70th V-E Day

WWII US Army veteran Howard Harvey @ Washington DC ceremonies

WWII US Army veteran Howard Harvey @ Washington DC ceremonies

On May 8, 1945, millions of people around the globe took to the streets to celebrate the World War II surrender of Germany on what came to be known as Victory in Europe Day, or V-E Day. At 2:41 a.m. local time the previous day, representatives from the victorious Allied nations met with German officials in Reims, France, to sign the official surrender documents but, in accordance with an earlier agreement between leaders in the United States, Soviet Union and United Kingdom, the news of the end of hostilities on the continent was withheld for 24 hours and announced simultaneously on the 8th. In London, spotlights in the form of a “V” for victory were turned on over St. Paul’s Cathedral—although it took some time to get them working again after nearly six years of wartime blackouts. In the United States a newly sworn-in president got a very unusual birthday present. And in the Soviet Union, a powerful leader was already planning his next, post-war moves. Millions had been killed, rationing continued and there was still three months of deadly fighting ahead, but for a few hours, the world stopped to commemorate and celebrate. As we remember its 68th anniversary, here are some surprising facts you may not know about V-E Day.

V-E Day

It took 20 hours to complete the surrender documents.
Following the suicide of Adolf Hitler on April 30 and the collapse of the Nazi Party, the end of the war in Europe was clearly in sight. Susan Hibbert, a British secretary stationed at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) in Reims, France, began working on a series of documents and cables to world leaders informing them of the impending surrender. On May 6, after the arrival of General Alfred Jodl, the chief of staff to new German President Karl Dönitz, in Reims, Hibbert and other staffers knew the end was imminent. That morning, she began typing the English version of the Act of Military Surrender and, thanks to repeated changes in wording from all parties, didn’t finish until 20 hours later. Finally, at around 2:30 am May 7, Hibbert and other staffers crowded into a conference room to witness one of the most momentous events of the 20th century. Curiously, General Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander and architect of the successful war strategy, didn’t attend the ceremony, and was instead represented by his chief of staff Walter Bedell Smith. He did, however, decide how the historic news would be relayed around the world. While many on his staff pressed for a strongly worded declaration of victory, “Ike” overruled them, instead crafting a far simpler message to announce the end of six deadly years of conflict: “The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 0241, local time, May 7th, 1945.”Joseph Stalin insisted on a second surrender ceremony.
As the fighting neared its end, the post-war political wrangling had already begun. When Soviet leader Joseph Stalin heard about the surrender ceremony in Reims, he was none too pleased. He declared that the U.S.S.R’s representative there, Ivan Susloparov, had not been authorized to sign the document and that the wording differed from a previous agreement Stalin had approved. Stalin, who ensured Soviet troops were the first to arrive in Berlin in an effort to secure control of the city before the Allies, also refused to accept a surrender signed on French soil, and declared the Reims document simply a preliminary surrender. Stalin’s remarks caused massive confusion; German radio announced that the Axis may have surrendered on the Western Front, but remained at war with the Soviets, and fighting continued throughout the day on May 8. Finally, just before midnight (in the early hours of the 9th, Moscow time), another hastily assembled ceremony got underway in Soviet-controlled Berlin. So, while much of the world would commemorate V-E Day on May 8, Victory Day in the Russia and its republics would be celebrated on May 9.

Halifax, Canada - V-E Day 1945

Halifax, Canada – V-E Day 1945

V-E Day sparked the deadly Halifax Riot.
Unfortunately, not every V-E Day celebration ended peacefully. For six years tensions had been rising in the critical Canadian port city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, as thousands of sailors flooded the city, more than doubling its population. With housing, commodities and entertainment in short supply, prices were high and tempers were extremely short. On May 7, when word reached the city of the impending surrender, business leaders, fearing an influx of servicemen in search of a celebration, decided to close all liquor stores, restaurants and stores, while the city suspended local transportation. Despite these concerns, the nearby military base’s commander gave more than 10,000 sailors temporary leave to enjoy the end of the war downtown. Angered at what they considered gross mistreatment by city residents, and with little in the way of peaceful diversions, the men eventually began to riot, looting retail stores and liquor outlets and starting dozens of fires. The Halifax Riot continued into May 8, with another 9,000 sailors teeming into town. By the time order was restored and the looting had stopped late that afternoon, three servicemen were dead, 360 had been arrested and the city had suffered more than $5 million in damages—$62 million in today’s money.

It made for a fine presidential birthday present.
On May 8, 1945, Harry Truman had been president for just 26 days—in fact, he had only moved into the White House the day before. Writing to his mother and sister, Truman informed them of the German surrender the day before (which he would announce to the country shortly after finishing the letter), and noted the day’s other, more personal, significance—it was his 61st birthday. When Truman met with reporters later that morning to discuss the surrender, he dedicated the victory to his predecessor Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died less than a month earlier, then quietly slipped away to celebrate both his birthday and V-E Day with friends and aides.

Reims, France - site of German surrender 1945

Reims, France – site of German surrender 1945

The location of the surrender was known as France’s city of kings.
The French city of Reims, like much of Europe, had suffered mightily in the early 20th century: Nearly 80 percent of the city had been destroyed during World War I and again during the second world war, when the Nazi-occupied city was heavily bombed by Allied planes. Located in the northeast part of the country, it is today probably best known for producing some of the best champagne in the world. But for hundreds of years, Reims played a crucial (if ceremonial) role in French history. Beginning in 496 with the baptism of Clovis, Rheims was where the coronation of 33 French kings were consecrated, all using anointing oil that according to legend, had been provided directly by God. During the Hundred Years War, Joan of Arc liberated the city and had Charles VII crowned king in the city’s cathedral. The tradition continued until 1825, when Charles X became the last king to be consecrated in Reims.

050506VEDay

by: John Fewings

Information courtesy of History.com

To view previous V-E Day posts – CLICK HERE and then HERE.

ve-day-70th-anniversary

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Political Cartoons ~ from back in the day ~

szyk6

by: Arthur Szyk (1894-1951)

 

There you are!  Don't lose it again!

There you are! Don’t lose it again!

Post-Register, Idaho Falls, ID

Post-Register, Idaho Falls, ID

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Farewell Salutes – 

David Baron – WPalm Beach, FL; US Navy, WWII

The Final Farewell

The Final Farewell

Anthony Dacquisto – Winnipeg, CAN; RC Army, WWII, ETO/Korea, Intelligence Corps

Riley Foster, Sr. – Stiglar, OK; US Navy, WWII

Dorothy Grant – Auckland, NZ; NZWAAC # 72475, WWII, nurse

John Kreiper Jr. – Washington, DC; US Army, WWII/ US Air Force, Major (Ret.)

Andrew Morrison – Palm Springs, FL; US Navy, Korea, USS Northhampton, Aerographer

J.W. Royals – Dover, TN; US Army, 408th/11th A/B Div.

Bill Schlossberg – W.Orange, NJ; US Army, WWII, ETO, Bronze Star

Jack Sonnenblick – Harrison, NY; US Army, WWII, ETO, 1st Lt., Combat Engineers

Fred Tucker – Karori, NZ; RNZ Air Force (Ret.)

 

Click on images to enlarge.

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on May 7, 2015, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 95 Comments.

  1. That first photo is very moving. Oh the memories Veteran Harvey must have! 😕

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Certainly a day worth remembering.

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  3. Thanks gp on a very informative view of the facts regarding VE day, and the various Diplomatic protocols that had to be undertaken, in the eventual surrender recognition.
    Cheers.

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    • You are very welcome, Ian. This day meant more to some than others, the area had more countries fighting there and far more equipment – but at least it finally came.

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  4. A great piece… I still remember the day the US troops left our sea-side town of Weymouth where they had been stationed in the run-up to D-day… they lined up for their food in the village hall at the end of our garden, and threw us packets of chewing gum and wrapped sugar cubes – like gold to a seven year old.

    I remember the night they left, and the huge armada of planes flying over us for hours on their way to bomb Europe ( I thought it was Hitler come to bomb us – no-one told a child anything then ) and in the morning all the tanks and trucks and barbed wire on the beach where we had never been allowed to go, had gone, and unbeknown to me, the soldiers were fighting for their lives on Omaha beach

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for sharing your own memories with us, Valerie!! That’s what I like to see, stories that might otherwise disappear, being saved here for all to read. I have always wanted this site to belong to everyone and some of you are doing just that!!

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  5. Outstanding! Thanks for educating me … I did not know about Halifax! Nor did I know it took 20 hours for the final drafting.

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    • I would venture to guess there were a lot of hands in the pot when it came to writing the final draft. And don’t feel alone about Halifax – not many did. Thanks for dropping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Do you think if Rommel had lived that he would have changed the course of the war?
    Was he killed by us or by the them?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So long ago and far away, GP. Great job of bringing it back into the present. And I can’t help but think, Halifax didn’t have to happen. The business leaders should have been out in the streets celebrating with the sailors. And I love the story about Truman… so very human. –Curt

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  8. It’s a holiday today in france and we remembered all those heroes who gave their life….. it was great to see the flowers on the monument in the morning, it’s ood to know that a lot of people here are still grateful to this man who came over the channel to fight for our country.

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    • I am very happy you told me that. Here in the U.S., we are used to people in other countries not liking us [and granted, for some there is good reason], but I at least want the troops remembered for what they did. Thank you for commenting.

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  9. I agree with Karen (above) about the informative part – but my fav of this post is also the comic – the one to the bottom left – “there you are…” very covering one.
    have a nice day G

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  10. A wonderful and informative account – thanks for posting!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A really good post. The two cartoons are very poignant. We don’t seem to celebrate this important occasion here in England, more’s the pity.

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  12. Wonderful post, as always, so well researched and presented. Love your style and what a special day of remembrance.

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    • Thank you, and thank you again – don’t you just love compliments – they encourage a person to dig into the cluttered desk [in my case – desks] and get back to work. Have a great weekend!

      Like

  13. Reblogged this on Sara Holliday and commented:
    Because I’ve concentrated so hard on the Pacific war (and its prisoners, at that), I’ve nothing original to say about the end of the war in Europe. But these are some nifty facts and moving images. [you might wish to connect with Hillary here in the comments, unless you’ve already found her, as she is a pro in the CBI research.]

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  14. For my mother, VE Day meant she was preparing to be moved to Australia to continue building radios for use by resistance forces….no longer in Europe but in the Pacific theatre.
    By the time bureaucracy had taken its course, Japan had surrendered however….

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  15. Interesting about Canada’s issues on V-Day. I had no idea.

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  16. This post is very interesting, since it shows the beginning of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the Western nations, even before World War II ended. A real eye opener for me! Thank you, GP!

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    • You are very welcome, Peter. Yes, there was a strong distrust between Russia and the U.S. – one that continued to grow… Being allies in the war was deemed a necessary evil.

      Like

  17. I remember VE-Day very well. My brother and I along with everybody else it seemed converged on the city (London) and joined the throng marching up the Mall to Buckingham Palace i’ve never seen such a crowd since, after more than 5and a half years of war it was suddenly over the street lights came on and the blackout curtains were pulled down we had a great street party as did just about every street in England/Scotland Northern Ireland and Wales a giant bonfire in the middle of the road melted all the tarmac/bitumen how the wives and mothers found food for the tables I’ll never know food rationing in England was very very tight but find food they did ( perhaps bought on the blackmarket from the spivs up in London who knew, who cared,

    I can never remember street lights on before then, I was quite young when they went out at the beginning of the war on the 3rd September 1939.

    Sadly there are not many left now with these memories, I treasure them.

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    • Thank you for sharing those valuable memories with us, Beari!! Very true, not many are around to tell us their stories – and that really is sad.

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  18. Had no idea that it was Truman’s b-day and the war ended right after he moved to the White House.

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    • On many a site, I’ve seen that V-E Day is synonymous with the end of the war – but the Pacific and CBI still raged on. So, our little Napoleon had to get into the groove pretty fast – his success is still open for discussion.[especially his lack of understanding the military].

      Like

  19. Extremely interesting information . Thanks for finding it and sharing it . Also , the ” Excuse us if we don’t join the celebration ” is heartfelt and poignant .

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  20. This is an excellent summary and timeline of VE Day. Thankfully, there has not been a widespread hot war in Europe, aside from Kosovo, since then. Unfortunately the collapse of the Nazi party wasn’t permanent. The upsurge of it in Europe and the Americas, lately, is especially troubling. Yes, VE is certainly a momentous, great event to celebrate.

    Like

  21. Wonderful summary. Half of it I didn’t know. Thanks, GP.

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    • I appreciate you taking the time read it, Jacqui – we need to learn something every day – and in this case that means both of us. 😉

      Like

  22. Interesting – a lot of this new to me.

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  23. A fascinating history, all of it. I was most surprised about the riot in Halifax – but of course the soldiers wanted to celebrate, and their nerves had been of edge for years!

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    • I had never heard of the riots, either Joann; I suppose there was just a tad too many people – and if they got drunk? Would there even be a town left in the morning?

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Young as I was, I can still remember the jubilation of that day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Can you give us details?

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      • My wife and I were only four years old at the time. I can remember, in Pretoria where my parents were both in the S.A. Airforce, the general sense of euphoria with people talking excitedly to total strangers. She can remember much the same in a Johannesburg scene (with a horse-drawn sewer cart as part of the background) where she wanted to know what all the ‘V’ emblems suddenly appearing everywhere – shops, houses, walls, windows – were all about. Both of us understood fully when it was explained to us that we had achieved victory over the Germans. The war was a complete reality to us even at that age.

        Liked by 1 person

  25. So instead of opening their arms to the troops and celebrating them the Civic Leaders shut the place down and treated them as pariahs?

    That took a very special kind of genius …

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    • Did you take a look at that picture? The town was overloaded to say the least!

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      • I was inspired by the para headed “V-E Day sparked the deadly Halifax Riot.”.

        Thank heavens the people themselves had more vitality than their civic leaders …

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        • I’m actually surprised that the end to war in Europe and then Japan didn’t cause more unfortunate circumstances than it did – after all those people went through – first a Great Depression and then a long and bloody war – to finally have it all end……

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  26. We have a big ceremony in London tomorrow, to remember VE Day. As I live too far away now, I will have to watch it on TV. Let’s hope that it is never forgotten. Of course, for those in the Pacific, the fighting and dying was to continue, overshadowed by those celebrations in Europe.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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    • I know my father said there wasn’t much celebration in his area, they just hoped that now they could get more supplies. Enjoy the festivities, Pete.

      Like

  27. Some surprising information there!

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  28. gp, Your visit to “my place” caused me to pick a great day to visit you! WHAT A POST for the 70th!!! –the surrender details, the Halifax riot of which I was totally ignorant, & the Harry Truman tale writing to his mother & sister BEFORE informing the nation of the surrender!!! Kudos to you, gp. Sorry for my absence on-line. Phil

    Like

  29. There was joy in the streets in New Zealand on that day, though we knew Japan remained at war. Nobody knew how long that would last. But the fact of victory in Europe was enough for the moment.

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    • That was a big step. Now we could finally concentrate on defeated Japan. I know New Zealand had most of their troops in Europe, so this was a landmark day for them and their loved ones. Thank you for coming by, Matthew.

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  30. Another great post.

    As there are fewer and fewer WWII veterans alive to tell their tales, I feel we have entered an era where generations of younger folk don’t appreciate the sacrifice that those millions of men and women gave for our freedom. WWII is just part of history class. (That’s not a criticism, it’s just life.)

    Having been born in 1964 I had quite a few relatives (grandparents and great uncles) who fought in various theatres around the world, so I have some firsthand anecdotes – even some memorabilia.

    Not sure what my point is, other than, I always celebrate(?) commemorate days like today and also 11/11 to mark the end of WWI. I have never had to go to war, and for that, I am truly grateful. It must be a horrific experience, like hell on earth.

    I thoroughly enjoy your blog because, not only have I learnt a lot of history, there are so many personal accounts which make it all the more human.

    Like

    • I appreciate you taking the time to give me your opinions, David. The visitors and friends here have exceeded my expectations in making this site their own – not just taking with me, but with each other, sharing stories of their friends and relatives, adding data and people for the Farewell Salutes – I just wish the younger generation could feel even a small portion of this camaraderie.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. Another beautiful post. Thank you for what you do for all of them. They know!!!!!

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  32. Thank you gp. I didn’t know about Halifax

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  33. Dad got his honorable discharge in mid 1944 but but mother and he waited till surrender of Japan and were married September 1945. She passed 3 years ago, 12 days short of 68th wedding anniversary.

    Like

  1. Pingback: 70th V-E Day | Sara Holliday

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