In Memoriam: The Boys Of Praha
It gave you a part in one thing that you could possibly consider in wholly and utterly and in which you felt an absolute brotherhood with the others who had been engaged in it. Project It was one thing that you just had never identified earlier than however that you simply had skilled now and also you gave such importance to it and the explanations for it that your individual loss of life appeared of complete unimportance; solely a factor to be avoided as a result of it would interfere with the efficiency of your responsibility.”
Ernest Hemingway – For Whom the Bell Tolls
They no longer exist. And even in the Texas farm nation where they had been boys, their names are slipping from memory. Individuals who reside among the green hills listed here are hardly more more likely to find out 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 strategy to Houston or San Antonio. This is comprehensible. Being told the factual historical past doesn’t make the reality about Praha more believable. A visit, nevertheless, to the church and cemetery at Praha will go away 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 landscape. The blacktop of FM 1295 runs south off of U.S. Freeway ninety, directly at the Church of St. Mary’s Assumption. Close to the cemetery, the pavement curls again 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 gives previous soldiers a measurement of types for concepts like the worth of freedom. There’s, though, something incalculable, unimaginable to assess or even perceive, in regards to the sad historical past of Praha. Right now, it is little greater than a ghost of a city with solely about two dozen residents. The new Handbook of Texas claims the inhabitants never surpassed 100 people during the 20th century. Those numbers are the place the anguish begins in Praha’s tearful fact.
After Veterans Day ceremonies conclude, the curious and the proud stand in front of the nine graves. There, they try to comprehend how warfare’s bloody arm might reach 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 towards the Nazis, Mussolini and the Japanese is recorded in the destinies of these nine fallen farm boys. Little Praha was not protected from World Warfare II by statistical improbabilities.
Pfc. Robert Bohuslav died Feb. 3, 1944, after Patton’s and Rommel’s tanks had already driven deep into North Africa, and the worst of the combat had handed. Three more sons of Praha went down in France, beginning the week after D-Day. The Warfare Department despatched 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 struggle 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 in the Pacific. Nineteen days later, Pfc. Edward J. Marek died in battle at Pelelieu Island. All their lives were lost, ironically, as an Allied victory appeared inevitable.
Within the space of 12 months and nine days, Praha gave up most of its youth — and nearly all of its future — to confront unimaginable forms of evil on faraway continents.
The troopers are buried in the Praha cemetery in two rows of four and three; Eddie Sbrusch’s empty grave lies simply to the northeast; George Pavlicek’s stays rest in a family 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 military service shields and American Legion emblems. The graveyard is unprotected from the urgent Texas sun, however nearby a centuries-outdated submit oak tree reaches out with a promise of eventual shade.
These males are remembered, however not broadly, and they are honored by name each Veterans Day. The loss to their families, however, 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 source of righteousness. Veterans who collect, on the Praha church grounds every Nov. 11 inform bystanders, “With out places like Praha, there can be no place just like the United States.” But what battle did to Praha still hurts. And it always will. Finally, the town itself — mortally wounded by circumstance — turned a casualty.
When the route alignment of the Southern Pacific Railroad situated the tracks a few mile north, Praha’s population and financial system were 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 cease on the Southern Pacific route. Money and enterprise left Praha to grow with Flatonia. Praha was by no means to become a lot grander than a small country parish with farm and ranch families settled on acreages across the gothic church construction.
On the outset of World Struggle II, Flatonia and Praha were no different than many other rural communities across the American landscape. Patriotic fervor led folks to collect scrap steel and rubber, delivering the supplies additional east on the rail line to the bigger city of Schulenberg. Younger men were coming in from the countryside to enlist and say their goodbyes before leaving for boot camp and deployment overseas. To name it a simpler time, although, is to belittle the emotional and intellectual complexity concerned in the decision to serve. Even alongside the dirt roads of Fayette County, Texas, households understood that Hitler and Japan represented greater than just a risk to Europe and the Pacific.
Nonetheless, no one was able to ignore the patriotic enthusiasm that adopted the boys by means of their army careers. As they went away for coaching and obligation, tales about them started to seem on the entrance pages of the native newspapers. The Flatonia Argus ran photos and headlines of hometown soldiers at any time when they have been promoted in rank or had been dispatched to an necessary battle. Letters written home from the entrance or from fundamental coaching had been typically printed on the entrance web page of The Schulenberg Sticker. Caught up in the nationwide 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 advert urging residents to purchase more conflict bonds. The message, with its stirring illustration, will need to have undone each conscience in a five-county region. The drawing within the ad reveals a soldier along with his mouth open and eyes bulging in shock. Beneath his stricken countenance, the daring typeface asks, “I died at this time. What did you do “
In Praha, they began to endure. A discover of the group’s first casualty was delivered in March 1944. Instead of a bold headline and a photograph, The Flatonia Argus reported the death with a few matter-of-fact lines of copy in its March 16, 1944, edition.
“The Conflict Division has notified Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bohuslav that their son, Pfc. Robert Bohuslav, was killed in motion in Northern Africa. Companies have been held in St. Mary’s church in Praha this past Sunday. Bohuslav died in Africa on Feb. Three, 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 is not a Sunday in church when I do not assume about him and pray for him,” mentioned Herman Bohuslav of Corpus Christi. “He was my big brother and he was everything to me. I can still see the 2 males from the Army developing our farmyard to present the message to Momma and Daddy. It took me a number of years earlier than I used to be even able to believe it had occurred. I just kept believing my brother would come house.”
At age 74, Herman Bohuslav has enjoyed the full life that warfare robbed from his brother. He settled on the Texas coast with his spouse, opened a grocery retailer and gasoline station, and raised 5 children who’ve provided him with sixteen grandchildren. Bohuslav, nevertheless, has neither bitterness nor anger over his brother’s fate.
“I’m positive what he did, he did for us,” Bohuslav said. “I mean, there were some evil folks on the earth back then, you realize. And one thing had to be completed. My brother was a part of what needed to be done.”
A scan of subsequent editions of the Flatonia publication gives no extra information of how Pfc. Bohuslav encountered his fate. 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 information in Washington on a database or in a drawer where his story shouldn’t be simply accessed. Past the fence line of the Praha cemetery, Pfc. Robert Bohuslav is hardly greater than a statistic.
To his household, however, he is the one who missed all the years with kids and travel and holidays and holidays. He may need lived to ninety, as did his father, or to his mid-80s, like his brother and sister. Bohuslavs are given to longevity. The non-public’s oldest sister is 85 and his red stone island badge 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 slightly extra about Pfc. Joseph Lev of Praha. As the U.S. began an offensive against the Japanese, Lev was a part of the ground assault at Luzon Island. The announcement of his loss of life was printed within the Flatonia paper with the imminently predictable language.
“Mr. and Mrs. Emil J. Lev had been notified by the Battle Division last week …”
Lev, who came from a family of six youngsters, was killed in motion in July 1944. Apparently, the Lev household had too many youngsters for the paper to record their names, and the two quick paragraphs concluded with the knowledge that one brother and four sisters survived Lev. Argus’ headline pronouncing Lev’s loss of life was accorded no bigger kind than articles of lesser consequence, akin to “Backyard Membership to fulfill Sat.” and “Barbecue Set for Labor Day.”
Regardless of how Pvt. Lev’s days unfolded prior to Luzon, his ending bore the drama of a movie. Had been it scripted, producers may need known as 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 acquired 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 death after surviving the island’s fiercest battle.
The narrative of the letter to Anders claimed Lev begged his comrade to write down home to his dad and mom 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 financial savings be sent to the new Guinea missionaries. On Feb. 15, 1945, Divine Phrase Missionaries obtained a examine for $4,204.11 from a Praha boy, who died in the tropical sands not far from the place the missionaries served.
Loss of life in combat, in fact, isn’t glorious. Unintended, nearly meaningless casualties could be even 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 vast smile showed him eager 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 males were within 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 have been by no means recovered. The Flatonia Argus wrote that his mother and father, two brothers and one sister survived him.
The boys of Praha live now only as fading reminiscences and sepia-toned photographs. A small sheet of paper posted on the western wall of their Praha church displays all their portraits. In the sanctuary where they sat by Mass and Sunday sermons as boys, the show will get no extra attention than would possibly a gaggle photo of an area championship baseball workforce. On the church grounds, nevertheless, three separate prayer chapels have been built in their honor.
In his picture, Lev’s service cap is cocked to the side of his head to suggest indifference, however his smooth, boyish options give him away as delicate and mental. Jerry Vaculik and Anton Kresta appear thoughtful, while Eddie Marek is comfortable and dimpled. Wanting on the expectant grin of Rudolph Barta, anybody might assume he lived a healthy and financially rewarding life, which ought to be just concluding with the laughter of grandchildren at his ft.
Behind the church on 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 along the underside of the marble pedestal. Dates and places 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 youngsters these men never knew, the work they never lived to carry out, the dreams they never pursued.
Unlike Veterans Day, on most days of the 12 months no one is current to study the stories of those men. Guests spot the pale flag over Eddie Marek’s headstone and the vase of plastic buttercups, tipped on its facet where Anton Kresta lies. On either aspect of the graveyard fence, the land lowers simply into a green world where issues are rising and people are dwelling one other season in freedom.
Nothing ever modifications right here until the Sunday morning earlier than Veterans Day when U.S. Stone Island Uk army servicemen and girls from throughout the country gather to take heed 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 lacking man formation, and flowers are dropped, settling like a sad rain across the cemetery. The tears fall sooner.
If they had been to look in a Fayette County phone ebook before returning residence, visitors to Praha would possibly recognize a number of surnames. Principally, though, the family members of the 9 lost boys of Praha have spread out, moved away and lived out their time in quiet anonymity. Their lineages are disappearing while war survives.
Earlier than he died, Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient Roy Benavides of nearby red stone island badge El Campo, Texas, instructed a Veterans Day crowd at Praha that “individuals must find out about this place. They want to hear about what occurred. They want to know.”
Understanding may prove eternally inconceivable. But if each chief of every country were first made to go to Praha before declaring conflict, the world could be perpetually changed.
Comply with James Moore on Twitter: www.twitter.com/moorethink
Do you will have info you wish to share with HuffPost Here’s how.