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|Battle of Michalovce|
One of the OA vz. 30 armoured cars captured by the Hungarians during the Battle of Michalovce, November 1938. The retreating crew took with them the two ZB vz. 26 light machine guns.
|Date||November 4 - 12, 1938|
The Battle of Michalovce was a military engagement between the Republic of Czechoslovakia supported by units of the Slovak militia Hlinka Guard and the Kingdom of Hungary fought between November 4-12, 1938, over the control of the vicinity of the village of Michalovce. It was one of the first battles in the Slovak theatre of operations were tanks from both sides clashed. The result of the battle was inconclusive, though the Hungarians suffered heavy casualties.
In late-September 1938, Hungary had supported Hitler by mobilizing between 200,000 and 350,000 ill-trained and ill-equipped men on the Slovak and Ruthenian borders, ready to invade Czechoslovakia in case of war between Germany and Czechoslovakia.Following the Czech refusal to abide by the Munich Agreement and the German invasion, the Hungarians had remained poised threateningly on the Slovak border. They reportedly had artillery ammunition for only 36 hours of operations, and were clearly engaged in a bluff, but it was a bluff the Germans had encouraged, and one that they would have been obliged to support militarily if the much larger, better trained and better equipped Czechoslovak Army chose to fight. The Czechoslovak army had built 2,000 small concrete emplacements along the border wherever there was no major river obstacle.
At dawn on October 20, 1938, Hungarian artillery suddenly opened fire on Czech defences along the Slovak-Hungarian border. While the Czechs had anticipated a Hungarian attack, the artillery bombardement still came as a complete surprise, especially for the Soviet soldiers of the 96th Rifle Division positioned in southern Slovakia. While the Hungarian shelled the Czech defences, the invading forces were given orders to "proceed as far as possible". However, they quicky ran into Czech fortified positions, and repeated attacks claimed the lives of many Hungarian soldiers. However to the very east and at Bratislava the Hungarians made significant gains.
While the Hungarians made the largest gains in the winter period, they were suffering from lack of ammunition and supplies, as well as winter clothing and heavy casualties, and the Hungarians suffered heavy casualties for each advance they made.
On November 4 the 3rd Huszar Regiment was ordered by Maj.Gen. András Littay to begin their offensive in the direction of Užhorod. Their orders were to advance northwards towards Michalovce and then encircle Užhorod. This resulted in the battle of Michalovce.
In the north, opposite Stakčín, Major Matjka assembled an infantry battalion and two artillery batteries. In the south, around Michalovce, a group of about four infantry battalions and several artillery batteries was gathered. At Martin Lt. Daxner formed a Armoured Group consisting of nine LT vz. 35 light tanks and eight OA vz. 30 armoured cars.
The Hungarian troops advanced quickly, which surprised both the Czechs and the Germans. November 5 they had reached Veľké Kapušany. By November 6 they had captured the villages of Krčava, Orechová and had reached Mtrča and Velký Berežnyj. In the night of November 6-7, the Hungarians attacked in the direction of Stakčin and Sobrance, encountering Czech resistance 4 km beyond Sobrance, thus halting the Hungarian advance. By the end of the day they had reached the line Remetské Hamre - Reskovce - Jesenov - Bunkovce - Blatné Remete. The same evening they stood in front of Závadka. They thus created a safe corridor from Gajdos to Remetské Hamry. Despite the awful confusion caused by the quick advance of the Hungarian Army, the Czech force in Michalovce had coalesced sufficiently to attempt a counterattack by the following day, which was approved by Major Kubíček on November 7. The OA vz. 30 armoured cars were immediately sent on a reconnaissance mission to Budkovce, some 15 km south of Michalovce, but could not find any trace of the Hungarians.
It was therefore decided to counterattack eastwards, where the the most advanced Hungarian outpost was know to be some ten km away at Závadla. The road-bound armoured cars engaged the Hungarian picket from the front whilst Czech infantry worked round their flanks. This soon induced the heavily outnumbered Hungarians to fall back from Závadka towards their main line on the River Okna, just in front of Nižná Rybnica, allowing the Czechs to retake Gajdoš and Fekisoviec. Headquarters then ordered them to proceed with the attack to Ubrež and Jovša.
The armoured cars continued down the road a little past Závadka whilst the Czech infantry fanned out and began to deploy on a front of some four km on either side of them, between the villages of Ubrež and Vyšné Revištia. The infantry first came under Hungarian artillery fire during the occupation of Ubrež, north of the road. At 1300 a general attack was launched on the main Hungarian line at Nižná Rybnica. The Hungarian response was fierce and effective. The Czechs had advanced across open ground to within one km of the Okna River when they began to be struck by Hungarian field and anti-tank artillery fire.
One armoured car was hit in the engine and had to be withdrawn. A second was knocked out in the middle of the road by a 37 mm anti-tank gun. The raw infantry went to ground and then began to retreat. This soon turned into a panic that for some could not be stopped before Michalovce, fifteen km to the rear. The armoured cars, still tied to the road, covered the retreating infantry with their machine guns, in order to forestall any possible Hungarian pursuit.
Late on November 8, four more OA vz. 30 armoured cars and ten LT vz. 35 light tanks and a 37 mm anti-tank cannon arrived in Michalovce from Martin to find total confusion. Early on November 9, they headed eastwards, sometimes steadying the retreating infantry by firing over their heads, thereby ensuring the reoccupation everything up to the old Ubrež - Vyšné Revištia line, which the Hungarians had not occupied.
By now, elements of the 41st Infantry Regiment and a battery of 202nd Mountain Artillery Regiment had begun to reach Michalovce, and Kubícek planned a major counterattack for noon, to be spearheaded by the newly arrived tanks and armoured cars. On November 10, following a short artillery saturation, the Czechs quickly took Zavadka, Fetisoviec, Hnojné, Vyšné Revištia and Nižná Rybnica. After a day of fighting the Czechs had recaptured Sobrance, Ostrov and Michajlov.
On November 9, the 1st "Andrej Hlinka" Hlinka Guard Regiment began to reach Michalovce. The 1st Hlinka Guard Regiment was well equipped with a mixture of black Hlinka Guard uniforms and army infantry weapons, and was tolerably disciplined. They began setting up positions around Stakčín. Heavier Hungarian air attacks and army concentration forced the Czechs to fall back to their positions around Závadka on November 11.
The Hungarians then began a series of infantry assaults in the directions of Blatné, Závadka, Ubrež in the south and at Ladomimo, Kolonica and Klenová to the north. The heaviest fighting occurred at Závadka and Ubrež, where the Czechs had to fight back with machine guns, mortars, armoured cars and tanks. In the evening, the Hungarians withdrew. To the north the Hlinka Guard proved to be a reliable fighting force, holding off the Hungarians with only small arms and occasional Czech artillery support.
On November 13 the Hungarians tried again to attack the Czech troops and the Hlinka Guard. In the night the Hlinka Guard had in Kolonica had withdrawn to Stakčín, planning to cut of the advancing Hungarians. At noon the Hungarians attacked in the direction of Stakčín, not knowing of the real intentions of the retreat of the Hlinka Guard troops. However, they were cut off from the main unit by Hlinka Guards in Ladomimo and Klenová, and by the end of the day they had captured 100 Hungarians, ten machine guns, eight trucks and three 35.M Ansaldo tankettes from the enemy.
The result of the battle is indecisive. While the Hungarian attack had failed, and the troops of the had suffered heavy losses, including several 35.M Ansaldo tankettes, the Hungarians still succeeded with the strategic goal of the offensive into Ruthenia, as the 3rd and 4th Huszar Regiment captured Užhorod on December 20.
However, the Czech victory at Michalovce was an important morale boost for the Czech soldiers, and their victory had been great. They had captured 100 Hungarians, ten machine guns, eight trucks and three 35.M Ansaldo tankettes from the enemy.
The Hungarians lost 362 men, while 500 were wounded. They had also lost 18 tankettes, a large loss. The Czechs had in retun only suffered low casualties: 120 had been killed and 300 wounded. Three LT vz. 35 tanks had been immobilised in combat; two to anti-tank gunfire and the last one to artillery. One of them were following the battle repaired. Two OA vz. 30 armoured cars were also lost.
|Invasion of Czechoslovakia|
| Battle of the Border|
(Opava • Operation Freudenthal • Šatov • Znojmo • České Budějovice)