On May 6, 1945, the Nazi-occupied town of Pilsen in what was then Czechoslovakia was liberated by the U. S. Army under the command of General George Patton. Less than three years later, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, backed by the Soviet Union, took control of the country, and the new government undertook a systematic campaign to suppress any acknowledgement of the United States’ role in liberating Pilsen and other parts of Czechoslovakia. But forty years of communist dictatorship and censorship failed to stamp out the memory of what had actually happened on that day in 1945; and in 1990, the communists finally having been removed from power, the city of Pilsen began celebrating the anniversary of its liberation by the United States with an annual “Liberation Festival” — like our Independence Day, an occasion for parades and fireworks. The stars of the Liberation Festival have always been American veterans of World War 2; and although every year their numbers keep shrinking, still some of them manage to make it to Pilsen for the festival, where they are greeted by cheering crowds of people waving American flags.
For the seventieth anniversary of liberation this year, the city is unveiling a new monument to General George Patton, to ensure that future generations will never forget what took place there on May 6, 1945.
These photographs are from previous years’ Liberation Festivals.