Sunday, 6 May 2018

Remembering the Last GI

On the side of the road between Volary and Lenora is a simple memorial. You can drive past easily without noticing the large rock with the granite plaque. As the Czechs commemorate the end of World War II in Europe and the liberation of their country from the Nazi tyranny on this day 73 years ago, it seems a fitting point to blog about Charles Havlat's death.

As the memorial states Havlat was a soldier with Patton's 3rd Army. He had fought a long hard war  across Normandy, the Rhineland, and finally found himself in the land of his ancestors - his parents had emigrated to the US at the beginning of the 20th century. On the 7th May 1945 he was on reconnaissance, when his platoon was caught in a German ambush. In a hail of bullets Havlat was shot in the head and died.

He has the dubious distinction of being the last American to die in action in Europe. Indeed the ambush should not have happened at all, as a ceasefire had just come into place. Only six hours later the Nazis unconditionally surrendered. The German officer who led the ambush was to later apologize, but neither he nor his American counterpart knew about the ceasefire.

Private Charles Havlat was just one soldier who fell in a war that claimed millions of lives, but due to the cruel timing of his death he has this memorial.

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