162. Transcript of a Teletype Conversation Between the Legation in Hungary and the Department of State, November 3–4, 19561

The Minister is out at present. Have someone out looking for him but in meantime in the event this circuit goes out Bruegl would like to inform you that it appears the Russian artillery and mortar has begun falling on outskirts of Budapest at 0500 local time.

Min pls. Hope that Minister can be located soon.

From Wailes, note 040525 local time. Interesting to note that firing in suburbs started at exactly 0500 local time. Guns are heavy caliber and to date firing appears to be going out from city rather than [garble]. Local broadcasts are reporting it. Either Nagy or Tildy have advised people to take to cellars as the city is being occupied. That’s all for now however we would like to hold the CKT for while yet.

Pls get this to watch officer immediately.

Watch officer here, also Fisher Howe, if Mr. Wailes has anything special for Secretariat.

From Wailes 040530. Unconfirmed reports convoy across border. Have you any info to this report?

Wailes from Howe. Did United States dependents get out to Vienna today on second try?

Hope you are aware of our immediate protest to Russian Ambassador here on word that they had been turned back.

From Wailes 040533. We do not know if they are out. But someone has reported that VOA has reported that they were out.

We are checking now to see if any last minute dope on that.

From Wailes 040535 local time. Tildy secretary has just phoned to say Russians attacking in all Hungary. He requested [reported?] us that the Hungarian Govt is asking for US for our aid.

[Page 376]

From Wailes 040540 local time. Broadcast at 0545 reputedly Nagy stated Russians advancing on city and presently engaged with Hungarian Army.3

From Wailes 040544. We think there is enough in these reports that we have started priority material destruction.

AmLegation Budapest. This State Washington. Is this the Legation Budapest?

Yes we were cut off. Do you have any further word on the American dependents that tried to enter Austria yesterday?

The answer is we have not but we are trying to find out.

Suggest you present your credentials. You may act on this immediately if feasible. And if desirable in your view.

The above from Beam.

Did you get that?

Yes, recd it fine. Minister is out of Telex at moment. Will try to locate him and give msg to him immediately.

From Wailes to Beam 040642 local time. Things have been quiet for approx ten minutes. Don’t yet know what this means. Streets patrolled and Parliament Square well filled with Hungarian troops.

Re presenting credentials doubt at the moment if could find the gentleman on whom I should call even if I could navigate streets. Will therefore wait temporarily to see what present lull means. State Minister has just rung our doorbell. Will sign off for minute to see what he has on his mind.

OK we stand by here.

Think you would like to know we are getting in touch with Lodge who is asking for a Council meeting immediately.4

[Page 377]

No other news for the moment except good luck. We still standing by.

OK Tnx. Will pass note on to Min.

We will pass on to you immediately any news that comes in from New York.

That would be highly appreciated here.

We also have call in to Vienna and will give you any news we can develop on the convoy.

That also would be appreciated as some of the husbands are quite worried about the safety their wives and children. The sooner you can supply info believe the better in order that they will know one way or other.

Please assure all concerned that we are highly sympathetic and doing all possible to get the dope.

Roger. Will deliver last note to Minister if I can find him. Will be back.

OK we standing by.

Beam from Wailes 040655 local time. Have examined credentials State Minister and find he is one of the ones appointed yesterday. Will give you his name in few mins. He tells me Nagy has gone to Soviet Embassy and has not returned. The Minister downstairs says he is therefore one of the two Cabinet members now acting. He has a message which he wishes transmitted to President. We are now translating it. He says it is most urgent.

Note received OK. Min stand by.

Beam from Wailes 040658 local time. Translation proceeding as rapidly as possible, in meantime Minister says Soviet tanks at second bridge. In fact report is that they have two main bridges each about half mile from Legation. We also hear that Ministry Defense completely surrounded.

From Wailes 040718 local time. The translation is now coming along. The note was delivered by Bibo5 State Minister member of the Peasant now Petofi Party. Tildy is the other State Minister on the job. Here is message:6

“Hungary in its present exceptionally difficult situation turns with particular confidence to the love of peace, the wisdom, and the bravery which the President up to now has so often firmly shown. Although the people of Hungary are determined to resist with desperation the attack upon them, there is no doubt that in this unequal struggle it will be defeated if it does not receive help. In this moment [the] most necessary kind of help is political not military. It is clear that [Page 378] the new phase of the USSR’s intentions is related to the British intervention in Egypt. The subjugation of Hungary, however, would not only signify renewal of oppression in this country but it would also stop the liberation trend[s] which have started so hopefully in the other East European countries; it would also bankrupt the ten year old American liberation policy which was pursued with so much firmness and wisdom. It would create a crisis in the confidence of all the East European people in the USA and [the other lands]. On the other hand in view of the adverse effects of the Egyptian intervention—it would bring to the fore [new] isolationist currents, which as testified to by experiences gained up to now, would be the most certain road to the [inception] of World War two [three]. This is the historical moment to which both President Eisenhower and Secretary [of] State Dulles referred in earlier speeches when they said that only by risking a world war can a sure way be found to avert the outbreak of a new world war. Without attempting in any way to give advice, we cannot forego bringing to the attention of the President the possibility that taking into account the most difficult consequences he can on [the] one hand bring the Western powers to end the Egyptian intervention by acting as intermediary in an armistice and on the other hand he can call on the Soviet Union to quickly withdraw its troops from Hungary. We know that the moral significance of the simultaneous execution of the two measures is as great [a] practical difficulty as carrying them out.”

That is all that has been translated up to now. Min.

Beam to Wailes. Believe Lodge will speak very shortly at the General Assembly. Meeting of the Security Council will probably be held early today, Sunday.

A few jets overhead but no immediate street fighting. Still no news from convoy and Soviet Embassy says they do not know what is going on here in town.

Rest of message from Cabinet Minister states in brief fate of world depends on President.

From Wailes 040737. Just made phone contact convoy (Min). Will tell you in minute which side of border they are on. Min pls.

From Wailes 040740. Sorry was not convoy.

Lots of action here but nothing new to give you for the moment. May have something in moment.

For your info Mr. Beam, Freers, McKisson, Lincoln White, Leverich, et al here at my side.

OK Min. Wailes reading over shoulder as this comes in. He got that fine. Just having coffee at present—sure is good.

We hope that soon we will have info on dependents. All husbands standing by for any info when you get it pls relay to Budapest soonest.

We will certainly forward to you immediately anything we develop. In the meantime can you give us the rest of the text of the message to the President?

[Page 379]

From Wailes 040750. Here rest message except for an eight line sentence which we cannot make out.

“We are not in the position to further pursue these suggestions but we strongly emphasize that in this moment the fate of Eastern Europe and the entire world depends on the action of the President; the next few critical days will determine whether we enter on a path of peace and liberation or whether we shall increase the appetite of aggression and proceed to a certain world catastrophe.”

Note the Security Council is meeting within a few mins.

From Wailes. We are delighted and hope to get you today for Lodge as accurate information on Soviet build up as possible. We Americans have actually seen numbers of tanks bearing markings. The Cardinal is now at the door and we are now taking him in.7 I’ll speak with him and be right back.

OK standing by.

Minister Wailes has gone down stairs. Will return shortly.

From Wailes 040758. Cardinal accompanied by his secretary, can we also take him in?

Min will have answer moment.

OK fine. Am still here.

Will have the reply soon as they come in—any second now.

We still waiting here. Minister Wailes sitting here awaiting Department’s answer.

Here is reply—let the secretary in!

From Wailes 040800. Henceforth will admit only Americans unless instructions from you.

Can you get statement from Cardinal Mindszenty?

From Wailes. Am now asking him. In meantime so far as we know there are only about eight Americans other than Legation here in city. They are journalists and we will take them in if they come.

Who are they please?

Moment will see if we can get the list.

Is Garst8 party still there?

Moment. From Wailes 040808. They (Garst party) left their hotel last Thursday9 and we have checked but we assume they are safely out of Hungary.

OK. Stand by.

Any progress on Mindszenty statement?

Am checking. Pls hold on. Minister Wailes has gone down on ground floor to see what has developed along those lines he should be back shortly. We hope to have something for you soon in few mins.

[Page 380]

OK. Have you names of journalists? We are also checking.

There is a list in the Legation someplace and someone has gone up to third floor to see if it still around. Anything else we can do for you?

What is situation outside of Legation now?

Am here alone now. Have blinds down and some safes against window. Cannot see a thing from here but it appears to me to be rather quiet. However as I say it is pretty noisy and this room is rather sealed off for over a week we put the safes by window to stop any bullets from entering this room and reduce the possibility of damage the Telex equipment and personnel working this section of Legation.

From Wailes 040818. Here translation of Cardinal’s statement:

“Under the pretense of serious negotiations the assembling Soviet troops at dawn occupied the Hungarian capital and the entire country. I protest against this aggression and I ask for forceful and speedy defense of my country from the USA and other powers.” End Statement.

Did you get that OK?

Yes. OK.

Note from Wailes 040820. Several American newspapermen in group and believed to be all that are here have phoned from Duna Hotel. They have tentatively decided not to take refuge in Legation unless permitted to bring a few German and other non Hungarian assistants with them. What about it? End Note.

From Wailes 040825. Just heard that Russians have taken over Parliament building about two blocks from Legation. End note.

Do you have any contact with British and other Western Legations?

From Wailes 040825. No not at moment, however am now trying to get British. In meantime here names American correspondents.

[Here follows the list of American news correspondents.]

That’s fine. We are still trying to reach Vienna regarding convoy. Stand by. Have something coming up.

OK we still awaiting a reply to that qry and feel quite sure that the husbands are very anxious to hear of their whereabouts if at all possible.

From Wailes 040830. Have contacted British Legation and they know nothing more than we. They are sitting tight. (As we)

Wailes from Beam. Regret cannot authorize further refuge for other than American nationals. If you are still able to communicate you may recommend exceptions. Otherwise must leave to your judgment.

From Wailes 040833. I think we must stick to Americans for the reason that food in the city is getting short and we must keep those at Legation at minimum from standpoint our supplies which are sufficient [Page 381] for us as well as possibility water shortage. (Min) Just heard from Cardinal some time ago he saw white flag raised on Parliament building. Unable to confirm.

We at the Legation are grateful for this machine being installed when it was and is of great help and assistance to the cause. It is a fine bit of equipment and we shall protect it.

Re above, we share your sentiments here.

We have managed to keep almost twenty four hour coverage on this equipment by putting beds near the machine and bells would awaken operator to receipt for any and all Niacts, Prioritys, etc. By [the] way what is correct time in Wash DC?

It is now 2:45 am Nov 4 here now local time.

I see correct time here is 0845 have just reset my watch to conform with your time. That is the correct time.

We are now in touch with Vienna on a weak circuit somewhat garbled version as follows: The convoy was waiting at the border last night. Vienna has an officer waiting at the Austrian side and attempting to get word through to them. No report from the officer so far this morning. We are trying to get a clarification of the garbles.

OK will pass this note on to Minister Wailes and he can inform interested parties.

Vienna is trying to reach Vienna officer by radio and telephone.

Fine, hope they have success and then we will probably get more info on latest developments on the Austrian border. When you get the info you will I am sure pass it along to us.

You may be interested in knowing that Lodge broke news of Soviet occupation Budapest at General Assembly meeting tonight.

Note 040850 from Col. Dallam. Pls call on phone Liberty 5-6700 ext 54250, 74550, 77183 and inform them you in direct contact with Budapest.

From Wailes 040854. Perhaps of interest when Russian surrounded Parliament building no firing [took] place as far as we know. Also tell Carpenter10 when he next presents his budget to put in plenty of money for Telex expenses as this is certainly a great help to us at the moment.

Assume in due course you will let our missions in neighboring countries know what is going on as do not have time to communicate with them.

AmLegation Budapest still here. For identification purposes this Gordon Bruegl. Do you have anything for us?

Yes Gordon here it is. UP is reporting from Vienna that Nagy govt captured and that Radio Budapest now on air in Russian language. AP from Vienna says Russians bombarding, strafing city. It says Radio [Page 382] Budapest went off air few moments ago.11 Hungarian news agency reports to Vienna that new Soviet controlled govt has been formed outside city of Budapest headed by six Hungarian Communists. Any confirmation?

From Wailes 040900. We have no confirmation on above. Other than we can hear no strafing or bombing at this moment if it is going on must be well in suburbs.

We have Vienna on line anything you wish to ask them?

From Wailes 040901. Re American newspapermen group, have reached them and told them if they wanted come here they may and bring with them the German and other non-Hungarian assistants who definitely work for American press. There are not more than five. I have said we could not take in Hungarian associates which they seem to appreciate.

Does Vienna have anything on the convoy yet?

From Wailes 040906. Five American journalists, now down stairs and want to press with me their desire to bring in Endra Marton and wife AP–UP Hungarian correspondent recently released from jail with worldwide publicity. I don’t like taking in Hungarians but inclined to go along as I believe this is last of non-American press we will be asked to take in. If we do take them in I believe we will have to make it clear that we cannot guarantee protection from Hungarian authorities. Have you any thoughts?

Regarding previous questions about American newspapermen group you may give shelter to German and other non-Hungarian nationals concerned altho this not considered asylum.

Minister Wailes has gone downstairs to inform newspapermen about the Marton situation. He should be back shortly.

Have just taken a peek out the window in other room but still have not seen any Russians around Legation area. In the midst of all this it looks like a nice sunny morning on the way.

Hungarian news agency, as reported by AP Vienna, says puppet govt formed at Szolnok consisting following:

  • Antal Apro
  • Istvan Kossa
  • Ferenc Munnich
  • Sandor Ronai
  • Imre Dogei
  • Gyorgy Marosan

Earlier UP from Budapest said Janos Kadar had formed new pro Moscow govt and said he had asked Soviet troops for help.12 We note [Page 383] here his name not included in puppet govt allegedly formed at Szolnok. AP reports Hungarian news agency thru teletype to Vienna says Hungarians in Budapest taken posters [posts] behind barricades in streets and were charging Russian tanks with bottles of gasoline.

From Wailes. Press delegation is really up in arms at Endre Marton wife and two kids who seem to be only Hungarians directly reporting for Amer press. Furthermore they point out that they were jailed because of alleged assistance to US. This is partially correct as far as the trumped up charges are concerned. Rather than raise too much unfavorable publicity for US (I have not mentioned consulting Dept nor will I do so) I am now inclined that lesser evil is to take these people in. Do you wish to comment or leave it to me?

Leave it to your judgment.

Security Council in session, has Lodge speaking. Says Soviet has ring of tanks around city. While this going on, Soviet press says Nagy has turned out to be enemy of people. Also said Radio Budapest heard playing national anthem. Voice saying “You are Hungarians, here you live and here you must die.”

Note: Deputy Under Secretary Murphy is here.

From Wailes 040929. Has Mr. Murphy anything he wants to tell the Minister?

Yes will have something soon stand by.

To Wailes from Mr. Murphy. We will do everything we can to support you. You are doing a grand job and it is a tough one.

From Wailes to Mr. Murphy. Many thanks. Now a message for State and pass promptly to Army and Air Intelligence:

British MilAtt called and stated that he had heard officially that the Soviets had given the Hungarian Govt an ultimatum at 0800 to the effect that if the govt did not capitulate within four hours the Soviets would bomb Budapest. He states that he was told that the govt would technically capitulate under those terms but that the insurgents would not. Do you have any info on this?

No information on this.

Note: We have word from Vienna thru Defense Dept that convoy was again turned back at Austrian border by Soviets. Convoy is staying overnight at Red Cross hospital at Magyarovar, but will try again cross border this morning.

New subject. Bela Kovacs, Smallholder leader, with two lieutenants, now at front door seeking asylum. I will have to turn them away unless you instruct contrary.

Lodge concluded statement before SC by asking for adoption of resolution he introduced last night. Cuban now speaking.

[Page 384]

Here note to Wailes from Murphy. You are authorized to grant shelter tentatively to Kovacs and his lieutenants. We will wish to consider disposition later.

Action being taken now to permit them to enter Legation.

From Wailes. Just made contact with head of International Red Cross to inquire what supplies have been coming in as it was our opinion that roadblocks had cut off transportation. In fact we have seen many Red Cross vehicles stopped from entering city. Red Cross said they have enough medical supplies for about ten days under present circumstances. I imagine a good bombing would use them up very rapidly. Food I think is probably a more critical problem as we gather that with city ringed by Soviets there is not more than two or three days supply (this does not apply to Legation).

Re SC meeting—Cuban reviewed events Hungary which he described as “world shame” which laid at feet of USSR. UK’s Dixon now speaking. Dixon condemned “brutal slaughter” of women and children and male civilians by Soviet troops in Hungary. Australian now speaking.

Just had a good flight of jets overhead. They kept right on going—did not stop.

From Wailes 040955. Kovacs has apparently left but may come back and I will let him in vestibule with his lieutenants with firm understanding it is tentative and no asylum granted. If they do come back and we have bombing at noon as threatened in ultimatum, I will take them in for few minutes as vestibule largely glass. We plan to send staff to basement just before twelve and if it gets really hot we will all go there for few minutes but will tell you before hand in case you can keep machine running. It is now ten o’clock here so there are still two hours to go.

[Here follows a list of Americans at the Legation.]

Australian said the 2 Hungarian delegates who went to negotiate with Soviets for withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary have not returned and have apparently been taken prisoner.14 Said “no need to multiply recitation of tragic events. Have before us American resolution and we can do nothing less than adopt it.”

From Wailes 041010. We understand that as late as ten o’clock the Hungarians were negotiating with the Soviets and have also heard this morning that Hungarian delegation has not returned so it looks like Australian is correct although we have no positive proof.

[Page 385]

Note to Wailes. Beam has telephoned Soviet Ambassador, got him out of bed and told him we expected action on convoy as promised previously. Ambassador said he would send another telegram on the matter.

From Wailes. Some sort of press conference has been called at Parliament and we will let you know results when available. We do not know who called conference. Believe all local radios now being jammed.

We are on the phone to New York and will have something for you in a moment on the Security Council meeting.

OK fine. We shall be here to receive anything you have to send on that subject.

Still nothing new to report here all officers have left Telex room momentarily. Believe they are out in hall discussing something.

From Wailes. We now have Foreign Office on phone and will send their view of this in a few minutes.

Note on Security Council. Peruvian said yesterday we had hopes that Hungarian-Soviet negotiations might produce favorable results. Soviets had tried to force conditions which Hungary forced to reject. As result Soviet understood to restore regime of 1948. A regime of force, he added, with all objections it produces, collides with moral forces of world which ultimately will defeat it. The Soviet Govt has not only committed a “great crime” but also a mistake in trying to restore “Stalin tyranny”. It is impossible for any state to fight with success against moral forces of the world which in end will prevail for all time. Soviets, he concluded, are guilty of slaughtering youth, women and children and that one of the beautiful cities of Europe “the pride of our culture is now being wrecked in vengeance”.

Additional note on Security Council: Chinese proposed change in US resolution. Proposed first point be changed to read:

“To call upon the Govt of the USSR to desist forthwith from making war on the Govt and the people of Hungary and from any form of intervention in the internal affairs of Hungary”.

Last item for now. Belgium accepted the Chinese amendment.

We are on the line to New York again and will give you the gist as soon as we get it.

We have all been with you in spirit on this thing and sure admire the way you have all held up.

Thank you very much.

From Wailes. We are now translating what we received from FonOff and local employee is taking down substance of long talk with Min of State.

[Page 386]

From Wailes 041048. MilAtt just informed me that two explosions few minutes ago were more on the order of dynamite than bombing and might have been the Margit Bridge and Chain Bridge.

Further note re the Security Council meeting. Soviets are now speaking. We will give you summary of their remarks shortly.

Have spoken to Bohlen in Moscow asking him to take up matter with Foreign Office there.

New York has just come in again on phone and may have summary of Soviet remarks.

This Vienna Telex opr. We were cut off again. Moment will try to get them back.

To State Dept and OPR NY. Line to Budapest out of order. We will try to get them on the other line.

No further contact established with AmLegation Budapest.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 661.64/11–456. Official Use Only. Transmitted in an unnumbered telegram from Budapest, which is the source text. The telegram indicates the telex connection began at 11:45 p.m., November 3, and ended at 5:15 a.m., November 4. This corresponds to 5:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. on November 4, Budapest time, although specific times mentioned in the source text indicate the conversation began at least as early as 5:25 a.m. Budapest time.
  2. At 5:20 a.m. Nagy reported to the Hungarian people that Soviet troops had attacked Budapest. For text, see Zinner, National Communism, p. 472. Prior to the intervention, Soviet leaders consulted from November 1 to 3 with their counterparts in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia, the People’s Republic of China, and Yugoslavia. Mićunović describes the nature of the conversation between Khrushchev and Tito at Brioni, which lasted from 7 p.m., November 2, to 5 a.m., November 3: Khrushchev described developments in Hungary as a counterrevolution in which Communists were being murdered and gave forewarning of the Soviet intention to crush the revolt. Mićunović credits Tito with being able to persuade Khrushchev to consider putting Kádár at the head of the new regime instead of Münnich. The Yugoslavs, who accepted the need for the intervention, also encouraged a confession of past errors in Hungary. (Moscow Diary, pp. 132–141) For another version of the same conversation, see Khrushchev Remembers, pp. 420–422.
  3. Ambassador E. Ronald Walker of Australia interrupted the 563d meeting of the General Assembly, which was discussing the Suez crisis, to make known news reports of the Soviet intervention and his own intention of seeking Security Council consideration of that matter. Some 20 minutes later, Ambassador Lodge announced the Legation was under bombardment. He advised the members that he had asked for a meeting of the Security Council and he was pleased that one would soon take place. (U.N. doc. A/PV.563, pp. 69 and 71) The Assembly adjourned at 3:05 a.m. on November 4, the 754th meeting of the Security Council having begun 5 minutes earlier. See Document 164.
  4. István B. Bibo had been named to the Cabinet by Nagy on November 3. Later he was sentenced to life in prison.
  5. Bracketed corrections in the source text have been made from the copy of the message found in Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DullesHerter Series.
  6. See the editorial note, infra.
  7. Roswell Garst.
  8. November 1.
  9. Isaac White Carpenter, Jr., Controller of the Department of State.
  10. It did so at 7:25 a.m.
  11. Although the formation of the Hungarian Revolutionary Worker-Peasant Government (effective November 1) was proclaimed on November 4, Kádár and his associates did not reach Budapest until November 7. They were sworn in by István Dobi, Chairman of the Presidential Council. Nagy managed to escape temporarily by taking refuge in the Yugoslav Embassy.
  12. The Hungarian negotiating team, which included the newly-designated Defense Minister and former head of the revolutionary forces, General Pál Meléter; Chief of the General Staff, General István Kovács; and Colonel Miklós Szücs, was suddenly arrested at midnight by General Serov while participating in talks at the Soviet military headquarters at Tököl.