The Final American Sacrifice In Europe During World War II
The Second World War lasted nearly six years in Europe. The human cost was unfathomable. After such a prolonged period of pain and suffering, on May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered and hope was temporarily restored across the continent of Europe. The following day, news broke of the unconditional surrender. Most people have come to know May 8 as VE Day, or Victory Day in Europe. The destruction of the German war machine required the free nations of the world to band together in a moral crusade. From the streets of Times Square in New York to Whitehall in London, the smell of victory was in the air.
"A crowd gathers in Times Square celebrating with a newspaper the surrender of Germany." (Photo: history.com)
Many had expended every ounce of strength to reach this point of victory in Europe. According to the American Battle Monuments Comission, Private First Class. Charley Havlat, “Is considered to be the last American killed in the European Theater of Operations." On May 7, 1945, Havlat’s platoon was subject to a German ambush while in Czechoslovakia. Havlat was hit in the head and killed immediately. The AMBC writes that, “His fellow soldiers returned fire until their radio operator received word that some nine minutes before the ambush, a cease fire order had gone into effect.” Havlat was killed only six hours before Germany had unconditionally surrendered to the Allies. The German officer who led the ambush claimed to have no knowledge of the cease fire before his men commenced their attack and apologized for the incident.
Pfc. Charley Havlat. (Photo: American Battle Monuments Commission)
Havlat originally arrived in England in June 1943. He served with the 803rd Tank Destroyer Battalion and participated in some of the most significant operations of the entire war. The American Battle Monuments Commission notes that, “In the invasion of Normandy, Havlat and his comrades fought their way from Omaha Beach to St. Lo.” Havlat’s battalion would also go on to battle its way through Belgium and Holland. From there, they would reach the imposing Siegfried Line. Havlat was in the Ardennes Forest as the Battle of the Bulge began. The AMBC also cites his unit for helping to capture Trier, Germany and crossing the historic Rhine. Havalt had made it through the gauntlet before falling in the final hours of the war. His two brothers, Adolph and Rudolph, were also serving in Europe during the time. They visited his temporary gravesite upon hearing of his death.
Havlat's brothers Adolph and Rudolph. (Photo: Radio Prague)
No words will ever be able to describe the sacrifices of men like Charley Havlat. He died in the land that his parents had immigrated to the United States from. He was another prime example of a man who possessed the unshakable American Spirit. We must never forget his name or his story. Private First Class. Charley Havlat. An incredible hero who helped to shape a better world.
Charley Havlat's grave at the Saint Avold World War II Veteran's Cemetery near Metz, France. (Photo: Dorchester Times)
The war in Europe may have been over, but as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was quick to remind everyone on VE Day, “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing: but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead.” War with Japan was still in full effect and would not end until four months later on September 2, 1945.