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Liberation

“Our column continued forward, and my company shifted to the lead position on tanks. I rode behind the lead tank in the artillery jeep. The little country towns changed into small industrial towns, and we began to notice a scattering of red, white and blue Czechoslovakian flags in the towns in place of the usual white flags of surrender. Civilians waved at us guardedly from behind closed windows. The scattering of Czech flags should have warned us, but we were totally unprepared for the mad celebration which greeted us in the next town. We had suddenly crossed from the Sudetenland into Czechoslovakia proper. The houses were a riot of color with red, white and blue Czechoslovakian flags. Civilians lined the streets ten deep, cheering and waving their flags as if their lives depended upon it. Our column was forced to slow down, and the happy civilians pushed into the street and showered us with flowers and cakes and cookies. One old woman thrust a baked chicken into our jeep. Another old woman stood beside the road waving both hands in the sir, tears streaming down her wrinkled cheeks. Little children were wild with joy . . . some of them had never known anything but six years of Nazi occupation. The young men wore red, white and blue arm bands and carried German weapons, a part of the underground movement that was even now struggling against superior German forces in the capital city of Prague. Everyone was screaming the Czech words, “Nazdar! Nazdar!” and we wondered what they meant. I looked up and down the column at the soldiers in the company. Brilliant smiles wreathed their faces, and they waved cheerfully at the shouting crowds as if they had just won an election campaign and this was a personal triumph. Hardened, stubble-faced veterans had unashamed tears in their eyes. The unleashed joy of these oppressed people knew no bounds, and it was too much for us. Suddenly, I began to realize what no one had thus far been able in the war to put into words—what we were fighting for. And I found a lump in my throat which I could not swallow.” – Charles B. MacDonald, Company Commander

Published inCharles B. MacDonaldThe Second World War

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