Sunday, May 19, 2019

(SPECIAL POST 117) The 2019 Pilsen Liberation Festival with William Jannace

The liberation of Czechoslovakia by the Allied troops on May 1945 ended the European part of WW II. On May 4, Gen. Eisenhower ordered an advancement into Czechoslovakia. American operations began and on May 6, American soldiers entered Pilsen. Celebration erupted that day, but an annual official celebration had to wait until 1989 after the Velvet Revolution.

Every May starting in 1990, Pilsen goes back to 1945 with a Liberation Festival. Veterans, people from around the world and the Czech people celebrate for four days. It is an emotional event. With the decrease of WW II veterans there have been changes in some programs to make sure the new generation and the school children will never forget what happened in May 1945 and to strengthen the importance of their present freedom. Freedom can be lost as it was in WW II. It must never happen again.

The Festival is divided with a variety of events. There is the always the convoy of historical military vehicles, meetings at Memorial locations including laying of wreaths and speaking to past and present soldiers. Societies dealing with music, present military equipment and activities, as well as reenactments by the KVH Tommy & Yankee Z.S. Plzeƈ KVH (Facebook pages below) of the past allows all ages and interests to be thankful for this annual festival.

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2nd Infantry Division-Indianhead

Here are three of the 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion of the 2nd Infantry Division that aided along with hundreds of other men liberate Pilsen, Czechoslovakia in May 1945.  My uncle,
Sgt. Charles D Knight of the 15th FAB, of the 2nd Infantry Division was part of the liberation force.

In May 2019, William Jannace, 
son of PFC Anthony E Jannace,
went to the annual Pilsen Liberation Festival.

Below is his letter to the people of Pilsen.

Dear Citizens of Pilsen,

I recently represented my family at the 2019 Liberation of Pilsen Festival honoring the Second Infantry and Sixteenth Armored Divisions, French, Belgium and Czech soldiers that were involved in its liberation. Our father (PFC Anthony E. Jannace – 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion, Second Infantry Division) was awarded the Purple Heart in 1945 just before the liberation of Pilsen and passed away many years ago; before the Velvet Revolution and thus unable to enjoy this celebration of freedom. To his credit, after sustaining injuries he took part in the liberation in May 1945.  

Words cannot describe the gratitude and appreciation I have for Glynn Raby (who was in the 9th Infantry Regiment of the 2ID) and Tomas Hataj (Men of the Second Infantry Association), Tomas Raboch (Pilsenjoy S.R.O.)  and the people of Pilsen and its government for the heartfelt celebration and commemoration of the Second Infantry and Sixteenth Armored Divisions’ Liberation of Pilsen.  As the son of a veteran of the 2ID it was an emotionally filled and humbling weekend.  The sacrifices of that generation can never be quantified nor will time diminish their heroism as the numbers do not begin to tell the whole story nor can the debt of gratitude ever be repaid.

I am an attorney and a Professor at Fordham Law School, and thus responsible for teaching and upholding the rule of law. However, modesty and humility compel me to acknowledge the many citizen-soldiers of the US Armed Forces, many of whom came from humble backgrounds as they are the ones that sacrificed their blood, limbs and lives to truly uphold the rule of law and to make a better world (albeit not perfect) for all in the second half of the 20th Century.   

It was truly a global effort of the better angels of humanity that arose to defeat tyranny and oppression. To the credit of the people of the Czech Republic who persevered another 45 years after the end of the war, you never relented in your desire for freedom-----very much evident on display this past weekend. As was noted at the various wreath laying ceremonies, freedom should and can never be taken for granted. I was particularly honored when Earl Ingram, Colonel, US ARMY, Retired (and an officer of the 2ID) asked me to participate in the wreath-laying ceremony at the 2ID Memorial.

I was overwhelmed with a sense of patriotism and pride with each speech I heard from Czech and US dignitaries, including George Patton Waters, the grandson of General George Patton, who spoke with such heartfelt, self-effacing humility about his grandfather. To hear the young children sing and perform at The Patton School where a wreath-laying ceremony was held was beyond gratifying and gives me hope that the Trans-Atlantic partnership (the anchor of the Bretton Woods System) will persevere as the desire for freedom, democracy and rule of law can be temporarily side-tracked but never eradicated.  

Tears and chills are what I felt the entire weekend-chills each time I heard the U.S. and Czech National Anthems; tears at each wreath- laying ceremony thinking of my father, who persevered another 26 years in the US Army Reserves (retiring as an SFC) despite having been wounded in Germany and sustaining frost bite in the Ardennes, where his battalion received a unit citation for its heroism. Despite that, he loved his country, the Army and always considered the men that did not return from WWII as the real heroes worthy of adulation----if you knew him---- he was modest and spoke little about this time.     

I am looking forward to next year’s celebration.

To paraphrase the motto of the 2ID-Pilsen, its people, and its liberators  are “Second to None.”

Sincerely and Respectfully,

William Jannace  

PARADE of the WW II Military Vehicles.
CLICK ON the below website to watch. The video lasts for 30 minutes. You may desire to watch it after you have seen the rest of this post.

2nd Engineer Combat Battalion Insignia
Photos from May 1945
May 1945

Short History of 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion WW II

Looking at the Combat History of the Second Infantry Division in World War II on pages 165..... there is the HISTORY OF THE SECOND ENGINEER BATTALION: Though there is history written about them before World War II, I am just sharing here their part in WW II. They followed exactly the same sequence as my uncle including landing on Omaha Beach June 7, 1944.  
"In November, 1942, the Battalion moved to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, and engaged in winter training and winter maneuvers. In October 1943, the Battalion moved to the New York Port of Embarkation, sailing on October 8 on the S. S. Hawaiian hipper. Landing at Belfast on October 18, the Battalion was stationed for six months at Drumbanagher Castle, North Ireland. In April, 1944, the Battalion crossed the Irish Sea to Wales, and in late May moved to the marshaling areas to prepare for the invasion of France. Landing on Omaha Beach Normandy, on June 7, the Battalion fought through four countries as a unit of the 2nd Infantry Division, earning the Distinguished Unit Citation and battle honors for the Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns."
  "Combat engineers played important roles in numerous World War II battles, especially breaching the heavily fortified Siegfried Line protecting the German border and numerous defensive lines established by the Wehrmacht in Italy, including the Gustav Line. Among the most familiar for their heroism and contributions to establishing key bridgeheads in the European Theater was at the Ludendorff Bridge at the Battle of Remagen."

Copy of this citation accompanying Battle Honors recently awarded this Battalion is published for the information of all concerned:

          “The Second Engineer Combat Battalion is cited for outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy during the period, 13 December 1944 to 20 December 1944 in areas around ***, Belgium.

         As its  initial assignment, the Battalion proceeded to remove numerous road blocks, obstacles, and minefields on the only available supply road for the attack of the Division. This work was done under heavy artillery and mortar fire , within sight of the enemy, against adverse weather and over snow blanketed minefields. This road was cleared and opened up abreast , or even ahead of the assaulting Infantry troops advancing in the woods on either side.

          With the sudden German counter offensive in the West, one company of the Battalion was sent from the rear in bivouac and suffered severe casualties. Pulling itself together, this company furiously fought back against the German armored spearhead, destroying several tanks and many Infantrymen. Pocketed elements held out for three days, though completely surrounded , until all ammunition and food was exhausted, when they were finally overcome.

          Still other elements of the Battalion were twice thrown into the line as the only Infantry reserves to withstand the German push in the rear flank of the Division.  Another company constructed a final barrier and obstacle belt behind our withdrawing Infantry. Mines, road blocks and demolitions were placed under heavy enemy fire and amidst infiltrating enemy Infantry on all sides, thus delaying his pursuit of our withdrawal.

          Without rest from duties or clearing roads for advancing fighting as Infantry, and placing road blocks and obstacles for withdrawal, the Second Engineer Combat Battalion took up its all important mission of keeping the only escape route for the Division open.  This was a newly constructed one way road  across swamps and hills which in spite of severest conditions of melting snow and ice, drizzling rain, was kept passable for the unending  columns of tanks and trucks of the major part of two Divisions which had to withdraw over this route.  The men of the Battalion worked unceasingly, night and day, until the last vehicle of the Division was successfully extricated.

          All through the days of attack and withdrawal, the Second Engineer Combat Battalion skillfully, speedily, and courageously executed their tasks to assist and protect the Second Infantry Division in its combat missions. Through the seven day period, the Battalion worked and fought continuously suffering approximately twenty five percent casualties.  The outstanding performance of the officers and men of this unit, under  exceptionally difficult and hazardous conditions, exemplifies their deep devotion to duty and the highest traditions of the Corps of Engineers and the United States Army.
Photos relating to PFC Anthony E Jannace
PFC Anthony E Jannace

Purple Heart
PFC Anthony E Jannace was hit by mortar shrapnel, April 7, 1945 in Germany

Special presentation given to 
PFC Anthony E Jannace

US Army Medal of Commendation
presented for sustained acts of
heroism and meritorious service.

Bayonet issued by the U.S.A. Government
Other Bayonet was from the Nazi SS

Road to Victory
A brick was purchased by the veteran
or a family member to be placed at
the WW II Museum in New Orleans, LA

2019 Pilsen Liberation Festival Schedule

Thursday, April 18, 2019


2nd Division (Strike)
15th Field Artillery Battalion

'Allons/Lets Go'

On 10 October 1940, the 15th Field Artillery Regiment was reorganized at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, as the 15th Field Artillery Battalion. It was ordered to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin on 16 October 1942, for intensive training with the 2nd Infantry Division. Movement overseas came on 8 October 1943, when the Battalion sailed from New York on board the SS Hawaiian Shipper for Belfast, Northern Ireland, where it trained for several months.
Embarkation for Porthcawl, Wales, followed on 17 April, 1944. As part of the 9th Regimental Combat Team (consisting of the 9th Infantry Regiment and 15th Field Artillery Battalion), the Battalion landed at Omaha Beach near St. Laurent-Sur-Mer, France, on D Day +1 (7 June 1944). The Battalion fought for 73 straight days in support of the 2nd Infantry Division throughout Normandy without a break. Their first break in the combat action came on 19 August 1944. After the break the Battalion was ordered to move 220 miles and occupy firing positions for the battle against the German fortress at Brest, France. The battle that ensued was bloody and hard fought by all elements of the 2nd Infantry Division including the 15th Field Artillery Battalion. On 26 September 1944, 5 officers and 42 enlisted men of the Battalion were presented Bronze Star Medals, by the Division Commander, for their actions since D Day +1.
Following this, a 770 mile road march began on 27 September 1944 and carried the Battalion to Schoenberg, Belgium. By 4 October 1944, the Battalion crossed into Germany and opened fire on elements of both the 2nd and 3rd SS Panzer Grenadier Divisions. On 17 December 1944, the Battalion fought as an integral part of the 2nd Infantry Division's attack on the Siegfried Line near Elsenborn. The time from December 1944 through January 1945 became known as the Battle of the Bulge and the 2nd Infantry Division was an integral part in the Allies victory of that extensive battle. By 1 February 1945, the area known as Heartbreak Crossroads was taken after a multi-divisional battle. On 21 March 1945, the 15th Field Artillery Battalion crossed the Rhine River into Germany on a pontoon bridge near Remagen, and took up firing positions near the town of Leutesdorf. After several heavy engagements, the Battalion moved to new firing positions at the town of Vaake, near the Weser River, arriving there on 7 April 1945. Throughout the remainder of April 1945, the Battalion moved many times and even had to engage the enemy with direct fire from its howitzers. By 5 May 1945, the 2nd Infantry Division moved into Czechoslovakia along with the 15th Field Artillery Battalion. The war in Europe was officially over on 8 May 1945.
As their contribution to help defeat Nazi Germany and to win WWII, the 15th Field Artillery Battalion was in combat for 336 days and fired 151,000 rounds while providing direct fire support to the 2nd Infantry Division and general support to several other divisions. For their efforts and sacrifices the Battalion was awarded streamers for 5 major campaigns during WW II including: Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace; and Central Europe. Additionally, the Battalion was awarded the Belgian Fourragere, and was cited in the Order of the Day of the Belgian Army for extraordinary combat action in the battle of the Ardennes and Elsenborn Crest. Individual decorations awarded to members of the Battalion during WWII included: 6 Silver Star Medals; 91 Bronze Star Medals for Gallantry; 83 Bronze Star Medals for Meritorious Service; 20 Air Medals, and 168 Purple Hearts.

We have looked at my uncle's story about the war through the blog "World War II in the Words of My Uncle". As with any story, whether through letters, diaries, books, pictures, videos, oral conversations or other documentations; it was only able to give a snippet of the vast impact of World War II through out the world. An impact that still reverberates into our present society. A war that killed more people than any other war.

The soldiers, military leaders, and politicians impacted by WW II had a variety of reasons being involved in the war. We must not forget that millions of civilians were also impacted by the war. The death toll, injuries, lost of homes, towns, and jobs just scratches the surface of the varieties of damages done to physical property, human minds, human bodies and human souls. 

We are grateful for all Allies and Resistant Groups that fought to destroy the evil ideology of such countries as Germany, Italy and Japan. We, however, must admit with sadness the Allies were also involved in atrocities during and even after the war. Some actions were done due to the form of war brought on by Germany and those fighting with them. The Allies, as an example, did many air raids that destroyed innocent lives, but the raids were required if the Allies were to win the war. 
It is sad to say some members of the Allies did atrocities with full knowledge that their actions went beyond the need to win the war or to resolve issues after the war.

As we review the numbers of death etc listed at the end of this post, we must never forget each number represents a human being just like you and me. Each person who had their own hopes, dreams, families and friends wanting to live a life as best as they could have managed in peace. Unfortunately, since we are all born with a sinful nature, we can find some very evil members in our society. They stand out in history and are written about in books. However, let us remember and never forget the wrongs we all have done never written in a history book but will still have an impact on other people's lives as well as our own. Though not written down in the books of mankind, they are still written down by our Creator God and unless we allow God to forgive and change us, those actions of our sinful nature will impact us for all eternity.


Uncle Charlie's headstone

14 members of my family in alphabetical order who have served our country since 1900 PLUS my Uncle.


Lonestar - I'm Already There (Soldiers Tribute)

I wish to thank many individuals for helping me along the way to understand, clarify, appreciate, get in contact with others, get information in context and the list goes on. I will not list you by name because I am sure I will forget a person or group. To each of you I give you my deepest gratitude and appreciation. Thank you so much! Many of you have become friends though we never met in person, we shared many great moments even if the topics were sad at times. 
I will begin a new blog in the future describing the extensive training of nearly a year Uncle Charlie went through at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. Again in his words from nearly 90 letters he wrote in 1942 and 1943.