It was the morning of 8th May 1945, and the Prague Uprising had the most difficult time. The defense of city center was crumbling, and only two strongholds remained: The Masaryk Train Station and the nearby Military Quarters on the Republic Square.
The enemy used all forces, to break through to West, to surrender to the Americans, avoiding capture by Russian forces, approaching quickly from the North. Negotiations between insurgents and the enemy were proceeding, but concurrently, many horrible war crimes happened.
The Masaryk Train station was under heavy siege by enemy elite combats troops, supported by aircraft and even two tanks. The defenders were completely surrounded, and the personnel from Military Quarters had no reinforcements, weapons or ammunition to support them with.
The Military Quarters were one big mess. Everybody was preparing to clear this position, and to retreat back, across the river, to the defense positions on the left bank of river Vltava, flowing through the city and making an excellent line of defense.
“Captain, there is someone to see you,” the adjutant entered the office. “And he says it’s really urgent.”
The officer was just burning some classified documents, so they won’t fall into enemy hands.
“What does he want? I am quite busy here!” the captain replied.
“He says, that he wants to speak to someone from Military Counterintelligence. That he has some important information. He allegedly met the U.S. forces, or what.”
“Really? And what does it have to do with me? Tell him to report it to the high command, not me.”
“He insists, I am afraid. He claims, that he has to talk to you, and he looks serious,” the adjutant replied.
“Fine, send him in! But I will kick him out as soon as possible!”
The adjutant called to the next room, and a man stepped inside. He was about fifty or fifty five years old.
“Are you from Military Counterintelligence, captain?” the older man asked, when he noticed the officer’s rank.
“It doesn’t matter, mister! As you can see, we have no time to gather any Intelligence, we are just retreating. So we have no time for some games, and I personally don’t have any free time to talk to you. Sorry.”
“You should make some time right now, because I had a very strange encounter ten minutes ago,” the visitor said decisively.
“Yeah, the adjutant told me. You met some U.S. forces. That is great news, but not under my competence. Follow my colleague, he will take you to the command, they will be interested. Not me!”
“I am not sure, if it was the U.S. forces. Probably yes, but there was something really unusual. And that is the reason why I went directly here, to find you. Originally, I was going to the Train station, to help. I have a friend there, he works there as a railwayman, from my city quarter, Liben, and he told me to come.”
“That is really nice effort from you. But the Train Station is completely cut off, so you won’t get there, I am afraid. They are heavily besieged and their position will hold only for minutes from now. But hey, I really don’t have time for chat, do you understand? Now, please leave, you can register in the next room, and they will tell you, where to go, so you can be useful!”
“Just listen to me finally, captain! Three blocks from here, I was going on the street, and there was some sudden machine gun fire, so I tried to get some cover, and I accidentally ran into a woman. But this woman, she was very strange. She looked like a soldier! She had this combat uniform…”
“In America, everything is possible. In Russia, they also have females in military. What does it change, that she was a woman?”
“There were several strange things about her. I mean, really strange! Listen, I was serving in the Military Counterintelligence myself, during the First World War, in our national legion in Russia. Do you think, that I would bother you just for fun, right now? I have my good friend at the besieged Train station, and maybe he will need my help during fight, but I won’t be there, because I went to you, to report this. So I must have a very good reason, don’t you think?”
“Maybe… So what was so strange about her? Tell me, but please quickly.”
“I was really close to her, as I said. I crashed into her, or she crashed into me, doesn’t matter. I was really surprised, to see a female soldier, but there was some tiny details, which caught my attention immediately.
She was about twenty, or twenty five years of age at most. Middle height, 165 to 170 centimeters…”
“Man, are you silly, or dumb? We have to retreat from this position soon, do you hear the gunfire everywhere around us? I don’t care how old was she, or how tall was she! Tell me something substantial!”
“But I need you to hear the whole tale, so you can understand all relations! I know very well, what is the current situation here! But only if I will describe her in detail, only then you can understand, what was so strange about her!”
The officer watched the visitor’s face. Maybe he could really have some interesting information…
“Good, go on! Tell me more.”
“She had this strange haircut, with some bright blonde highlights in her hair. I think, that she had the brown hair but combined with this stripes. I haven’t seen someting like this, never, and I know women!”
“But she is an American, and they can have many fashion advancements there. So they make some color stripes in their hair… what does have this to do with us?”
“Maybe you are right. But I am just beginning, believe me! She had a combat uniform, but very unusual, with green beret. She looked like a paratrooper. She had this strange camouflaging pattern on it, and high boots. On her face, she had black stripes painted, like some tiger!
She also had someting as a vest on her body. There was a lot of pockets, and ammo pouches on the chest. She had some magazines stored in these pouches, and when I ran into her, one of the flaps lifted and I could see the magazine exposed. It had some strange ammunition inside, it seemed like a rifle cartridges, but with shorter shell, and definitely a smaller caliber. I guess around 5mm. Not 7.92mm or 9mm, as we use in Europe.”
“They can use some advanced firearms in America. I heard about this, it’s called assault rifle. It uses cartridges with less gun powder, for better controlled fully automatic fire. Was she armed, by the way?”
“No, she had no weapon in her hands. But there was a pocket on that strange vest of her, with a silhouette of a pistol. So she could be armed. I also remember, that she had the pocket with a knife there, near her left shoulder.
But she looked completely confused. She staggered, she seemed that she is in discomfort, maybe with sickness.”
“Probably a shell shock. Go on.”
“As I ran into her, I could see that strange patches on her shoulder. And also her rank. I think it was a lieutenant, quite similar designation as our Army used before, in peace time, before this war.
Look, I can accept, that in America, they have female soldiers, they use strange haircuts and hair colors, they also use some advanced weaponry and military equipment. But these patches, well, they are the main reason why I came here!”
“Can you draw it?” the officer decided to test the relevance of this testimony.
“I can try. So listen, there were three patches. I have quite a good memory, because I work as an accountant.
The biggest patch was someting like a coat of arms. It was framed with black, and grey inside. On the upper side, there was this word: ‘SPECIAL FORCES’. Inside the coat, there was a chess figure of a Knight, and under it, the word ‘C102’.”
“She is definitely of the American origin, the words are English,” the officer commented. “I have an English vocabulary right here… it means something similar to paratroopers, I think. Sabotages and diversion in the rear of an enemy. But our Army have no units such this. And that C102 must be the designation of her unit… I see no mystery in this patch.”
“Well, another two will definitely interest you, captain! Because, my friend, the upper was definitely our national flag, although in the shades of grey, and under that, there was this sign: ‘CZECH REPUBLIC’! Yes, you are hearing well! No mistake!
She should have something like ‘United States’ written there, do you agree? But she had our flag there instead, and the name of our country, although this strange version? We were ‘Czechoslovakia’ before the war. This is what you should explain to me!”
“They could do some mistake. They don’t know our geographics and names right. So they call us the Czech Republic.”
“Good, but why does she have this on her sleeve, if she is an American? There is a basic military duty to mark your soldiers with your home patch and country designation! What is the meaning, if an American has our flag and our country’s name on her sleeve? This is not a standard phenomenon, I am telling you! What would happen to a soldier marked like that, if he – or she – would be captured, and he or she would use the name of a non-existing country? Would any international convention protect this individual? No!”
“Well, I have to agree with you in this matter. That patch is really unusual,” the officer was thinking.
“We should find her, intercept her, check her personal identification tags and interrogate her, captain, definitely! She has to give us some answers about this! After all, this is still our national territory, so we have the right to be informed of the Allied special military operations here!
I say, let’s go find her, right now! She has some valuable information!”
“Forget it! The area is full of enemies, who take no prisoners and they shoot anything that moves, ruthlessly! Snipers in the windows everywhere! We have to retreat now, and to return here later, to investigate. But I think that all this means nothing. America is simply a strange country. But it doesn’t mean that we have to hunt their soldiers to question them of some patches! If they will liberate us – I can forgive them any sins against military law! But they should come now, because our situation is desperate already!”
“But then she will be long gone, and the trail will be cold! We have to act now!
Listen, captain, she is important! Your duty is to gather Intelligence, but not only from the enemy, but from the Allies also, if it can help our Military! We can agree, that she has some advanced weaponry in her possession, at least a special kind of ammunition. So let’s say, that we will acquire a sample from her, we will reverse engineer it, and it will allow us to develop some efficient rifle ammunition, increasing the fire power of our own Army!”
“Are you silly, man? We can’t afford any international incident here! They are our Allies, and will they like, if we will steal the equipment and detain their soldiers?”
“We can borrow just one bullet from her! She won’t even recognize that one cartridge is missing! She could lose it on the street, in all that mess… we are no thieves! But I say, that we need this single piece! And we can ask her too, what that shoulder patches mean! She misuses our national symbols, after all, and it gives us the right to question her! We can defend this position of our law authority, if the Americans would complain! And we will just ask her! What is the problem with that, to have a chat with your friend?”
“You can be right, mister. But we have no men to send there! The operational conditions are unsuitable for a demanding mission like this. She can be a mile away now. And I repeat again, there is a lot of enemy activity in those streets. How could we search for her?”
“We have to try! Can you imagine, how many medals you could get if we would succeed? Think about your career advancement and the future of our country, captain!”
“Man, you sound more as a salesman, than an accountant! And you said, that you served in the Army?”
“Yes, I was a captain of the Infantry. But they discharged me dishonorably eventually, twenty years ago. I had some little behavior problems during my service…”
“I will have you checked anyway. What is your name again?”
“Svejk, Joseph Svejk. Born 1891.”
“Excuse me… you are not THAT Svejk, man?”
“I am afraid so. That book ruined my life… and my military career! But now, I will correct it! I am telling you, let’s go and catch that girl! It’s never too late to do, what is right… and to get some high medals for the effort!”
“Adjutant!” the officer shouted suddenly.
“Do we have some reinforcements? Did anybody arrive?”
“Yes, sir! The partisan unit ‘Iron’ from Velvary is here! Fifteen men, fully armed already.”
“I need them for a reconaissance mission, to discover the strength of enemy forces and to support our troops at the Train station, if possible. How are they holding?”
“They are almost out of ammunition. Last fifty men remaining there.”
“Roger. We will go immediately. And you, Mr. Svejk, you will come with us! Let’s say, that we can use your military experience, after all.”
“As ordered, captain! I know, where she went!”
“Listen, the official version is this: we have an unclear knowledge of a lost American soldier, probably in shell shock, and it is our duty to help our Allies in need. OK? Let’s omit some boring and pointless details, like her gender, strange patches and equipment on her…”
“I know the rules, captain!”
“Good. I won’t leave any written report here. Let’s say, this is a classified Intelligence mission! If I would be shot, you will remove this paper from my pocket and find my superiors. The names are written inside.”
“You can count on me, captain. But let’s go already! The medals are waiting for us… we have a critical work to do, in the name of higher interest!”
“You are quite a king of stupidity, aren’t you? We will be glad just to survive this questionable adventure! I am doing the big mistake, I know that!”
“Our country needs us, and we go where she needs us to go…”
“Stop that nonsense! I see, that the famous book about you didn’t lie! You are really stupid, Mr. Svejk! I promise you, if you fabricated this tale, I will really get a nice jail sentence for you! By a ruthless Military Court!”
“That’s an insult, captain! You will thank me yet, when you will get promoted, and that will be soon!”
And that was the beginning of another big tale of famous Svejk family, with many consequences for the future…