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Ludvík Krejčí (Munich Goes Sour)

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Ludvík Krejčí
Ludvík Krejčí
Born 17 August 1890(1890-08-17)
Austria-Hungary Tuřanech u Brna, Moravia, Austria-Hungary
Died 9 February 1972(1972-02-09) (aged 81)
Czechoslovakia Brno, Czechoslovakia
Allegiance
  • Austria-Hungary Austria-Hungary (to 1917)
  • Flag of Bohemia Czechoslovak Legions (to 1919)
  • Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakia (to 1951)
Service/branch
  • War flag of Austria-Hungary (1918) Austro-Hungarian Army
  • Emblem Czechoslovak Legion Czechoslovak Legion
  • Logo Czechoslovak Army (pre1961) Czechoslovak Army
Years of service 1910, 1914–51
Rank General ČSR General of the Army
Commands held
  • 6th Rifle Regiment
  • 2nd Rifle Division
  • 6th Infantry Division in Brno
  • 4th Division in Hradec Králové
  • Provincial military commander in Košice
  • Chief of General Staff
  • Chief of the Main Headquarters of the Czechoslovak Army (HVOA)
Battles/wars

World War I (1914–1917)

  • Serbian Campaign (1914–1917)
  • Italian Front (1917)
  • Romanian Campaign (1917)
  • Battle of Bakhmach (1918)

Russian Civil War (1918–1919)


World War II (1938–1945)

Awards
  • Czechoslovak War Cross (1918)
  • Czechoslovak War Cross (1945)
Spouse(s) Marie Luxová
Relations Daughters: Marie (born 1930) and Jarmila (born 1932)
Signature Ludvik Krejci signature.png

Ludvík Krejčí (born August 17, 1890) was a prominent four-star general of the Czechoslovak Army, a veteran of the Czechoslovak Legion and the Chief of Staff of the Czechoslovak Army from 1933 to 1938. On September 23, 1938 he was appointed Chief of the Main Headquarters of the Czechoslovak Army, and was responsible for the reorganization and mobilization of the Czechoslovak Army during the Munich Crisis and the subsequent Axis invasion of Czechoslovakia between October 1, 1938 and March 15, 1939.

Biography

Early life and military career

He was born on 17 August 17 1890 in Tuřanech u Brna, a town near Brno. He was the youngest of eight children of a farmer from an old farmer family. He studied at the Gymnasium in Vyškov, and from 1907 in the professional school for forest economy in Písek. After graduation, he joined the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1910. After one-year military service in Brno he was appointed to an official in the low service of the forest office in Slavonia. Already in July 1914, he was transferred to the 4. Bosnien-Herzegowina-Regiment, where he climbed up the ranks from company commander up to the battalion commander. He fought in Serbia and Montenegro, Albania and later on the Italian and the Romanian fronts. In May, 1917, he was captured by the Russians and already three months later he entered in Borispol the Czechoslovak Legion. As a First Lieutenant of the reserve and with the honouring "Signum laudis" he was one of the highest ranked officer who joined the legion.

Service in the Czechoslovak Legion

In October 1917 he was appointed second-in-command of the 1st battalion, 6th Rifle Regiment in in Pirjatino, and later the commander of the whole regiment. This regiment was counted as the best in the Czechoslovak Legion and was also present in most fights. His fame began with the victory in the fight in Bakhmach in the Ukraine in March 1918, where he was the commander. During the next two years Krejčí proved himself in the defence of the Siberian Railway. With this railway line the legionaries was to be transported to Vladivostok and from there then to the French battlefield. During the transport to Vladivostok, known as "Siberian Anabasis", Krejčí became commander of one of the units of the 6th Regiment. Later he was promoted (already then colonel) to the commander of the 2nd Legion Division (from Milan Rastislav Stefánik). He commanded the so-called Kungur front in the Urals. Under his guidance his division came without appreciable losses to Vladivostok. Krejčí even led the transport of the legionaries on the ship "USS Grant".

Interwar years

He returned to the young Czechoslovak Republic on 18 June 1920. After his return he concluded the War Academy in Paris, then at home he became the commander of the infantry division in Hradec Králové with the rank of the Brigadier General.

From 1932 to 1933 he was the commander of the Košice Military Command. Considered to be a capable and experienced officer, he was appointed Chief of General Staff on 30 November 1933 by President Masaryk, and in March 1934 he was promoted to the rank of General of the Army. Krejčí was aware of the German threat, which continued to build up its armed forces, and worked with determination on the strengthening of the defensive possibilities of the Czechoslovak Republic. Under him the army was motorized and a system was built by border defence arrangements (fortresses).

Munich Crisis

Invasion of Czechoslovakia

Main article: Invasion of Czechoslovakia (1938-1939)

In the early hours of October 1, 1938, Nazi Germany invaded Czechoslovakia.

Syrovy with Krejci and Machnik

Ludvík Krejčí (centre) discusses the miliary situation with Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence Jan Syrový (right) and former Minister of National Defence František Machník.

During the whole conflict, Krejčí worked closely with both his Chief of Staff, Gen. Bohuslav Fiala, the Military High Command as well as Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence Jan Syrový. While he spent most of his time in the headquarters of the Military High Command in Prague, he also made many visits to the front as long as the situation allowed it. His military and organisational skills made him one of the prominent figures of the Czechoslovak defence against the Axis invasion.

The Czechoslovak Army managed to stop the initial offensive following the decisive victories at Ivančice, Otnice, Bošovice and Velké Hostěrádky as well as the defence of Plzeň. The Czechoslovak Army, supported by Soviet reinforcements, managed to hold off the German and Hungarian invaders for five months, but the defence, albeit fierce and effective, was ultimately futile. When the Germans launched their spring offensive on March 1, 1939 the Czech defences collapsed due to lack of ammunition, supplies, equipment and manpower. On March 11, as the Germans were closing in on Prague, the commander of the Tenth Army, Gen.d.Art. Walther v. Reichenau presented Arm. Gen. Sergěj Vojcechovský, the commander of the I. armáda "Havlíček", and Brig. Gen. Langer, the commander of the defence of Prague, an ultimatum: All Czech military units in Prague should capitulate on March 14, or else the Luftwaffe would carry out their orders to "remove Prague from the face of the earth".

Gen. Sergěj Vojcechovský and Brig. Gen. Langer, seeing they had no chance to continue the battle without risking the lives of hundreds of thousands civilians in Prague, started negotiations for capitulation with the Gen.d.Art. v. Reichenau in the morning of March 13. At noon, President Beneš and most of the Czech government left for Warszaw from Prague's Ruzyně Airport. Prime Minister Syrový wished to stay in Prague, as he insisted that as a soldier and the minister of national defence, he should stay until the end. He shared the same thoughts as Vojcechovský and Langer, and a capitulation would spare the suffering inhabitants of Prague from unnecessary aerial bombardment. However, he chose to follow the chief of military intelligence František Moravec after being told that his position as prime minister, minister of national defence and as a soldier could be abused in the post-invasion Czechoslovakia.

In the early morning of March 14, František Moravec, 10 of his fellow intelligence officers and Syrový secretly managed to fly away with the most valuable intelligence files and archives from Prague Ruzyně Airport to Stockholm-Bromma Airport with a stopover on Warszawa-Okęcie Fryderyka Chopina Airport in an ad hoc chartered KLM Douglas DC-3, as the Germans were closing in. Only 20 minutes after Moravec and Syrový left for Warsaw, the forward elements of the 1st Panzer-Division swarmed the airfield. Rescued files and archives were handed over to the British MI6 to be used against Germany. The next morning the remaining Czech forces capitulated to the Germans and Hungarians, thus ending the five-month conflict.

Final years

Decorations

Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovak War Cross 1918 (3x) Bar Czechoslovak War Cross (1918) with two linden branches 1920
Czechoslovak War Cross 1939-1945 (3x) Bar Czechoslovak War Cross (1945) with two linden branches 1945
TCH Rad Sokola 1 BAR Order of the Falcon of Štefánik with swords 1919
Medal of Jan Žižky of Trocnova Medal of Jan Žižka of Trocnova 2nd Class 1918
Czechoslovak Revolutionary Medal 1914–1918 Ribbon Bakhmach Czechoslovak Revolutionary Medal 1914–1918 with "Bachmač" and "6" bars 1918
Belgium Belgium
World War I Victory Medal ribbon Inter-Allied Victory Medal 1918 1922
France France
Kingdom of Italy Italy
Kingdom of Yugoslavia Yugoslavia
Austria-Hungary Austria-Hungary
Template:Country data Romania Romania
Russia Russia
Greece Greece
United Kingdom United Kingdom

See also

Positions held

Military offices
Emblem Czechoslovak Army Office established
Chief of the Main Headquarters of the Czechoslovak Army
September 23, 1938 - March 15, 1939

Office abolished
Preceded by:
Jan Syrový

Chief of Staff of the Czechoslovak Army
1933 - 1938

Succeeded by:
Bohuslav Fiala

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