On 4 Nov 1956, following nearly 2 weeks of protest & political instability in Hungary, Soviet tanks & troops viciously crushed the protests. Thousands were killed & wounded, and nearly a quarter-million Hungarians fled the country. The problems in Hungary had begun in October, when thousands of protesters took to the streets demanding a more democratic political system and freedom from Soviet oppression. In response, Communist Party officials appointed Imre Nagy, (a former premier who had been dismissed from the party for his criticisms of Stalinist policies), as the new premier. Nagy tried to restore peace & asked the Soviets to withdraw their troops. The Soviets did so, but Nagy then tried to push the Hungarian revolt forward by abolishing one-party rule. He also announced that Hungary was withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact (the Soviet’s equivalent of NATO). On 4 Nov, Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest to stop Hungary’s movement away from the communist bloc. Vicious street fighting broke out, but the Soviets’ greater power insured the doom of the rebels. After the deaths and injuries of thousands of Hungarians, the protests were finally put down. Nagy was captured shortly thereafter and was executed two years later. The Soviet action stunned many people in the West. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had pledged a retreat from the Stalinist policies & repression of the past, but the violent actions in Budapest suggested otherwise. Inaction on the part of the US angered & frustrated many Hungarians. Voice of America radio broadcasts and speeches by President Eisenhower and Secty of State John Foster Dulles had recently suggested that the US supported the “liberation” of “captive peoples” in communist nations. Yet, as Soviet tanks bore down on the protesters, the US did nothing beyond issuing public statements of sympathy for their plight.
Deciding what to do in situations like this remains a serious challenge to our government; what might we have done in Hungary that would not have led us to war? We really have 3 options; do nothing but run our mouths. Provide covert support in the form of black ops by, perhaps, our special ops guys, and supplies, or military confrontation.