V-E Day Marked End of Long Road for World War II Troops
When President Harry S. Truman, British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin simultaneously announced that Nazi Germany had surrendered on May 8, 1945, the joy Americans felt was tempered by where they were.
The war that began with Germany invading Poland Sept. 1, 1939, ended with the total defeat of the Nazi menace and the unconditional surrender of the German military.
In New York, London and Moscow the eruption of joy was instantaneous. Men and women rushed to the streets to hug and kiss and dance. The war against Nazi Germany was over. The killing had stopped. A great evil ended.
Victory in Europe Day from the History Channel series WWII in HD. – YouTube
The End of a Long Road
On the front lines deep in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, the celebration was more muted, with soldiers gradually realizing they were not going to be shot at anymore and were going to go home.
Their joy was further tempered because, while Germany was defeated, Japan fought on. The soldiers realized their divisions, brigades and units would be part of the invasion of Japan.
In the Pacific, there was a brief acknowledgment that the European battle was over, but it didn’t really matter to the soldiers and Marines who were still attacking Japanese positions on Okinawa or to the sailors who were fending off kamikaze attacks on ships off the island.
V-E Day signified the end of a long road. Just between June 1944 and May 8, 1945, there were 552,117 U.S. casualties in the European theater of operations. Of those, 104,812 were killed in action.
In January 1945, many believed the war in Europe would last much longer.
In January, U.S. Army soldiers were still battling against German forces that had launched the Battle of the Bulge. That battle was the largest the U.S. Army ever fought and out of the 90,000 casualties around 19,000 soldiers were killed.
Events accelerated from there.
WWII Posters Gallery
The War Moves into Germany
Bombing missions continued over Germany and every B-17 or B-24 lost over the Reich meant a loss of 10 Americans. On the ground, Allied troops mopped up German resistance on the west bank of the Rhine River.
On March 7, 1945, soldiers from the 9th Armored Division secured the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine River in Remagen, Germany. The U.S. 1st Army vaulted the water barrier and struck deep into Germany. The 3rd Army also crossed the river and moved on. On March 22, U.S. and British forces launch a massive operation over the Rhine in Oppenheim.
On April 2, U.S. forces surrounded 600,000 Germans in the Ruhr Pocket. Throughout the month, American forces begin discovering the consequences of the Nazi ideology as they liberated death camps like Buchenwald, Ohrdruf and Dachau.
On April 12, Americans were shocked by the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Harry S Truman was sworn in and vowed to continue Roosevelt’s policies.
On April 21, Soviet forces began their assault on the German capital of Berlin.
With the Soviets closing in, Hitler committed suicide on April 30 and turned power over to Admiral Karl Donitz.
Two short clips about the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen captured by elements of the 9th Armored Division on March 7, 1945 giving the Allies their first bridgehead across the Rhine river. The first part is a brief overview of the capture of the bridge while the second part shows the aftermath of the collapse of the bridge. – YouTube
On May 2, German forces in Berlin surrendered to the Soviets.
On May 7, formal negotiations for Germany’s surrender began at the Supreme headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force headquarters in Rheims, France, and the Germans surrender unconditionally the next day.
At the conclusion of the surrender, the allied staff attempted to write a message for General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower to send to allied leaders. He opted for “The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 0241, May 7th, 1945.”
After those meany years of rationing, and horrific casualties, war-weary allies started the party early, ahead of the official celebrations on May 8.
Now 71 years from that turning point America remembers the sacrifices made to preserve freedom, we remember our American veterans, and the allies from Britain, Poland, France and resistance movements throughout Europe, and the sacrifices of Russia and the nations that then made up the Soviet Union.
This 1945 newsreel shows the final stages of World War II in Europe with American, British, Russian and allied forces descending upon the German heartland. Mussolini is murdered by a firing squad, and Adolph Hitler commits suicide. The greatest European war in human history is finished. This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, visit http://www.PeriscopeFilm.com
Legacy of Sacrifices
Today, we can celebrate the legacy of their sacrifices. A legacy you could not imagine in 1945. That legacy is not limited to 71 years of peace in Europe, but also the way the seed of democracy has flourished around the world.
The American and Russian soldiers who met at the prisoner of war camp in Torgau, Germany, April 25, 1945, were also witnesses of some of mankind’s most unconscionable acts. Hardened soldiers were sickened by what they saw in Dachau and Auschwitz, and as one world we proclaimed, ‘never again’. That legacy continues to drive us to stand against atrocities and acts of mass inhumanity.
WWII Vets Will be Remembered
America owes its World War II veterans an unpayable debt.
We will continue to tell it to children blessedly untouched by war, so they understand the price of freedom.
|Isabelle V. Cedar Cook|
|John Ernest Dolibois|
Hallmarks of the WWII Generation
Courage, ingenuity, faith and industry are the hallmarks of the World War II generation.
Americans can never forget that we are recipients of a precious gift from those heroes whose conscience could not accept the theft of liberty or the reality of aggression and genocide.
To be true to those heroes we must never forget why World War II was fought and how it was won. We must maintain solidarity with one another, never allowing our differences to interfere with the most profound values we share. And we must be willing to uphold that principle by defending democratic institutions and values throughout the world.
Featured Content and Media – U.S. Department of Defence Archives
Featured Image – ABC
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