VE DAY was 75 years ago
Some 75 years ago on May 8, 1945, the Allied armies in Europe were able to finally breathe a sigh of relief. The Nazi regime in Germany had signed the instruments of unconditional surrender the day before in Reims, France. The official surrender took effect on May 8 in Berlin and that date would be known as Victory in Europe [V-E] Day.
The deadliest military conflict in history stated in Sep 1939 with Germany’s invasion of Poland. It ended in Berlin, when the US and its Allied armies, marching from the west, met the Russian armies closing in from the east.
Hitler had committed suicide on Apr 30 in a bunker inside Berlin. His appointed successor, Adm. Karl Donitz, authorized the signing of the tentative surrender papers at Reims on May 7. The Russians insisted that there be a formal ceremony in Berlin. So, on the May 8,, German Gen. Alfred Jodl signed the surrender papers in Berlin, in the presence of Allied and Russian authorities.
It is estimated that some 70-85 million people perished in the almost 6 year conflict. It is believed that an additional 19-28 million people died from disease and famine caused by the war. These figures include the Japanese part in the war also. Civilian deaths totaled some 50-55 million, while military deaths totaled 21-25 million [including 5 million prisoners of war]. Russian losses alone, totaled some 26.6 million, of which 8-9 million were from famine and disease [figures published by the Russian Federation in the 1990s]. In the European theater, US losses were: 152,000 Army and 16,000 Navy.
There were celebrations throughout the western world, especially in Great Britain and North America. Over 1 million people celebrated in the streets throughout Great Britain. In the US, celebrations were tempered by the realization that the war against Japan still raged.
President Harry Truman hosted a muted celebration. These are his words:
“This is a solemn but glorious hour. Gen. Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations. The flags of freedom fly all over Europe.
For this victory, we join in offering our thanks to the Providence which has guided and sustained us through the dark days of adversity. Our rejoicing is sobered and subdued by a supreme consciousness of the terrible price we have paid to rid the world of Hitler and his evil band.”
He went on to note that World war II was not over, since the US and Japan were fighting in the Pacific. He warned the Japanese that the full weight of the American military machine would now be directed against them. Truman closed by saying, “ I want to emphasize that we are only half through”.
It would be almost exactly 100 days after V-E Day that the Japanese would surrender unconditionally.
[Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica; Quora; Wikipedia; The Learning Network; US Department of Defense]