V-E Day 75th Anniversary!
Victory in Europe
Since Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, the free world had been longing for this day. On May 8, 1945, it came. Victory in Europe Day.
For years, the Allied forces had been pushing back Hitler’s armies. On April 29, German forces in Italy and Austria officially surrendered, effective May 2. On April 30, Hitler committed suicide. On May 4, German forces in northwest Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands surrendered, effective May 5. And finally on May 7, Germany officially surrendered, in Reims, France, effective May 8. The western Allies proclaimed May 8 to be V-E Day. The Soviets demanded a second surrender ceremony in Berlin on May 8 and celebrated V-E Day on May 9.
For the Allies, V-E Day was a day of celebration. Spontaneous parties and conga lines and parades broke out in cities throughout Britain and France and Canada and the USA. People went to church and prayed. American Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and the new president, Harry Truman, addressed the nation. To read text from their speeches, please see this excellent post on V-E Day on the US Army Center of Military History website.
In London, the Royal Family and Prime Minister Winston Churchill appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace before a jubilant crowd. Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, with permission from their parents, anonymously joined the rejoicing crowds in London, “swept along on a tide of happiness and relief.”
But V-E Day was also a day of solemn remembrance. Tens of millions had been killed in battle. More tens of millions had been murdered and starved in concentration camps. And tens of thousands had perished as civilian casualties of bombing. Many of Europe’s great cities lay in heaps of rubble.
And World War II was far from over. In the Pacific, Allied forces were still fighting the Japanese in the East Indies, in the Philippines, in China, and on Okinawa. US forces on Okinawa commemorated V-E Day by simultaneously firing artillery and naval shells at midnight. Then they got back to the battle. V-J Day (Victory in Japan Day) wouldn’t arrive for three more months, on August 15, 1945, with the official end of World War II on September 2, 1945, six years and one day after it had begun.
But for now, the free world rejoiced, and rightly so. Hitler and the Nazis had been defeated, and democracy would return to western Europe. They deserved to celebrate.