Miroslav Liškutín, one of the last Czechoslovak fighter pilots who served with the British RAF during WWII, died in Great Britain on Monday at the age of 98. Last year, the veteran pilot was promoted to the rank of brigadier general by the Czech head of state. The head of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, General Jiří Bečvář, had praise for the hero and his contribution during the war.
Miroslav Liškutín, retired brigadier-general, was a legend both in his homeland and Great Britain, where he settled permanently after the communist putsch in Czechoslovakia in 1948, a fighter pilot who made his mark during the war, flying a high number of missions.
In April of 1939, Liškutín had left the Nazi-occupied Czech lands for France via Poland, Sweden and Britain. In France, he joined the Foreign Legion and underwent six months training in Africa. After France fell, he went to Britain, where he completed his training as a fighter pilot and joined the 145th RAF squadron in combat. It was August 1941.
Later the pilot was transferred to the 312th Czechoslovak squadron and then to the 313th.
During the war, Liškutín made 131 sorties above enemy territory and flew 465 hours in air combat. He is thought to have been the first allied fighter pilot in France on June 6, 1944 – D-Day – after he was hit by antiaircraft fire and crashed.
Military historian Jiří Rajlich told Czech Radio more:
“He shot down a number of enemy planes and an unmanned rocket and also survived a number of very serious events. He was once forced to parachute to safety from a doomed Spitfire. Ahead of the Normandy invasion he was shot at and crashed into a tree. Yet he survived it all.”
After the war, the pilot returned for a time to his homeland Czechoslovakia but not for long. WWII heroes who had served in the RAF were persecuted by the new communist regime after 1948. Liškutín had married an English wife with whom he had two children and realised there was no future for him in his native land. The pilot returned to the RAF where he continued to fly; the Spitfire, Czech Radio reported several years ago, remained his favourite. The last time he flew in the famous fighter plane was at the age of 93. Here is how he described one encounter WWII encounter in the skies to reporter Jiří Hošek several years back:
“It was fairly easy to recognize a Wellington even in the moonlight but the question was whether they recognized me. So I kept just out of range. Once I received the signal that they recognized me, I was able to steer them to landing field.”
The last surviving Czech pilot who served with the RAF during the war is Emil Boček who turns 95 later this week.