“Courage leads, luck escorts us” - forgotten history of Puma Air Squadron of Hungary
The 101st Home Air Defence Fighter Wing was an elite fighter-wing of the Royal Hungarian Air Force in World War II. Also known as the Puma after the unit’s insignia, it was the most famous and well known of all Hungarian fighter units during the war. Created in the spring of 1944, it operated against US Fifteenth Air Force and the Soviet VVS during 1944-45 over Hungary and later, Austria.
Fifteenth Air Force of the Alliences, flying from bases in Italy, subjected Hungary to massed bombing attacks in 1944. The existing Hungarian fighter organisation was deemed tactically unsuitable for the effective protection of Hungarian air space from such attacks. Therefore, theTerritorial Air Defence Commanddecided to concentrate all existing fighters into a single fighter unit. The 101. Honi Légvédelmi Vadászrepülő Osztály was created from several existing Hungarian fighter units on 1 May 1944. Many of the highest scoring and most experienced Hungarian fighter pilots served in the unit, including the top scoring Hungarian ace of World War II, Szentgyörgyi Dezső.
During ‘The American Season’, between May and August 1944, the 101. had claimed 15 P-51s, 33 P-38s and 56 four-engined bombers. The losses were, however, heavy, and the unit was pulled out for rest and refit for a brief period during the autumn. Before that even happened, that 13 Hugarian pilot tried to defend the sky above Budapest against around 300 attackers! The combat missions against the 15th USAAF had come to an end, and the 101st’s main adversary was the Red Air Force. Retreating while fighting into Austria, the unit set its last remaining Bf 109s on fire on 4 May 1945 at Raffelding airbase, to prevent their capture by advancing U.S. troops. In the end they capitulated to the US army,
On the Eastern Front, during 1943, the Pumas were officially credited with the destruction of 70 Soviet aircraft, to which they added further 218 destroyed and credited during the Home Defence combats in 1944-45. They were credited with 64 American four-engined bombers, and 47 fighters of the USAAF Fifteenth Air Force in 1944-45. The total number of victories credited against all opposing forces was thus 396.
Relative to the small number of ‘Puma’ pilots, the losses were heavy. Between its creation in the spring of 1944 and the end of the war, the wing (and later, regiment) suffered 51 killed, 30 wounded, 21 of them become MIA; 7 pilots become POWs. They were respected by the american aerial command for their bravery.
The howling red puma head of the unit first appeared in the Royal Hungarian Air Force in 1938. Heppes Aladár designed it, and Baráth László drew the original graphic. Unlike other unit insignia, the red Puma head was not attached to a particular unit, but to the commander, Heppes Aladár, following him to his new commands. It was lastly used on the Eastern front.
The motto, “Vezérünk a bátorság, kísérőnk a szerencse!” (Courage leads, luck escorts us) is originating to the commanding officer of the 1/3. vadászrepülő század, Nagy Mihály.
The Tunnel under Buda Castle
On 10 February 1853, four years after the completion of the Chain Bridge, the building of a tunnel leading through the hill was started to the plans of Adam Clark. Construction went slow, as Austrians were not enthusiastic enough to give explosives needed for the work into the hands of rebellist Hungarians just 4 years after the Revolution and Freedomfight of 1848/49. But finally on 6 March 1856, the tunnel was opened for foot traffic, and on 30 April 1857 also for motor traffic.
Being 350 meters in length, it leads through under the Buda Castle to the other side of the hill. Its length is approximately identical to that of the Chain Bridge, prompting anecdotes according to which the tunnel has only been built so that in rainy weather, the Chain Bridge can be shoved in and be protected from wet conditions. The entry of the tunnel at its Chain Bridge end was also fittingly designed in classicist style.
The Tunnel got its legend too, including the story of the dragon living inside (counting cars while waiting for her Prince in the figure of a silver Jaguar), and gives home to the all time master of the Chainbridge. Once upon a time toll had to be paid to cross the Tunnel, today it is free for everyone. 1st May, 1919 the Tunnel was “clothed” as a Trimphal Arch to celebrate the first Communist Goverment of Hungary, and twist eating competition was organized inside. A part of Dire Strait’s Money For Nothing music video was filmed on this picturesque spot of Budapest in 1985.
Master of the Chainbridge
The Tunnel under the Castle Hill is the home of Mr Janos Fazekas and his family, who is the master of the Chain Bridge. He lives in the appartment at the entrance of the Tunnel since 40 years and he still likes his job, even though he gots lots of “funny” alarms from youngsters passing by about the lions of the Bridge running away and so on…:) His duty is to keep the Bridge as it is, check the state of the chains and the structure and also to clean the Lions who occasionaly “receive” hats and cigars in their mouth and other strange things.
Many anecdotes have been told about the Chain Bridge. A popular one is about the lions, which were place in 1852 at both ends of the bridge. Although they have tongues (they are just not visible from the point where you will see the lions), people mocked the sculptor about the lions not having them. In shame, he jumped from the bridge into the Danube. Actually it is a legend, János Marshalkó, the sculptor died years later, as a satisfied retired man.
Another story says that the tunnel under castle hill, which is right in front of the bridge, was just built as a shelter for the Chain Bridge when it rains.
But there is also one interesting fact worth to mention: Everybody, even aristocracy who was exempt from taxation, had to pay the bridge toll. As noblemen of Hungary were free from it on their own right since 1222 (!), there was quite a ribillion! According to another legend, “father” of the bridge, Count István Széchenyi was asked, if there could be any exemption. Széchenyi answered: “Yes, there is. When somebody goes over the bridge, pays. But when somebody pass the Danube beside the bridge, is free to pay the toll! ” Today, of course, the bridge is free for use. Once upon a time the named toll was collected by the master of the bridge, Mr. Fazekas says, his grand-grand father.
Marlow Bridge, the little brother of Chainbridge
Designed by English engineer William Tierney Clark Chainbridge of Budapest at the time of its opening in 1849 was regarded as one of the modern world’s engineering wonders. Clark (23 August 1783 – 22 September 1852) was an English civil engineer particularly associated with the design and construction of bridges. He was among the earliest designers of suspension bridges.
According to the 1998 bronze plaque placed at the Chainbridge on the Pest-side bank of the Danube, it “commemorates the only two surviving bridges designed by William Tierney Clark: the Széchenyí Chain Bridge over the Danube at Budapest and the suspension bridge over the Thames at Marlow-England.” Some even say, Marlow Bridge, was a nearly identical but smaller prototype for Budapest’s iconic bridge.The current suspension bridge at Marlow was built between 1829 and 1832, replacing a wooden bridge further downstream which had collapsed in 1828. It is the only suspension bridge across the non-tidal Thames. Construction of the Chainbridge in Budapest started in 1838. The inauguration of the bridge took place on 20 November 1849.
Spinning Neptun of the Margaret Island - the Bodor Well
Péter Bodor was a szekler gadgeteer and mechanical engineer (born on June 22, 1788, died August 6, 1849) who built a musical or chiming fountain in the Transylvanian town of Marosvásárhely (now Târgu Mures, Romania) between 1820 and 1822.
His fountain had a round floor-plan, with two arched stairs on the sides, and a dome roof supported by pillars. The mechanical core was a hydraulic structure driven by the force of water that played popular chimes at every hour. There was a gilded Neptune (or Apollo) statue on the top, that turned round in 24 hours. The fountain was destroyed in 1836 by a snow storm, and was never restored.
An almost identical copy was built in Budapest’s Margaret Island in 1936 that did not operated by hydraulic means, but used electricity instead. This latter was partly destroyed during the Second World War, but restored in 1954 and again in 1997. Now it is a tourist attraction that plays music at every hour during the day.
The Big Swim of Hungary
According to Károly Eötvös, writer of the 1800’s the first, who crossed the Lake Balaton by swimming was Baron Miklós Wesselényi, on 16th August 1835. The famous bonvivan - later heroe - of the Hungarians repeated the big deed still twice, last time in 1937, and on this last occasion he even shaved in the water of lake during swimming!
Inspite, the first noted and official cross swimming dates back to 55 years later, to 29th August 1880, when - also an aristocrat - Baron Kálmán Szekrényessy swimmed over the 14 km distance between Siófok and Balatonfüred. He needed 6 hours and 40 minutes to do that! He repeated the record still 7 times (!), and in the next 16 years nobody was able to pass it over!
The strange “habit” became a custom, moreover tradition by now. Cross swimming of Lake Balaton is an official race since 1921. Official, but open, where - regardless his/her genre, age, profession, nationality - anybody can participate, of course under strict medical control. The distance became less and less during the years (from 14 it was reduced to 13, then 7, finally 5 km), while number of the swimmers is growing. According to chronicles, f.g. in 1926 18 Hungarian - 15 men and 3 women - stood at the start, today around 9000 people jump into the water in Révfülöp between 8,00 in the morning and 2,00 in the afternoon (starting time can be chosen by the participants).
Hall of Kisses and Lookout Gallery
The octagonal water tower on Margaret Island was built in Art Nouveau style in 1911 according to the plans of Szilárd Zielinski. The water tower was the first building in Hungary where reinforced concrete, a new technology at the time, was used. The tower ensures the water supply for the tenants of the island and also functions as a lookout tower for visitors. It stands 57 meter (187 feet) high and has a cubic capacity of 600.000 liter (158,503 gallon).
The staircase - fenced by enchanting secessionist iron-wrought work - gives home to the Lookout Gallery (then-and-now photos of Budapest), and leads to the visitor’s gallery, called “Hall of Kisses”. As urban legends say, this is an ideal place for a proposal!
Lady Liberty of Budapest
The iconic statue was first erected in 1947 in remembrance of the Soviet occupation of Hungary during World War II.The 14 m tall bronze statue stands atop a 26 m pedestal and holds a palm leaf. Urban legends say, the palm leaf originally was intented to be a propeller of an aeroplane!
The monument was designed by Zsigmond Kisfaludi Stróbl for the personal demand of colonel Vorosilov, marshall of the Red Army, who commanded the soviet troops occupying Budapest (Hungary). At the time of the monument’s construction, the defeat of Axis forces by the Red Army was officially proclaimed “liberation”—leading to the original inscription upon the memorial (both in Hungarian and Russian): “To the memory of the liberating Soviet heroes [erected by] the grateful Hungarian people in 1945”. Over the following years, public sentiment toward the Soviets decreased to the point of revolution, which was attempted and temporarily succeeded in 1956 and subsequently damaged some portions of the monument. After the 1989 transition from communist rule to democracy, the inscription was modified to read:
“To the memory of those all who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary”.
The statue depicts a real person, named Erzsébet Gaál Thuránszkyné, educated by nurses in a nunnery, and was in her 20’s at that time. She has never got any honorary, even, her starting relationship with an Austrian customofficer was diminished by the communist authorities, and Erzsébet was npt allowed to live the country to the end of her life.
Two smaller statues are also present around the base, but the original monument consisted of two more originally that have since been removed from the site and relocated to Memento Park. The heroic soviet soldier’s statue in the centre, at the bottom of Lady Liberty was modelled after Vasiliy Golkov sergeant. 20 years after the inauguration of the statue russian movie makers traced back to Golkov, who was allowed to visit his huge memorial in Budapest. At that time it still stood on its original place.
Lady Liberty appeared on the backside of the 10 HUF coin between 1971 and 1995, and her miniature copy was took by the Hungarian austronaut, Bertalan Farkas to the space in 1980.
Puliszka, polenta or mamaliga - poor’s meal or luxury?
Puliszka is a dish which consists of a sort of porridge which is made of yellow corn. It is better known all over the world under the Italian name of “polenta”. There are other names for it, like “mamaliga” in Romania.
Throughout history, puliszka was a meal cooked mostly by peasants and often as a substitute for bread in the poor villages. Nonetheless, it has gained huge popularity in the recent period, and it is served in the finest restaurants as a high-scale delicacy. Porridge was in fact the oldest form of grains’ consumption, and it was discovered long before bread appeared. Romans called it “pulmentum”. Apparently the Romans ate so much porridge that the Greeks used to call them pultiphagonides, meaning “porridge eaters.”
Corn was initially brought to Spain by Hernán Cortés back in the 16th century and then it was spread all throughout the European continent. Corn requires both heat and humidity, both in good quantities, so the Danube Valley was and still is one of the most ideal European regions for growing corn. According to a Hungarian scholar, corn was brought here in 1692. Corn became a 1st rate food especially during the 17th and 18th centuries’ great famine.
The Larousse French dictionary attested the existence of corn puliszka since the year of 1873, by defining it as a “boiled cornmeal, in the Danube principalities”. Puliszka is traditionally cooked by boiling water with salt and corn flour in a specially made iron pot . Peasants used to make it much thicker than the usual one, so that it could even be sliced like bread. Its consistence makes it even possible to be eaten like bread, or instead of bread. Especially since it is considered to be healthier, richer in vitamins and of course, it contains absolutely no preservatives at all. So it’s a less expensive and often more delicious alternative to bread.
Another widespread method of cooking puliszka is by roasting it in the oven alone or with butter and cheese. Actually like in case of goulash, all housewives guard her own recipes, like adding to puliszka delicious cheeses, sausages and eggs, mushrooms, bacon and ham and many more. As we say: “When a girl can not cook even puliszka, she can not be married!”