In Memoriam: The Boys Of Praha
It gave you a part in one thing that you would imagine in wholly and utterly and by which you felt an absolute brotherhood with the others who were engaged Frost in it. It was one thing that you simply had by no means identified before but that you had skilled now and you gave such importance to it and the reasons for it that your personal death seemed of complete unimportance; solely a thing to be prevented because it could interfere with the efficiency of your obligation.”
Ernest Hemingway – For Whom the Bell Tolls
They no longer exist. And even in the Texas farm nation where they have been boys, their names are slipping from memory. Individuals who reside among the many inexperienced hills here are hardly extra prone to learn about Praha’s loss than the strangers who journey the darkish farm-to-market roads of their pickups and minivans, taking scenic detours on their solution to Houston or San Antonio. That is understandable. Being told the factual history doesn’t make the reality about Praha more believable. A trip, nevertheless, to the church and cemetery at Praha will leave the customer carrying away a distinctly American heartache.
The few thousand guests traveling to Praha for Veterans Day ceremonies method 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. Highway ninety, immediately at the Church of St. Mary’s Assumption. Close to the cemetery, the pavement curls back deferentially to the west and infrequent site visitors passes quietly, the distant hiss of wheels on asphalt inadequate to disturb the serenity of a spot many U.S. military veterans have come to view as almost holy.
Praha offers old troopers a measurement of types for concepts like the worth of freedom. There’s, though, something incalculable, unimaginable to assess and even perceive, in regards to the sad history of Praha. As we speak, it’s little greater than a ghost of a town with solely about two dozen residents. The brand new Handbook of Texas claims the inhabitants by no means surpassed 100 individuals through the 20th century. Those numbers are where the anguish begins in Praha’s tearful truth.
After Veterans Day ceremonies conclude, the curious and the proud stand in entrance of the nine graves. There, they try to grasp how warfare’s bloody arm could reach this far, gather up this a lot 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 in the destinies of these 9 fallen farm boys. Little Praha was not protected from World War 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 passed. Three more sons of Praha went down in France, starting the week after D-Day. The Warfare Division sent notices of loss of life to the families 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 grew to become a casualty of war two days after Christmas 1944. Pvt. Joseph Lev, shot within the stomach throughout the attack 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 have been misplaced, ironically, as an Allied victory appeared inevitable.
Within the house 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 soldiers are buried within the Praha cemetery in two rows of four and three; Eddie Sbrusch’s empty grave lies just to the northeast; George Pavlicek’s remains relaxation in a family plot throughout the stroll. Veterans Day 2002 finds the tombstones marked with small fluttering flags, toppled vases of plastic flowers, and picket posts mounted with army service shields and American Legion emblems. The graveyard is unprotected from the urgent Texas solar, however nearby a centuries-old publish oak tree reaches out with a promise of eventual shade.
These men are remembered, but not broadly, and they’re honored by name each Veterans Day. The loss to their families, nevertheless, and to the parish of Praha, is barely acknowledged by Cheap Stone Island historical past. The commonality of their sacrifice, it has been argued, is what made it so powerful and gave America a source of righteousness. Veterans who collect, on the Praha church grounds every Nov. 11 tell bystanders, “Without places like Praha, there can be no place just like the United States.” However what struggle did to Praha nonetheless hurts. And it all the time will. Finally, the city itself — mortally wounded by circumstance — became a casualty.
When the route alignment of the Southern Pacific Railroad situated the tracks about a mile north, Praha’s population and financial system have been drawn away to the prospects of a rail line. A city named Flatonia, simply over the rise from the Praha Catholic Church, became an agricultural crossroads and a stop on the Southern Pacific route. Money and enterprise left Praha to develop with Flatonia. Praha was by no means to become much grander than a small country parish with farm and ranch families settled on acreages across the gothic church construction.
At the outset of World War II, Flatonia and Praha had been no totally different than many other rural communities throughout the stone island sale eckerle American landscape. Patriotic fervor led people to assemble scrap steel and rubber, delivering the supplies further east on the rail line to the bigger city of Schulenberg. Young men had been coming in from the countryside to enlist and say their goodbyes earlier than leaving for boot camp and deployment overseas. To name it a easier time, though, is to belittle the emotional and intellectual complexity involved in the choice to serve. Even alongside the dirt roads of Fayette County, Texas, households understood that Hitler and Japan represented more than just a menace to Europe and the Pacific.
Nonetheless, nobody was able to ignore the patriotic enthusiasm that adopted the boys through their army careers. As they went away for training and responsibility, tales about them started to seem on the entrance pages of the local newspapers. The Flatonia Argus ran images and headlines of hometown troopers at any time when they had been promoted in rank or had been dispatched to an essential battle. Letters written residence from the entrance or from basic training had been typically printed on the front page of The Schulenberg Sticker. Caught up within the national compulsion to sacrifice and serve, no headline was too bold nor any copy too excessive.
A 1943 version of the weekly Flatonia paper included a full-page ad urging residents to purchase extra warfare bonds. The message, with its stirring illustration, will need to have undone every conscience in a five-county region. The drawing within the ad reveals a soldier with his mouth open and eyes bulging in shock. Beneath his stricken countenance, the bold typeface asks, “I died at the moment. What did you do “
In Praha, they started to undergo. A discover of the group’s first casualty was delivered in March 1944. As an alternative of a bold headline and a photograph, The Flatonia Argus reported the dying with a few matter-of-reality traces of copy in its March sixteen, 1944, edition.
“The Warfare Division has notified Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bohuslav that their son, Pfc. Robert Bohuslav, was killed in action in Northern Africa. Companies have been held in St. Mary’s church in Praha this previous Sunday. Bohuslav died in Africa on Feb. 3, 1944. In addition to his dad and mom, he is survived by two brothers, Ernest Bohuslav of Halletsville and Herman Bohuslav of Praha.” The reporter didn’t point out the names of Bohuslav’s sisters.
“There is not a Sunday in church when I do not suppose about him and pray for him,” mentioned Herman Bohuslav of Corpus Christi. “He was my big brother and he was all the things to me. I can nonetheless see the two males from the Military developing our farmyard to offer the message to Momma and Daddy. It took me a number of years earlier than I used to be even able to consider it had happened. I just kept believing my brother would come residence.”
At age seventy four, Herman Bohuslav has enjoyed the complete life that conflict robbed from his brother. He settled on the Texas coast with his spouse, opened a grocery store and gasoline station, and raised 5 youngsters who’ve supplied him with sixteen grandchildren. Bohuslav, nevertheless, has neither bitterness nor anger over his brother’s destiny.
“I’m certain what he did, he did for us,” Bohuslav stated. “I imply, there were some evil folks on the planet again then, you realize. And one thing needed to be accomplished. My brother was a part of what needed to be carried out.”
A scan of subsequent editions of the Flatonia publication presents no further information of how Pfc. Bohuslav encountered his destiny. No reportage is current to point the battlefield or his mission in Africa. The details of the tip of Pfc. Bohuslav’s life are undoubtedly locked up in Pentagon recordsdata in Washington on a database or in a drawer the place his story is just not simply accessed. Beyond the fence line of the Praha cemetery, Pfc. Robert Bohuslav is hardly more than a statistic.
To his family, nonetheless, he’s the one who missed all of 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 personal’s oldest sister is 85 and his eldest brother is 83. As a substitute of working the farm, although, 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 in opposition to the Japanese, Lev was part of the ground assault at Luzon Island. The announcement of his death was published within the Flatonia paper with the imminently predictable language.
“Mr. and Mrs. Emil J. Lev had been notified by the Conflict Department final week …”
Lev, who got here from a family of six youngsters, was killed in motion in July 1944. Apparently, the Lev family had too many youngsters for the paper to record their names, and the 2 short paragraphs concluded with the information that one brother and 4 sisters survived Lev. Argus’ headline pronouncing Lev’s death was accorded no larger kind than articles of lesser consequence, such as “Backyard Membership to meet 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 film. Had been it scripted, producers might have called his demise 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 instantly took a bullet in the stomach from a Japanese sniper and went down, doomed to slowly bleed to dying after surviving the island’s fiercest battle.
The narrative of the letter to Anders claimed Lev begged his comrade to write down dwelling 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 Phrase Missionaries, who had been serving the native children. In his remaining breath, Lev dictated to the soldier that his life’s savings be despatched to the new Guinea missionaries. On Feb. 15, 1945, Divine Phrase Missionaries acquired a examine for $four,204.11 from a Praha boy, who died in the tropical sands not far from the place the missionaries served.
Dying in fight, after all, isn’t glorious. Unintentional, almost meaningless casualties might be much more painful. Mr. and Mrs. Joe Sbrusch of Praha had heard their son, Eddie, had been taken as a prisoner of warfare in Luzon. In uniform, photographed before going overseas, Pvt. Sbrusch had a head of curly, disorganized hair offset by virtually pointed ears. His face made him seem diminutive, however his broad smile showed him keen and his eyes ready.
On Sept. 7, 1944, the Japanese had been shifting 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 had been never recovered. The Flatonia Argus wrote that his mother and father, two brothers and one sister survived him.
The boys of Praha reside now solely as fading recollections and sepia-toned pictures. 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 through Mass and Sunday sermons as boys, the show gets no extra attention than may a bunch picture of an area championship baseball group. On the church grounds, however, 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 tender, boyish features give him away as delicate and mental. Jerry Vaculik and Anton Kresta appear thoughtful, whereas Eddie Marek is completely satisfied and dimpled. Wanting at the expectant grin of Rudolph Barta, anyone might assume he lived a wholesome and financially rewarding life, which ought to be just 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 misplaced sons of Praha. Names and images are arranged in an ideal row alongside the bottom of the marble pedestal. Dates and areas of their deaths are carved into the stone. No one can easily enter the cemetery without first confronting the rock monument and pondering the wives and children these men by no means knew, the work they by no means lived to perform, the dreams they never pursued.
In contrast to Veterans Day, on most days of the year no one is current to be taught the tales of these men. Visitors spot the light flag over Eddie Marek’s headstone and the vase of plastic buttercups, tipped on its aspect the place Anton Kresta lies. On both facet of the graveyard fence, the land lowers easily into a inexperienced world the place things are growing and individuals are residing one other season in freedom.
Nothing ever changes right here until the Sunday morning before Veterans Day when U.S. army servicemen and ladies from throughout the country gather to listen to speeches, which never come near explaining this loss. Their minds are forced to simplify the tragedy of Praha. Vintage aircraft fly overhead; one peels off into the missing man formation, and flowers are dropped, settling like a sad rain across the cemetery. The tears fall quicker.
In the event that they had been to look in a Fayette County phone e-book before returning home, visitors to Praha may acknowledge just a few surnames. Mostly, though, the relations of the nine lost boys of Praha have unfold out, moved away and lived out their time in quiet anonymity. Their lineages are disappearing while battle survives.
Earlier than he died, Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient Roy Benavides of close by El Campo, Texas, informed a Veterans Day crowd at Praha that “people have to learn about this place. They need to hear about what occurred. They want to grasp.”
Understanding could prove eternally not possible. But if every leader of every nation have been first made to visit Praha before declaring battle, the world is likely to be forever modified.
Comply with James Moore on Twitter: www.twitter.com/moorethink
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