Today In History: V-E Day
Today in 1945, the Allied powers celebrated Victory in Europe Day, abbreviated V-E Day, signaling the close of hostilities in WWII. Celebrations were held across Western Europe and the United States.
In the UK, over a million people took to the streets to express their joy at the War’s end. Trafalgar Square in London was absolutely packed, as was the Mall at Buckingham Palace, where King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Winston Churchill appeared high above a cheering crowd, on the palace’s balcony. Below, Princess Elizabeth (later to become Queen Elizabeth II) mingled with the crowd in plain clothes, accompanied by her sister Margaret.
V-E Day was also president Harry Truman’s 61st birthday. He honored his predecessor Franklin D. Roosevelt by dedicating his birthday to him. FDR had died mere weeks before, of a cerebral hemorrhage.
Truman kept the flag at half-mast for thirty days after FDR’s death. He said of V-E Day, he wished “that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day.” It was, he later remarked, the happiest birthday he’d ever had.
On May 8, Nazi troops laid down their weapons after a brutally long, bloody campaign against the Soviets. The Germans surrendered in Prague, Oslo and Copenhagen, as well as at Karlhorst in northern Latvia and on the Channel Island of Sark. Officers from the Axis armies signed surrender documents on May 7 in Reims, France and on May 8 in Berlin, Germany.
Fighting between the Nazis and the USSR continued as America and Great Britain were celebrating. Hostilities did not end until the following day. On May 9, 600 Soviets died in Silesia before finally triumphing over the German forces.
V-E Day was celebrating in Moscow on the 9th. Stalin, in a public radio address, said, “The age-long struggle fo the Slav nations… has ended in victory. Your courage has defeated the Nazis. The war is over.”