To mark the upcoming 62nd anniversary of the end of WWII next week, a convoy of historic American vehicles has set off this week on a ride across West Bohemia, a region which was liberated by US troops led by General George S. Patton. For the third time the "Liberty Road Convoy" will commemorate the role of the Allies in the liberation of Czechoslovakia from the Nazis - a fact largely ignored by the communist authorities before 1989. The historic vehicles left Prague on Wednesday and set off on a two-day journey to arrive in Pilsen in time for the weekend celebrations.
Before it hit the road, the convoy of about 40 historic jeeps from the WWII period made a few stops in the centre of Prague. One was outside the United States Embassy in Prague where Ambassador Richard Graber greeted the crowd.
"On behalf of everyone in the United States I say thank you. I look forward to participating in these events over the coming days and thank you so very much for the opportunity to participate today."
One of the drivers now travelling across West Bohemia is Vojtech Birma from Prague who says he looks after his jeep better than his own family. He took up the hobby recently to pay tribute to his father who had been a driver with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration after the Second World War.
"From here we'll go along Strakonicka Road to Cimelice where celebrations will be held. From there we will continue to Hnacov near Klatovy where we'll spend the night. Then we will go through the Sumava Mountains, stop in the towns of Vimperk and Zelezna Ruda, then back to Hnacov and finally to Pilsen for the celebrations."
Pilsen was the largest Czech city freed by US troops in 1945. According to the organisers, the procession of army vehicles is driving around South and West Bohemia to pay tribute to the young men who came all the way from America and lost their lives during the liberation of Czechoslovakia. US Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Richard Graber, says the anniversary remains significant for both countries.
"This is a day of celebration and an opportunity to look back. I hope that this is a day that is never forgotten. It is very, very significant in the history of both of our countries and I think it goes a long way towards continuing to build the bonds of friendship that exist between our countries. It's a very moving moment for me and I know it is for everyone here."
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