Today marks 68 years since the Allied forces landed on the beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944. It was the beginning of the end for Hitler. The yearlong trek across Europe began. Countless cities and human beings were liberated from inhuman oppression.
One of the final cities was Plzen, now in the Czech Republic. Early in the morning of May 6, 1945, American soldiers from General George S. Patton’s Third Army reached southwestern Bohemia, less than 50 miles from the German border, and freed the citizens of Plzen (pronounced Pilsen). Their liberation occurred just two days before V-E Day (Victory in Europe).
What I find interesting is that last month, people in Pilsen celebrated their long-ago liberation and thanked American soldiers. Pilsen is more famous for the pilsener style of beer developed there in the 19th century than it is for their wartime plight, although maybe that will change.
Soon after WWII ended, the people lost their short-lived freedom when the Communists invaded Czechoslavakia. After the fall of Communism. the citizens of Pilsen learned who had liberated their city back in 1945. Every year since 1990, the city has held a "Liberation Festival" to honor American soldiers. Local re-enactors in period uniforms drive around in restored United States Army jeeps. Many Allied veterans attend and leave their signatures on the walls of the new Patton Memorial.
The theme this year was called “From D-Day to V-Day.” According to their website, Pilsen’s citizens are told: “Honor and respect for those who won the battle against Nazism for us is something we should never forget. . . By being reminded of how dear the price of freedom was, we appreciate this freedom even more.“
Before the D-Day landing, Eisenhower addressed the troops, closing with these words: “Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
In a country which is now very secular, my prayer is that many in Pilsen will recognize the hand of Almighty God on their history and invite Him to enter into their future.