Plzen, West Bohemia, May 6 (CTK) – Plzen, the centre of west Bohemia, marked the anniversary of its liberation by the U.S. army on May 6, 1945 by a meeting at the General George S. Patton Monument within the four-day Liberation Festival Saturday.

People mainly applauded a message that Earl Ingram, a 94-year-old war veteran from North Carolina, delivered on behalf of his wartime fellow fighters.

Ingram, a former member of the 2nd infantry division that entered Plzen on May 7, 1945, said the U.S. soldiers were too young then to fully understand the tragedy they were involved in, which should have never occurred and which cost millions of lives.

At the time, the young U.S. soldiers knew a little bit about Czechoslovakia from school geography lessons. At present, they return to the country every year, if their health condition allows it, Ingram said.

He said it is clear that the number of the surviving U.S. liberators has been declining and they have been departing one after another, but they need not be afraid. When departing, they will know that people in the Czech Republic are grateful for what the soldiers did for their homeland, he said, hailed with stormy applause.

Like the war veterans and a U.S. military representative, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, too, called on people to be always ready to defend the values for which people fought and died more than 70 years ago.

“Under the German occupation [of the Czech Lands], everything was at stake. Our nation faced a real threat of extermination. Let’s not forget those who successfully stood against the Nazis,” Sobotka said, mentioning those fighting on the Western and Eastern fronts and those joining the domestic resistance and the early May 1945 Prague anti-Nazi uprising.

The Liberation Festival in Plzen is the largest celebration of the Victory anniversary in the Czech Republic. It has been annually held since 1990. Before, the communist regime prevented any remembrance of west Bohemia’s liberation by the U.S. military.

The festival will run through Monday. On Sunday, a convoy of 200 historical military vehicles will cross the town centre.

rtj/dr