Home-made tank bought them freedom / Po domacku vyrobeny tank jim koupil svoboduHome-made tank bought them freedom | Czechmatediary
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Home-made tank bought them freedom / Po domacku vyrobeny tank jim koupil svobodu

Freedom tankIf you are like me, and love those escape stories from old communist Czechoslovakia, then here is a new one for you. You will love it!

Below is a portion of an email I got from a wonderful lady named Mrs. Uhlik whose father-in-law built a TANK (!!) from practically nothing. His inventiveness paid off – it gave him and his family freedom:

CZ: Jestli se vam libi dobrodruzne pribehy emigrantu, kteri uprchli z komunistickeho Ceskoslovenska za extremnich podminek, tak mam pro vas dnes bonbonek. Vaclav Uhlik – Cech s opravdu zlatymi rucickami – si totiz v padesatych letech dokazal postavit tajne TANK (!!), ktery ho uspesne dopravil do zeme svobodnych….Zde je uryvek emailu Vaclavovy snachy – velmi prijemne a sdilne Americanky:

‘I spoke with my hubby and reviewed a few things. The date of the escape was July 23, 1953.  The plan was to make it the 4th of July, but things did not go according to plan.
My father-in-law worked for the communist government hauling timber out of the woods. During that time, he was able to gather piece by piece parts that would eventually be built into the “Freedom Tank”. He worked under the cover of darkness and would hide his creation under piles and piles of scrap metal.  Back in those days they were visited quite often by the “inspectors” to make sure you didn’t have more than a few days provisions, did not have a radio or a bible, and didn’t have extra room in your home (if you did, they would “put” someone else in there to live with you).
The family did in fact have both a bible and a radio, they hid them in the wood cook stove. They would listen to “Radio Free Europe” when they got a chance and my Mother-in-law, Marta, would read the bible to her children (Vaclav and Eva) at night with the light of a candle. As for provisions, my husband would be sent to town each day to stand in line for a loaf of bread…he was 5 years old.

Alas, to make a long story short, they stormed the Iron Curtain into West Germany along with a friend who helped him put it together, some soldier who “found him out” and threatened to report him unless Vaclav took him along, and a “war bride” Libby Cloud.  She had married an American soldier but the government wouldn’t let him stay nor let her go. So “Wally” (his American name) gathered them all up and away they went, crossing a large clearing along the border that was laced with land mines.
They were in Germany for nearly 6 months before President Eisenhower granted them asylum in the US. They came to this country sometime in December, 1953 and were presented on The Ed Sullivan show.  They were scheduled a country wide tour of the country to raise money for Crusade for Freedom, along with the Freedom Tank.
You can see the tank and a picture of my hubby putting the first dollar into it along with Ed Sullivan at this web page: http://coldwarradios.blogspot.com/2010/12/riding-freedom-tank-through-iron.html

 

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2 comments… add one
  • Jim Gilmore June 27, 2015, 2:38 pm

    Just a FYI on the vehicle.

    It was not “built from parts”. It was modified from a German skdf 245 wheeled/tracked armored artillery observation vehicle. There were 140 of these built by Saur in 1940. These vehicles could drive on wheels or lower it down to run on tracks. The armor of the vehicle was modified to look like a Czeck armored car for the escape.
    There are only two of these vehicles known to exist.
    I own this vehicle now.

    Jim Gilmore
    Jim Thorpe, PA
    jgilmore@ptd.net

  • Jim Gilmore June 27, 2015, 2:45 pm

    I small correcion ………….the vehicle was a SdKfz 254.
    Here is a link to what it would have looked like before it was modified.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SdKfz_254

    Jim Gilmore

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