Wartime experiences in the first two years of the Russian campaign had shown that the Hungarian infantry urgently needed a powerful support vehicle, an assault gun, similar to the successful »StuG«s of the German ally.
With the Turan medium tank and the MAVAG 105mm 40/43M howitzer in stock, the Hungarian arsenal already contained the appropriate chassis and gun, so development time at the Manfred Weiss factory at Budapest could be cut to a minimum.
The prototype was ready in late 1942 and, following an earlier version with a long 75mm anti-tank gun, the »Zrinyi I«, production of which ultimately failed due to gun assembly deficiencies, the new tank was named »Zrinyi II« after Nikolaus Graf Zrinyi, a legendary hero from the war with the Turks in the 16th century.
The 43M Zrinyi rohamtarack (43M Zrinyi assault howitzer) soon proved to be a cheap, low profile, powerful AFV with good all-terrain capability, adequate frontal armour and an efficient gun able to cope with the T-34 main battle tank when using the appropriate 105mm 1942M high-explosive anti-tank ("HEAT") shells.
In total, no more than 60-70 Zrinyi II Assault howitzer were produced until July of 1944 when a devastating U.S. air raid of B-24 Liberators on the Manfred Weiss factory put an end to any further production.
The Zrinyi II were deployed to two of the new established Assault Gun Battalions ("Rohamtüzer Osztaly") and saw extensive and suprsingly successful service in Eastern Galicia between Stanislau and Kolomea in April of 1944, Transylvania around Torda in September of 1944 and finally during the Budapest siege in late 1944 / early 1945 until finally destroyed by the overwhelming Red Army.
Wounded twice, Captain József Barankay was already a veteran of the 1942 campaigns when he became commander of the 1st Assault Gun Battalion ("1.Rohamtüzer Osztäly") in 1944.
An aggressive commander he led his battalion successfully during the hard fighting in Eastern Galicia in Spring/Early Summer of 1944.
The fanatical soldier had sold his flat before joining his unit at the front, saying "I don’t need it anymore".
He also maintained a grave for himself between the first two soldiers casualties of the battalion.
He was finally killed in an air attack flown by Il-2 Shturmoviks or U-2 biplanes on his command post on 13 July 1944 near Targowica.
In August 1944 he was posthumously awarded the Officers’ "Gold Medal of Bravery" for his leadership during the Galicia campaign, the fifth member of the Royal Hungarian Army to receive that award.
In his honour and at the express request of his comrades, on 22 November 1944 the battalion was renamed "1.József Barankay Rohamtüzér Osztály" (1.József Barankay Assault Gun Battalion).