Patton Memorial and Museum
Unlike the rest of what is now the Czech Republic, Pilsen and most of Western Bohemia were liberated by American troops towards the end of WWII. The full story, period photographs and lots of associated memorabilia can be seen at the General Patton memorial, which is a small but thorough museum in a non-descript white building close to the Mže River bridge that also bears the general’s name.
The museum is open every day of the week, but closes for lunch between 1 and 2 pm. Full price entrance for adults is 60Kč and it takes 60 to 90 minutes to work through the various displays and watch the two short films.
Historic film footage
The first film is shown inside a small darkened alcove immediately inside the door to the exhibit room. It’s grainy black and white footage of dogfights, bombing raid and anti aircraft fire unaccompanied by narration but featuring some remarkable camera work and providing an effective shortcut into the mood of the times.
Uniforms, weapons, medals, boots and bibles
The main exhibit hall is arranged in a long U-shape. The walls are lined with life-sized reproductions of black and white photographs showing American troops, bomb sites and various weaponry in action. On that background glass cases display all manner of historic artefacts connected with the war. Uniforms, weapons, remnants of bombs and tank tracks, helmets, gloves, boots, medals, books, bibles and even a parachute are on display. Most of the items are self explanatory but where they are accompanied by printed text, it is in Czech and English.
Final battles of the Liberation
Also lining the walls are explanatory panels, again in English as well as Czech, explaining the various stages that led up to the liberation of Plzeň and the end of the war.
Each major advance is dealt with in turn and separate panels are dedicated to such places as Cheb, Domažlice, Klatovy and Plzeň. At first glance there’s a lot of text, but it’s well written, very informative and worth persevering with.
Patton the personality
About halfway through, the texts leave the and begin to focus on some of the major characters involved in the liberation of Plzeň, including of course General Patton after whom the museum is named. The displays not only recount Patton‘s military achievements, which were many, but divulge interesting facts about his life such as his fifth place in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics for the pentathlon and the fact that he lost his command for speaking out too soon about the inevitability of confrontation with “the communists”.
The next section of the museum is set aside in a steel cage and is a brief but fascinating insight into the later Communist propaganda surrounding the American liberation of Plzeň. Young historians writing on behalf of the Czechoslovakian government went so far as to claim in writing that Plzeň was liberated before the Americans arrived by local communists and factory workers. During the 1950's all monuments to the liberating troops were removed, only to be reinstalled during the late 1960’s and scrapped again in the 'normalisation' of the 1970's .
The Patton Memorial is a very interesting museum and offers a clear insight into one of the ways in which Plzeň and Western Bohemia differ from the rest of the Czech Republic.
Patton Memorial and Museum
KD Peklo, Pobřežní 10
Tel. (+420) 377 320 414