Return to the Country of My Ancestors
Richard J. Petranek, 593rd Medical Company
Richard J. Petranek, a member of the 593rd Medical Company, also remembers May 1945 in the Pilsen area. His father, a native of Planá, left Bohemia for America before the start of World War I. As fate had it, Richard first saw his father’s homeland during a long, complicated journey with the U.S. Army – as the liberator. The following are some of his recollections:
“We landed on Omaha Beach on July 31, 1944, and from that point, the war took us to Pilsen, Czechoslovakia. We were stationed there in fields, near a lake outside of Pilsen, on May 7, 1945. There were approximately 30 men in the unit at that time. I went to meet my mother´s relatives – aunts, uncles and cousins – who had many questions about their relatives in the United States. Their hospitality was warm, but brief, as we could only stay a few hours.
On May 11th, 1945, the Company Commander heard that my Grandfather lived nearby and asked if I would like to see if I could locate him. The next day, my buddy, Wally Felten, and I drove approximately 24 miles to Planá, Czechoslovakia to find him and his family. While en route, we encountered a Russian convoy, complete with horse-drawn vehicles and a ‘three-wheel’ Jeep! They were crossing a one-way bridge and we spoke to them briefly – they were friendly and gave us directions. We shared a few more words before leaving the ‘19th-century’ army.
After that, we entered the town of Planá, where we met a young boy whom we asked whether he knew a Petranek family. Elated, he ran through the streets yelling, ‘America je tady (America’s here!)!’ At the time, I didn’t know he was my cousin. Of course, he took us just down the road to Grandfather Petranek, my dad’s Father. My dad, Louis Petranek, came alone to the United States in 1911. Indeed, we were thrilled and surprised to see each other – there were hugs, questions, and hugs again – their hospitality was warm and loving. We stayed only a few hours and left them with about $300 worth of German money, which we had confiscated. We didn´t know if it was still good, but hopefully it would see them through for a while…
On May 25th, we left for Aichach, Germany, where we stayed for 4 months, before returning home to the USA.”
From book 500 hours to victory