People pay homage to the last WWII paratrooper

Autor: Nuala Casey and Oldrich Holecek

Representatives from the Office of the Czech President, the Czech Government and Parliament, the Slovak and Czech Ministries of Defence, as well as Cardinal Dominik Duka, soldiers, and mourners gathered at the Strasnice Ceremonial Hall on 14th August to pay tribute to Lieutenant General Jaroslav Klemes who died at the age 95.

Lieutenant General Jaroslav Klemes celebrating his 95th birthday this January in Prague
Lieutenant General Jaroslav Klemes celebrating his 95th birthday this January in Prague

Jaroslav Klemes, born on 31st January, 1922 in the Slovak town of Cadca, left his homeland at the age of 17 to fight the Nazis during WWII. After an arduous and distressing journey through Hungary, the Balkans and Syria, he finally reached France and, in 1940, joined the Czechoslovak Foreign Troops under Edvard Benes’ government-in-exile. When France became occupied, the troops moved to England where Klemes received training as a radio operator in a signal platoon.

Due to his rigorous training and strong skills as a Czechoslovak soldier, he was selected to participate in a British-led paratroop operation, code named Platinum-Pewter and, in mid-February 1945, he was airdropped back into his homeland to fight alongside the national resistance movement.

He worked for the then illegal R-3 organisation and, towards the end of WWII, continued with the resistance movement during the Prague Uprising operating the ANNA radio station.

After the war, he became a Czechoslovak military officer for a short time but, in 1949, he was expelled from the army, arrested and jailed for two years by the communist regime for his cooperation with Western allied troops.

Speakers at the full military funeral remembered General Klemes for his bravery, his dedication to the pursuit of freedom, and his excellent relations with present-day soldiers in the Czech and Slovak armed forces. He also maintained close contacts with other war veterans and, regardless of his advancing years, he was adept at making new friends, stayed active and continued to participate in memorial ceremonies.

He remains an icon of 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade; the symbol of courage and bravery.

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By Nuala Casey and Oldrich Holecek

August 18, 2017