Returning Years Later

Virgil L. Lucas, V Corps


I was most impressed and moved by the outpouring of emotion from your countrymen and women, as we came into contact with them. It was such a happy time for all. As Americans, we were so relieved and happy that the war was coming to a close and the reaction of everyone was that freedom in Europe was a reality. As a young soldier joining the army in May 1943 – the same month that I graduated from high school – I felt so grateful that I was able to participate in such an important part of history – restoring freedom and liberty to so many individuals.

May 8th, 1945 – many American soldiers were tired and weary and were ready to head for home. After three years in England and the European continent, I was among those. The U.S. Army had a plan that soldiers who had accumulated so many points would be sent home. On July 4th, 1945, I embarked from Le Havre, France, on the U.S.S. West Point, bound for the United States. When we arrived at the harbor, there, standing right in front of us, was the beautiful Statue of Liberty. I think all aboard ship had teary eyes – I know I did. We knew that the mission we had successfully completed was for a good cause.

I did not take any souvenirs from your beautiful country, since I felt that those things belonged to the local people. I was not in your area long enough to make any lasting acquaintances, but I was looking forward to doing so during the visit that celebrated the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Pilsen. I was sure that I would like Pilsen – your people have been so appreciative and loyal to America.

Words cannot express the deep feelings that we American veterans felt during the week of May 2nd, 2010, during the celebration of the Liberation of Pilsen. I, for one, will always remember that May of 1945, when I was a 21-year-old soldier, being greeted by your countrymen and women – happiness and joy, with tears running down so many cheeks. Oh my goodness, how time repeats itself – 65 years later riding down the streets of Pilsen in a Willy’s 1942 Jeep, my hand touching so many wonderful people and looking into their eyes – so many of whom had tears running down their cheeks. This special welcome made the tears run down this old soldier’s cheeks, as well, and reminded me of how much freedom means to so many people. Thank you all for an experience that will live in my heart forever.

From book 500 hours to victory