Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Honored Allies Wednesday: Otakar Jaroš (Czechoslovakia)
During the occupation on Czechoslovakia, Jaroš escaped to Poland to join the Czechoslovak Legion. After the Battle of Poland was concluded, Jaroš found himself imprisoned by the Soviets. Once the Soviet Union came under attack by the Germans, Jaroš would join the First Czechoslovak Independent Field Battalion to help their captors fight against the Nazis and for the promised liberation of his homeland of Czechoslovakia. During a German counteroffensive in February 1943, the Czechoslovak battalion was ordered to defend the frozen river in the vicinity of Kharkov. Jaroš's strengthened 1st Company took position in front of the river in the village of Sokolovo; the rest of the battalion and supporting Soviet units stayed behind the river. On the afternoon of 8 March, German armored troops with at least 14 tanks launched two attacks on Sokolovo. In the ensuing battle, 1st Company was almost annihilated, and Jaroš was killed. Jaroš was wounded twice during the battle, and was killed while attempting to destroy a German tank: he approached the tank with a sheaf of grenades and was hit by the tank's machine-gunner. However, he was already close enough, and the tank was destroyed in wake of the grenades' explosion. Jaroš was posthumously promoted to Captain and on April 17, 1943 he was decorated with the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union, the first member of a foreign army to be so honored. Jaroš would also be awarded the Military Order of the White Lion 1st class in 1947 by his proud homeland.