Born: 05/27/1944, Budapest, Hungary
Last Res: Yorba Linda, California
Spouse: Mrs. Jennifer (Gyöngyvér) Hargittay
Number of children: 3
Active role in the revolution: YES
In United States of America
Arrival: 1957, NJ, NY
Education: Bachelor of Science from Cleveland State University, 1967
Master of Science Civil Engineering from University of Southern California, 1974
Hughes Aircraft Fellow
Occupation: Senior Scientist, Mechanical Engineer
Workplace: Hughes Aircraft, Raytheon, Fullerton, California
Awards: Bela spent a total of 29 years with Hughes/Raytheon and worked on numerous projects that helped to elevate the U.S. military technology. He was the mechanical engineering team leader on several programs within the Hughes and Raytheon companies. He worked on missile systems still in use today.
Bela Hargittay was a twelve year old boy living in the heart of Budapest, and who loved to play soccer, when the 1956 Hungarian Revolution quickly disrupted his life and the life of his family forever and set him on an entirely unexpected journey to America.
Bela was living with his mother, Olga, and his two older sister’s. On the first day of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, Bela went with the crowds and witnessed the major events that unfolded. He was an eyewitness when the giant bronze statue of Stalin was toppled and he climbed on top of that statue as the crowds cheered and celebrated.
When the shooting and violence started, Bela and his mother and sisters all participated. Bela became an expert at preparing Molotov cocktails and cutting out the communist state emblem from the middle of Hungarian flags that were dispersed to hang throughout the city. As the violence grew and the tanks entered Budapest, Bela and his family’s apartment building experienced direct fire by tanks that sent walls crumbling down and caused horrific injuries. Bela and his family helped others by treating their injuries. As the revolution came to an end, the family had to deal with the terrible consequences of their actions and the petitions they signed about being anti-communist, they decided to leave Hungary near Lébény.
On November 23rd, the family crossed the Hungarian-Austrian border, and the first village they reached after crossing the border was Nickelsdorf. Bela’s family initially stayed in tents in a refugee camp in Klagenfurt, Austria. They eventually headed back to Austria and lived in Salzburg until they departed for America from a military airport in Munich, Germany on May 7 1957.
Bela arrived in New Jersey, traveled to New York City, and then immediately to Boise, Idaho, where a church had sponsored their trip and helped to establish their new life in America by providing housing for several months. In 1958, the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, a city that had become a hub for Hungarian immigrants and refugees.
With the help of a soccer scholarship, Bela obtained a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (BME) degree in 1967 from Cleveland State University. At the time and for many years, Bela was the highest scoring soccer player in the history of the University, and he received All-State distinction for all four years in college. After graduation, Bela moved to California, and within the first two weeks he met Jennifer (Gyöngyvér) Gombos, who he married two years later in 1969 and with whom he had 3 children and 8 grandchildren. In 1974, Bela received a Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MSCE) degree from the University of Southern California (USC), as a Hughes Masters Fellow, a program sponsored by his employer.
As an engineer, Bela helped to elevate the U.S. military technology, with a focus on radars and missiles, having worked for national defense firms Hughes Aircraft and Raytheon for 29 years. Bela worked in the Radar and missile division at Hughes and Raytheon’s C3I (Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence) Division, where he was involved with numerous commercial and military programs. He progressed to Senior Scientist, managing and being involved with military radar installations, thermal nuclear programs, sophisticated military communication devices and other advanced technologies. He was directly involved with Tomahawk missiles used to hit isolated targets with pinpoint precision, first used during the Gulf War in 1990 and its use continues today.