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Today in World War II History

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V-E Day 75th Anniversary!

Ground crew on a RAF Bomber Command station in Britain return the ‘V for Victory’ sign to a neighboring searchlight crew. Silhouetted is the nose of a Lancaster bomber. (Imperial War Museum)

Ground crew on a RAF Bomber Command station in Britain return the ‘V for Victory’ sign to a neighboring searchlight crew. Silhouetted is the nose of a Lancaster bomber. (Imperial War Museum)

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.

ColGen Alfred Jodl signing the documents of Germany’s surrender, Reims, France, 7 May 1945. (US Army Signal Corps photo)

ColGen Alfred Jodl signing the documents of Germany’s surrender, Reims, France, 7 May 1945. (US Army Signal Corps photo)

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.

A jubilant American airman hugging an English woman at Piccadilly Circus, London, England, celebrating Germany's unconditional surrender, 7 May 1945 (US National Archives: 111-SC-205398)

A jubilant American airman hugging an English woman at Piccadilly Circus, London, England, celebrating Germany’s unconditional surrender, 7 May 1945 (US National Archives: 111-SC-205398)

US Army personnel on top of l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France watching the celebration in the streets over the war in Europe coming to an end, 8 May 1945 (public domain via WW2 Database)

US Army personnel on top of l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France watching the celebration in the streets over the war in Europe coming to an end, 8 May 1945 (public domain via WW2 Database)

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.”

Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill, King George VI, and Princess Margaret on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, London, 8 May 1945 (US Army photo)

Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill, King George VI, and Princess Margaret on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, London, 8 May 1945 (US Army photo)

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.

On Okinawa, men of the US 77th Infantry Division listen to the radio report of Germany’s surrender on May 8, 1945. One minute after this photo was taken, they returned to their combat posts. US forces on Okinawa celebrated V-E Day by training every ship and shore battery on a Japanese target and firing one shell simultaneously and precisely at midnight. (US National Archives: FA 41224- FA)

On Okinawa, men of the US 77th Infantry Division listen to the radio report of Germany’s surrender on May 8, 1945. One minute after this photo was taken, they returned to their combat posts. US forces on Okinawa celebrated V-E Day by training every ship and shore battery on a Japanese target and firing one shell simultaneously and precisely at midnight. (US National Archives: FA 41224- FA)

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.

11 responses to “V-E Day 75th Anniversary!”

  1. Beth says:

    Love your books Sarah! I currently rereading your Wings of a Nightingale Series.

  2. Janice Laird says:

    Great prize! Going to check Julie’s blog …

  3. Janice Laird says:

    Oh, “A Royal Night Out” is an adorable little movie about Princess Elizabeth’s and Princess Margaret’s celebration of V-E Day!

  4. Pat Davis says:

    ENJOYED THE PICTURES, THANKS SARAH,for all you do.

  5. debra Lindquist says:

    Just love your books!

  6. Keren H Lyles says:

    Thanks Sarah for writing such great stories. And for all your posts that I learn from them more about History. Blessings. Keren

  7. Christine says:

    You are one of my all time favorite authors. I love reading about the WW2 era.
    VE Day is a special day to remember the sacrifices others made for us. I especially remember my parents who were part of the Greatest Generation–and VE Day is their anniversary!

  8. Myra says:

    Loved your book so much, Sarah; I believe it was your best so far! Thank you for all the historical information you impart with your readers, fans, and more!

  9. Lisa Hudson says:

    Sarah,

    You know how much I LOVE your books! I’m so thankful you finally were able to visit the National WWII Museum. It’s the neatest the place, isn’t it? One could spend days & days touring & taking it all in!

  10. Dawn Renee Psik says:

    Wow! What an awesome giveaway! Tysm for the chance to win! LOVE wartime stories, esp. WW2 as that is the war my dad fought in.

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