After years of fighting, weeks of speculation, days of rumors and false reports, the War in Europe finally came to an official end on May 8, 1945. Half of World War 2 was over. But there was the other half to think about – the Pacific half. And while there was much celebration going on, and cause fo
Updated Date: Jan 25, 2022
Publish Date: May 08, 2021
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After years of fighting, weeks of speculation, days of rumors and false reports, the War in Europe finally came to an official end on May 8, 1945. Half of World War 2 was over. But there was the other half to think about – the Pacific half. And while there was much celebration going on, and cause for celebration, there were still three more months of war to deal with.
Upon the defeat of Germany, celebrations erupted throughout the western world, especially in the UK and North America. More than one million people celebrated in the streets throughout the UK to mark the end of the European part of the war. In London, crowds massed in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by their daughters and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowds. Churchill went from the palace to Whitehall where he addressed another large crowd:
“God bless you all. This is your victory. In our long history, we have never seen a greater day than this. Everyone, man or woman, has done their best.”
At this point he asked Ernest Bevin to come forward and share the applause. Bevin said: “No, Winston, this is your day”, and proceeded to conduct the people in the singing of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow. Later, Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed to wander incognito among the crowds and take part in the celebrations.
In the United States, the event coincided with President Harry Truman’s 61st birthday. He dedicated the victory to the memory of his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died of a cerebral hemorrhage less than a month earlier, on 12 April. Flags remained at half-staff for the remainder of the 30-day mourning period. Truman said of dedicating the victory to Roosevelt’s memory and keeping the flags at half-staff that his only wish was “that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day”. Later that day, Truman said that the victory made it his most enjoyable birthday. Great celebrations took place in many American cities, especially in New York’s Times Square.
Tempering the jubilation somewhat, both Churchill and Truman pointed out that the war against Japan had not yet been won. In his radio broadcast at 15:00 on 8 May, Churchill told the British people that: “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing (as Japan) remains unsubdued”. In America, Truman broadcast at 09:00 and said it was “a victory only half won”.
As with all radio at the time, regular programs were pre-empted and special VE Day programs were put in their place, while America and Europe tuned in and celebrated and the streets filled.
Here is one sample of a typical hour for that May 8th, via The Mutual Broadcasting System. From 12:30 to 1:30 in the afternoon, the broadcast exactly as it happened from somber to giddy, just as the day went.
Day, Tuesday May eight. This is Henry Gladstone reporting from the W. O. Our newsroom. Friends. We are all rejoicing. That ve day is here, Every one of us has long been waiting with an eager heart for this glorious day of victory in europe. And because of this tremendous news sweetheart, so permits its commercial announcement. Instead, we wish to bring you this urgent appeal while it is right and fitting that we should express our happiness today. Let us not lose sight of the long and bitter struggle ahead. We must dedicate ourselves to the war. In the pacific. We must redouble our efforts on the home front to give our fighting men and women all possible help in winning complete and final victory over Japan. So let us all earnestly resolved, cooperate in these three important ways. one stay on that war job to keep Buying more and more war bonds and hold them three support every homefront activity observed wartime regulations, price controls, rationing, volunteer services, salvage drives until our enemy Japan surrenders unconditionally. And now the news victory in europe day is upon us With all its significance and implications. The E day has been proclaimed officially by President Truman and Prime Minister Churchill. The broadcast in which they made their proclamations Will be repeated this evening over w. o. r at 8:15. In contrast, yesterday's celebrations, spontaneous affairs which were touched off by a premature announcement from the Associated Press that the Germans had signed unconditional surrender terms. Today's demonstrations were subdued. One of the reasons probably is the obvious fact that the announcements by Mr Truman and Churchill were expected. They were anti climactic, but perhaps the best reason one underlined by both Allied leaders in their radio talks is that since yesterday's celebrations, the peoples of the United Nations have recognized keenly that there is a big job ahead in his broadcast. Mr Truman called for this, a solemn but glorious hour. The flags of freedom. He said, fly over all europe. After noting the sacrifices we have made to obtain victory in europe. President Truman declared we must work to finish the war. Our victory is but half one. The west is free, but the east still isn't bondage to the treacherous tyranny of the Japanese. When the last Japanese division has surrendered unconditionally then only will are fighting job be done. And in his speech, Prime Minister Churchill took the same tone. He proclaimed the end of the war and immediately pledged that Britain would now concentrate all her forces against Japan. Churchill disclosed that the unconditional surrender of Germany will be ratified and confirmed that Berlin later today And that hostilities will cease at one minute after midnight british time, one minute after six o'clock tonight, our time the Germans signed the unconditional surrender of all their land, Sea and air forces in Europe at 41 minutes after two o'clock yesterday morning, german delegates who signed the instrument of surrender at Remes said the last straw and nazi resistance came when commanders could not get german soldiers to fight. The surrender scene was a strange, almost drive and commonplace thing in view of the momentous nature of the occasion. It took place in the red brick industrial college of reams. Around the walls were war maps in which the Germans could see the hopelessness of their military situation. The german sign me Colonel General Jodl looked at four identical documents to which he had just affixed his signature. They lay on a big wooden table. After a few moments, Yodel asked for mercy for the German people. There was no answer to his request. There was one document each for the United States Britain France and Russia. Each bore the words first written by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at Casablanca unconditional surrender. The Germans agreed to order all resistance halted to yield all ships and aircraft unsettled and undamaged and to ensure compliance with all further orders from allied military leaders. It was specified that nothing contained in the surrender document should limit or restrict any terms which might later be imposed on Germany. Also contained in the surrender instrument was this paragraph, in the event of the german high command or any of the forces under their control, failing to act in accordance with this act of surrender, the Supreme commander and the soviet high command will take such punitive or other action as they deem appropriate. Prime Minister Churchill also mentioned the possibility that some german units might take it upon themselves to continue the fight after the time specified for surrender. He declared that such units would not be afforded the protection received if they had surrendered. The british leader expressed the belief, however, that some Nazi units might fight on ignorant of the surrender because of disorganized communications. Although Mr Truman and Prime Minister Churchill proclaim this victory in europe day and although they sent congratulatory messages to allied leaders who were responsible for Germany's defeat, there was no statement out of Moscow. It had been thought that premium Stalin would go on the air simultaneously with Mr Truman and Churchill. However, up to now, there has been no statement forthcoming. There may be attempts to read some significant development into this lack of word from Stalin, but there's an apparently simple explanation. German troops still are fighting Russian armies only this morning. Russian flyers dropped leaflets asking the desperate german commander on the danish island of foreign home in the Baltic sea to surrender at the german port of Kohlberg through a delegation by 10 o'clock this morning. So far as Russia is concerned, the war is over completely with the capitulation of the last nazi unit facing any soviet troops. Whether Russia will enter the war against japan and not, is a question that many are debating, But right now, with no immediate obligations. In that direction, Germany's complete and total surrender is all that concerns the Russians.