Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Books Detail PFC Charles Havlat's Ultimate Sacrifice

The unfortunate story of Dorchester's own Private Charles Havlat is well-known throughout the Saline County area.  Now the rest of the nation is learning about his sacrifice in World War II, as well.

A Dorchester native who was killed by a German soldier in the spring of 1945 while helping to free a monastery in Czechoslovakia, Private Havlat was the last American killed in the European Theater of World War II.  PFC Havlat took a bullet in the head from German soldiers who were unaware that a ceasefire had been declared. 
Private Havlat's death occurred about six hours after the unconditional surrender of the Germans. For more on Private Havlat, click here.

At 34 years old, PFC Havlat was the oldest in his family to serve in WWII, along with brothers Adolph and Rudy Havlat. 

According to a 2005 story by Radio Praha (Czech Radio), PFC Havlat was on reconnaissance in a jeep on May 7, 1945, in southern Czechoslovakia, when his unit was blindsided by a "hail of enemy machine gun and small arms fire from concealed positions in the woods." 

In an interview, his brother Adolph recalled that "Charley fired once at the enemy and then ducked" behind the hood of the his damaged jeep. "But he peeked back up, I guess, at the same position and they apparently had a bead right on him, so ... and he died instantly," Adolph said. "That's what I've been told, anyway."

PFC Havlat's fellow soldiers returned fire until the Germans' radio operator received word nine minutes latter that a cease-fire order and armistice were in effect. Taken captive, the German officer who led the ambush said he did not know that a cease-fire had been declared and apologized for the incident. 

The Havlat brothers were unaware of just how unlucky Charles had been until half a century later, according to the Radio Praha article. "We actually didn't hear about this until about 1995 -- that he was the last killed -- until it was published in the VFW magazine," Adolph said.

Two recent books on the WWII experience document PFC Havlat's sacrifice for his nation. 
One book is entitled "Running Wire at the Front Lines."  

The other book is "Letters from a Soldier: 1941-1945." 
On this Veterans Day, we thought Times readers would be interested in both books, which detail PFC Havlat's last minutes as his unit unknowingly engaged in combat long after a cease-fire had been declared by both sides.
In 2008, the Dorchester American Legion, Post 264, asked the State of Nebraska and the roads department to name the small stretch of Highway 33 between Dorchester and Crete after PFC Havlat. The request was denied.
Thanks to the hard work and determination of Dorchester's American Legion Post No. 264  and the volunteers with the Dorchester Community Foundation, funds were raised to place a state historical marker on the grounds of the Saline County Museum in honor of PFC Havlat and his ultimate sacrifice for his country.

1 comment:

  1. I still think this is an absolutely amazing story. I wish the American legion magazine cover it.


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