Czech film archives receive rare footage of American troops in Bohemia

US Ambassador Richard Graber presented the National Film Archives director on Friday with unique footage shot by American soldiers in western Bohemia right after the end of the war. The footage, which had not been seen in the country before, will be identified, analyzed, and publicly screened in the very places where they were filmed.

Three reels of film changed hands in the American Center in Prague on Friday morning as US Ambassador Richard Graber presented some unique footage taken by American soldiers in May 1945 in Western Bohemia to Vladimir Opela, the director of the Czech National Film Archives. Besides other scenes, the silent clips show General Patton surveying troops at a field airport near Plzen, German prisoners-of-war being driven away by US military, and a meeting of American and Soviet soldiers on the demarcation line in the area. Ambassador Richard Graber.

"We certainly try to cooperate as often as we can. When we can provide some clips such as these, it's something that we are very pleased to do, to be able to share it with the people of this country."

The films were shot by US troops who had received some basic training in filmmaking, and are especially rare because at the time of filming following May 5, 1945, no other footage was taken because the area was closed off due to combat operations. They were included in the American National Archives' film collection, with which Czech film historians have been cooperating closely. Vladimir Opela is the head of the Czech National Film Archives.

"Our colleague, the American archivist William Murphy was here two years ago when he brought footage of the liberation of western Bohemia and Plzen. He kept his promise and sent these materials. They depict the beginnings of normal life after the war, German prisoners of war and also, which was very interesting, footage of meetings of the American and Soviet armies."

General Patton
Now the footage will be analyzed by historians to identify the dates and locations of the film clips. After that, the National Film Archives is planning to screen them publicly at the actual places where they were filmed, as they did with materials they had received from their American colleagues in the past. This will keep alive the memory of the US troops that liberated the western parts of Czechoslovakia, a fact denied by the Communists. Ambassador Richard Graber says the US Embassy is proud to participate.

"We certainly do everything we can every year to participate in liberation day ceremonies that take place across the country; we go to countless events of that sort. I think it's very important to remember what went on there, remember the sacrifices that the people of this country endured, the sacrifices that our soldiers in the United States endured, and other countries as well, in what was an incredibly important period of time and history."