights on the way between bases in the UK and Italy to locations in Ukraine where they would reload with bombs and fuel and on the return flight again would bomb targets that were agreed upon between the Russian and US forces. That is why these were called shuttle raids, the planes would shuttle between the bases in Western and Eastern Europe and bomb targets on the way in between.

On the first and the last flight of Operation Frantic there would be also Hungarian targets. On the first flight on June 2nd Debrecen would be one of the targets. On the last flight on September 22nd Szolnok would be one to the targets. In both cases the railway station and the related area would be the main targets as these were of importance to the German military logistics, movement of soldiers and material like tanks to the Eastern front.

The photo’s show people of the Railway repair crew but also labour units working hard to repair the damages. IMostly trains and wreckage of railways and buildings but also some casualties, of which there were many due to the fact that not only railway related buildings were hit in the raids. Please be advised that photo’s of casualties are at the end of the blog.

Unexploded 500 pound bomb?

A total of 130 planes would hit Debrecen with more than 1000 bombs between 8.46 hrs and 9.00 hrs. The damage would be great but the loss of life was also enormous. Whole streets in the proximity of the railway areas would also be destroyed. Almost 1200 death and close to 700 seriously wounded would be the direct human impact of the bombing with hundreds of buildings (including many regular houses) completely destroyed.

Due to the nature of the album the photo’s are mainly of the railway related impact and not the civilian impact.

The last few pictures show casulaties of the bombings and the location were they were found. Probably most casulaties would have been removed before the repair crews started working but I assume these were uncovered during the repair works.

I cannot express the sadness I felt seeing that little shoe sticking out between the big boots of the men under the cover of tent halves…

You can read more about the bombing in Hungarian here that is also the source for the numbers used in my blog.

The next blog will be about Szolnok where the repair crew went next (based on the photo’s in the album at least) which was the last action of Operation Frantic.

There are many more photo’s in the album, this is a selection.

Sources:

http://hbml.archivportal.hu/id-1508-debrecen_elso_bombazasa_1944_junius_2.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Frantic

Austro-Hungarian grouping, Carl Öhlzelt

Carl started in the KuK (Schutzen) Landwehr Infanterie Regiment 21 (Sankt Pölten) and later his machinegun group moved to the Landsturm Infanterie Regiment Nr. 51.

Sometimes as a collector you come across a grouping that is quite unique as in this case. At the moment I am still contemplating what my next step will be….A series of blogs, a dedicated website or even a book…

The group contains a photo album with a cover with badges of Carl, many postcards and a short diary. Loads of information on some very relevant moments in WW1 including the Isonzo battles.

Until I have decided what to do only a small placeholder blog with some teaser materials…

The album contains many official photo’s, but also private photo’s and even WW2 related photo’s. Also many captured Italian photo’s and some leaflets (Flugblätter). So for now only this teaser…

Austrian Iron Crown Order 1851

This is a group of documents to Adolph Straub from 1851 who was a Stabs Auditor (Military Judge) in the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia which was in Austrian hands at that moment. Fieldmarshall Count Radetzky was the commander / viceroy of that region from 1848 until his death in 1858.

And on the following page from the ranklist of 1851 we find Straub:

Stabs-Auditor (Military Judge) Adolph Straub was awarded the Iron Crown Order 3rd class in 1851. Officially the number of recipients was limited to 50 in the original statutes but this was no longer the case in 1851 nevertheless it still was a rare order.

Below the formal award document signed by the Minister of War Feldzeugmeister Csorich.

Fieldmarschall Radetzky as commander of Straub also communicated with him regarding the award which leads to the letter below to Straub including the original signature of Radetzky and the use of his personally marked paper (often more generic paper was used in general communications!).

So this group of documents if for an important order but also with some very rare signatures in Austro-Hungarian history.

Austro-Hungarian WW 1 photo’s – part III

Here some more pictures from my collection with the addition of information by contributers on Facebook and forums. Good enough to share but not enough for their own blog… Thanks again for your help!

First theme – Helmets and or gasmask being worn:

After the 11th offensive (in Hungarian) and the date indeed corresponds with a moment shortly after the 11th Isonzo battle.
With thanks to Ryan Nelson: Not much can be seen in the background, however due to the helmet, gasmask, and, the trench, it can possibly be inferred that this soldier could be with either Landwehr Infanterie Regiment Nr. 4 ‘Klagenfurt’ or Nr. 27 ‘Laibach’ which were called Gebirgsschützen regiments 1 and 2 in March 1917. The two Landwehr regiments had been incorporated into the Landesschützen command and were also given the Edelweiẞ insignia. These two regiments were along the Piave front in 1917/1918 and not in the mountainous areas like the 3 Kaiserschützen regiments. The man also appears to be wearing a sharpshooters lanyard typical for the Landesschützen which is in line with the above assessment.
Kézdivásárhely (Rumania) April 23rd 1918. On the location by Sandor Magyarosi: the Romanian offensive against Transylvania in 1916 took the town, but as a part of the German-Austro-Hungarian counterattack, the Austro-Hungarians took it back the same year (more precisely, the k.u.k. 82nd regiment). They pushed forward to the border an stopped (a bit into Romania), so the lines of the two parties were built in the mountains. The major fighting took place in fact in 1917, at the Ojtoz/Oituz Pass. Basically Kézdivásárhely was the first town behind the front (there were some villages that were closer, but this was the closest urban settlement). If the picture was taken in April 1918, these guys probably were just withdrawn from the front (the armistice with Romania was already in place) and they were waiting to be transferred to the Italian front.

Some other (than infantry) branches:

Two cavalry men (Hussars most likely)
Pioneer that looks like an attendant of the Pionierkadettenschule because of his smaller “Kadettensäbel” and the Salonhosen (Maxi Wlezcek)
Ulans, eastern front early war. Very non standard coats….

Reading a paper…

Reading a Hungarian newspaper. Interesting to see a German “ersatz” Pickelhaube above the man.
Officers (major and 2nd lt) reading a Hungarian newspaper (Az Est – The Evening) and some trench art made of shells in use.

Some medals being worn by officers (bravery medals you can find in the blog dedicated to that theme).

Reserve 1st Lieutenant Paul (Pál) Zsurilla Paul of Infantry Regiment 26. Note the 2nd award bar on the Military Merit Cross! (thanks to Ivan Iver Chudý)
Award ceremony of a German Irond Cross 2nd class to a Cavalry officer

Austro-Hungarian WW1 photo’s – part II

The army did not only exist of Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery but these pictures are the most common ones. This blog is dedicated to some of the other professions in the KuK army. All needed in the war effort but less standard to find pictures of. Here some orignals from my collection.

Dogs played a part in different capacities in WW1, here an example fo dogs used to pull carts for transport purposes like the mail, the so called “KuK Hundekolonne” in German.
KuK Military laundry group, see top right board with Militär Wäscherei!
Field kitchen or “Gulash Kanone” in use.
A more common profession, the farrier or hoof smith

Communications (signals/telegraph) was an important part of the modernisation of warfare in WW1. Left the armlet with T for Telegraph which was in use before the more generic collar badge was introduced that can be seen on the man right.

And communications in use!

The Medical Corps plays an important role during war. Here some examples starting with the field medics, “sanitäter” in German:

Rare variation of the medical armband of the German Knights (see the Emperors coat for a reference to this version)

And the hospitals, both in the field and regular military hospitals.

Medical Doctor in front of Field Hospital 1/1 so the first hospital of Corps 1
Room pictures

And some rare “action” pictures from the hospital

And a last MD in action

More medical people below. Based on rank not medics but MDs.

The Field Gendarmes were the military police that had an important role but often not very popular. They had standard KuK uniforms with only an armband as distinction from the regular army. They were the law behind the front lines and in the occupied territories.

KuK Field police (gendarme), Streif Korps. Front and back of the photo postcard.

Below some variations of the armband in wear from the photo’s above. It seems hard to find two examples that are the same. See also the book “The Emperors coat” (Rest/Ortner/Ilming) for multiple examples.

Austro-Hungarian WW1 photo’s – part I

Here some interesting, original WW1 pictures all from my private collection that do not warrant their own blog but are worth sharing. Will add more on a regular basis!

The information about these pictures came from several Facebook groups in which I shared these photo’s. Many thanks to the contributors for their knowledge!

Wreck of an English aircraft visited by Ferdinand of Bulgaria
Detail of the same photo, right Ferdinand and left probably a general
KuK protective or observation balloon of the Parseval type
Honvéd corporal in front of a field movie theater
Dignitaries visiting M1911 Skoda 305mm Morser. Right officer possibly Erzherzog Albrecht
Austro-Hungarian NCO in pre war uniform with letters PG (Prisonnier de Guerre) on his uniform. So a prisoner of war in a French speaking location. Some A-H PoWs were moved from different warzones to French camps and a few units (mainly artillery) actually fought on the Western front.
Leide tab (Josef Leide von Dolina, feldmarschallleutnant in 1918) – at the moment of this picture commander of Infantry Bridage 30. – Hellmer alezred (lt col Hellmer, commanding officer of IR 66) The other two have names written on them as well but are hard to decipher. My guess the general and his aide in the middle with the commander of IR 66 and his second man to the sides. Picture is dated november 1916 and states it was made in honour of taking the oath at IR 66.
Field made picture with some nice details. Kappenabzeichen of Hussar Regiment 6, so dismounted cavalry, trench knife M1917 and bravery medal with repeat bar!
Two one year volunteers (officers in training) and their “helpers”, right man front with two kappenabzeichen unusually on his chest. High boots with mountain style hardware. The volunteers wear the button (Hoffnungsknopf) and band around the arm. This is double, when the button was introduced in 1915 the earlier band was officially discontinued but in this photo from early 1916 both are being worn.
Field mass for the Kings nameday 1917
Soldiers humor, Hotel Granatsplitter – Shrapnel Hotel
On the reverse in Hungarian: as propaganda officer with Russians, december 1917.
Bosnians were only a small percentage of the total KuK forces but by their Fez very easy to recongnize. Here with non regulation sweaters.
Mixex group including several Bosnians in Sarajevo, might have been a hospital. Below the reverse of the photo postcard.

Austro-Hungarian campaign in Serbia 1915

Worldwar 1 started with the declaration of war against Serbia by the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1914 and was the start of the Serbian campaign. This campaign was largely unseccesfull until the attempt that started on October 7th, 1915. This last campaign ended on November 24th of the same year.

In this last campaign against Serbia were the following forces: the Bulgarian First Army commanded by Kliment Boyadzhiev, the German Eleventh Army commanded by Max von Gallwitz and the Austro-Hungarian Third Army commanded by Hermann Kövess von Kövessháza, all three under the control of the German Field Marshal August von Mackensen.

WW1 period map from internet

Until the end of WW1 the Banat region was part of Hungary which was again part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The small city of Fehertemplom, or in German Weisskirchen, was in that region and bordered with Serbia. After the war as a result of the Trianon treaty the region would be split and Fehertemplom would become part of Serbia.

Josef Pártos was a finance official in the rank of Respizient in the Royal Hungarian Finance Commission of the city of Fehertemplom.

He received two separate document for a “Belobende Anerkennung” roughly a “mention in despatches”. This is more or less one step below the merit medal (often known as Signum Laudis based on the text on the reverse of the medal) and in this case also in the face of the enemy. So with wartime ribbon and swords if the medal indeed was given (swords were added only later in the war to the ribbon).

What he exactly did to earn this commendation is a mystery and probaby will remain so (no military records). But it must be quite unique for a finance person to qualify! Based on location and date it most probably was linked to the final Serbian campaign that started on October 7th 1915 especially as the first document is awarded by the 3rd Army command (one of the 3 armies involved in that action as discussed above) and hand signed by its Commander Kövess von Kövessháza!

Photo with signature of Kövess – from internet

The second document is from the regional command of Banat.

Vitéz stories VI – Colonel Csanády, Honvéd IR 24

Of this officer I have two documents in my collection. The diploma for his promotion to Colonel in 1920 which was also his final rank before retirement.

The 1917 ranklist shows him as a major in the 24th Honvéd Infantry Regiment.

The 1918 version shows he has been promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel.

His medal list does not show yet the Iron Crown Order 3rd class he must have received in the course of 1918 and is listed as his highest ranking medal on the diploma for Colonel.

He also became a vitéz in 1929. In this short overview it is mentioned that he saw action both on the Russian and Italian front. This overview mentions a different unit.

And that leeds to the 2nd document of this officer, his order of vitéz diploma of 1929, at which moment he was already retired.

The document unfortunately was in pieces but what was left has been beautifully restored!

This article about two Golden Bravery Medals also mentions him (based on name and rank it must be him) as a commander of an attack on the Northern Italian village of Passarella in November 1917.

Sources of documents through this great Hungarian website of the Hungarian Military Archives

Vitéz stories V – Sergeant Deli, KuK IR 44

For this man, sergeant Deli Jószef, I still have to research the background of his medals but below his full entitlement.

From the 1939 Vitéz yearbook

Before the war he completed his compulsory service in the 44th KuK Infantry Regiment reaching the rank of sergeant in the reserve and also qualifying as a sharpshooter. His name originally was Doszpod!

Deli and his wife in the first years of the war based on his uniform. He already has the two Silver Bravery Medals.

In 1924 he became a viéz and in that process changed his name to Deli! If the applicant had a non Hungarian name one of the requirements was to change the name to a typical Hungarian one. This was the reason some did not apply as they did not want to change their names! This often leads to difficulties in researching vitéz backgrounds, if the name was changed, as the original name is not recorded!

The original diploma in poor condition as found
And the same document after professional restoration

In the 1920s he became not only a vitéz but he also applied for the grant of land which he indeed received as one of about 5500 of the more than 24.000 vitéz.

Grand diploma for the grant of land in prestine condition!

Vitéz stories IV – Lieutenant Simó, KuK IR 51

This group consists of the documents of Antal/Anton Simó, lieutenant in the reserve of KuK Infantry Regiment 51. As he lived in the Transylvania region he became a Rumanian citizen after WW1 as a consequence of the Trianon treaty.

In 1941 as a result of the last Hungarian re-annexation action Transylvania became part of Hungary and he became a Hungarian citizen again. All the Austro-Hungarian medals could be worn and used in Hungary but obviously not in Rumania.

So in 1941 he could apply for all his relevant WW1 medals and also apply for the vitéz order as a Hungarian citizen. He also moved to Budapest and worked for the Hungarian railways. (MÁV).

His ID card from 1918 showing him with the 2nd class Bravery medal and with the rank and photo of fähnrich, later crossed out and changed in Leutnant. As all officers in training he first went through the nco ranks in which period he was eligible for the Bravery Medals to the ranks below officer!

His Bravery medal 2nd class would be awarded for actions in 1916 as described below in the request form. The request forms come from the Hugarian Military Archives!

From the Hungarian Military Archive.

Text of the request: In Annerkennung tapferen Verhalten vor dem Feinde. Im Gefechte vom 7. und 8. Juli 1916 Sudlich Podgaino Ubernahm er nach Verwunding des Zugskommandanten das Kommando in dem Zeitpunkt als der Feind bereits an der innersten Hinderniszone war und drangte denselben durch seine Entschlossenes tapferes Aufträten wobei er an der spitze sienes Zuges Kämpfte zuruck. Bracht ihm durch geschickte Feuerleitung grosse Verluste Bei.

Translation: In recognition of brave conduct in the face of the enemy. In fight from 7th and 8th of July 1916, south of Podgaino. He took over command, after the commander became injured, at the moment that the enemy already was at the innermost defense line and forced them back, by his convincing brave action, in which he fought at the front. Inflicted great losses to the enemy by his adequate fire direction.

From the history book of the Worldwar, book II, 1920: 7. Juli griffen zwei neue russische Korps im Räume Karczewo-Wygoda das Kolozsvärer Infanterieregiment Nr. 51 an, ‘das bei Tuganowiczi und Podgaino stand, heldenmütig die Stellung hielt und alle Angriffe erfolgreich abwies. Am 8. Juli 2 Uhr vormittags erfolgte ein erneuter heftiger Angriff, welcher den ganzen Tag andauerte. Vor der Front der 51er lagen über 2000 Tote, ohne daß das tapfere Regiment auch nur einen Schritt zurückgewichen wäre.

Translated: On July 7th two Russian corps attacked in the area of Karczewo-Wygoda the 51st Infantryregiment from Kolosvar that bravely held the line near Tuganowiczi and Podgaino and rejected the attack succesfully. On the 8th of July at 14.00 hrs a new attack was launched that lasted the entire day. In front of the 51st there were more than 2000 death without the Regiment retreating even a step.

And the documents and texts relating to his first class Bravery Medal

Tapferes Verhalten vor dem Feinde: In der Durchbruchsschlacht am 24./X. 1917 bei (Punkt) 778 nördl Dol. Kal stürmte er mit der 1. Welle der 7. fkomp bis über die 2. fdl. Linie, wo er infolge schwerer Verwundung abbleiben musste. Er gab ein mustergültiges Beispiel seiner Mannschaft.

Request form and detail from the Hungarian Military Archives

Translation of text: Brave conduct in the face of the enemy. In the breaktrough fight on the 24th of October 1917 at point 778 north of Dol. Kal. he stormed with the first wave of the 7th field company beyond the 2nd enemy line, where he, as a result of a major injury, had to stay behind. He was an example to his men.

The villages Kal and Dol Kal can be found at the position (roughly) 46°5′ North and 31°24′ East

The date of this action is the start of the 12th Isonzo battle in Italy! In October 1917 the Kolozsvárer IR.51 took part in the Isonzo / Karfreit breakthrough. The villages are Dol (east of Selo) and Kal (im Cepovantale). The regiment (three battalions) was together with IR.64 a part of the 69th Infantry Brigade. The regiment held a sector in the Cepovan Valley (Capovantal) on the Bainsizza Plateau.

Official document/certificate confirming his both Bravery medals

As stated his other medals would be added only after 1941:

Karltroop cross certificate
Wounded medal with one stripe on the ribbon.
Hungarian WW1 commemorative medal
And finally his invitation to the vitézi rend award ceremony in 1943.

His entitlement in 1943 would have looked like this (these are not his medals as the group only existed of the papers).

With many thanks to the Hungarian Military Archives for helping with the relevant materials that made this blog possible!

And a last document from the military archives – his military pass post from the 1950s