Czech town celebrates US WWII vets on its liberation anniversary
By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 4, 2018
PILSEN, Czech Republic — American flags waved on the streets, U.S. military vehicles graced the major town squares and re-enactors dressed as GIs in mock WWII camps as the city celebrated the American liberation of Pilsen in 1945.
The Czech city, famed as the birthplace of Pilsner beer and located about 20 miles east of the German border, is one of few liberated from Nazi occupation by American units under the command of Gen. George S. Patton. Most other Czech cities lying further east were liberated by the Soviet Union. This initial contact with the American military has left a lasting impression on the city’s citizens.
“We’re thankful for the U.S. soldiers who came here and fought so we could be free,” said local re-enactor Jakub Hosek. “The city has a special relationship with U.S. soldiers. We don’t forget what they did.”
To remember the liberation of the city on May 6, 1945, after six years of Nazi occupation, Pilsen organized various public events throughout the weekend. Some of the highlights of the celebration were the American style big-band jazz music played nearby the city’s cathedral, a reconstructed prisoner-of-war camp built in a park filled with flowers and children playing, and the U.S. WWII veterans who signed autographs for lines of eager Czechs, anxious to meet them.
“I talked to some of the (WWII) veterans today,” Hosek said. “It was a dream come true for me, to meet them, and talk to them about what it was like being here in May of 1945.”