Broken Wings: The Hungarian Air Force, 1918-45

Broken Wings: The Hungarian Air Force, 1918-45

Broken Wings: The Hungarian Air Force, 1918-45

Broken Wings: The Hungarian Air Force, 1918-45

Synopsis

Drawing upon a wealth of previously untranslated documents, Broken Wings tells how a European nation built an entire air force in secret. Carved up and banned from having a military air service after World War I, Hungary became determined to rearm itself. In the early 1920s, Allied inspectors were evaded and obstructed at every turn; great efforts were made to stockpile equipment from the Great War; and the Hungarian government promoted the development of commercial aviation, partly as a front for military flight operations. The clandestine rearmament program could not depend on manufacturing at home but instead secretly accepted whichever planes Italy and Germany would sell them. During the late 1930s, the Hungarian air force went from operating as a secret branch of the army to an independent modernizing force in its own right. Hungarian air power played a great role in a victorious border skirmish with Slovakia in 1939. The cost of the reemergence of the Hungarian air force, however, was heavy: growing Nazi influence over the country, as Germany increasingly supplied aircraft and training. Inevitably, Hungary entered the Second World War on the side of the Axis in 1941, with its air force soon dwindling in independence and effectively becoming a Luftwaffe auxiliary force. Called back home to defend Hungary from incessant Allied bombings, the Hungarian air force ended the Second World War much as they had the First--salvaging aircraft parts from downed invaders and fighting until they no longer had airfields from which to operate.

Excerpt

THE FIRST HUNGARIAN AVIATOR TOOK TO THE SKY ON June 3, 1811. Dr. Károly Menner climbed into a basket suspended beneath a decorated fabric envelope on the outskirts of Pest, in a meadow that eighty-five years later would host the national millennial celebration. By 1896, balloon flight had become sufficiently routine that, for the price of a single korona, a visitor to the Hungarian Millennium celebration in the Budapest city park could ride in a captive balloon to a height of 1,500 feet. Franz Josef himself visited the exhibitions, and although he apparently did not chance a flight, some 7,000 of his subjects did. Those Hungarians who took to the air with Monsieur Godard joined the growing number of aviation enthusiasts across Europe. Captive balloon rides were common at major expositions of the time: the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and Antwerp’s 1894 Exposition featured them, as did the 1896 India and Ceylon Exhibition at Earls Court, and the Paris Exposition beginning in 1867. Paris’s precocity should be no surprise, since Frenchmen pioneered ballooning in 1783, and from the middle of the nineteenth century France “had total unsurpassed dominance in aviation.”

Despite Austria-Hungary’s relatively late start (Italian, American, and Scottish aeronauts had flown as early as 1784), for the century following Dr. Menner’s flight, Habsburg aviation kept pace with global advances and in some cases found itself on the leading . . .

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