V-E Day - 75 Years Ago

It was on the 8th of May, 1945, in which German troops surrendered; in Prague with the loss of thousands of soldiers; Copenhagen, Oslo, at Karlhorst near Berlin; northern Latvia, Island of Sark, and more of which surrender documents were signed in Berlin and in eastern Germany.


Approximately two million German soldiers were taken captive even though about half of them tried to escape the Russians once the fight ended in Czechoslovakia. 13,000 British POWs, however, were released and sent back to Great Britain.


By 9th of May, the Soviets lost about 600 more soldiers in Silesia before the Germans finally surrendered and thus V-E Day was not celebrated until 9th of May

“The age-long struggle of the Slav nations… has ended in victory. Your courage has defeated the Nazis. The war is over.” - Stalin.


Reaching the sixth year conflict during WWII, millions of people were injured, lands destroyed and a total of 45-60 million people lost their lives. During Hitler's ruling, six million Jews, as well as millions of others, were murdered in the Holocaust. The beginning to the end of all this nightmare came along on May 8th, when both Great Britain and United States celebrated "Victory In Europe Day" with mass parades and celebrations all across the nations. The 7.6 million troops that had taken four years to gather from overseas took more than four months until they all returned home.


August 1945, President Harry Truman of the United States decided to take drastic measures to ensure the defeat of the Axis Power that originally drew in the US into the war with the Pearl Harbor attacks by hitting the two Japanese cities "Hiroshima" and "Nagasaki" with atomic bombs. 14th of August became known as the "Victory Over Japan Day" and a total victory to the Allies. September 2nd, 1945, general Douglas MacArthus formally accepted Japan's surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri whilst anchored in Tokyo Bay making this day to also be known as V-J Day.


Germany, England, France & The United States at the end of WWII;


Germany


About a week after the Soviet troops besieged Berlin, Adolf Hitler married his mistress Eva Brain and the two committed suicide in a buncher beneath the German Chancellery. However, there are conspiracies around Hitler's death such as; he might have planted a doppelganger that was murdered in the buncher instead of him and his mistress. After Hitler's death, leadership was given to Karl Dönitz and he decided to try to negotiate with the Allies in hopes of a less painful result for Germany. 1.8 million troops which were about 55% of the army of the east was sent into British-U.S. zone of control.


Karl Dönitz chief of staff, Alfred Jodl signed an unconditional surrender at the Reims headquarters of U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of all Allied forces in Europe. “With this signature, the German people and the German armed forces are, for better or worse, delivered into the victors’ hands.” Due to the fact that about a million german troops tried to escape Czhechoslavaka after their surrender, Jodl was found guilty of crimes at Nuremberg and hanged in October 1946.

England


News about the surrender spread by the 7th of May and thus thousands were crowded Central London and cheered until midnight. The British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and King George VI wanted 7th of May to be known as V-E Day but upon contact with America, they declared an official celebration on the 8th of May. Many gathered in Londons Trafalgar square to hear Churchills radio broadcast from 10 Downing street piped through speakers. “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing,” Churchill said, “but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead. Japan with all her treachery and greed, remains unsubdued. We must now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our task, both at home and abroad. Advance Britannia.”

Churchill, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Princesses Elizabeth ( future Queen Elizabeth II) appeared later on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to celebrate with the crowd. Margaret was incognito with the crowd experiencing the celebration closer with the people. The same night, the palace was lit by floodlights for the first time since 1939 and a V light was projected above St. Paul’s Cathedral, which pinned down the beginning to the end of the six years of war.

France


Since the middle ages, Reims had served as the coronation site for French kings up into Charles X in 1825. But, by WWI about 80% of Reims was destroyed and by the second war, heavily bombed by Allied planes to eliminate the Nazis from the city. The destruction left The Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force to be located in a red brick schoolhouse northwest of the Reims train station where the Germans signed defeat on the 7th of May.

On the same day, crowds celebrated the victory in Paris. Leader of the Free French Forces from Algiers Charles de Gaulle, who led the Free French Forces from Algiers declares in 1944; “The war has been won. This is victory. It is the victory of the United Nations and that of France. Honor to our nation, which never faltered, even under terrible trials, nor gave in to them. Honor to the United Nations, which mingled their blood, their sorrows, and their hopes with ours and who today are triumphant with us.”


Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin disagreed with the Reim agreement and fought for another day on the German-Soviet front losing 600 more soldiers in Silesia on the 8th of May. This led to a newly signed agreement in Soviet-occupied Berlin on the 9th of May. Thus the Soviet Union celebrates V-E Day on the 9th of May. The celebration occurred in Kremlin with crowds out in Red Square. Approximately 25-30 million Soviets died during WWII (The Great Patriotic War) with more than 2/3 as civilians. “The age-long struggle of the Slav nations…has ended in victory. Your courage has defeated the Nazis. The war is over.” - Stalin. Interestingly, Joseph Stalin seemed uninterested in the celebration considering when his deputy Nikita Krushchev wanted to congratulate him, Stalin said “Why are you bothering me? I am working.”


USA


The flags were still at half-mast due to the passing of Franklin D. Roosevelt up until the 8th of May which was also President Harry S. Truman's 61st birthday. Thousands celebrated the victory across the nation. “If I could give you a single watchword for the coming months, that word is work, work, and more work. We must work to finish the war. Our victory is only half over.” - Truman


The United States was the major world power with the greatest participation in the war against Japan. There was a celebration but The New York Times reported; “Thousands of War and Navy employees [in Washington], some uniformed but mainly civilians, greeted the V-E news as soberly as their chiefs gave it to them. There was thankfulness, but no cheering. Perhaps it was in recognition that this nation had only passed the halfway mark in its global war…”


References


1. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/victory-in-europe

Cover Image Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images

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