Czech lion against the Japanese in Asia

Autor: Pavel Jaroslav Kuthan / Pavel J. Kuthan 🕔︎︎ 👁︎ 10.450

A little known fact is that in the wake of the axis Berlin–Rome–Tokyo during the Second World War the Czechoslovaks raised weapons against the Japanese.

On December 7, 1941, Japan launched a war in the Pacific and the Far East. Convinced of their superiority and predisposition to rule in Southeast Asia, the Japanese military rushed forward with a large superiority against the mostly weak Allied troops. The Japanese quickly landed in Malaysia, Hong Kong, occupied Shanghai and attacked the Philippines. The overall situation initially developed in their favor.


US reconnaissance patrol in the hard-to-penetrate jungle of New Guinea, December 1942

At that time, there were several hundred Czechoslovaks in Southeast Asia, mostly Czechoslovak employees. companies. There were also settlers or descendants of Czech and Slovak emigrants. They also joined forces in compatriot associations and often ( here exotic ) Czechoslovaks flew over their houses. flag.

Even when separated across half the world, the Czechoslovaks perceived the events that took place in their homeland, including the occupation of the Czech lands, the disintegration of Czechoslovakia and the outbreak of World War II. A large part of them tried to join the Czechoslovak. foreign resistance. In the years 1939–1941, a smaller number of them traveled to the emerging Czechoslovakia. foreign troops ( to France or the Middle East ). Most of those who remained and experienced the Japanese invasion in 1941 tried their best to engage in the fight against Japan's aggression. Participation in the fighting was also seen primarily as a defense of their families, homes and values, although as mostly citizens for the Japanese " allied " Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia ( part of the Nazi Third Reich ) could live aside and enjoy the privileges of Japanese " allies ". However, everyone chose to fight on the anti-Japanese side.

Bataan Death March, Philippines 1942

Shanghai ( China )

The largest concentration of Czechoslovak citizens of Southeast Asia were in Shanghai. About 343 of them lived here. Some settled here during or after the end of the First World War, and some of them also included refugees from Nazi Germany. The chairman of the expatriate association was Mr. Štembera. Based on the call of Czechoslovakia. foreign government, which was broadcast all over the world, was founded by members of the association of Maj. Štěpán and Capt. Taussig MS. a volunteer unit of platoon strength. She was subsequently included in the British battalion of the Shanghai Regiment ( Shanghai Volunteer Corps ). In the ranks of the regiment subsequently completed basic training, during which the Czechoslovak. the volunteers did very well. As part of the sports competition between the units also the Czechoslovak platoon won the Shanghai Military Fitness Cup 1941.

During the summer of 1941, the number of members of the unit grew to 60 men. They provided guard duty on the outskirts of Shanghai and on the bridges of the so-called " sector B ". During the autumn, a transport was organized to supplement the Czechoslovak Republic. foreign armies in the Middle East and the United Kingdom. For registered volunteers, this often meant leaving their families, already settled in Shanghai and the surrounding area, and going to fight for Czechoslovakia across half the globe. Two transports were assembled: the first with 10 men and the second with 12. Men with former military service or training in Czechoslovakia. army were sent to the 11th Czechoslovak infantry battalion - eastern, men without military training to the 1st Czechoslovak combined brigade to the UK.

On December 8, 1941, it was quite rapidly advancing by the Japanese army, which had absolute superiority, Shanghai occupied and the Czechoslovak.the unit was disbanded in September 1942, as was the entire Shanghai Regiment.


Czech platoon in Shanghai, 1941


The second largest Czechoslovak colony in Southeast Asia was then located in Malaysia and Singapore. At that time, about 150 Czechoslovaks lived here, mostly employees of the Baťa company. Of this number, however, only about 20 men were capable of military service. Most of them have been serving in militia units (eg FMSVS or SSVF ) since 1940, whose training took place during their free time, outside working hours.

As early as December 1, 1941, a fear of growing tension in the area ( due to Japan ) announced the mobilization. This also applied to Czechoslovaks serving in militia units, who entered the service in an orderly manner and were divided into units according to their expertise. Already on December 8, the Japanese 25th Army attacked Malaysia. She had absolute superiority against small Allied troops, who frantically built defensive positions. The Malaysian army itself had negligible combat value. Within weeks, the Japanese military destroyed the 11th Indian Division, a major part of British colonial forces in northern Malaysia, and sank most of the British Naval Union's Z ships. on tropical diseases. Her commander, Lt. Gen. Percival withdrew the remnants of the originally 8,000-strong army to Singapore, where he created the last line of defense.

Captured by British defenders of Singapore by Japanese troops, 1942

The Czechoslovaks also took part in the mentioned battles, many of whom were wounded in the fighting. Militia units, colonial units of the Indian army, and remnants of British troops formed the only barrier against a strong and modernly armed Japanese army. Allied troops suffered from a shortage of almost everything and were plagued by disease.

The militia units did well in the defensive battles, even at the cost of heavy losses, when they even matched the regular British troops. Some Czechoslovaks also excelled in the fighting. E.g. volunteer Matuš, who fired his entire machine gun, literally nailed to the ground for a long time, literally nailed to the whole Japanese infantry company and did not allow it to advance, despite repeated attempts by attackers. Thanks to Matuš, his company had time to form during the retreat and prepare for a counterattack. When the Japanese tried to bypass him from the side, Matuš and his machine gun quietly crawled into the jungle, where he took a new position, and then resumed fire. This infuriated the Japanese and they wanted to destroy him at all costs, so they launched a quick siege attack. Matuš was already running out of ammunition. A counterattack by his company saved him from a certain death in a completely hopeless situation.

Another Czechoslovak volunteer, Bohman, defended a foothold on the hill with the Australian enemy, even though most of their comrades had fallen or were wounded. They were heavily shelled by Japanese mortar fire from three directions. In full fire, Bohman and Edward gradually took their wounded comrades to the regimental field of the regiment, saving most of their lives.


Another Czechoslovakvolunteer, J. Vyhnálek, was a member of the unit that defended the defensive section of Gab Hill. He served as a machine gunner of Company B - he had an outdated light machine gun Lewis. On the night of February 12, 1942, he experienced a large Japanese air raid, and the next morning the unit was completely surrounded by the Japanese. After four hours of tenacious resistance from defenders, losses in heavy combat with fiercely attacking Japanese troops climbed to 50% and began to run out of ammunition. Then the defenders surrendered; however, the Japanese did not abide by the Geneva Convention, and the surrendering enemy was a man without honor for them ( based on the samurai code of bushido ). Therefore, the prisoners were treated almost like slaves.After captivity, they tied them to nearby rubber trees and left them tied without water and food for three whole days (until the surrender of Singapore itself). Subsequently, the prisoners were led to a 60km death march, in which, in addition to beating those who could not go any further, the Japanese always stabbed bayonets in front of the others at the intersection of one prisoner.

The overall situation was such that on the night of February 8, 1942, the Japanese 5th and 18th Divisions attacked Singapore. During the hard night fighting, thanks to their superiority, they quickly penetrated the defense, which bravely held the Australian 22nd and 27th Brigade. Subsequently, the Japanese advanced unstoppably into the interior of Singapore, pushing the remnants of Allied troops in front of them, which sought to slow their progress. Genpor. In an effort to save the lives of the rest of his troops, Percival finally capitulated on February 15 at 6:00 PM and surrendered, along with the rest of his troops, to the Japanese gen. Yamashites.

During the fighting, Japanese soldiers infiltrated, among other things, Alexander's military hospital, where they murdered many wounded Allied soldiers. Among those killed was the Czechoslovak private S. Němec.

A Japanese soldier with a sword executes a captured Allied soldier, 1943

Before the fall of Singapore, part of the population and troops, including about a hundred Czechoslovaks, were evacuated by Allied ships to India, Australia and South Africa. However, several of these ships were sunk by Japanese planes with most of the people on board. In addition to many others, five Czechoslovaks died in this way ( Heim, Plhoň, Smržák, Strangfeld and Straussler ).

Among British soldiers, 37 Czechoslovaks were captured by the Japanese. They were interned with others in Japanese prison camps, where they survived in appalling conditions and experienced the inhuman treatment of Japanese guards. Most of them died in the camps by 1945 from exhaustion from hard physical work, starvation or thirst, or as a result of widespread diseases such as malaria or cholera. Only a few survived the end of the war and liberation.

British troops are taken into Japanese captivity after the fall of Singapore, February 1942

Hong Kong

At the beginning of the war, about 30 Czechoslovaks lived here, mostly employees of the Baťa company again. They were associated in an expatriate association, which was chaired by the regional director of the company for East Asia, Ing. Stand. They were all members of the local British militia ( Volunteer Defense Corps , VDC ) and the volunteer fire brigade.

From a volunteer unit exercise in Hong Kong with Brencarrier vehicles; part of the crew in the picture consists of Czechs, 1940

When on December 8, 1941, the Japanese 23rd Army ( numbering about 60,000 men with modern armaments and support from heavy equipment and air force ) attacked Hong Kong, defended by British expeditionary forces ( about 10,000 men, under the command of General Maltby ), to predict that without help, externally cut off British troops will not last long.

Japanese Artillery Shells Hong Kong, 1941

Shortly after the first clashes, other Japanese troops landed on the night of December 18 and attacked Hong Kong. The British defenders made several bold but unsuccessful raids on the landing Japanese. In the ensuing heavy fighting for Hong Kong, British troops were eventually defeated and surrendered on December 25, 1941.

During these battles, several Czechoslovaks fought in the ranks of the 2nd Scottish machine gun company, which defended the position at Stanley Fortress. On 24.December, the company was sent in two groups for reconnaissance, when there was a collision with the prepared Japanese, and the company suffered heavy losses. Among the fallen was, for example, the Czechoslovak A. Pospíšil. The rest of the company quickly retreated to Stanley Fortress, which subsequently found itself under heavy artillery fire. The next day, the aforementioned surrender of all Allied troops in Hong Kong took place. The captured British soldiers, including several Czechoslovaks, experienced a march to the POW camps ( eventually to the Sham Shui Po camp ). They experienced severe physical toil, hunger, thirst, sleeping on the concrete floor and illness ( dysentery, cholera, typhus, beriberi ). In the summer of 1942, an average of seven prisoners died daily in the camp). It was not until the end of the summer of 1945 that the camp was liberated by British troops. Among the Czechoslovaks, the Japanese captivity survived, for example: A. Jiříček, J. Krofta, F. Staněk, J. Tausz and K. Tomeš.

The Japanese entered Hong Kong after its conquest, December 1941


At the beginning of the war, about 30 Czechoslovaks lived here, who united in an expatriate association, chaired by R. Hermann and after him by A. Morávek.

After the landing of the Japanese army on December 8, 1941 on Bataan, the Japanese air force began conducting raids on other islands. As early as December 12, the first units of the Japanese 14th Army ( Gen. Homma ) landed in Luzon, and on December 22, the main attack came in Lingayen Bay. The Japanese 48th Division ( Gen. Cuchibashi ) landed here. The defense consisted of a combined, quite numerous American and Philippine units ( Gen. MacArthur ). After a month of fierce fighting between the two sides, the Japanese eventually captured Manila and pushed the US-Philippine defenders all the way to Bataan. After four months of futile fighting, in an almost hopeless situation, after heavy losses and a lack of weapons and ammunition, on April 9, 1942, about 76,000 Allied soldiers surrendered to the Japanese. The rest of the Allied troops retreated to the fortress of Corregidor ( among them, under dramatic circumstances, four Czechoslovaks: Aster, Hrdina, Vařák, Dančák ), where he continued to fight and surrendered a month later, May 5, 1942, after heavy losses and no other means to leading the fight.

Japanese advancing through the Philippines, spring 1942

During the fighting for the Philippines, the aforementioned Czechoslovaks fought in the ranks of the American troops they joined ( there were at least 14 of them, mostly important personalities ). During the fighting, according to reports from US Col. Quinn was highly distinguished by, for example: Fuchs, Bžoch, the Herman brothers, Lenk, Hirsch and Morávek ( led the group ), when for 36 hours they performed the courageous task of acquiring, dismantling and taking away two rice mills ( literally under the nose of the Japanese ) meant a significant advantage in terms of obtaining food.

Captivity of American defenders of Corregidor after surrender to the Japanese, Philippines 1942

After the capitulation of the Allied troops, Aster, Bžoch, Fuchs, Herman, Hrdina, Morávek, Lenk, Vařák and Volný were captured. They experienced the Bataan death march to the O'Donnell camp ( over 100 km, many thousands of prisoners died during it ) and were then interned in the Japanese prisoner of war Cabanatuan, but also in other camps. Inhumane conditions and treatment from Japanese prisoners did not survive: volunteers Bžoch, Fuchs, L. Herman, Hrdina, Lenk, Vařák and Volný. Otherwise, after the surrender of Allied troops in May 1942, they managed to escape and continue fighting in guerrilla units, such as N. Schmelkes. Most Czechoslovak soldiers were honored for fighting in the defense of the Philippines after the war.

Monument to the fallen Czechoslovaks during the years 1942–1944 in the Philippines, 2014

India and Burma

At the beginning of the war, several dozen Czechoslovaks lived here. Most of them were again employees of the Bata company, who mostly stayed in Batanagar. During the war, almost everyone worked in the war industry. About 20 of them served in the auxiliary units of the Bengal police.

Later, several Czechoslovaks from Singapore also came to Batanagar, after the Japanese occupied it. One of them was, for example, F. Vackermann, who had previously served in the British militia. In India, he joined the British army as a soldier. In the ranks of his unit, he went to Burma, where he fought with the Japanese army. He excelled and was sent to the officer's school. He took part in other battles and lived to see the end of the war in the rank of major. They also served in the British Army, for example: K. Glasner, Ing. H. Smola, npor. Ing. F. Hanus, K. Lowenrosen, Ing. Z. Sovka, Lt. F. Sammer, Capt. dr. O. Ziegler, Capt. Lubík and others.

Japanese soldiers fight defenders in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1941

The fate of the former Czechoslovak lieutenant was also interesting. legions from the First World War - Ing. V. Kristena. He escaped from the occupied homeland to Asia in 1939. Here he twice unsuccessfully applied to join the British army ( due to his older age he was refused ). Only the third request was granted and in the summer of 1941 he was assigned as a specialist for the development of combat vehicles in REME units. He served in the Southwest Pacific for two years; he was gradually promoted to captain. On the way to India, his ship was sunk by a Japanese submarine. He was one of the few survivors and lived to see the end of the war. Among other Czechoslovaks, for example in the Indian Air Force, the pilot J. Jořen served. Czechoslovakians are also recorded here. doctors in the British Army, eg: MUDr. Martisching, Macháček, Jelínek, Ketsler, Lefkovič, Polák, Pekárek and others.

Service at the USN in the Pacific

Many Czechoslovaks, whether Czechoslovak citizens or descendants of Czech and Slovak settlers abroad ( mostly in the USA ), also served in the US Army. It is known that in 1942 there were perhaps as many as 60,000 people of Czech or Slovak nationality. Let's recall at least some: Czechoslovakia. letec kpt. R. Brouk flew as a flying pilot of the Flying Tigers and died on December 19, 1942 during a training flight in Florida. Cs. Sailor R. Hilsky was awarded the USN Naval Cross for his bravery in the battles for the Solomon Islands. Another Czechoslovak sailor, S. Gallos, became famous for his bravery in the fighting already in defense of the naval base of Pearl Harbor and was the first soldier of the American army to be quoted in these battles in an order praised for his bravery. The Czechoslovak star was awarded the Czechoslovak. doctor Col. N. Pazdral, who in heavy enemy fire during the battles in Java treated the wounded directly on the battlefield. Respect for their survival skills were earned by the Brinck brothers, who were able to survive at sea in a boat for 11 days after the sinking of their ship, which they served as sailors, before they were rescued. Another Czechoslovak, Sgt. M. Longazel, serving with the USMC, received the Cross of Merit for his bravery in the fighting on Guadalcanal.

Burning USS Arizona after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 1941

Sources: author's archive; Vytopil, J .: Czech Resistance in the Philippines during World War II. Embassy of the Czech Republic in Manila, 2014, ; Procházka, I .: Compatriots in the Far East during World War II.History and Military 6/1996;

Published with the kind permission of the author.
Published in Military revue 3/2015 by Naše Vojsko.

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