In May 1945, western Czechoslovakia was liberated by US forces under General Patton in World War II. Amid a week of commemoration in Pilsen, a new monument to the US forces now stands in nearby Konstantinovy Lazne.
The town of Konstantinovy Lazne is a sleepy spa town in western Czech Republic. From appearances alone, the town doesn’t particularly stand out, but historically, Konstantinovy Lazne played a significant role in the liberation of Czechoslovakia in World War II.
Seventy-seven years ago, American General George S. Patton’s Third Army rolled into Konstantinovy Lazne and set up command posts for several divisions.
While many American troops were eager to head east and liberate the capital city of Prague, they were told to stay put in Konstantinovy Lazne.
President Harry Truman and General Dwight Eisenhower were both keen to avoid conflict with Stalin, who saw eastern Europe as the spoils of war after sacrificing millions of Soviet lives to defeat the Nazis. General George Patton was ordered to halt his advance west of Prague. In the end, most of Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Red Army, sealing its fate as a Soviet satellite state.
Being told to stay out of Prague was a source of frustration for some American soldiers.
“That was one of my father’s greatest disappointments in his life,” said Charles Noble, son of Colonel Charles Noble, who was in charge of the Combat Command B of the 16th Armoured Division in Konstantinovy Lazne. “Some of his troops got to within eleven miles of Prague, and it’s reported that some [scouts] even got into Prague, but not the main forces.”
Noble said Patton wanted to liberate all of Czechoslovakia if he could. But Patton’s grandson, George Patton Waters, said Patton was simply following orders.
“[General Patton] was a warrior, not a politician,” said Waters at the ceremony in Konstantinovy Lazne. “General Eisenhower was a politician. You have to remember that the Russians lost 23 million people to do what they did. We lost in the hundreds of thousands. I think that General Patton was given an order and he carried it out.”