The Fraternal Invasion
On August 20, 1968, Warsaw Pact forces--including troops from
Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Hungary,
Poland, and the Soviet Union--invaded Czechoslovakia.
Approximately 500,000 troops, mostly from the Soviet Union,
poured across the borders in a blitzkrieg-like advance
, ch. 1).
The invasion was meticulously planned and coordinated, as the
operation leading to the capture of Prague's Ruzyne International
Airport in the early hours of the invasion demonstrated. A
special flight from Moscow, which had prior clearance, arrived
just as the Warsaw Pact troops began crossing the borders. The
aircraft carried more than 100 plainclothes agents, who quickly
secured the airport and prepared the way for a huge airlift.
Giant An-12 aircraft began arriving at the rate of one per
minute, unloading Soviet airborne troops equipped with artillery
and light tanks. As the operation at the airport continued,
columns of tanks and motorized rifle troops headed toward Prague
and other major centers, meeting no resistance.
By dawn on August 21, 1968, Czechoslovakia was an occupied
country. During the day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs "with
the endorsement of the President of the Czechoslovak Socialist
Republic and on behalf of the Government of the Republic"
transmitted to the governments of the invading countries "a
resolute protest with the requirement that the illegal occupation
of Czechoslovakia be stopped without delay and all armed troops
be withdrawn." That evening in a nationwide radio broadcast
President Svoboda stated that the Warsaw Pact forces had entered
the country "without the consent of the constitutional organs of
the state," thus officially denying the Soviet claim that they
had been invited into the country to preserve socialism. The
people of Czechoslovakia generally resented the presence of
foreign troops. They demonstrated their objections in mass
gatherings in the streets and by various acts of passive
resistance. The invading troops could see that they had not been
invited into and were not wanted in Czechoslovakia.
One of the priority missions of the Warsaw Pact forces during
the early stages of the invasion was to neutralize the
Czechoslovak armed forces. That mission proved to be easy because
Czechoslovak authorities had confined the armed forces to their
barracks. In effect, the Czechoslovak forces were prisoners in
their own barracks although, on orders from the Warsaw Pact
command, they had not been disarmed. At the end of three weeks,
the Soviet units that had surrounded Czechoslovak military
installations were pulled back, but the suspicions that had been
aroused among the troops on both sides were not easily dispelled.
Czechoslovak military spokesmen tried to depict their forces as
the same strong, efficient organization that had previously
manned the westernmost wall of the Warsaw Pact, but obvious
doubts had been raised in the minds of authorities in the other
countries. Czechoslovaks, in turn, wondered about allies who
could so suddenly become invaders.
Data as of August 1987