Slovakian SOF and a family tradition: In the footsteps of Jozef Gabcik

3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)
Story by Maj. Joel Anderson

Date: 04.12.2013
Posted: 04.29.2013 14:04
News ID: 106024

ZILINA, Slovakia - The Slovakian 5th Special Forces Regiment of Jozef Gabcik have been serving in eastern Afghanistan to support and mentor the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), but they have also had a living legacy of sorts serving among them.

Master Sgt. Slepicka, a member of the 5th Regiment, currently serving here with coalition special operations forces (SOF), is the grand-nephew of the late Staff Sgt. Jozef Gabcik, the namesake of the Slovakian SOF Regiment.

The 5th Special Forces Regiment of Jozef Gabcik is named in memory of Jozef Gabcik who was a heroic Slovakian liberation fighter during the Second World War.

Gabcik lived near the city of Zilina, home to the 5th Regiment, in the community of Poluvsie, up until the time he fled the former Czechoslovakia, now Slovakia, which is now the home-base to the 5th Special Forces Regiment. Gabcik, fled from Czechoslovakia to escape the onslaught of the German’s Nazi juggernaut during the early stages of World War II and fled to Great Britain. He became a paratrooper in the army of his fellow self-exiled Czechoslovaks, as they came to be called and rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Operation Anthropoid
Jozef Gabcik and his good friend, Jan Kubis, a 1st Lieutenant as the Czechoslovak exile-army, infiltrated by air, along with seven other fellow exiles from England to be dropped behind enemy lines by parachute into occupied Czechoslovakia on December 28, 1941.

Once they had infiltrated into Prague, they contacted several families and anti-Nazi groups for help to prepare for their ultimate mission, which lay ahead – the assignation of the Nazi governor or Reichsprotektor of their occupied homeland, known as Bohemia and Moravia at the time the Nazi occupiers.

On the morning of May 27, 1942, Heydrich proceeded on his daily commute from his home in Panenske Brezany to Prague Castle. Gabcik and Kubis waited at a tram stop until Heydrich’s open-topped Mercedes-Benz neared them.

Once the car was near, Gabcik stepped in front of the vehicle, and attempted to to open fire with his Sten submachinegun, but it jammed.

Heydrich immediately ordered his driver, to stop the car and Heydrich stood up to try to return fire with his pistol to shoot Gabcik. However at that exact moment, Kubis simultaneously threw a modified anti-tank grenade at the vehicle.

The grenade’s fragments ripped the car’s right-rear fender to pieces and showered Heydrich with shrapnel, even though the grenade failed to land inside the car.

Heydrich, seemingly unaware of his wounds, jumped out of the car, returned fire and attempted to chase Gabcik, but soon collapsed.

Heydrich’s driver attempted to but failed to effectively give chase to Kubis, so Heydrich ordered him to chase Gabcik and as a result, the driver was shot twice and wounded in the pursuit by Gabcik, who had by that time switched to firing a revolver he had also been carrying.

In all of the confusion, Kubis and Gabcik actually, initially thought that their attack had failed.

However, Heydrich was taken to a nearby Hospital, where it was discovered that he was suffering from blood poisoning.

On the twenty-ninth of May, 1942, Radio Prague announced that Reinhard Heydrich was dying – Gabcik and Kubis, had fatally wounded him and on the sixth of June he died.

Aftermath and attempted capture of the assassins
A manhunt for the resistance fighters quickly followed in the aftermath of the assassination. Nazi officials quickly determined that the operation was planned and carried out by the Czech Resistance with support from the British.

As a result, many Czech Resistance fighters were jailed and tortured as the Nazis failed to capture the assassins alive in a timely manner. More than 13,000 people were eventually jailed and many, including the girlfriend of Jan Kubis, Anna Malinova, died at Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, as a result of torturous questioning.

Nazi officials searched extensively for Gabcik and Kubis until they found them, along with the rest of their fellow paratroopers hiding in Cyril and Methodius Cathedral in Prague. A six-hour firefight developed, in which the Germans lost at least 14 killed and 21 wounded.

Surrounded and outgunned, Gabcik and the others, with the exception of Kubis, who was seriously wounded by a grenade, committed suicide before the Nazis could take them alive in the Church catacombs.

Kubis was grievously wounded in the battle and succumbed to his wounds soon after he was taken to a hospital.

In memory of the sacrifices of resistance fighters including Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis, the site in Prague where they were gunned by Nazi forces has become a monument, the village of Gabcikovo in southern Slovakia is named after Gabcik, and one of the biggest dams on the Danube River next to the village is named after the village.

Gabcik, the only Slovak on the daring mission, was posthumously promoted to the rank of captain.

Gabcik’s body was also reinterred, a few years ago, near his pre-war home, in Poluvsie.

Master Sgt. Slepicka went on to say, “Serving in our (Slovak) military makes me proud, especially when I think of the sacrifice my great uncle, the father of our regiment made, to make this world a better place and being able to be a member of this regiment lets me have a connection to my great uncle, even though I never met him...his spirit lives on through the regiment – everyday!”

Thanks to the bravery of Jozef Gabcik fighting the oppression of the Nazi juggernaut, today’s Slovak SOF have an excellent example to follow as they continue their outstanding support to the Global War on Terror.