In Memoriam: The Boys Of Praha
It gave you an element in one thing that you can consider in wholly and completely and by which you felt an absolute brotherhood with the others who were engaged in it. It was something that you just had never recognized before however that you just had experienced now and also you gave such importance to it and the explanations for it that your own demise seemed of full unimportance; only a factor to be averted as a result of it will interfere with the efficiency of your obligation.”
Ernest Hemingway – For Whom the Bell Tolls
They not exist. And even within the Texas farm country the place they were boys, their names are slipping from reminiscence. Individuals who dwell among the inexperienced hills listed below are hardly extra likely to find out about Praha’s loss than the strangers who travel the dark farm-to-market roads of their pickups and minivans, taking scenic detours on their option to Houston or San Antonio. This is understandable. Being advised the factual historical past does not make the reality about Praha extra believable. A visit, nevertheless, to the church and cemetery at Praha will depart the customer carrying away a distinctly American heartache.
The few thousand visitors touring to Praha for Veterans Day ceremonies strategy from the north, noticing first the stark, white steeple of the parish church, which hovers brightly over the panorama. The blacktop of FM 1295 runs south off of U.S. Freeway ninety, instantly at the Church of St. Mary’s Assumption. Close to the cemetery, the pavement curls again deferentially to the west and infrequent traffic passes quietly, the distant hiss of wheels on asphalt inadequate to disturb the serenity of a spot many U.S. army veterans have come to view as virtually holy.
Praha offers outdated troopers a measurement of types for concepts like the price of freedom. There’s, although, something incalculable, inconceivable to evaluate or even understand, about the unhappy historical past of Praha. As we speak, it is little more than a ghost of a town with solely about two dozen residents. The brand new Handbook of Texas claims the population by no means surpassed a hundred people in the course of the twentieth century. These numbers are where the anguish begins in Praha’s tearful fact.
After Veterans Day ceremonies conclude, the curious and the proud stand in front of the 9 graves. There, they struggle to understand how battle’s bloody arm might attain this far, gather up this much life and destroy it. By the dates on their tombstones and the locales of the deaths, the Allied offensive in opposition to the Nazis, Mussolini and the Japanese is recorded within the destinies of these nine fallen farm boys. Little Praha was not protected from World Conflict II by statistical improbabilities.
Pfc. Robert Bohuslav died Feb. Three, 1944, after Patton’s and Rommel’s tanks had already driven deep into North Africa, and the worst of the fight had handed. Three extra sons of Praha went down in France, beginning the week after D-Day. The Warfare Division sent notices of death to the households of Pfc. Rudolph L. Barta, June 16; 1944; Pfc. George D. Pavlicek, July 7, 1944; and Pfc. Jerry B. Vaculik, July 23, 1944. In Italy, Pfc. Adolph E. Rab became a casualty of conflict two days after Christmas 1944. Pvt. Joseph Lev, shot within the stomach through the assault of Luzon Island, died July 24, 1944. Pfc. Anton Kresta Jr.’s life ended in that very same tropical theater on Feb. 12, 1945. On Sept. 7, 1944, Pvt. Eddie Sbrusch was misplaced at sea within the Pacific. Nineteen days later, Pfc. Edward J. Marek died in battle at Pelelieu Island. All their lives had been misplaced, ironically, as an Allied victory appeared inevitable.
In the area of 12 months and 9 days, Praha gave up most of its youth — and almost all of its future — to confront unimaginable types of evil on faraway continents.
The troopers are buried within the Praha cemetery in two rows of 4 and three; Eddie Sbrusch’s empty grave lies just to the northeast; George Pavlicek’s stays relaxation in a household plot throughout the walk. Veterans Day 2002 finds the tombstones marked with small fluttering flags, toppled vases of plastic flowers, and wooden posts mounted with navy service shields and American Legion emblems. The graveyard is unprotected from the urgent Texas solar, however close by a centuries-old post oak tree reaches out with a promise of eventual shade.
These men are remembered, however not widely, and they are honored by title each Veterans Day. The loss to their households, nevertheless, and to the parish of Praha, is barely acknowledged by history. The commonality of their sacrifice, it has been argued, is what made it so powerful and gave America a supply of righteousness. Veterans who collect, on the Praha church grounds every Nov. 11 inform bystanders, “With out locations like Praha, there would be no place like the United States.” However what struggle did to Praha nonetheless hurts. And it at all times will. Lastly, the town itself — mortally wounded by circumstance — grew to become a casualty.
When the route alignment of the Southern Pacific Railroad situated the tracks a few mile north, Praha’s inhabitants and economy were drawn away to the prospects of a rail line. A city named Flatonia, just over the rise from the Praha Catholic Church, turned an agricultural crossroads and a stop on the Southern Pacific route. Cash and enterprise left Praha to develop with Flatonia. Praha was by no means to change into a lot grander than a small nation parish with farm and ranch households settled on acreages across the gothic church structure.
At the outset of World Struggle II, Flatonia and Praha were no different than many different rural communities across the American landscape. Patriotic fervor led people to collect scrap metallic and rubber, delivering the supplies additional east on the rail line to the larger city of Schulenberg. Younger males were coming in from the countryside to enlist and say their goodbyes earlier than leaving for boot camp and deployment overseas. To name it a simpler time, although, is to belittle the emotional and mental complexity involved in the choice to serve. Even alongside the dirt roads of Fayette County, Texas, families understood that Hitler and Japan represented greater than just a risk to Europe and the Pacific.
Nonetheless, no one was in a position to disregard the patriotic enthusiasm that adopted the boys by way of their military careers. As they went away for coaching and duty, tales about them started to seem on the entrance pages of the native newspapers. The Flatonia Argus ran pictures and headlines of hometown soldiers each time they have been promoted in rank or had been dispatched to an necessary battle. Letters written home from the front or from fundamental coaching had been often printed on the front web page of The Schulenberg Sticker. Caught up in the national compulsion to sacrifice and serve, no headline was too daring nor any copy too excessive.
A 1943 version of the weekly Flatonia paper included a full-page advert urging residents to buy extra war bonds. The message, with its stirring illustration, will need to have undone every conscience in a 5-county region. The drawing in the ad exhibits a soldier along with his mouth open and eyes bulging in shock. Beneath his stricken countenance, the daring typeface asks, “I died as we speak. What did you do “
In Praha, they started to suffer. A discover of the neighborhood’s first casualty was delivered in March 1944. Instead of a daring headline and a photograph, The Flatonia Argus reported the demise with a couple of matter-of-truth lines of copy in its March 16, 1944, version.
“The Warfare Division has notified Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bohuslav that their son, Pfc. Robert Bohuslav, was killed in motion in Northern Africa. Companies had been held in St. Mary’s church in Praha this previous Sunday. Bohuslav died in Africa on Feb. 3, 1944. Along with his parents, he is survived by two brothers, Ernest Bohuslav of Halletsville and Herman Bohuslav of Praha.” The reporter didn’t mention the names of Bohuslav’s sisters.
“There shouldn’t be a Sunday in church when I do not assume about him and pray for him,” mentioned Herman Bohuslav of Corpus Christi. “He was my huge brother and he was everything to me. I can nonetheless see the 2 males from the Army developing our farmyard to provide the message to Momma and Daddy. It took me a number of years earlier than I used to be even capable of believe it had happened. I simply stored believing my brother would come home.”
At age 74, Herman Bohuslav has loved the complete life that struggle robbed from his brother. He settled on the Texas coast together with his spouse, opened a grocery retailer and gasoline station, and raised 5 children who’ve provided him with 16 grandchildren. Bohuslav, however, has neither bitterness nor anger over his brother’s destiny.
“I am positive what he did, he did for us,” Bohuslav said. “I imply, there were some evil people on the planet again then, you recognize. And one thing needed to be done. My brother was part of what wanted to be executed.”
A scan of subsequent editions of the Flatonia publication offers no additional data of how Pfc. Bohuslav encountered his destiny. No reportage is present to indicate the battlefield or his mission in Africa. The main points of the top of Pfc. Bohuslav’s life are undoubtedly locked up in Pentagon information in Washington on a database or in a drawer the place his story is not simply accessed. Beyond the fence line of the Praha cemetery, Pfc. Robert Bohuslav is hardly more than a statistic.
To his family, however, he is the one who missed all the years with children and travel and vacations and holidays. He may need lived to 90, as did his father, or to his mid-80s, like his brother and sister. Bohuslavs are given to longevity. The private’s oldest sister is 85 and his eldest brother is 83. As a substitute of working the farm, though, Pfc. Bohuslav commanded a bazooka, won two Purple Hearts and died on foreign soil.
The public was advised barely more about Pfc. Joseph Lev of Praha. As the U.S. began an offensive towards the Japanese, Lev was part stone island garment dyed zip bomber jacket of the ground assault at Luzon Island. The announcement of his death was published in the Flatonia paper with the imminently predictable language.
“Mr. and Mrs. Emil J. Lev were notified by the Struggle Department last week …”
Lev, who came from a family of six youngsters, was killed in action in July 1944. Apparently, the Lev household had too many youngsters for the paper to listing their names, and the two brief paragraphs concluded with the information that one brother and 4 sisters survived Lev. Argus’ headline pronouncing Lev’s dying was accorded no larger type than articles of lesser consequence, akin to “Backyard Club to satisfy Sat.” and “Barbecue Set for Labor Day.”
Regardless of how Pvt. Lev’s days unfolded previous to Luzon, his ending bore the drama of a movie. Were it scripted, producers might need called his death too saccharine a scene to be plausible. The Rev. John Anders, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Praha, notified the Schulenberg Sticker of a plea from Lev as he lay mortally wounded. Anders had received a letter from a soldier who had been subsequent to the Praha man. Lev abruptly took a bullet in the stomach from a Japanese sniper and went down, doomed to slowly bleed to demise after surviving the island’s fiercest battle.
The narrative of the letter to Anders claimed Lev begged his comrade to put in writing home to his parents about the disposition of his will. In New Guinea – before transport out for the entrance — Lev had been emotionally overwhelmed by the work of the Divine Word Missionaries, who had been serving the native children. In his remaining breath, Lev dictated to the soldier that his life’s savings be sent to the new Guinea missionaries. On Feb. 15, 1945, Divine Word Missionaries received a examine for $four,204.11 from a Praha boy, who died in the tropical sands not far from the place the missionaries served.
Loss of life in fight, of course, isn’t glorious. Unintentional, almost meaningless casualties will be much more painful. Mr. and Mrs. Joe Sbrusch of Praha had heard their son, Eddie, had been taken as a prisoner of struggle in Luzon. In uniform, photographed before going overseas, Pvt. Sbrusch had a head of curly, disorganized hair offset by nearly pointed ears. His face made him seem diminutive, however his wide smile showed him eager and his eyes ready.
On Sept. 7, 1944, the Japanese were moving POWs from the Philippines to an unknown location when a U.S. vessel attacked the transport carrying the flag of the rising solar. American commanders, unaware their very own men had been in the hold of the Japanese ship, launched a torpedo and sank the transport. Japanese authorities later reported 750 Americans have been aboard. Pvt. Sbrusch’s remains were never recovered. The Flatonia Argus wrote that his mother and father, two brothers and one sister survived him.
The boys of Praha live now solely as fading memories and sepia-toned images. A small sheet of paper posted on the western wall of their Praha church displays all their portraits. Within the sanctuary the place they sat by Mass and Sunday sermons as boys, the show gets no more attention than may a bunch photo of a local championship baseball crew. On the church grounds, nonetheless, three separate prayer chapels have been built of their honor.
In his image, Lev’s service cap is cocked to the aspect of his head to counsel indifference, however his soft, boyish features give him away as sensitive and intellectual. Jerry Vaculik and Anton Kresta appear considerate, while Eddie Marek is happy and dimpled. Looking on the expectant grin of Rudolph Barta, anyone may suppose he lived a wholesome and financially rewarding life, which ought to be simply concluding with the laughter of grandchildren at his feet.
Behind the church at the gated entry to the cemetery, a memorial stands to honor the lost sons of Praha. Names and photos are organized in an ideal row alongside the underside of the marble pedestal. Dates and areas of their deaths are carved into the stone. Nobody can simply enter the cemetery with out first confronting the rock monument and pondering the wives and children these men never knew, the work they by no means lived to perform, the goals they by no means pursued.
In contrast to Veterans Day, on most days of the yr no one is current to be taught the tales of these males. Visitors spot the light flag over Eddie Marek’s headstone and the vase of plastic buttercups, tipped on its side where Anton Kresta lies. On both facet of the graveyard fence, the land lowers easily right into a inexperienced world the place issues are rising and people are dwelling one other season in freedom.
Nothing ever changes right here till the Sunday morning earlier than Veterans Day when U.S. military servicemen and ladies from throughout the nation gather to listen to speeches, which by no means come near explaining this loss. Their minds are forced to simplify the tragedy of Praha. Vintage aircraft fly overhead; one peels off into the lacking man formation, and flowers are dropped, settling like a unhappy rain throughout the cemetery. The tears fall faster.
In the event that they have been to look in a Fayette County telephone e-book earlier than returning residence, guests to Praha may acknowledge just a few surnames. Principally, although, the relations of the nine misplaced boys of Praha have spread out, moved away and lived out their time in quiet anonymity. Their lineages are disappearing while conflict survives.
Earlier than he died, Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient Roy Benavides of nearby El Campo, Texas, advised a Veterans Day crowd at Praha that “people have to find out about this place. They need to listen to about what happened. They need to grasp.”
Understanding might prove eternally not possible. But when each chief of every nation had been first made to go to Praha earlier than declaring conflict, the world may be without end changed.
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