Friday, September 12, 2008

Vlasov -The End

In and around Prague the Germans were rather weak. Their forces consisted mostly of S.S. troops with some heavy tanks but no artillery. But of course the Czech forces were badly equipped too. The heaviest fighting took place in the outskirts of the city where the Germans were opposed by units of the Vlasov army who had both tanks and light artillery. And the Russians fought well, for it was their last chance to make up for having fought in the German army and perhaps win an opportunity to surrender to the American forces. Their losses were heavy and it was mainly thanks to their heavy equipment that the Germans surrendered to the Czech National Committee on May 8th. But it was too late for Vlasov's men to redeem themselves and several hundred of them were shot by the Red Russian Army which moved into town the next day. They were buried in the left hand corner of the central cemetery in the lower part of Mladonovicova. Very few people know that their graves are there.


In his journal the American officer estimated that on May 7, 8, and 9, 175,000 to 250,000 refugees from Prague of all ages and nationalities entered the American lines through a road block set up about ten miles from Pilsen. Most were Czechs trying to get away from the attentions of approaching Russian liberators. But among them were also several hundred German soldiers in uniform and fully equipped, including an armored brigade, probably the remnant of the German military forces in Prague. These Germans may have surrendered as a result of the mission of the high-ranking German staff officer who had received an American escort into Prague.

Assigned to reception of the refugees from Prague, the American officer was standing along the highway beyond the American road block when General Vlasov arrived, seeking an opportunity to surrender to the Americans.

A very large and handsome American limousine stopped beside me and a very impressive officer in a beautifully tailored uniform, groomed down to the last button, stepped out of the car, saluted very militarily, and in perfectly good English inquired where he could find the senior American officer present. I informed him that I was the senior American officer present, and was in charge of the activity he had just been watching. He then introduced himself to me as General Vlasov of the White Russian Army. I was a bit skeptical about this statement, though from his personal appearance and demeanor, he could have been Adolph Hitler himself, or Napoleon Bonaparte.

I acknowledged the self introduction, returned his very snappy salute, and inquired if there was anything I could do for him. His reply was he wanted to surrender his entire White Russian Army to me. I asked him where his Army was then located and how many men he had. He pointed back over his shoulder to indicate the general direction, and stated they were a few miles in that direction, and he had an estimated 27,000 to 28,000 men and officers.

I asked him if he had any proof of his identity, and I have for- gotten what it was, but he showed me an engraved article, cigarette case, as I remember, with his name on it, and sure enough it was engraved with the name of Vlasov. I told him very candidly I could not accept his surrender* His reply was to ask what he was to do; that he knew the fighting was to terminate in a few hours, and he had to do something with his army, he could no longer feed them after the fighting was over. He was entirely serious and earnest, and it appeared his concern was genuine.

I replied to him that I could not accept his surrender, but that I would give him a safe escort, commanded by an officer, to Corps Headquarters, and he could go back and talk to the Corps Commander, General Huebner. He accepted the offer, and before he left I cautioned him to return via the same route, and to stop at the road- block, locate me, and give me the results of his interview. When he had departed, I sent another Staff Officer to get General Huebner on the telephone for me, and when the call was answered, I told General Huebner the story.

After about an hour, General Vlasov, with his entire staff still in the car, pulled up alongside me again, headed in the other direction. Again he alighted, saluted very smartly, and informed me that his surrender was not accepted by the Corps Commander. I then told him he was free to go, but that I would give him an escort to insure that he go safely beyond the heavy traffic.

That night the White Russian Army disappeared. The next morn ing I sent out some motorized patrols to locate the White Russian command and report its location, but it was nowhere to be found, and never was found. A great many individuals, reportedly former members of the White Russian Army, were later found in various localities within the American occupied zone of Germany. It is only a presumption on my part, but I am confident it is an accurate one that the General returned to his command, gave them the information that his offer to surrender to the American command was re- fused, and he then released his entire command from further service to or under him and told them that they were on their own from that time.

Before I left the ETO, I was informed that four general officers, including General Vlasov, had been apprehended by some Russian liaison officers within the American zone, that they had been released to Russia, and that as soon as they had been conducted across the line into Russian occupied territory, they were all summarily executed. I cannot vouch for the finale of this story, but there is every reason to believe it is true.

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