Secretary of State Pompeo to lay wreath in Plzeň Tuesday

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Plzeň is gearing up for the arrival of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday. The West Bohemian city was freed by the US Army on May 6, 1945 and Mr. Pompeo is set to lay a wreath at its Thanks, America! monument – three months after Covid-19 curtailed events marking the 75th anniversary of liberation.

Photo: Patton Memorial Pilsen

In the dying days of WWII in Europe, the US Army freed West Bohemia on May 6, 1945.

Since 1990, liberation has been celebrated in the regional capital Plzeň – and local official Jana Komišová outlines what normally happens at that time of year.

“Usually it’s a festival lasting several days. We present historical military machinery at special camps, in coordination with the Military History Club. There are also memorials and a very rich programme of arts events. The most important date for us here in Plzeň at this time is usually May 6, when Plzeň was liberated by General Patton’s US Third Army in 1945. The main memorial event takes place at the monument Thanks, America! on May 6.”

Convoy of Liberty, photo: Martina Schneibergová

This year’s Liberation Festival marking the 75th anniversary of the arrival of US troops should have been a big one. However, the coronavirus situation put paid to that.

A visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was postponed and instead of a huge gathering in the streets the dramatic events of 1945 were remembered via a “virtual studio”.

Now, however, Mr. Pompeo is coming to Plzeň, at the start of a visit to the Czech Republic where he will meet the country’s top politicians.

Tomáš Petříček, photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio

While in the West Bohemian city on Tuesday afternoon he will speak and lay a wreath at the Thanks, America! monument, as well as holding talks with his Czech counterpart, Tomáš Petříček.

Local official Jana Komišová says there is great excitement in Plzeň ahead of the visit.

General George Smith Patton, photo: US national archives, Public Domain

“It is of course a great honour for Plzeň and we’re really touched. I think it’s also a great joy and honour for US veterans who will see that it is thanks to them that West Bohemia was liberated – and that their own secretary of state has come to pay tribute at our memorial. And for us the fact that the US secretary of state has chosen Plzeň as the venue for his meeting with the Czech foreign minister is also a great honour.”

Mr. Pompeo will also visit the Patton Memorial Pilsen, which was opened on the 60th anniversary of liberation in 2005, and Plzeňský Prazdroj, the country’s most famous brewery and home of the lager Pilsner Urquell.

On Wednesday he is due to have meetings in Prague with Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and President Miloš Zeman as well as delivering an address at the Czech Senate.

Convoy of Liberty (2015), foto: Miloš Turek