The Czech Legion was not just a single military unit, but a volunteer army that fielded up to 100,000 troops on the Allied side on all three main fronts in World War I (1914-1918). Since only the defeat of Austro-Hungary and Germany offered any hope of Czech national independence, they were amongst the most motivated and steadfast of the Allied forces in France, the Italian Alps and Russia. In one of the most colorful and extraordinary episodes of the 20th century they fought their way across Russia in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution, captured the Russian national gold reserves in Kazan, and used this as a bargaining chip to force the Bolsheviks to allow them to return home, in an epic journey closely followed by the Western press. The Legion played a central part in the foundation of the Czechoslovakian nation with the leaders of independent Czechoslovakia - Masaryk, Benes and Stefanik - all emerging from the Legion's ranks. Today the Legion is recognized as the founding fathers of Czech nationhood and are idolized by the US Czech community as a result.
Read an extract of The Czech Legion 1914–20
Table of Contents
Historical background - the Czech independence movement in the Austro-Hungarian Empire · Czech troops in the Austro-Hungarian Army · Recruitment of Czech volunteers, and Czech former Austro-Hungarian prisoners, by the Allied (Entente) Powers · Czech Legion in France · Czech Legion in Italy· Czech Legion in Russian · The long journey home · Aftermath: nationhood - betrayal - occupation and persecution · Uniforms, insignia, weapons and equipment