CHAPTER 19 The Czechoslovak Armed Forces

THE CZECHOSLOVAK Communist Party, like any other ruling Communist Party, maintains its position in the state mainly by use of uniformed and secret police. From the days of the coup d'état on, however, the Party has felt threatened by, or at least embarrassed by, the existence in the state of another organization exercising force, namely, the armed forces. The army and the air force had always maintained their own hierarchy of authority, united with political authority only at the highest level; they had always cultivated their own traditions, which had nothing to do with the traditions of the then growing Communist Party; they insisted that they should be free from political interference, and the Communists knew that by political interference the officers and many of those of lower rank meant Communist interference. The armed forces were undoubtedly an anti-Communist force, although they never had an opportunity to operate as such. Once in power, therefore, the Communists inevitably devoted urgent and continuous attention to creating a new Communist Army in place of the old one.

The old Czechoslovak Army dates back to the First World War when many Czechoslovak units of the Imperial Austro-Hungarian Army broke away and joined the allied forces of Russia, Italy, France and Britain. At the end of the war when these units returned triumphantly to their homeland they came as living expressions of the triumphant national idea. Ever since, the Czechoslovak Army and the national idea have been closely associated in the minds of the Czechoslovak people.

The army of the new Czechoslovak Republic was a small but doughty force. As a natural consequence of the close Franco-Czechoslovak alliance it was trained according to French military doctrines. Its equipment came from the Skoda Works and was of the best. Unquestionably this army


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