On my recent visit to Czech Republic I stopped to pay my respects at the memorial of American fliers near Palacov (see picture bellow) as I stop there every time I’m in the country. This memorial honors the young men who paid the ultimate price so all of us can be free. The crew of this B-24 perished during the air battle over the White Carpathian Mountains, Moravia, now Czech Republic, during the WW2. The air battle conducted by 15. Army Air Corps and the Luftwaffe that occurred in the Moravian sky on December 17, 1944 was a horrific event. A total of 527 B-17 and B-24 along with 300 P-38 and Mustang-51 planes took off from airports in Italy. The targets were the synthetic fuel manufacturing facilities in Oderlau and Blechhammeru (in today’s Poland). The bombers formed 3 attack groups over Yugoslavia and proceeded to these targets. One of the groups was attacked by 100 of Messerschmidtt Bf 109G and Focke-Wulf 190A interceptors from the elite squadron JG 300 “Wilde Sau” designated to defend the Reich over Moravia near Olomouc and Prerov. The Luftwaffe interceptors took off from airfields as far Berlin to intercept the bombers. In the ensuing battle 51 German and 27 American planes were lost – a total of 222 fliers on both sides. The battle was named “Bloody Sunday”. They were brave young men on both sides. I bet this did not come out on any of the Hollywood history media… There is the list of some of the fliers (including Germans) killed or wounded near my grandparents home. The fate of some of the fliers on both sides remain mystery till today.
There are sites like this one all over Czech Republic. Most of the memorials were erected right after the end of the war and maintained through the time. There were a number of crashes near my grandparents’ home and some of the crews were actually saved by the locals and hidden till the end of the war. This particular B-24 was hit by AAA fire and the crew unloaded their payload into the fields before the crash. Unfortunately their altitude was too low for parachutes so they all perished. They were buried by locals at the site in the picture. Some of these boys were from Chicago or Illinois and their remains were exhumed in 1990 and moved home.
In other case the payload from a wounded bomber was released onto my grandfather’s fields where he was supposed to work that day. For some reason he changed his mind that fatal morning to go somewhere else. My grandfather saw the explosions from 10 kilometers away. It took weeks to fill the craters left after the explosions.
My mother told me stories about the annual pieties or remembrance for the fliers at the memorial which was in the field where they crashed in the 1950s during the dark ages of communist tyranny. There were typically hundreds of people present and Veřejná bezpečnost (the communist uniform police) and Státní tajná bezpečnost (the communist secret police) were trying to intimidate and disrupt the memorials and WW2 commemorative events, however with little success. The locals are hard people and in the countryside the communist officials were not too successful. The stories from around here are unbelievable and are worth some serious documentation. When I was standing in the field alone and closed my eyes, I swear, I could hear the screams of the boys in their final moments. It was quite an emotional experience for me personally.