232. Telegram From the Legation in Hungary to the Department of State1

660. As March approaches, United States media will be faced increasingly with problem of how to treat war of nerves which Hung population waging with regime and Soviet occupiers. As discussed in Weeka 6,2 psychological, this war a popular whispering campaign threatening renewed uprising March 15, traditional national holiday.

Legation of opinion every logical analysis of situation leads to evaluation March 15 will not bring renewal widespread open revolt. But Legation does not feel certain logical analysis is adequate, since convincing logic, alien to their rationale, may fail give enough weight to possibility of illogical behavior.

In view of fact Hungarians may conceivably decide once more to take on Soviets, Legation makes following recommendations to media: (1) Any discussion of March 15 should implicitly carry message renewed outburst anywhere near scale of one in October would in eyes of Western world seem an excess, since Hungarians have already demonstrated how they feel about Soviets and Commies; (2) Media [Page 570] should explicitly point out so-called Eisenhower Doctrine3 applies to Middle East only. After all that has happened and been said since October–November it should seem clear Hungarians should not expect Western aid in event they revolt. However, President’s Middle East speech has created some hope, apparently for most part among urban workers, that United States policy is shifting in direction of granting aid against Commie aggression for any nation which requests it. Although Legation does not view with alarm or disfavor any or all strong actions which Hungarians may take against their oppressors, it feels our media cannot be too explicit on point about our Middle East policies implying no extension to East Europe. One Legation officer has had painful task of making this ABC clear to several Hungarians (urban workers) who say they are involved in underground networks.

Choices of strong action on part of Hungarians are strictly limited. Possibility of armed and open revolt certainly offers no reward of success. Possibility of terrorizing the regime by assassinating Commie officials and police offers potentially greater rewards, especially if Soviets were excluded as targets and secret terror actions were paced so as to strike fear into government supporters without provoking wholesale reprisals against innocent people. However, Hungarians, who pride themselves on a non-Balkan civilization, have never shown genius for this type action. If contrary to their past, they should, amid present adversities, develop attitude for fighting terror by terror, Legation is of opinion United States media could adopt a noncommittal attitude. But on matter of open uprising, with inevitable consequences of defeat further loss of leadership and undermining underground communications media record should be crystal clear. This clearness should not only be formal; it should take into account possibility uneducated workers may misunderstand us in way we ordinarily would not expect to be misunderstood.

Toward end giving media ammunition with which make these views known without commentaries or editorializing, Legation offers suggestion that high-ranking United States figure possibly Under Secretary, make use of press conference to plant ideas (possible Legation [idea] is that March 15 is State holiday in Ohio; Hungarians in Ohio will also celebrate March 15 as traditional Hungarian national holiday): people of America and entire world will think of Hungarians on this day. Hope future March 15 this will be celebrated under conditions real freedom, not under aegis Kadar regime which seems be provoking demonstrations in Hungary this March 15 for purpose discovering leadership freedom fighters still underground in Hungary [Page 571] and thus making lot of heroic Hungarian people still more onerous. We caution Hungarian people that whole world knows their courage, but further actions this time might serve hinder their cause rather than help.

Department please pass foregoing USIA and Munich if it concurs in views expressed.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 511.00/2–1357. Secret. Repeated to Vienna.
  2. Joint Weeka 6 from USARMA Budapest, February 8, reported the slogans in common use threatening a spring uprising. (Ibid., 764.00(W)/2–857)
  3. Enunciated in the President’s Special Message to the Congress on the Situation in the Middle East, January 5, 1957. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, January 21, 1957, pp. 83–87.
  4. Telegram 662 to Budapest, February 28, reported on the guidance given to USIA on the March 15 anniversary: “Role of information media should be one of reporting objectively on events, though there is no objection to recalling in non-inflammatory terms significance of March 15 in Hungarian history.” (Department of State, Central Files, 511.00/2–1357)