1919 – The Year Romania Sacked Hungary


Unlike certain other well-paid history bullshitters, I find myself rather alone in my attempt to decipher and record the true history of Romania. Nonetheless, I do find these trips down the rabbit hole to be quite rewarding :)

A couple of months ago, I found an extraordinary memoir written by a career officer in the United States Army who died in 1925. Throughout most of his life, he served in the Philippines and other 19th-century American imperial projects, but he played a small but key role in managing the peace in Europe at the end of World War 1.

His name was Harry Hill Bandholtz, and in 1919, he was appointed as the head of the American military delegation in Hungary. He later wrote about this posting in a book called An Undiplomatic Diary, and all the quotes you’ll see in this article are from that monograph.

Quite frankly, a lot more true history books ought to be written this way without all the curlicues, preambles, and social niceties that cloud the experience.

Setting the Stage

First, let’s do a brief recap of Romania’s role in World War I.

In the years leading up to the conflict, Romania had signed a number of agreements to support both Germany and (more importantly) Austria. Romania’s king, known as Carol I, came from the Hohenzollern dynasty, spoke only German (no Romanian), and so it was natural that he would be friendly to his (literal) cousins.

However, Carol I died in 1914 (after genociding a few thousand Romanians along the way). Since nearly every single member of Romania’s elite spoke French and were closely tied to the Francophile world, the prevailing mood in the country was to be pro-France (and anti-Austrian).

The vast majority of the Romanian population, of course, was illiterate and had no access to newspapers or other media, so they were not consulted.

At the time, the Austro-Hungarian empire controlled several lands where a lot of Romanians lived (to the west and northeast), so it became increasingly difficult for King Carol’s successor (King Ferdinand) to remain so closely aligned with Austria.

In Western Europe, World War I began in the summer of 1914, but Romania chose to stay more or less neutral for the first two years, partly due to the political considerations above and partly because the Entente (France, Britain, and Russia) were all far away while the Central Powers (Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, and Turkey) were much closer and could easily wipe out Romania’s forces.

However, the Entente (primarily France) finally convinced Romania to enter the war in 1916, and the way they did this was by secretly promising Romania vast new swathes of territory.

And why not? If the Entente lost, their promises to Romania would mean nothing. And if the Entente won, they’d get a new ally in Eastern Europe, one who would be more amenable to imperial control than their former enemies (Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, both already crumbling to pieces).

Brief Recap of the War

On August 27, 1916, Romania formally entered the war with attacks on Austro-Hungary (to the west and north) and Bulgaria.

The Romanians, as you might expect, interprted the light resistance from Austro-Hungarian troops as a sign from God that Romania was all-powerful and invincible.

But just two months later, German (but not Austrian, for the most part) advances utterly obliterated the Romanian army, captured Bucharest and 90% of the rest of the country, and King Ferdinand and his proto-fascist court were hemmed up in the northeast around the city of Iasi, just days from being annihilated.

However, thanks to a completely forgotten intervention by Russian troops and one exceedingly brave Russian general, the Romanian king and his court of French-speaking dandies just barely managed to survive, something I wrote an entire article about at the link above.

In February of 1917, Russia began to fall apart during the events that eventually led to the formation of the Soviet Union. Fortunately for Romania, though, its Entente allies had made progress, so Romania was able to hang on as a country.

In May 1918, peace treaties were signed to end all the fighting in Eastern Europe, relieving the pressure on Romania.

As the German forces retreated (due to the peace treaty), Romanian forces swept westward back into Romania, largely unopposed. In December of 1918, however, Romanian forces went past their western border and into Transylvania, which was a separate Hungarian province at that time.

It was at this point that Romania held its fateful convocation in a town called Alba Iulia (Gyulafehérvár in Hungarian), declaring without any consultation or voting or anything else remotely democratic that Romania was now going to annex all of the territories secretly promised by the 1916 treaty, as well as (Eastern) Moldova (which wasn’t part of the treaty and had formerly belonged to Russia – more on that here).

The Declaration in Alba-Iulia of the new “Kingdom of Greater Romania” on December 1 later became Romania’s national day.  You can read my full article about those events here.

The Entente was perfectly fine with Romania taking over Transylvania. After all, the war was won, and Romania was just claiming the territory that the Entente had promised them.

But where things started to go off the rails was when Romania crossed past its (new) western border and entered Hungary proper.

1919 Begins

Hungary experienced something of an apocalypse in 1919, and things rapidly went to shit both in the “core” area of Hungary (its current borders) as well as all the other formerly Hungarian lands (which include modern-day Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, and Slovakia).

For one thing, Hungary went from being part of a dual monarchy ruling over a vast swathe of territory to a tiny fragment of itself, from a wealthy powerhouse to a loser in the war, and it was now on the hook for vast reparations to the conquering Entente countries. Combine that with an outbreak of revolutionary fervor in Eastern Europe, and it’s easy to see why so many people in Hungary became disillusioned with the status quo.

On March 21, 1919, a Communist state was declared in Hungary, making it the second Communist nation after the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, over in the former Hungarian lands of the Banat and Transylvania (now both part of Romania), there was an ongoing guerrilla war against the occupying Romanian forces, which I’ll discuss in detail at a later time.

Various factions in Hungary were thus all competing against each other, including pro-monarchists, pro-republicans, and pro-Communists, and everything was a mess.

From the Entente’s point of view, the fighting of World War 1 had morphed into a new fight against Communism, and so the Entente was extremely keen to stamp out this new threat. As such, it imposed a near total economic blockade of Communist Hungary, causing food prices to soar. By August of 1919, the brief Communist “experiment” was over.

None of the Entente members wanted Hungary to become a failed state, but there was a lot of institutional paralysis amongst the Entente about what to do with Hungary. Sure, the Communists were “bad,” but who would replace them? Certainly not the monarchists who had been the Entente’s enemies in World War 1. But there wasn’t enough “republican spirit” to set up a functioning democracy in Hungary either.

Romania Crosses the Line

Originally, Romania’s role at the end of WW1 had been two-fold: move in and establish order in the new territories they had been gifted (by the secret 1916 treaty) and to make sure that all Hungarian troops (meaning troops from Hungary proper) had disarmed and left the area.

But the Romanians were supposed to stop and hold the line at the Tisza River (various spellings), which had been agreed by everyone would be Romania’s new western border with Hungary.

Several decades earlier, Romania’s greatest poet, Mihai Eminescu, had declared the Tisza River was Romania’s “true” western boundary. Even the delegates in Alba-Iulia in 1918 had used this as the basis for their Declaration, and future fascists like Ion Antonescu (at the time, a calvary officer in the Romanian military) agreed that Greater Romania’s western border was the Tisza River.

After World War 1 was over, France had been given the task of managing the situation in Romania and Hungary. On April 30, 1919, France summoned the Romanian foreign minister (Ion Bratianu, an important figure in Romanian history) and ordered him to hold the line at the Tisza River, which Bratianu agreed to.

However, on July 17, 1919, the Hungarian military (now under Communist rule), which had rejected the peace treaty and armistice signed the year before, attacked along the Tisza River in an effort to reclaim (formerly) Hungarian lands in the Banat and Transylvania.

Therefore, the two armies (Communist Hungary and Royalist Romania) clashed along the Tisza River near the city of Oradea with a number of casualties on both sides. Fairly quickly, the Romanian army overpowered the Hungarian attack and launched a counter-attack of their own which overran the Tisza River, now placing Romanian troops west of their (new) border and into territory belonging to Hungary proper.

Instead of stopping, Romanian troops kept on advancing all the way until they reached Budapest (the capital of Hungary) on August 3, 1919. This was the straw that “broke the back” of the Communist government in Hungary, and the Communist leader Bela Kun fled the country.

Defeating Communism was fine with the Entente, but now that Romania had gone way past its mandated role and was, in effect, the new military government of Hungary, the Entente was facing a very difficult situation.

Therefore, the Entente quickly sent in some high-ranking officials, including the head of the American delegation, Harry Hill Bandholtz, to form a ruling Military Commission, just days after Romania seized Budapest.

Harry Bandholtz

Now, at long last, we can tell the story of what he saw and did.

August 10, 1919

After Hungary’s Communist government collapsed, the surviving pro-monarchists chose Archduke Joseph August (of Austria) as the head of the country, although he had very little power or authority. But since the Entente did not want another royal government, there was quite a bit of confusion about what to do, as we shall see in Bandholtz’s writings.

Note: I’ve left all the antiquated spellings (like “Roumanian”) as they are in Bandholtz’s account.

At 5.30 in the afternoon, Archduke Joseph, the temporary president of the Hungarian Republic, asked to see me and came into the room scared nearly to death, holding in his hand what purported to be an ultimatum from the Roumanian government requiring an answer by 6 o’clock, which meant within one-half hour.

The ultimatum was to the effect that Hungary must yield to all Roumanian demands, giving up all of her war material and supplies of whatever nature, agree to back Roumania in taking away the Bánát country from the Jugo-Slavs, and, finally, that she must consent to political union with Roumania, with the King of Roumania as ruler of Hungary, along the same lines as the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy.

He was told not to be afraid and looking at me and trembling, he replied-“I am not afraid; I am a soldier just like you,” which left-handed compliment was passed by without remark. He asked what he should do in regard to the ultimatum and was informed that in view of the fact that it had not been presented by the Roumanian Plenipotentiary he could send word to the sender to go plumb to Hell.

Here we see the “temporary” president of Hungary, Archduke Joseph, being threatened by some Romanian VIP that he had to immediately agree to new borders (beyond those stipulated in the 1916 treaty) and that the entirety of Hungary should become a vassal to the Romanian king.

Hilariously, on very his first day on the job, Bandholtz told Archduke Joseph to tell the Romanians to fuck off. That’s because Bandholtz knew that the Entente were in charge of such weighty decisions.

August 19, 1919

After a couple of days of speaking with the various parties (primarily France and Italy) and dealing with all kinds of tedious issues, Bandholtz continues:

General Holban, the Roumanian Commander of Budapest and vicinity, is the representative and apparently knows as much about the military game as does an Igorrote about manicuring.

On the fifteenth [of August], when he was before the Mission, he stated that he had 10,000 troops in the city and 5,000 in the suburbs. Today he insisted that he had only 5,000 all told. When called upon to explain his map relative to requisition zones, he could not explain it at all and admitted that he could not turn out a map that would be intelligible.

It is not possible to describe conditions in a city or country occupied by an enemy, but judging from conditions in Budapest and Hungary while occupied by the Roumanians, we Americans should promptly take every measure possible to avoid any such catastrophe.

Here, Bandholtz is making a snarky (and racist) remark about the Romanian general being as clueless about military strategy as a Filipino indigenous person is about manicures.

The Romanian general referred to here is Stefan Holban.

Bandholtz clearly disapproves of the way the occupying Romanian forces are running things, as we shall see more of in the days to come.

August 20, 1919

Next, our old friend [Romanian senior diplomat] Diamandi came in with the Roumanian Commander in Chief, General Mardarescu, and a new star in the Roumanian constellation in the person of a General Rudeanu.

General Mardarescu was put on the carpet and told in unmistakable terms that it was up to him to report what had been done in complying with the request from the Mission of August 16, 1919.

He resorted to all sorts of evasions and circumlocutions, which may have been intentional or may have been due to his grade of intelligence, which appears to be about that of a comatose caribou.

He finally agreed to be a good boy and carry out our instructions. Our friend Diamandi insisted that in the future, whenever we discuss matters of importance with a Hungarian official, the Roumanian government should be represented. His proposition was laid on the table and he received no reply, as we propose to use our own judgment in regard to such matters.

Again, Bandholtz is once again being rather blunt about the perceived administrative capabilities of the Romanian occupiers, including General Mardarescu. Keep in mind that many of these Romanians are now famous personages in history and have all kinds of streets and squares named after them.

Furthermore, many of these Romanian “heroes” also played key roles in both abandoning their allies in Bender in 1920 and the Tatar-Bunary Massacre of 1924, tactical errors of enormous long-term consequences for Romania that are still being felt today.

August 22, 1919

Bandholtz:

Our gallant Roumanian allies turned in a complaint about the Czecho-Slovaks invading a portion of Hungary, and it was suggested that the Czecho-Slovaks had damn sight better ground for complaint of the Roumanians for having done the same thing.

It would be a calamity if either the Bolshevists or the Hapsburgs were allowed to control Hungary. To prevent this, it is important that some strong man of real popularity and influence among all classes be placed in charge and given every assistance in reorganizing a semi-permanent government. To restore a Hapsburg at this time, when it is in the memory of everybody that that unfortunate dynasty was the intentional or unintentional cause of the World War, would seriously afflict all the Allies and would give an impulse to Bolshevism. In brief, the Hungarian political situation is believed to be critical, but not beyond remedy.

If the Roumanian government will shift its gear from first to second, up to third, and do its best to facilitate the organization of a government and the creation of a police force and an army of suitable size, and to arrange for gradual but prompt withdrawal behind its own recognized boundary, it is believed the present deplorable condition in Hungary can soon be brought to an end.

In other words, Bandholtz believes that the Entente can get Hungary back on its feet but that the incompetence of the Romanian military occupiers is not helping.

In the afternoon, after sending a telegram to the American Commission posting them to date on the situation, I took a car and investigated a few of the complaints concerning Roumanian seizures, etc., and found them to be true.

I then called upon General Rudeanu, told him I had found his people were removing 4,000 telephone instruments from private houses and were about to take the remaining half of the supplies of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs, which they had not taken in first requisition; that they were seizing the few remaining Hungarian breeding stallions; that they had sent word to the Ministry of Agriculture to deliver to them all maps, instruments, etc.; instances of like character.

Here we see some of the first reports of organized looting on a grand scale. Beyond just securing the peace and disarming soldiers, Romanians are now carting off vast amounts of infrastructure and resources, including telephones and “breeding stallions” for whatever reason.

Keep in mind that all of this was deliberately contrary to what Romania was supposed to be doing, which was acting as a temporary stabilizing force.

August 23, 1919

At this morning’s session, after disposing of several routine matters, the Mission prepared to receive Mr. Diamandi and General Rudeanu, who had faithfully promised to be in the antechamber at 11.30. As a matter of fact, they were only twenty minutes late, which is the closest any Roumanian has yet come to keeping his promise with us.

This quote makes me laugh because it reminds of how the Queen of Romania herself arrived 25 minutes late to an extremely important meeting that same year in Paris.

Diamandi seated himself with his unctuous diplomatic smile, and stated that he had received advices from his government at Bucharest, and first proceeded to regale us with information that was already six days old and which we had read to him ourselves at one of our sessions.

🤣 🤣 🤣

Diamandi (or Diamandy) was a diplomat who has largely been erased from Romanian history books, and you’ll be lucky to find much info about him online either. His biggest role was helping craft the secret 1916 treaty that gave Romania “the right” to take over Transylvania.

His role in 1919 was the head of the Romanian (civilian) government’s delegation, as opposed to the military leaders like Rudeanu.

He [Diamandi] was politely informed of the fact and then proceeded to other matters, prefacing his remarks by the usual statement that the Roumanian government desired to work in complete accord with its allies, but that we must consider the deplorable transportation conditions in Roumania and the fact that the Roumanians found here in Hungary many supplies taken from their own country, in proof of which he displayed two first-aid packets, two iodine tubes, and one or two other matters with the Roumanian mark.

This is where it starts to get farcical as Romania starts accusing Hungary of looting Romania during WW1, the proof of which was literally a handful of ordinary items with a Romanian brand (mark).

We were overwhelmed with this incontrovertible evidence, but in time sufficiently recovered to let him proceed, which he did so by adding that all Roumanian property found in Hungary must naturally be subject to unqualified seizure, that the seizures would be limited to what was actually necessary for the Roumanian forces, but that this government must insist that they pick up an additional 30 percent to replace articles taken from Roumania during the German invasion; that formerly Roumania had had 1,000 locomotives whereas they now had only 6o; that they would be very glad to pay for all private automobiles and other property seized in Hungary, but must insist on doing so with their government bonds along the same lines as the Central Powers had done in Roumania.

Besides stealing horses and telephones, Romania is now saying Hungary owes them war-time reparations for damages almost entirely caused by German forces.

This is a huge no-no as important issues like reparations are done via treaties at the Entente level, not individually by a junior member of the alliance like Romania.

Then he [Diamandi] wished to know, in case Roumania did not take things from Hungary, who would guarantee that the Roumanians got their proper share, and he added that it certainly would be much better to leave all such property in the hands of faithful and truthful allies like the Roumanians, than to leave it with the Hungarians, who were known never to keep their promises.

Sure, sure… LOL

He [Diamandi] would probably have gone on indefinitely with similar sophistical persiflage, had I not intervened and stated that on three separate occasions our truthful allies, the Roumanians, had faithfully promised to carry out our instructions, but that up to the present time there was no tangible proof that a single one of the promises had been kept.

Certain it was that they were continuing their requisitions and more boldly than ever, that no property had yet been returned, that they had submitted no reports as promised, and that I personally must insist on some proof of the perfect accord that I had heard so much about.

Mr. Diamandi stated that he could say nothing more than was contained in his instructions, and any question whatever that was put up to him would need to be referred to Bucharest for decision, the natural inference being that he could never answer a question inside of about five days.

Remember, Diamandi is the head of the Romanian plenipotentiary, a fancy word meaning that he the power to agree to things and sign documents on behalf of the Romanian government, so the fact that he has to “check in” with the prime minister over everything is a pretty clear sign of just how dysfunctional everything was on Romania’s end.

I therefore insisted that a telegram be sent from us to the Supreme Council, informing them of all of Mr. Diamandi’s statements and adding that in our opinion so far as the Roumanians were concerned the time of this Mission had been wasted, and that it would be useless to continue its relations with Roumanian officials who apparently were determined to carry on a reprehensible policy of procrastination, and who had repeatedly broken their solemn promises.

Ouch!

August 24, 1919

The rotund and diplomatic Diamandi was undoubtedly thus affected because he had been sent here to pull off a coup in the shape of forcing Hungary to make a separate peace with Roumania practically amounting to annexation, which coup had been demolished by a bomb in the shape of the Supreme Council’s handing the Archduke his hat and telling him not to be in a hurry.

I also received word that on the twenty-first the Crown Prince of Roumania, as the future King of Hungary, received a number of kowtowing Hungarian aristocrats.

That “crown prince” was none other than Carol, Romania’s stupidest royal leader by far, a guy I’ve written about in detail before.

Bandholtz now makes it pretty clear that Romania thought it was not only going to double in size by seizing Transylvania and Moldova but also by friggin’ annexing all of Hungary as well!

Pretty damned cheeky, if you ask me.

August 25, 1919

Yesterday afternoon, accompanied by [American] Colonel Loree and Lieutenant Hamilton, I visited and inspected the State Railway shops, and found that the Roumanians were gutting the place strictly in accord with the Hungarian reports.

In a neighboring freight yard there were 120 freight cars loaded with machinery and material, and in the yard of the shops there were 15 cars, likewise loaded and more than 25 others partly loaded or in the process of being loaded. I then went through the machine shops and saw many places where machinery had just been removed and others where it was in the process of being removed. The workmen stated that the Roumanians had been busy there, despite the fact that it was Sunday, until 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and that they were obliging the Hungarians to do all the work connected with taking out the machinery.

Now we can see that it’s not just a case of wide-scale looting but Romania using forced labor to get all of those valuable goods out of the country.

Over the next three decades, Romania would get extremely good at implementing forced labor, including in the territory of “Transnistria” as well as at home during the Communist era.

August 26, 1919

Yesterday afternoon a verbose but rather stiff telegram came to me, containing the text of an ultimatum from the Supreme Council to the Roumanian government.I told them in unmistakable terms that in case they persisted in looting Hungary, alleging as an excuse that they were simply reimbursing themselves for what they had lost during [German general] Mackensen’s invasion, it was all bosh; that they must abide by the decision of any reparation commission the Peace Conference might appoint; and that in the meantime this Mission of Inter-Allied Generals would be authorized to appoint such a commission temporarily.

It was added that in case they did not immediately and affirmatively make a Statement that they would abide by all their past agreements, the Allied and Associated Powers would be obliged to make them pay in full any claims against Transylvania and other portions of Hungary which had been given to Roumania by the Peace Conference.

The foregoing telegram was followed up this morning by another one preëmptorily notifying those sons of Ananias, the Roumanians, that drastic measures would immediately be adopted if they would not come to time.

I had drafted a telegram, which was sent in the name of the Mission, stating that in our opinion the Roumanians were looting Hungary as rapidly as possible so that they might suddenly evacuate the country, disarming everybody and refusing to reorganize the police, and in general that, intentionally or unintentionally, every move they made was in the direction of turning Hungary over to Bolshevism and chaos.

In other words, Romania’s short-term objective of looting Hungary was, in fact, turning people in Hungary (back) towards Communism, which would have had far graver long-term threats to Romanian sovereignty than a stabilized Hungarian republic.

I believe that Bandholtz referring to Romanians as “those sons of Ananias” is an oblique reference to Ananias, a Jewish high priest who sided with the Romans in condemning Saint Paul to death.

August 27, 1919

This morning’s session of the Mission, with General Graziani, the French representative, in the chair, was very quiet and orderly, all due to the fact that we have very little coming in now on account of our strained relations with the Roumanian Commander in Chief.

The Roumanians are proceeding merrily with their seizures and general raising of Hell.  All this cannot last indefinitely and something is sure to pop up before long.

Indeed, it will.

August 28, 1919

Yesterday afternoon, accompanied by General Gorton, the British representative, I visited some of the places where reports have been received from Hungarian sources that the Roumanians were making seizures. It is remarkable that, so far as we have been able to verify, not a single Hungarian complaint has been exaggerated.

Hilariously, Romania continues to insist that it’s the Hungarians who are the liars.  As the old Romanian saying [Hoţul strigă “Hoţii!”] goes, “It’s the thief who cries out that a theft has occurred.”

At the warehouse of the Hungarian Discount and Exchange Bank, we found that up to date the Roumanians had seized and removed 2,400 [train] carloads, mainly of provisions and forage, and were daily carting away great quantities.

At the Central Depot of the Hungarian Post and Telegraph we found seven cars already loaded, two with shoes and five with carpets and rugs. In this connection, it should be remembered that the Roumanian Commander in Chief said that he had never taken anything that was not absolutely necessary for the use of troops in the field.

So now the Romanians are stealing food, animal feed, carpets, and shoes.

At this place we also found the Roumanians removing the machinery from the repair shops. At the works of the Ganz-Danubius Company we found the Roumanians busily engaged loading five freight cars with material, under the charge of Lieutenant Vaude Stanescu.

At the Hungarian Military Hospital Number I, the Roumanians had ordered all the patients out and there remained only 57 patients in the hospital, whose capacity was 800, and these 57 could not be removed on account of the serious nature of their wounds.

Next we visited the Hungarian Central Sanitary Depot and found that under Major C. Georgescu, a medical officer, the Roumanians were absolutely gutting the establishment. In all the places we visited, the manual labor is performed by Hungarian soldiers under Roumanian sentinels.

Not only are Romanians forcing Hungarians to work at gunpoint, they’re also stealing hospital supplies as well.

On arrival at my quarters a little before 8 o’clock, I found General Gorton awaiting me, and he gave me the substance of another ultimatum of a somewhat anonymous character, delivered through the Roumanian Ardeli, who had sent the first ultimatum to the Archduke.

This one was along similar lines and included demands for immediate peace between Hungary and Roumania; the occupation of Hungary by Roumania for one year; the cession of practically all the strategic points, and then the annexation of Hungary to Roumania.

This was coded and ciphered and sent to the American Commission in Paris with a request that a copy be sent to the British Commission. Early this morning I sent another coded and ciphered message to the American Commission, to the effect that the Roumanians certainly could not continue their arrogant and haughty attitude unless backed by someone, and that I believed it was the French and the Italians who were trying to accomplish some kind of political or other union between Roumania, Hungary, Austria, and Italy, with a view to isolating entirely the Jugo-Slavs.

There’s some “inside baseball” going on here in terms of what the Entente members were doing (especially with regard to Yugoslavia, the place where World War I kicked off) but I quoted the above section because Bandholtz names the man who tried to force Archduke Joseph (Hungary’s temporary leader) to agree to a Romanian annexation – one Mr. Ardeli.

Who was this Mr. Ardeli? I am not quite sure. Everything I could find says he was a “go-between” for Diamandi in his various diplomatic postings but doesn’t otherwise identify him.

The problem is that “Erdely” (which sounds like “Ardeli” in English phonetics) is the Hungarian name for Transylvania (Romanians sometimes refer to it as “Ardeal” because of this), so it’s really hard for me to figure out who this guy was.

August 29, 1919

At the meeting this morning, there was the usual discussion and gesticulatory machine-gun French on the part of our Latin members, especially after I suggested that the Mission, owing to the attitude of the Roumanians, had accomplished less than nothing since its arrival here, and that we should consider whether or not the time had arrived for notifying the Supreme Council that in our opinion our prolonged stay only subjected us to humiliation from the Roumanians, and our governments to steady loss of prestige with both the Roumanians and the Hungarians.

After considerable discussion and playing the fine old game of passing the buck, they invited me to prepare a memorandum on the subject, which I agreed to do.

In other words, the French want to continue to be diplomatic but Bandholtz has had enough. Since he’s more of a military man, anyway, he isn’t afraid to sign his name to a paper saying what he just expressed above.

August 30, 1919

And here is the text of what he sent back to his superiors:

Telegram: “This is the eighteenth day that the entire membership of the Mission has been present in Budapest, and unfortunately it must be said that, but for one or two negligible exceptions, practically nothing has been accomplished by the Mission as regards the carrying out of the instructions given it by the Supreme Council.

As this has been entirely due to the action of the Roumanian officials in ignoring the Mission’s requests, in declining to accept the Mission’s instructions as authoritative, it is believed that the time has come when the case should be plainly laid before the Supreme Council and a statement made that, unless there is an immediate change in the attitude of the Roumanian government, it would be useless for the Mission to attempt to function at Budapest.

In substantiation of the foregoing, there are presented in chronological order the more important requests made by the Mission to the Roumanian government, and in a parallel column the action taken on the same.

In other words, he’s now documenting every single time the Romanian government lied.

It will be seen from the foregoing that this Mission has been unable to make any progress whatever in the performance of the duties expressly assigned to it by the SupremeCouncil. It is difficult to understand what motive can inspire the Roumanian government in following its long-continued line of conduct, but whether the same is due to deliberate intent, to inefficiency of subordinates, or to any other cause, the result is the same.

It is recommended that the Military Mission seriously study this matter and consider whether or not it should immediately telegraph the Supreme Council to the effect that it is the unanimous opinion of the members that a continuation of the Mission in Budapest could result in nothing but humiliation for all of us and a loss of prestige for our governments.

We shall lose prestige with the Roumanians because they seem to feel that they can treat us with contempt, and with the Hungarians because they can plainly see the treatment we are receiving from the Roumanians.”

Keep in mind that this information was being passed up the chain all the way to American President Woodrow Wilson and the other world leaders at the Paris Peace Conference, and Romania had to know just how bad this was making them look at a critical time. Nonetheless, they don’t seem to give a shit.

Back to Bandholtz’s personal thoughts:

Our beloved Roumanian allies are continuing merrily with their requisitions and seizures, and apparently have not the slightest intention of letting up until they have cleaned Hungary out of everything worth taking.

Straight and to the point.

Romania’s goal at this point is clearly to steal as much as they can before everything gets finalized in Paris.

August 31, 1919

The Roumanians are paying not the slightest attention to the last ultimatum sent them and are going right along with their looting, which has become a habit.

On the twenty-fifth, one of my men, going out with two chauffeurs for an automobile, was held by the Roumanians, and no report about it was ever made to me.

For three days he went without food or lodging except such as he could pick up himself. His companions were robbed, and when they were all eventually released, because I took the matter up with the Roumanian Commander here, they were short changed when their money was returned, and for their good blue money [current Hungarian money] they were given worthless Bolshevist money.

I had the man’s statement prepared and sent a curt note to the Roumanian Commander in Chief that I wanted to know, not later than September second, what he had done or intended to do in this case. I am not sure that some of the Roumanian conduct is due as much to ignorance and stupidity as it is to hostility.

The money used during the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was blue, but the short-lived Communist government moved to a white colored currency. The interim government in Hungary then went back to blue, partly because it made people feel safer, even though it was actually a different currency.

Meanwhile, Romanian forces are now carjacking people, including uniformed American soldiers. But it’s okay because it’s probably not out of malice, just regular old Romanian stupidity 🤣

Sep 1, 1919

I then read General Rudeanu’s reply to my letter of the twenty-seventh relative to evacuating immediately Hungary west of the Danube, and in which he was requested to give an answer either affirmatively or negatively.

In the characteristic Roumanian style of begging the issue and of circumlocution, Rudeanu’s letter was neither affirmative nor negative.

I then drafted a reply to the effect that in view of the fact that our letter of the twenty-seventh required a positive answer, and as the Roumanian answer, though not being affirmative was not negative, we must interpret it, on account of the Roumanian Commander in Chief’s repeated assurances of a desire to coöperate, as affirmative, and that we would accordingly proceed with the organization of the Hungarian forces west of the Danube. The Mission decided to send my letter.

One of Romania’s official roles (given to them by the Entente) was to re-organize a small Hungarian military and police force in order to maintain order. Romania was also commanded to withdraw back to its (new) western border but had failed to do so.

Here, we see Bandholtz the gruff soldier completely outwitting the Romanians precisely due to his ability to make a decision and stick with it while the Romanians continue to fuck around with bureaucratic double-talk and word games.

Sep 2, 1919

This has to be my favorite entry of all, recounting when Bandholtz meets one of his fellow American soldiers (and a member of the mission to stabilize the region):

Colonel Yates arrived last night from Bucharest, and from his report the Roumanians are pretty generally arrogant and haughty over what they consider their tremendous victory over Hungary, completely ignoring the fact that they could never even have touched Hungary had not the Allies first crushed both Germany and Austria-Hungary.

All their talk is along the lines of having a Roumanian officer in a coordinate position on the Inter-Allied Military Mission, and demonstrates the fact that they feel that on account of their little private war with Hungary they are entitled to loot the latter absolutely in payment for their last little war, and leave the Allies to get indemnification from a prostrate nation for their share of expenses in the World War.

Clearly, not much has changed in Romania, even today, in terms of attitude, endlessly boasting about their superiority while being utterly dependent on handouts from the West.

Sep 4, 1919

In regard to the case of the Roumanians holding one of my men several days out in the country, and concerning which I wrote and demanded that they state within thirty-six hours what they had done or intended to do in the case, it should be added that for once they came on time, and an apology was received with assurances that the matter would be immediately investigated and satisfactory action taken

Funny to see Romania backing down once again after a little pressure from America, the same thing they did in the Teo Peter case and about a dozen other recent examples I could name.

September 5, 1919

Word was received from General Graziani that the Bratiano [Bratianu] government in Roumania was about to fall [which happened in September 13], and that our not overly-bright friend, General Mardarescu, was to be Minister of War in the new cabinet.

This did, indeed, happen.

September 6, 1919

Last night we entertained General Graziani at dinner. At today’s session of the Mission, General Mombelli presided, and there was practically no business except to write a letter to the Roumanians asking them to explain why they had established practically a state of siege in Budapest without advising us of their intentions.

As gruff and “undiplomatic” as he could be, it seems Bandholtz was starting to convince all the other Entente members that Romania was the one causing 100% of the the problems in Hungary.

September 7, 1919

Bandholtz then gets assigned to travel to Romania (proper) as part of a larger initiative.

Here’s his travel notes:

Colonel Yates, Captain Gore and myself, accompanied by a Roumanian liaison officer, left Budapest on a special car and by special train about 4.30 yesterday afternoon. Our special car was about half the length of an ordinary American car, but was very well fitted out and had all conveniences except those for cooking.

I know I slept on a hair mattress, because the hairs pushed up through the mattress, through the sheets and through my pajamas, and could be very distinctly felt. In addition to this, the mattress undoubtedly had a large and animated population. All of my traveling companions reported like experiences.

In other words, the “special” train car that Romania sent to carry these important folks was equipped with animal hair mattresses crawling with some kind of insects. Ugh!

Last night, while traveling through eastern Hungary, we saw large numbers of [train] cars loaded with stuff, all en route to Roumania. We crossed the Szolnok Bridge, which had been originally a large double-tracked structure, but in the course of recent repairs had been left mostly single-tracked. We traveled through long stretches of level land in Transylvania and late in the afternoon got into the foothills of the Carpathians, and finally at 7.15 we arrived at Sinaja [Sinaia], where the summer palace of the King is located.

We went direct to the Palace, and found that they had planned to entertain us all night and as long as we could stay. The summer palace of the King is called “Castel Palisor” and is beautifully located in the Carpathian Mountains about seventy-five miles north of Bucharest.

In modern spelling, this would be Peles and Pelisor, two (literally) German fairytale castles built on the side of a mountainous area in Sinaia. I’ve written about these two tourist attractions before.

There are really two palaces here; one which was built for the former Queen of Roumania, the celebrated Carmen Sylva and which, although completely furnished, is not occupied by the present King, who instead, with the Royal Family, lives in the palace which was built for him when he was Crown Prince. This is neither so pretentious nor so commodious as the other, but apparently is better adapted to the present needs of the Royal Family.

The former queen he’s referring to is better known as Elisabeth of Wied.

The “less pretentious” palace is called Foisor and is within a five-minute walking distance of the other two castles.

We met His Majesty [King Ferdinand] at dinner about 8.30, and he had me seated at his left. The only other member of the Royal Family present was Prince Nickolai, neither the Queen or any of her daughters appearing during the evening.

“Nickolai” is Prince Nicholas. In Romanian, his name would be written “Nicolai.”

The King is of medium height with a full-pointed beard, and with a low forehead with the hair starting from not far above the eyes. He speaks English fairly well, although with a peculiar hissing accent.

After dinner, while waiting in the reception room, I talked with the King and other members of his staff, and stated that I hoped to leave early in the morning.

His Majesty then asked me if I would not kindly step into his private office for a little conversation, which I did, and he kept me there about an hour and a half during which he went into details of the Roumanian grievances, especially referring to the fact that the Roumanians were considered to be robbers because they were looting Hungary, whereas the Serbs had looted the Bánát and had never been called to account.

He also complained that the Serbs had received some of the Danube monitors, whereas Roumania had received nothing. But his main grievance seemed to be due to the “Minorities” clause in the Treaty of Peace which Roumania was to be called upon to sign.

Think about this for one second. The friggin’ King of Romania is saying “it’s okay to steal because Serbs did it, too.” What kind of childish logic is that?

Meanwhile, his wife is farting around in her rooms or whatever instead of doing her duty to represent Romania at literally the most critical point in its history to date.

And remember, Ferdinand was actually Romania’s most competent and intelligent king!

I explained to His Majesty that of course the Inter-Allied Military Mission had nothing to do with any such matters; that furthermore its instructions were explicit and mandatory, and that we could discuss nothing concerning the same. I assured him that Americans had no ill feeling toward Roumania, and had nothing to gain financially or otherwise in treating her badly. The King then insisted that I remain until noon tomorrow, as the Queen desired to meet me.

As a matter of fact, he did not have to insist, because our transportation away from Sinaia was entirely at his disposition, and I could not leave until he saw fit to let me go. I was assigned to a very comfortable suite of rooms and was able to get a good bath, sadly needed after a trip in a Roumanian private [train] car.

So now we see confirmation that Queen Marie (who was a native speaker of British English) was on the premises but just too lazy or indifferent to meet with the American delegation.

Meanwhile, the King is effectively keeping the American delegation hostage as they had no way to get back to the train station.

Sep 8, 1919 (at Peles)

After a little time in the garden, Captain Gore and myself took a long walk exploring the grounds about both the palaces, did some writing and had lunch about one o’clock. This time the King and Queen, instead of sitting at the end of the table, sat opposite each other at the middle. I was placed on the Queen’s right, with the senior Roumanian General, who it is understood will be the next prime minister, on her left. His Majesty had the Royal Princess on his right and Madame Lahovary on his left.

During the conversation the Queen said that she felt keenly over the fact that Roumania had fought as an ally and was now being treated as an enemy; that all Roumania had been pillaged by the Huns, and why shouldn’t they now retaliate and steal from Hungary, saying, “You may call it stealing if you want to, or any other name. I feel that we are perfectly entitled to do what we want to.”

Here we see that the Romanian royalty clearly knew they were looting Hungary and did not even bother to hide it.

The King butted into the conversation and said that anyway the Roumanians had taken no food stuffs. As it is bad form to call a king a liar, I simply informed His Majesty that he was badly mistaken, and that I could give him exact facts in regard to thousands of [train] carloads of foodstuffs that had been taken out of Budapest alone.

Her Majesty complained also that a Reparation Board had been appointed to investigate and look in Bulgaria for property that she had looted from other countries, and that all the Allies had been represented on this Board except Roumania. She added that similar action had been taken in regard to the German indemnification.

It was apparent that all the Roumanians are rankling, whether justly or no, under a sense of injustice, and they insist on stating, and may be believing, that their present war with Hungary is separate and distinct from the big War, and entitles them to first choice of everything in the country.

In other words, the entire Romanian government, right up to the King and Queen themselves, is misinformed, crazy, or in denial about stealing food. Somehow, that just doesn’t surprise me :P

Also, I rather imagine that the reason Romania was so “angry” at Hungary (which had almost nothing to do with the Germans who invaded and occupied Romania in WWI) is that it was a way to deflect from their own incompetence.

Sep 9, 1919 (Bucharest)

After a delightful night’s rest at the American Legation and a fine American breakfast, I went with Mr. Schoenfeld, and, by appointment, called upon the Prime Minister, Mr. Bratiano [Bratianu], at 9.30 at his home.

He received us very pleasantly, and after I had told him that I had come to get in closer personal touch with the Roumanian leaders, feeling that I could thereby more clearly visualize the situation, he launched into his tale of woe, which in more detail was the same as that of the King and Queen, but which included quite a lengthy history of Roumania.

It seems that every single Romanian leader of the 20th century, including Ceausescu and “Marshall” Ion Antonescu, was also obsessed with giving lengthy speeches about the special history of Romania and its eternal victimhood.

He [PM Bratianu] took up the question of Roumanian grievances in general, and in particular inveighed against the “Minorities Clause” in the Treaty, explaining that some fifty years ago, as a result of the pogroms in Russia, a great Jewish migration to Roumania had taken place; that these immigrants belonged entirely to the middle classes, without trades or professions, and came into a country where commerce had hitherto been almost nonexistent.

This is a complete lie. The only Russian pogrom that affected Romania took place in Chisinau in 1905 and certainly did not cause any kind of wide-spread emigration into Romania. Therefore, I have no idea what “pogrom” could’ve affected Romania in 1865 or so (50 years prior to Bandholtz’s visit).

Furthermore, Romania’s then-current constitution had been written in 1866 and specifically excluded Jews from holding citizenship, something that Western powers had continuously pressured Romania into changing.

Lastly, this whole “Jews who have no trade or profession” begs the question – what, exactly, were the Jews doing in Romania, then? Were they eating magical rainbows and beams of sunlight for fifty years?

In the Treaty of Berlin of 1878, the Powers had imposed upon Roumania certain conditions in regard to the Jews, but that when Roumania bought over the railroads which had been built by German capital, these restrictions had been removed, and Roumania was left as independent as any other nation.

He added that the Jewish question was not the only one concerning the “Minorities”; that they had acquired about one million Transylvanians, as well as many Bulgarians and Slavs, by their recent acquisition of territory, and that he felt it was administratively wrong to have these “Minorities” come into a government without any obligation on their part of assimilating themselves to the new nation.

A clear example of naked Romanian racism, something that continues to plague the country even today.

Keep in mind that the 1878 treaty that Bratianu is bitching about is the one that literally gave Romania international recognition as a sovereign state for the first time in its history. You’d think he would know when to shut up and be grateful.

He [Bratianu] stated that Roumanian action in Hungary was an action similar in every respect to that of every other victorious army. [Romania] was short of rolling stock and very naturally took it where she found it; that this rolling stock was indispensable to her life in the coming fall and winter, and that she had no alternative.

Sure, buddy. Sure…

I then explained to Mr. Bratiano that any statements I might make were purely personal, although I felt that my colleagues shared my opinion. I then recounted to His Excellency several cases of a total lack of coöperation on the part of the Roumanians and also several instances in which they had told the Mission untruths, among which I gave instances of requisitioning supplies not needed for troops in the field, which General Mardarescu had stated was the only cause for requisition.

I also called attention to the fact that General Mardarescu had said that the Roumanians were not occupying western [sic] Hungary, whereas they were in many of the towns, and had been interning Hungarian officers and officials.

Clearly, Bandholtz meant to say that Romania was occupying eastern Hungary.

Sep 11, 1919

While in Bucharest, Mr. Schoenfeld told me that conditions in Roumania, as far as Americans were concerned, were worse.

Apparently the French who felt that Roumania came within their sphere of influence and in anticipation of possible rivals, had done everything they could to make the Roumanians dislike the Americans. This was frequently referred to in my conversations with the high officials, and Mr. Schoenfeld told me when I left that in all the time he had been in Roumania, he had never seen Mr. Bratiano so pleasant and affable as he was with me, and that never before had he made a two-hour call. He said that, on the contrary, the gentlemen in question had been most haughty and arrogant towards all Americans.

Keep in mind that every single member of the Romanian elite spoke French at this time.

Before finishing this question, our friend Diamandi asked that it be laid on the table to make way for other important matters. He first stated that the Roumanians did not agree with the Mission that nothing should be taken from the museums, adding that Roumania had now Transylvania and was therefore entitled to such portions of the museums as belonged to Transylvania.

General Mombelli had quite a little set-to with his rotund Excellency [Diamandi], who then again changed the subject and stated that Roumanians had unearthed a terrible Hungarian conspiracy which, disguised as an anti-Bolshevist proposition, was really also aimed at the Roumanian Army of Occupation.

Our hirsute friend Holban then produced a bundle of documents that would have filled a cart, and proceeded to give us the horrible details. The noon hour, however, arrived before he had finished his song and, as we had all been invited to attend the Roumanian review of a division, we adjourned to meet again tomorrow.

Apparently, looting museums was also on the agenda as well.  This would be considered a violation of the Geneva Convention today.

Sep 13, 1919

Bandholtz arrives back in Hungary:

It seems good to be back again where fruit has some flavor. The muskmelons of Hungary being delicious, we naturally thought that those of Roumania would be likewise and, as they were exceedingly cheap, we bought from the [train] car window about dozen fine-looking melons which we thought would be a good investment.

After opening all twelve, one at time, we discovered that the Roumanian melons are about as juicy as a can of oatmeal, and have the flavor an immature pumpkin.

Everything Roumanian makes a sad comparison with Hungarian equivalents.The city of Bucharest compared to Budapest would be like a tadpole by the side of a rainbow trout. At the meeting this morning, General Graziani presided, and our Roumanian friends showed up, as usual, about twenty minutes late.

Banholtz is clearly grumpy after his time in Romania. Not quite sure what was up with those melons as I’ve eaten plenty of juicy Romanian ones in my life.

It is, however, nice to hear about an American who isn’t constantly eating junk food.

Sep 15, 1919

At this point, Romania had to have figured out that their allies (including even France) were getting angry.

During the evening, General Gorton came over and informed me that Baron Perényi had been to see him tell him that he had been approached by the Roumanians with a view of being Prime Minister of a new cabinet, and that they had offered to return to Hungary all the stuff they had removed on condition of certain territorial and other concessions.

The man being referred to here is Zsigmond Perenyi, who had opposed the Communists and been arrested for it. Twenty years later, he became a member of Hungary’s fascist government which would, hilariously, take back Transylvania from Romania thanks to Germany’s help.

Baron Perényi was told that he would be a fool to pay attention to any such propositions, that Hungary in the past as her history proved, had suffered far more than at present and had nevertheless risen above her ruins, that it would be foolish for any of them to consider any offer the Roumanians might make, and that he as a man of intelligence ought to know that the Roumanians would not return one-tenth, if any, of what they had taken away. I sent a telegram immediately to the American Commission, advising them of the information we had acquired.

Even Perényi wasn’t dumb enough to believe anything that the Romanians said.

Sep 17, 1919

This afternoon when returning to the office from lunch, Colonel Loree and I found a whole company of Roumanian soldiers with their guns on their backs, milling up the entrance to the Palace courtyard. Without any preamble, I took my riding crop in hand and, ably seconded by Colonel Loree, we expelled the intruders into the street outside of the Palace entrance. I then inquired if there was a Roumanian officer about, and they said he had gone into the Palace.

I chased him up, dragged him up to my office and asked him what the Hell he meant by insulting the Inter-Allied Military Mission by bringing a whole company of armed soldiers into our precincts. He stated at first that he had heard that there were subterranean passages in the Palace which he wished to explore, and later changed that to saying that he had heard of the Palace and wished his soldiers to see it before they left.

I told him that Roumanians would hardly expect a company of American, British or French troops to go over to General Mardarescu’s Headquarters and, without saying a word to him, proceed to explore the premises. I further informed him that he had committed a serious and gross breach of etiquette, and that we couldn’t let one Roumanian company in here without letting the whole army come in, which we did not propose to do. He was most abject in his apologies and beat it.

Dumb and dumber.

It is pretty hilarious, though, that Bandholtz broke out his whip, Indiana Jones style, to disperse the looters, though.

Sep 18, 1919

A communication was read from the Swiss consul describing the horrible condition of Hungarian prisoners of war left in charge of the Roumanians in their prison camps.

Remember kids, this is just but a tiny taste of the inhuman abominations Romania would inflict on prisoners in the decades to come.

A report was read from the British officer, Major Borrow, which showed that, up to date, 759 locomotives and 18,495 [train] cars had crossed the Theiss River eastward bound, since we had been able to keep track of them. The total cars reported missing by the Hungarians amount to over 31,000. Major Borrow also showed that, within the past week, twenty-one troop trains had crossed the Szolnok Bridge and seventeen troop trains, containing a division of cavalry, had crossed the Csongrád Bridge, all headed towards Roumania. Everything indicates that our noble Roumanian allies intend actually to pull out of all of Hungary except Budapest and a thin line some distance west of the Danube.

In other words, the sack of Hungary was just about complete.

Think for a minute, though, at just how crazy it is that Romania looted those 18,000 train cars.

In 1990 (at the end of the Communist Era), nearly a hundred years later, Romania only owned a total of 4,515 locomotives (engines) and cars combined. Today, that number is less than 2,000.

This will enable them [the Romanians] to prevent any reorganization of the Hungarian police or Army, and will carry out their apparent design of leaving Hungary like a beautiful rosy-cheeked apple, but rotten at the core.

Colonel Yates was brought into the Mission, and from a memorandum showed how the Roumanians had practically done nothing along the line of police organization except to turn loose the usual supply of broken promises. Things have all along been in such a rotten condition that no superlatives can do the subject justice.

At the present rate of Roumanian seizures of cars, this country, with 6,000 kilometers of railroads, will have only 4,500 cars available. As it takes 4,000 a day to feed Budapest alone, which contains one-fifth of the population of Hungary, it is not difficult to imagine what the result will be when winter sets in.

Truly, the scale of the looting is approaching a level that would today be called a Crime Against Humanity.

Sep 19, 1919

At this point, General Mardarescu had been promoted to chief of the entire Romanian military.

When directly informed that we knew that at least two divisions of Roumanian troops had already left Hungary, General Mardarescu admitted it and went one more, saying that two infantry divisions and one cavalry division had already left; and it was not a case of evacuation of Hungary, but that these troops were being sent to the Bánát, where they were concentrating in considerable force to avoid possible trouble.

He said that this was not to be interpreted as a beginning of the Roumanian evacuation, and that whenever they begin to evacuate, he would notify us in regard to same and keep us posted daily.

It was next pointed out to General Mardarescu that, on the twenty-fifth of August, they were requested to evacuate the country west of the Danube and that they replied then that they would take it under immediate consideration, but that so far nothing had been done. General Mardarescu stated that he wanted to be sure the Hungarians would not attack him, and he could not withdraw until he was positive in this respect.

I’m about ready to strangle Mardarescu and I wasn’t even there.

This made me un peu fatigué, and I told him, that, as a soldier, he should know that the troops that had west of the Danube, scattered as they were, were in far more danger of an attack from the Hungarians than they could possibly be if withdrawn to the east side of the Danube and the Budapest bridgehead.

Doh!

General Mombelli then proposed that our committee which is working on the organization of the army, investigate conditions in the zone occupied by Hungarian troops and report upon the same, so that General Mardarescu could know whether or not his organized and valiant army, of which he so loudly boasted, was in danger from about ten thousand poorly-armed Hungarians.

Bandholtz just keeps on punching through the non-stop Romanian bullshit :)

After [the Romanians] left and we were alone, I told the Mission that I wanted them to understand exactly where they stood on the evacuation question; that I did not and would not agree with them; that I felt sure that they were wrong, although I might be the one in error.

I said it had taken the Roumanians since August 25 to arrive at no decision whatever, and now we were giving them another delay for like purpose. I added that we were all supposed to be officers of common sense and experience, and not one of them could look me in the eye and say that there was a particle of danger to the Roumanians, should they evacuate western [sic] Hungary, but on the contrary that it would add to their security. They could not do it.

I then added that, so far, the Mission had been unanimous, but now we appeared as a divided house before the Roumanians. They then proposed writing a letter to the Roumanians again calling upon them to evacuate western Hungary.

Clearly, he meant eastern Hungary, not western.

Sep 20, 1919

At the present rate of progress, the Roumanians will continue indefinitely with their occupation and attendant looting in which they are daily becoming more expert.

The Hungarians, on the other hand, are becoming more and more discouraged and famine, suffering and disorder are approaching.

It is recommended that either the Friedrich cabinet be recognized or that explicit instructions be given as to what will be recognized. The Roumanians are continuing right merrily with their looting, and we have already scheduled over 800 locomotives and 19,000 cars which they have removed.

Here, “scheduled” means “noted” or “recorded.”

Sep 22, 1919

A Roumanian officer showed up at the Palace this morning, to swipe property from the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and was expelled by Colonel Loree.

Admiral Troubridge reported today that there were only five days’ food supplies left in Budapest, and these will not last long at the present rate of Roumanian seizures.

I’m quite sure that King Ferdinand and Queen Marie did not give a shit if a few thousand Hungarian civilians died of starvation.

Sep 23, 1919

Just when you think Romania has stolen everything there is to steal, it gets worse:

While before the Mission, Colonel Yates reported this morning that he had learned that the Roumanians were starting to take the fire apparatus out of Budapest, and that he himself had driven away the Roumanian officer in charge of the looting party.

I shall send, in a day or so, recommendations for the D.S.M. for my various colleagues, and shall suggest that we establish an Order of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves so that our Roumanian friends can also be properly decorated.

The “fire apparatus” means all of the firefighting equipment.

The DSM is the Distinguished Service Medal of the United States.

Sep 24, 1919

I told my colleagues that the Roumanians were treating us just the same as a teacher would handle a class in kindergarten, and that we deserved it.

They asked if I had any suggestions to make, and I said that I certainly had; that I wanted a letter written to General Mardarescu repeating that on the nineteenth we had explained to him, and he had admitted, that the organization of the Hungarian police was an immediate and urgent necessity; that he had promised to have 10,000 arms and 40 machine guns ready by the twenty-third; that these were to be handled by the Entente assisted, if necessary, by the Roumanians; and that now he had broken his promise; that it looked to us as though there was no intention on the part of the Roumanians to help in the organization of the police, and that we should hold them responsible for any disorders or other troubles that might ensue as a result of a lack of properly-armed and organized policemen; and that we would advise the Supreme Council accordingly.

Stole all the food, stole all the firefighting equipment, and now they refuse to help organize and equip the police right before a cold and hungry winter begins.

Another prime example of Romania’s stupidity when it comes to strategy.

Sep 25, 1919

A report was received from the subcommittee which had been sent to Admiral Horthy’s army to investigate as to the danger of an attack from the same upon the Roumanians, and the result was absolutely what we knew it would be. The committee unanimously concurred in the opinion that the Hungarian Army could not in any manner whatever be considered as a menace to the Roumanians, and that there was neither the intention nor the possibility of its attacking the Roumanian forces.

The Admiral Horthy mentioned here is an important figure as he later became the dictator of Hungary after Romania left (for realzies) all the way through World War 2. Although Romania had occupied Budapest and most of Hungary, the western part of the country around Lake Balaton had not fallen under Romanian control in 1919.

Horthy then set up an anti-Communist militia and was more or less in control of his section of Hungary in 1919, and it’s clear that Bandholtz and the Entente are increasingly looking to him to lead the new post-war government, especially because Romania had failed to equip and train an alternative.

Horthy, however, was a raging anti-Semite and a proto-fascist who later allied himself with Hitler.

The committee found out that Horthy was carrying out to the letter his instructions as regards organization, that even now he could maintain order in Transdanubia [note: otherwise known as Pannonia!] whenever the Roumanians evacuated, and that in eight days his entire organization would be practically effected.

The Mission authorized me to write to the Roumanian Commander in Chief, repeating the substance of the committee’s report, stating that we concurred in the same, asking him immediately to evacuate Transdanubia, and to let us know not later than the twenty-ninth instant his decision in regard to the matter.

Here we see that Horthy kept his word while the Romanians did not, effectively “sealing the deal” for him to become the future ruler of Hungary with the Entente’s support.

Later in the day [British] General Gorton came in with an intercepted wireless message that was being sent by the Roumanians to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, to the effect that yesterday there had been meetings of 150,000 socialist workers; that these meetings were harmonious, well conducted and gotten up in opposition to the Friedrich government, stating that all the workers who attended were most eulogistic of the Roumanians, and expressed their thanks to the Roumanian Army for having, during the period of its occupation, given them political liberty.

General Gorton and I sent a telegram to Paris, stating that such message had been intercepted and to the effect that it was a damned lie.

And a piece of extremely crude propaganda. Kind of funny, in retrospect, but pretty awful at the time.

Sep 26, 1919

At this morning’s session of the Mission, General Gorton presided and introduced the question of the intercepted radio from the Roumanians the Eiffel Tower, Paris. It was decided by the Mission to telegraph to the Supreme Council a statement the effect that the workmen’s union, instead of turning out 150,000 men at nine different meetings, had turned out less than 20,000, and that one-half of these left before the meetings were through with, and in general that the Roumanian report was a gross exaggeration.

It must’ve been quite hilarious to be reading those telegrams on the other end.

We next received the report of the amount of material shipped by the Roumanians to the east. Up to midnight of September 23-24, and since the last report, 7 trainloads of troops with the usual cattle and forage had gone eastward, and our records up to date cover 1,046 locomotives, and over 23,000 mixed cars.

Again, this is well over ten times the number of engines and railcars that Romania would have during the Communist Era.

Aftermath

Romania did finally leave Hungary after thoroughly sacking it.

In the following few years, Romania would, more or less, fail to get recognized as a sovereign state within its “Greater Romanian” borders (the annexation of Moldova was a key sticking point). Romania would also fail to become a member of the League of Nations before that organization fell apart.

Within a decade, a fascist movement would spring up in Romania (the Iron Guard), which eventually led to a coup and the overthrow of the Carol II government. By the time WW2 arrived, Romania had befriended Germany, turned its back on its old ally France (as well as the United States), and thus suffered the humiliating triple losses of Transylvania, Bessarabia (Moldova) and Bucovina (now mostly part of Ukraine) thanks to its alliance with the Nazis.

Hungary, meanwhile, suffered under the Horthy dictatorship for more than 25 years. Just as Bandholtz predicted, there was widespread starvation and suffering in the winter of 1919-1920. And the defiant nationalistic and arch-conservative policies of the Horthy government is a direct ancestor of the current Hungarian government under Viktor Orban.

In 1956, the Soviet Union invaded (Communist once again) Hungary. Romanian soldiers infamously did not participate in the attack (garnering praise from the West), but Romanian special commandos did kidnap the Hungarian leader Imre Nagy and lock him up in a prison in Snagov (Romania), where he wrote a rather moving book before the Soviets took him back to Hungary and executed him after a secret trial.

Everything in this article was gleaned from public sources, but I doubt there is more than 1 person in a million in Romania who is aware that the Romanian government overthrew the Hungarian government twice in the 20th century.

Bandholtz Statue in Budapest, Hungary

In Hungary, however, Harry Hill Bandholtz is a national hero with a statue in downtown Budapest directly across from the American embassy.

The original copy of the memoir I’ve been quoting as well as his riding crop is currently on display in the same museum that he prevented Romanian troops from looting in 1919.

AND NOW YOU KNOW!

2 thoughts on “1919 – The Year Romania Sacked Hungary

  1. True history of Romania?…
    You clearly have no objectivism in your analysis of the writings of a frustrated and powerless American that obviously did not achieve anything in his “mission”.
    The way you’re putting down Romanians of the time is sickening, coming from one that calls himself “cel roman”. Obviously you have no love or understanding of the Romanian culture. If you are condemning the racism in Romania at that time maybe you should condemn him calling Romanians names. No nation behaves correctly during war, but to understand why you should look into Hungary and Austria milking Transilvania for centuries and killing all Romanians that dared to stand up for themselves. Read the other side of the story too and you’ll have a better understanding.
    Or maybe you should stick to stories about cats.

    Liked by 1 person

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