The 2nd Ukrainian Front operation begun on 6 October 1944, with Malinovsky's southern pincer attacking near Arad, and slicing through the Hungarian Third Army. The Hungarians quickly abandoned their positions. Many divisions simply disappeared in the assault. The spearhead of the southern 2nd Ukrainian Front pincer, followed by the Cavalry Mechanized Group Pliyev, had advanced almost sixty kilometers within the first 24 hours.
The attack by the northern 2nd Ukrainian Front pincer ran into difficulty quickly, colliding with two panzer divisions of the German III Panzer Corps' 1st and 23rd Panzer Divisions. By the end of the day, the northern pincer had advanced only ten kilometers.
Reacting quickly, Fretter-Pico ordered the 76th Infantry Division into the forward line near Oradea. This freed up the 23rd Panzer Division to move south to counter the breakthrough near Arad. The German Panzer Division Feldherrnhalle 1, refitting at Mezokövesd, was moved into action to guard potential crossing crossing points on the Tisza River against the advancing 2nd Ukrainian Front units.
By the evening of 7 October 1944, the 2nd Ukrainian Front southern pincer had advanced further towards the Tisza River. Meanwhile the northern pincer was still stalled near Oradea. In this area the German-Hungarian forces had managed to halt several flanking attempts by the 6th Guards Tank Army.
Realizing that his northern pincer was halted, Malinovsky decided to turn the southern pincer northwards towards Debrecen in an attempt to pull Axis forces away from Oradea. This action was to allow his northern force to break through and crush the German forces between Cavalry Mechanized Group Pliyev and the 6th Guards Tank Army.
By 10 October, Malinovsky's troops occupied several bridgeheads on the western bank of the Tisza River, and elements of the 46th Army and the 18th Tank Corps were driving on Kecskemet, only 45 miles (70 kilometers) from Budapest. Malinovsky, however had to redistribute some of these forces to support the advance of Pliyev's group on the other side of the Tisza. The remaining 2nd Ukrainian Front troops of this spearhead were attacked by the Hungarian cavalry and German anti-aircraft troops and forced to retreat to the Tisza on 11 October. The same day, Hungarian (1st Armored and 23rd Infantry Divisions) counterattacks against the 2nd Ukrainian Front's 243rd Rifle Division at the Mindszent bridgehead became so dire that the Romanian VII Corps was rushed to Mindszent to reinforce the bridgehead's defense.
Subsequently, the Romanian 2nd and 4th Infantry Divisions took over 2nd Ukrainian Front bridgeheads on the Tisza below Szolnok. The bridgehead of the 4th Division was attacked on 19 October by the Hungarian 1st Cavalry and 1st Infantry Divisions, which the 4th Division held back until hit on the right flank by the German 24th Panzer Division, 4th SS Panzergrenadier Division, and the 503rd Heavy Tank Battalion. The right flank of the Romanian 4th Division caved in and the German armor drove behind the division, cutting it off from the Tisza River and eventually forcing its surrender by 20 October. On 25 October, three Hungarian divisions (1st Cavalry, 1st Infantry and 20th Infantry) attacked the Romanian 2nd Division in its bridgehead. The Romanian 2nd Division panicked and pulled back across the Tisza River. This Hungarian success, however, was not repeated when a third assault was made during 26-29 October against the Romanian 19th Infantry Division's bridgehead at Alpar.
As the Red Army advanced in October 1944, German units destroyed roads and rail lines and cut communications. They abducted Horthy after he tried to negotiate a peace with the Red Army and forced him to abandon his plans. Horty abdicated and intense fighting lasted for seven weeks outside Budapest. Destruction from both the Nazis and the Red Army left Hungary desolate. The last German troops were driven out on April 4, 1945.