198. Telegram From the Legation in Hungary to the Department of State 1

324. Department pass USIA. Bela Kovacs and two of his lieutenants sought asylum at US Legation on morning November 4.2 Asylum request denied but temporary shelter overnight granted due heavy bombardment. Legation officers who conversed with Kovacs impressed by his sincerity and honesty. Some hurt feelings involved on his part because he like Hungarians in general had presumed on greater American aid than was possible to grant.

Hungarian-speaking officer of Legation engaged Kovacs in conversation which led to discussion of VOA and RFE and of US policy vis-à-vis satellites in general. Kovacs expressed opinion that US radio misled Hungarian people into believing they could count on effective US aid in event of trouble with Soviets. Kovacs said official pronouncements from highest US Government levels had also lent toward creating this illusion. He vehemently stated his opinion that if US policy toward Soviet Communism was purely defensive one the US should have directed its anti-Communist propaganda activities at USSR and should have left the East European states alone. Kovacs left little doubt that in his opinion the US for the attainment of its own selfish goals, had cynically and cold-bloodedly maneuvered the Hungarian people into action against the USSR.

Although in opinion of the Legation the Hungarians would have acted the same even though our radio media had pursued more moderate line vis-à-vis the Hungarian Communist Government, there is no question that our past radio propaganda is at present source of much embarrassment to us. Legation personnel who have lived through entire period here since October 23 are keenly aware of idealistic manner in which Hungarians have behaved and of the high moral plane on which revolution was conducted. This makes it all the more difficult to explain or attempt to justify our radio propaganda programs and political pronouncements—a fact which I feel most strongly should be borne in mind in formulating future programs and pronouncements both for Hungary and other curtain countries.

[Page 473]

Information about Bela Kovacs temporary presence in Legation is not to be used by the media.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.64/11–1956. Secret. Repeated to Vienna and Munich.
  2. See Document 162.
  3. In telegram 262 to Budapest, November 21, the Department of State expressed concern about the frequent recurrence of “vague accusations against RFE” of the kind made by Kovacs. The Legation was requested to provide specific examples of broadcasts which it considered “ill advised” or subject to “serious misinterpretation.” (Department of State, Central Files, 611.64/11–1956)