Liberating Pilsen was a great “honour and a privilege”, recalls 99-year-old US Army veteran
Celebrations are underway in Pilsen to commemorate the city’s uprising against the Nazi occupation and liberation by American forces in May 1945.
On 5 May 1945, people in Pilsen took to the streets and began tearing down Nazi symbols. German forces reacted by besieging the western Bohemian city to suppress the uprising.
The civilian population of Pilsen desperately needed help. Early the next morning, American tanks rolled into Pilsen, where they came under sniper fire and sporadic resistance from the Wehrmacht.
“My name is Robert Muthersbaugh. I was with the 16th Armoured division. I was the chief radio operator, so my vehicle was one of the first ones into Pilsen - we came in a halftrack. And it was an honour and a privilege to free the Czech people…”
Mr Muthersbaugh was 23 years old at the time and celebrates his 100th birthday in October. But he vividly recalls the warm welcome the soldiers of General George Patton’s Third Army received, an experience he treasures.
“I was amazed at how wonderful all the people were, how happy they were to see us. They were kissing us and hugging us. And they wanted to bring us beer, take our pictures. It was really wonderful.
“I was so humbled to be honoured – to have the great honour to be one of the liberators. And all the rest of my life, all these many years, I think about how wonderful it was, how the people enjoyed us, loved us – and treated us like kings!
“I feel bad that I never was able to go to the festivities because of my health. But I really enjoyed myself and I honour the Czech people very much and am privileged to be a part of this party!”
Although large events cannot be held due to anti-coronavirus measures, the Pilsen Liberation Festival (Slavnosti svobody) has put together a rich programme. All are welcome to attend the “party” in Pilsen, as Mr Muthersbaugh put it in that interview recorded just a few days ago for the Czech Centre in New York.
Among the highlights of the outdoor programme are displays of a period Sherman tank, jeeps, armoured vehicles and halftracks. On Sunday, there will also be flyovers by historic aircraft, and a full-scale replica of a Spitfire on the city square. There will also be screenings at special drive-in cinemas of Tobruk and Anthropoid, films about the Czech wartime experience.
Among the online performances will be the Pilsen Philharmonic Orchestra’s rendition of “General Patton’s March” by Otakar Pihrt, “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin, and the “New World Symphony by Antonín Dvořák, which the great composer penned during his stay in New York.
The accompanying programme includes exhibitions and a “Road to Freedom” trail. The city’s Patton Memorial Museum is also open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. You may watch the online program on the site pilsen.eu.
Full schedule of events: https://www.slavnostisvobody.cz/en/program/