Our Military Car Club Plzeň (hereinafter MCCP) was founded by Milan Dlouhý and several of his friends in 1990. Since its beginning, it has mainly focused on historical military equipment of the U.S. Army and brings together people interested in the history of the World War II, particularly the liberation of south-western Bohemia by the U.S. Army in 1945. It must not be forgotten that this history was often twisted, banned, or downplayed in communist Czechoslovakia. Our club currently comprises more than 100 pieces of historical military equipment, which is mainly represented by the legendary Jeep Willys and Jeep GPW, Dodge WC, GMC, Half-Track, Ford Mutt M151, Jeep M 38, etc.
Each May, our MCCP initiates the memorial Convoy of Remembrance 1945 and it is a regular participant in the celebrations of the liberation of western Bohemia by the U.S. Army in May 1945. On this occasion, our club is a co-organizer of a traditional event held in Pilsen in May called the Liberation Festival. It took part in the celebrations of the anniversaries of the Normandy invasion held in 1994 and 2004. In the course of time, it has established contacts with other clubs at home and abroad and with former American veterans who participated in the liberation of Pilsen and western Bohemia in 1945. They are regularly invited to our events during the Liberation Festival.
Milan Dlouhý has just received, from the hands of the Honorable William J. Cabaniss, the United States Ambassador in Czech Republic, an award for preparing and organizing the 60th anniversary of the end of the World War II in Europe. The U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Prague on 1 December 2005.
After 2005, Milan Dlouhý resigned as Chairman of the MCCP for health reasons MCCP and Rudolf Bayer became a new chairman. A new team has been formed of younger colleagues who are trying to help the club management. The club builds on the previous work and tradition; it has also expanded volume of activities by adding weekend events held at least once a month. They are listed in the calendar of events in advance for each year.
The Military Car Club Plzeň (MCCP) has also begun to group potential applicants and owners of historic military vehicles, whether cars of the other Allies or equipment of the Axis, or vehicles of the former Czechoslovak Army or of the Warsaw Pact. Nazi or communist propaganda is not tolerated!
The club is also more focused on meeting the members of the Czechoslovak Legionaries and the Union of War Veterans and other living participants in the fights on all the fronts of the World War II.
We are able to arrange, for owners of historic vehicles, club as well as county testing of a historic vehicle, a historic vehicle license, a certificate or a license plate (a special license plate).
History on wheels
Standing in a dewy meadow not far from the viaduct in Horní Bříza on a misty dawn of 6 May 1990 and looking up at the sun, which began to reflect on wet hoods of cars that stood around me, and feeling the silence violated only by solitary voices of waking people, I did not know at that moment that I would describe this some day as one of my most beautiful and greatest life experiences…
I was standing in a meadow where there were the most beautiful cars…
Czech language was beginning to mix with Slovak, English, Flemish, German… there was Europe, there was the heart of Europe. The heart of Europe that could beat again in a regular rhythm without having to worry. The hearts of cars with a white star in harmony with the hearts of people who never forgot what these cars had brought.
I suppose the Military Car Club Plzeň is the oldest club of the modern military history in our country. It built on the once popular but secret JEEP WILLYS CLUB in Prague, which was, however, suspended in the 1970s. The owners of historic military cars joined other forms of Autoklub ČSSR (a former Czechoslovak automobile club). They were mainly the owners of Willys, Ford, Dodge and Chevrolet vehicles and other, mostly American, makes. To describe the ways these vehicles got into private hands would certainly yield a separate article, if not a book, of sometimes detective stories. I remember that there were two glazed display cases on an archway wall of the Národní Street. One of them belonged to the Harley Club and the other to above-mentioned JWK. At times, there were brief explanations of the history of the vehicles belonging to the then owners. To present interesting and historic vehicles to the public was the first exploit of several enthusiasts from Horní Bříza, headed by Milan Dlouhý, who organized a race ATVs on the motocross track in Horní Bříza – Doliště in 1988. In cooperation with the then Czechoslovak Army, they prepared an event, very attractive for the spectators, that became the impulse for establishing the club thanks to the opinions of some participants. After the Velvet revolution in 1989, opportunities for the establishment fully opened and then, in 1990, an application for inclusion in the Autoklub ČR (Czech Automobile Club) was officially submitted. This application was successfully processed on 22 November 1990 and the MCC Plzeň received serial number 0715. Posádkový dům armády (the Army Garrison House) in Pilsen helpfully offered the club to use the spaces in Peklo, and thus the club had a roof over its head. The first major event of the MCC Plzeň was organizing and preparing the celebration of the Liberation of Pilsen by the U.S. Army as the 45th anniversary of the liberation. For the first time in 45 years, historic vehicles appeared in all their beauty in Pilsen streets and the atmosphere was not unlike that of the May days of 1945.
In one vehicle that passed the American Street to the then Republic Square in Pilsen, which was sunlit and filled completely with cheering people, a man was sitting who has gone through the entire history of the Military Car Club Plzeň and who has also passed the lives of many members of the club. He has passed through these lives as an example of a person who is still a model to many, for example to my son.
At the moment the convoy of vehicles entered the square, Milan Dlouhý’s dream came true. He brought those legendary jeeps to Pilsen. And he was not the only one who had tears in their eyes… there were more of us.
Then things got really moving. In 1991, the Military Car Club Plzeň established contacts with a similar club in Regensburg, Germany, as well as with the Bundeswehr. Very close relations were established with the U.S. Army military attaché in Prague. Thanks to these good contacts, the club members could attend the Meeting of All-Terrain Vehicle Owners and the Military Competition NATO Member States in Germany. The same invitation was repeated a year later and the members of our army took part in this event together with the club. Groups of veterans began to appear regularly at May meetings in Pilsen. They were mainly from the Association of War Veterans from the 2nd Infantry Division and the 16th Armored Division of the U.S. ARMY. Another big step ahead was an event that has grown since 1992 from a partly private event of enthusiastic individuals to the current show of military equipment of pan-European importance. Yes, I mean the renowned Bahna (a military training course in western Bohemia). The first years were co-organized by the MCC Plzeň with KVH Volduchy (a military history club) and the 1st Tank Regiment of the Czech Army in Strašice. The organizers were subsequently joined by the 11th Helicopter Regiment in Líně, the Army Garrison House in Pilsen and the Military History Institute in Prague and Club CI 5 from Prague.
Today, “Bahna” is held as the Czech Army Day. Representatives of other military history clubs and armies of the NATO member states are presented at this event every year. Another such event presenting military history more closely to the public was a joint event at the Jordán bunker near Zaječov. At that time, the club members also began to engage socially in the manifestations of respect for our war veterans. And not only for Czech veterans – some club members began to look for memorials commemorating killed Allied airmen in western Bohemia, others continued their long-term investigations of other similar topics. The results can be seen in the erection of a memorial to airmen in Čemíny or in the cooperation with the Municipality of Pilsen in building a memorial to the 2nd Infantry Division in Chodské Square. The monument is a reproduction of a similar memorial in Malmedy (the Ardennes). Before we continue to discuss the “ancient” history of the Military Car Club Plzeň, I would like to stay with perhaps the most popular event of the MCC – an event attended by both the club members or supporters and the members of other clubs with similar focus that have arisen by separating from the MCC. An event that, due to its popularity, has exceeded the borders of the Czech Republic and that has become truly international.
CONVOY of REMEMBERANCE 1945
The passing of vehicles in 1990 itself was, de facto, the first convoy, to put it this way, but I do not mean this moment. The moment of the birth of this event was in 1994, when the first star-ride through western Bohemia took place with the end in the Pilsen square. And again – a few enthusiasts led by Milan Dlouhý, who was Mayor of Horní Bříza (and a damn good one) at the time, were at the beginning. With the exception of 1997, from 50 to 80 historical vehicles gathered every year and they set out on a 4-day pilgrimage in the footsteps of the U.S. Army troops and their advance into Bohemia during the Prague operation in May 1945. During these years, the vehicles have mapped south-western Bohemia from Český Krumlov to Aš, from the Teplá River to the Vltava.
Our supporters from Bohemia and Moravia, as well as old friends from Germany, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Austria, take part in this ride. The drivers include those who were about ten years from getting their driving licences in the beginnings of the CONVOY of REMEMBERANCE… or a participant who was driven in a cart, preferably a green one. But seriously – these days, the club events are attended by our children and they behave completely “disrespectfully” to their elderly parents with all due respect. As far as children are concerned, the club really works with children – it visits scout camps, it allows, on various occasions, a closer look at historic equipment but also at the general history of that time. But time is running fast and the little ones from the Dlouhý family are already tall, Honza Bohata is already a dad, the Kašáks are a granddad and a grandma. These children illustrate the journey the Military Car Club Plzeň has gone over the years. We definitely cannot forget the frequent participants in the club events… the TAXMANI band, headed by Jaroslav Čvančara, who contribute to the mood of our events with their beautiful music.
Let’s return to the chronological outline of the club’s history. In 1994, the Military Car Club Plzeň prepared, with the participation of the members of a military history club from Rokycany (now the Club of the Military Museum on the Demarcation Line, Rokycany), a ride of 21 vehicles to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “Overlord Operation”… the invasion of the Allies in Normandy. With hindsight, we can say that the MCC Plzeň represented our country better than our official representative present there. On the return journey, the members of the club bowed to the memory of our French Legion French Verdun. Thanks to this event, the philosophy of the club activities has begun to change fundamentally since 1994. Many further good contacts were established in Normandy. The international participation in the CONVOY OF REMEMBERANCE 1945 has changed the face of this event. The foreign participants are proof of the ever-increasing importance of the MCC not only at home but also abroad. The club looks for the relics of the presence of the soldiers the 3rd Army of General George S. Patton in Bohemia. The proof of this is the events such as a memorial to the last fallen American soldier in Europe during World War II (by the end of war operations in Europe), Pfc Charles Havlata from Nebraska. This soldier came from a Czech family; his origins can be traced to South Moravia to Osová Bitýška. The unveiling of the memorial was attended by his brother Adolph and the descendants of the family in the country. The entire event was initiated by Mr. Košíček from Vlachovo Březí and Richard Praus from Prague, both of whom had the lion’s share. Another such event was the placement of a commemorative plaque to the soldiers of the 37th Armored Battalion of the 4thArmored Division on Podolský Bridge over the Vltava. The American troops advanced farthest in the former Czechoslovakia at this point. A small village called Témešvár was the easternmost point of the demarcation line in May 1945.
In 1995, the MCC Plzeň, as one of the main organizers, participated in organizing the celebrations of the Liberation of Pilsen and the 50th anniversary of the end of war operations in Europe. The event also included a subsequent passage through Prague and a historical military ball at Žofín, which was prepared by a long-time member of the club, Václav Marhoul. Neither the preparation nor unveiling of a plaque to the U.S. Army in Písek was without the participation of the club. Richard Praus from Prague helped greatly here. We must not forget the liberation celebrations in 2000. A historic military camp was built in Bory Park.
In spring 2003, the management of the Military Car Club Plzeň decided to initiate, in cooperation with other segments, raising of funds to build a memorial to one of the military genii, U.S. General George Smith Patton. This man commanded the most striking part of the Allied armies in Europe – the 3rd Army including the units (for example the 4th and 16thArmored Division, the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 29th and 90th Infantry Division) that liberated the territory of the then Czechoslovak Republic in May 1945. The man who commanded these troops became a symbol of Pilsen and its liberation. In autumn 2003, the foundation stone for the erection of the memorial was unveiled based on a fund-raising campaign among the MCC members and other supporters. Military Car Club Plzeň acted. And others acted as well. Those who were not indifferent to this symbol acted. Thanks to a strong personality of Mayor of Dýšina and a sponsorship gift of Mr. Kuřátko, this memorial was unveiled with the participation of General Patton’s grandson in May 2005. At the same time, a primary school in the village Dýšina was named after General Patton.
To Normandy once again
In autumn 2003, preparations for a pivotal event of 2004 began. It was the participation of the members of the MCC Plzeň in the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Allied invasion in Normandy. At the end of May 2004, eight cars were standing in Pilsen and waiting to be loaded on a lorry. The expedition of the MCC Plzeň was one of those around which the interest both veterans and other participants, and even the natives, revolved. In Port en Bessin, we were joined by others who arrived by their own means. The magic word Czechoslovakia opened the doors. As well as “pub”, which indeed Pilsen citizens had to carry with them. Thanks to our guide called François, we could enjoy our experiences. For example, ask about the experiences of the MPs with their French colleagues… heroes are silent.
After returning from Normandy, the autumn meeting of the club saw some changes. The Military History Club of the 3rdArmy was formed as a separate part. However, the activities of the MCC Plzeň were not disturbed by this event. On the contrary, it was possible to concentrate on the preparations for the liberation celebrations… the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Pilsen. Apart from the MCC Plzeň, other military history clubs participated in these celebrations; the Club of 2nd Infantry Division helped greatly and built an original camp in the city. The MCC Plzeň, with the help of the Army of the Czech Republic, built and led a camp at a historic site in Bory Park. Visitors could see equipment, sometimes unique, of mostly American and British provenance. I think that the participation of historic equipment was extraordinary, which is proven by over 300 registered historic vehicles. After the Pilsen show, part of the vehicles moved to the above-mentioned unveiling of a memorial to General G. S. Patton in Dýšina and from there to Prague by their own means. This journey could be called a real battle due to bad weather. These selected crews attended a show of historic armies at Letná in Prague.
At the annual meeting in November 2005, there was a major change in the history of the Military Car Club. Milan Dlouhý handed the chairmanship to Rudolf Bayer after many years of indispensable work for the club and due to his age and health. And wheels of our historic pets keep turning.
Currently the club has about 110 members, including the detached re-enactment unit of Military Police in Brno. These members own the total of about 119 historic vehicles – cars, lorries, motorcycles and armoured personnel carriers. Apart from vehicles manufactured in Czechoslovakia, there are ones produced in the USA, Canada, Great Britain, France and Germany. The reputation of the Military Car Club is really great. It is shown by very good relations with similar clubs in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and elsewhere. The members of these clubs participate in the events of the MCC Plzeň.
The history of the Military Car Club Plzeň was recorded by its member – Martin Hodek.
About Milan Dlouhý
Let me ask you for a short and quiet stop to remember the honorary chairman of our club and a friend, Milan Dlouhý, who left us this year. A letter was found after Milan’s passing; it was left for us all, therefore, stop your fast pace and give a little while for a short quiet remembrance…
Chairman of the club
Military Car Club Plzeň in AČR
Dear friends and members of the Military Car Club Plzeň
Allow me to thank, with deep respect, to all those who came, on 12 September 2007, to say goodbye for the last time to our great friend, the founder and long-time chairman of our Military Car Club Plzeň – Milan Dlouhý.
Our thanks belong also to the former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, Mr. William J. Cabanis, who personally came to say goodbye to a man who worked tirelessly on ensuring that our modern history is never forgotten and that the word “PATRIOTISM” is not a bare phrase only. We also thank the Army Attaché, Colonel of the United States Army Jeffrey S. Holachek who brought greetings from the U.S. ambassador, Mr. Richard W. Graber. We thank for expressed condolence to the city of Pilsen represented by Ms. Petra Fischerová and, of course, we thank everyone who came with a good heart.
In honour of Milan Dlouhý and as way of thanking him for everything he did for us all, a ceremonial ride of historic military vehicles with white stars on their hoods passed through Pilsen after the funeral. These were the stars that Milan brought back ceremonially to free Pilsen in May 1990 after many years of communist darkness. The convoy went along the traditional route of the CONVOY OF REMEMBRANCE 1945 organized by Milan from 1990 to 2005, Borský park – Klatovská Street – Karlovarská Street – Gerská – Záluží – Horní Bříza. Our special thanks belong to Chief Warrant Officer Ing. Karel Machulda from the Czech Police for his help in organizing the funeral ride.
With all my respect, I thank Milan on behalf of us all
Chairman of the club
Military Car Club Plzeň
Farewell to Milan Dlouhý – broadcasted by Czech Radio on 12 September 2007, premiere at 5 p.m.
MP3 file to listen to: Remembering Milan – author of the contribution is Ladislav Válek, Czech Radio Pilsen.