Milan Stefanik

General Stefanik. © SHD

The son of a clergyman, Milan Stefanik was born on 21 July 1880, in Kosariska.  After studying in Bratislava, Sopron and Sarvas, he went on to Prague University, where he studied mathematics and astronomy, before gaining a PhD in 1904. In 1905, he became assistant director of the Meudon Observatory, in France, published many treatises and organised seven astronomical observation expeditions to the summit of Mont Blanc. A great traveller, he undertook a number of diplomatic and astronomical missions on behalf of the French government, including one to Tahiti in 1910 to observe the passage of Halley’s Comet.


Milan Stefanik during a stay at the Meudon Observatory, France. Source: IMS


Naturalised French in 1912 and made a Knight of the Légion d’Honneur in 1914, Stefanik enlisted in the French Army, and in three years rose to the rank of brigadier. Assigned to the air force, he made improvements to military meteorology. In 1916 and 1917, he went in an official capacity to Romania, Siberia and the United States, to organise the recruitment of Czechoslovakian volunteers. On 21 April 1918, Stefanik signed, with Italian prime minister Orlando, the treaty establishing a Czechoslovak army on the Italian front.


Sergeant Stefanik is awarded the Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 with palm, for his service in the air force, France. © SHD


France made him a Commander of the Légion d’Honneur. On 28 October 1918, Czechoslovakia became an independent nation, and Stefanik was appointed Minister for War in the new government. On his journey home, on 4 May 1919, he was killed when his aircraft crashed near Bratislava. His body has laid to rest in the Bradlo mausoleum since 1928.


Source : Ministère de la défense/SGA/DMPA