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. , 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.
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.
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.
The location of the surrender was known as France’s city of kings.
Information courtesy of History.com