108. Transcript of a Teletype Conversation Between the Legation in Hungary and the Department of State, October 25, 19561

This is clear. Communications open temporarily.

Am typing on floor. A big battle has just took [taken] place in front of Legation seems to have gone towards Parliament seems all Americans still OK and safe. Street fighting again flaring up with tanks fighting it out at present.

Stand by please, chief coming down in Telex room. Roger will do.

Here he is:

Do you have any questions at present?

Here some news:

Parliament Square 1045 crowded with people afternoon October 24 continued street fighting many Soviet tanks and troops. Legation skeleton staff returned to homes without incident. Two officers and two Marines remained in Legation. Intermittent shots heard through night. Quieter towards morning. October 25: Crowds moving in streets, center town especially Pest. Danube River bank area full of Soviet tanks and troops. US staff with no difficulty [moving?] about. [Page 281] 1000: heavy movement of tanks reported on Stalin Street. 1030: Large crowd marched north past Legation proceeded farther towards Parliament.

Heavy gun fire from Parliament area. Some Legation reports that some Soviet tanks going over to the crowd flying Hungarian flags from tanks with crowds. Budapest radio broadcasts statement that isolated groups firing in town.

Advised people stay off streets. Large crowd dispersed before Parliament now; mainly dispersed by Soviet tanks firing over crowds heads. Some tanks in control of crowd withdrew from Parliament area. Heavy firing continues hearing distance of Legation apparently tank guns.

Any questions?

CWO is contacting Budapest officer here for questions.

Mr. Barnes, Mr. Rogers, Mr. Katona, Mr. Clark, Mr. Meeker, Mr. Nyerges, etc., all in Telex room huddling on floor to avoid gunfire.

Do you people believe this fighting is going to spread further?

Have no way of knowing but seems very possible that it will spread.

Believe non-Hungarian stationed Soviet troops pulled into Budapest over night. Prefix on truck numbers is Soviet “F”. Have report that no airplane service to or from Budapest. Train service probably interrupted and no information on conditions Vienna Budapest highway, except some reports of disturbances in Gyor. Also heard reports of disturbances Debrecen and Szeged and Miskolc.

Any questions?

Have none at present.

Strength of Soviet troops which arrived in Budapest initially at 0400 hours local time 24 October estimated to be one mechanized infantry division. Hungarian troops held in background. Soviet doing bulk of fighting. Some Hungarian troops known to have joined the crowd.

Situation in front of Legation building now quiet, fighting seems to have left this immediate area.

American apartment house Szeichenyi sprayed with Russian machine gun fire due to presence of insurgents firing from roof. All Americans and domestic help safe in basement, however windows broken from shell fire and front of building sprayed with machine gun fire from Russian troops dug in, in and around the building.

Some members in crowd before Legation have been shouting for United States assistance.

Army and Legation officers have personally observed several instances of Soviet tanks going over to crowds just prior to firing. These were seen flying Hungarian flags.

Still on floor, reasons for bad typing.

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All this information given by Legation officers.

Legation wife observed at 1045 local time, 76 Soviet trucks fully loaded with troops field kitchens towing howitzers proceeding from east in direction of Parliament. All trucks bearing numbers beginning with Cyrillic letter “F”. Agriculture Attaché has observed trucks bearing this Cyrillic letter by chance in Rumania.

Situation around Legation area quiet.

Any questions?


Mr. McKisson has been notified and is on his way down.

Is anyone from military coming down?

Military will be informed by Mr. McKisson.

Have set the printer back on table.

State Department, you still there? This AmLegation Budapest.

Yes, still with you.

Appears to be rather quiet around the Legation area again.

Still there State Department?

Yes, will stay with you until you advise.

Just so long we don’t get cut off is what I’m worried about.

Budapest radio has just announced Gero has been relieved of the party and has been replaced by Kadar who is to speak over radio shortly. Things seem little quieter at moment and one city bus on normal run just passed by.

[Here follows a description of events as told to the Legation by John MacCormac of The New York Times. ]

While we still have the circuit can inform you that large crowd still in front American Legation shouting for help, etc.

Have you any questions?

None right now.

Do any of the officers there want to talk direct to McKisson?

I will find out. Hold on a minute.

Yes, believe Mr. Barnes would like to. Is Mr. McKisson there yet?

Not yet. Will tell McKisson as soon as we can contact him.

Roger. Hang on. Will keep this circuit open as long as possible.

Hope you can hold circuit until officers arrive.

Hope so too. Appears we have friends in telegraph office. Very unusual.

If you speaking of us—sure you have.


Any more running commentary?

Seems that crowd has left from in front of Legation and things again seem rather quiet. However, numerous times we thought this whole mess was over but it starts up very suddenly without any [Page 283] warning as you can well imagine. Earlier this morning I had the printer on floor typing from prone position with many more typing errors than appearing on this later transmission.

I’m sure you did best you could.

I sure hope so. Was rather afraid of bullets coming in the window since this Telex room is facing the crowd and would have more protection on floor. Fortunately no shells or the like came this direction.

That’s good.

Have man in back of me who was in Bogota in 19482 so we know what situation you are facing.

Yes. Have also been informed that my apartment is all shot up, windows broken and a fire broke out in the empty apartment adjacent from mine. Have not had opportunity to go see the extent of damage but am sure that some of my things are damaged from the numerous rifle and machinegun fire which occurred in that area when the Russians discovered some of the crowd on the roof of the American apartment. Oh well, that’s the life. Am having bits to eat at my side and do not want to leave this machine while we still have contact.

Any questions?

No questions. Want to hold you on. Don’t jeopardize connection.


Any further official telegrams?

Nothing in the immediate future.

McKisson is up on 6th floor. We are requesting his presence in our traffic section.

Will get Barnes and Rogers and Clark to come in here again.

Mr. McKisson is here now.

Barnes in snack bar, will be here momentarily.

McKisson from Barnes: Believe Legation has reported situation in immediate vicinity as fully as possible. No recent changes nor new information from other Budapest or Hungarian C. [sic] Momentarily quiet Legation area.

McKisson from Barnes: Do you have any questions?

Barnes from McKisson: What is your estimate of Nagy’s position now?

Barnes from McKisson: Is there anything we can do to facilitate your task?

McKisson from Barnes: Can think of nothing at moment.

Barnes from Freers: We all appreciate the magnificent job you are all doing.

Freers from Barnes: Thanks Ed. Things going OK so far.

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Barnes from Leverich: Sure you will be glad to know Wailes has applied for visas and should be departing within week or ten days.

Leverich from Barnes: Good to hear the news.

Here answer to question one:

McKisson from Barnes: This is a battle situation and we have no idea what is going to happen. Our impression yesterday was that in view of he [him] being blamed for calling in Soviet troops, that he lost a great deal of popularity; where he stands today and how the people would view a further retreat from Kadar to Nagy, we do not know. We presume Nagy is to all intents and purposes Premier. Should the blame for the calling of Soviet troops now be placed on Gero and he made a scapegoat for all this is going on now, and if he made further concessions, he might have a chance. But we do not know enough to say anything very certainly.

McKisson from Barnes: As you know, Foreign Minister Horvath and Sik requested visas for attending General Assembly UN. Foreign Minister inquired today about them, after being incommunicado yesterday. Unless you see objection, we will issue them this afternoon or tomorrow, assuming contact with Foreign Office.

What can you tell us about Secretary’s statement last night?3

Barnes from McKisson: No objection to issuance of visas to Horvath and Sik. Cases of other officials will be subject of later communication.

Here note.

We assume you will report to press and close relatives soonest that all Americans on Legation staff are in no imminent danger. Couriers Oliveiras and Vest are OK. Please inform Frankfort. So far as we know there have been no American casualties, but our information is very meager.

[Here follows a list of Americans who wished their families in the United States to know they were safe.]

The crowd has put up a ladder on the Russian monument in front of Legation and is attempting to knock down Red Star. Otherwise rather quiet in front of Legation at present.

In response to crowds which continued to grow before the Legation, demanding assistance, and as what apparently was the only way to prevent this crowd from growing into unmanageable proportions we have just made the following statement and asked them to move away peacefully. They appeared satisfied.

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“We understand the situation and it has been reported to our government as fully as we are able. You will understand that we ourselves can take no decision; this is a matter for our government and the United Nations. We have been in Hungary for many years and think we understand the situation.”

Barnes from Freers and Beam: Answer to previous question statement expected probably today. Secretary has asked us to pass on word to you that he is pleased and gratified by Legation’s performance under these trying circumstances.

McKisson from Barnes: In speech just delivered on radio, Imre Nagy has promised, inter alia, that as soon as arms laid down, Soviet troops now fighting will be withdrawn to former position in Hungary and that negotiations will be started to have all Soviet troops withdrawn. Deadline of 1800 hours yesterday for laying down arms cancelled.4

[Here follows a reference to the safety of nine Canadians.]

Note: We have processed running commentary and notes in telegram form so that proper distribution could be made to interested offices. Do you think you will continue with commentary or shall I end the message now?

All parties except duty officers and those who cannot get to apartment are rapidly pulling out as it is getting dark. We will have only one further brief coded message unless something very dramatic takes place.

Thousands of Hungarians gathering in front of American Legation again shouting for Russians to leave. They are still gathering.

[Here follows a brief reference reporting the safety of additional American citizens.]

Mass demonstration carrying Hungarian flags and black flags running over 2,000 have sung Hungarian anthem and appealed for help in front of American Legation. American officers in effort to disperse crowd have repeated essentially message sent earlier today. Some of crowd has dispersed but others are attempting to enter Legation. Nothing really violent.

Please time your notes with your local time. What is time there now?

Crowd presently singing and demonstrating.

McKisson from Rogers, Meeker, Nygeres. Time here 1630 local time.

Do you mean 1730 local time?

1630 local time.

1631 local time.

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McKisson from Rogers. We have just remade statement to crowd quoted earlier. If you have suggestions as to what we can say in future, we would like to have it.

McKisson from Rogers, 25/1640 local time. Crowd slowly dispersing. We would like to have any suggestions for statements, however, for future use.

For Rogers from Leverich. No suggestions for future statements except you may wish reiterate our sympathy and assure crowds you are keeping your government as fully informed as possible.

Rogers from Leverich. Reluctant to keep this circuit tied up much longer. Unless you want to send further message we had better terminate it as soon as we have read your BD10.

Leverich from Rogers, 25/1701 local time. Following this last message we have nothing more. No reply BD10 necessary. Many thanks for your support. Follows tactical estimate prepared by Meeker, who has been out today more than anyone else.

Leverich from Rogers, 25/1703 local time. Information on tactical situation Budapest proper very unclear. Outline seems to be as follows: Soviet–AVH and other government units have set up down town defense based on east end Margit Bridge and covering Ministry Defense–AVH headquarters and north end Parliament Square. South of Parliament, but unknown to what degree east, anti-government crowds freely moving. Gellert Bridge appears under control of anti-government forces but tanks on Chain Bridge unknown as to allegiance. Soviet setting up heavy guns back in Varosliget Park. If this outline correct heavy trouble may break out.

Please note as far as Legation concerned we desire to break the contact and will route through Vienna if possible or if very important will attempt contact Secretary State, DC direct.

Rogers from Leverich: OK we will sign off. Thanks for everything. All you guys doing wonderful job. Take care.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 764.00/10–2556. Official Use Only. Transmitted to Washington in an unnumbered telegram from Budapest, October 25, which is the source text.
  2. The American Embassy in Bogota had been barricaded when violence flared following the assassination of an opposition political leader on April 9, 1948.
  3. The reference is unclear as Dulles made no statement on Hungary on October 24.
  4. Nagy’s speech was broadcast over Radio Budapest at 2:25 p.m.