|The War That Came Early |
POD: July 20, 1936;
Relevant POD: September 29, 1938
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
given Spanish citizenship in 1944
(Probably born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire)
|Date of Birth:||1910s|
|Occupation:||Cab driver, soldier|
|Military Branch:||Czechoslovak Army,|
International Brigades (World War II)
Vaclav Jezek was a Czeckoslovak corporal during the Second World War. While serving in France, he became an expert sniper, a talent he brought to the Spanish Republicans in 1940 after the Hess Agreement temporarily made France an ally of Germany. In 1943, he almost single-handedly ended the Spanish phase of the war by assassinating first general Francisco Franco and then Marshal José Sanjurjo.
Soldier and refugee: 1938-39
Jezek was a cab driver in his civilian life. In October 1938, Jezek participated in the defense of Czechoslovakia against the German invasion. Jezek participated in the 30 day fight, but as Czechoslovakia's fate soon became clear, Jezek was one of several soldiers who crossed the border into neighboring Poland. He was detained there for some weeks before being transferred to Romania by train, and then to France by a Greek freighter. A Czechoslovak government-in-exile had been established in France.
Jezek was one of several displaced soldiers from eastern Europe who fought the Germans in France. Among them were various Jews. Before the war, Jezek, while not rabidly anti-Semitic, still had little use for the Jews. This attitude changed as he saw his Jewish comrades acquit themselves bravely in the face of battle.
In early 1939, Jezek acquired an anti-tank rifle, which he quickly grew proficient in using.
Jezek became proficient with his anti-tank rifle, using it as a sniper rifle to deadly effect. After a French officer told him the rifle would have to be taken away because of its obsolescence, Jezek (using Sergeant Benjamin Halévy as a go-between) argued how good a sniper he was, and procured two truckloads of ammunition for his rifle; enough to keep him going for months, if not years. Unlike a normal rifle, the shock of impact from one of the 13 milimetre bullets could kill, even if it hit a non-fatal area. This earned Jezek fame/notoriety on both sides of the line.
Germany, frustrated by his proficiency, dispatched a sniper named Helmut Fegelein to kill Jezek. However, Fegelein proved too cocky for his own good; Jezek outwitted and killed him. Jezek continued sniping (once knocking an officer off of his motorcycle one-half km (550 yds) behind his own lines), forcing the Germans to send Oberfeldwebel Marcus Puttkamer, a brilliant sniper who nearly killed Jezek on more than one occasion. However, Jezek learned the sniper's patterns very quickly, and triumphed over Puttkamer .
By the winter of 1939, Jezek was at the front line, which had moved near the German supply dump at Laon. He noted the possibility of a successful Allied advance in the area with cynical optimism. He was not aware yet that Puttkamer had managed to groom a protege, Willi Dernen, who began hunting Jezek in the closing months of 1939.
Sniper in Spain: 1940-1943
After the Western democracies switched sides and joined Nazi Germany in the war with the Soviet Union in mid-1940, the Czech exiles became a embarrassment for France. They refused to side with Germany (the country that invaded their home) and fight the USSR (the only country that had actively tried to aid Czechoslovakia in 1938). Therefore, France arranged for the bitter Czech soldiers to leave for war-torn Spain, to fight for the Spanish Republicans.
Jezek's legend as a sniper grew in Spain. One of his most famous exploits was his killing of the feared Nationalist general Francisco Franco in late-1941. He got wad of pesetas, leave, and a letter of recommendation. He preferred the first two.
In 1942, he took out three CV-33 light tanks. For this, he was rewarded with more pesetas, a week-long leave and another letter of recommendation.
Throughout the remainder of 1942 and into 1943 Jezek actively pursued the Nationalists' leader, Marshal Sanjurjo, but for the longest time, Sanjurjo didn't oblige him. Finally, on a rainy day in the Fall of 1943, Sanjurjo visited the front, and Jezek shot him in the face. This effectively ended the war in Spain. The Nationalists fell to infighting almost immediately, allowing the Republicans to rapidly retake the country. In gratitude, Manuel Azaña, the President of the Republic, had Jezek brought to Barcelona where he publicly thanked Jezek for not "despairing of the Republic". He also made Jezek a Spanish citizen, captain in the Army of the Republic, and paid Jezek the bounty that had been placed on Sanjurjo's head.
In 1944, Jezek returned to France (which had restarted its war with Germany at the end of 1941) in the hopes of fighting Germany. However, in April 1944, Adolf Hitler was overthrown and killed by the so-called Committee for the Salvation of the German Nation. The Committee sued for peace and negotiated a treaty with Britain, France and the Soviet Union. As part of that peace, Czechoslovakia remained divided into the puppet state of Slovakia and the German-occupied Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. This left Jezek essentially as a man without a country. Ultimately, he decided to try to sneak back into what had been his country to help any Czech partisans that might agitate against German rule. He accepted that the Germans would probably catch him eventually.