May 7, 1945: Nazi Germany Surrenders

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Home alive in ’45 was the watchword of US troops as they headed into Germany in the spring of 1945, although I imagine that many of them could not quite believe it.  Then it was all over.  Hitler added to his lengthy murders by killing himself on April 30, and his successors wasted no time in putting an end to a hopeless struggle.  V-E day was celebrated in Europe on May 7 and in the US on May 8.

Not all Americans celebrated.  Those fighting in the Pacific realized their war was far from over, as Eugene Sledge, serving with the Old Breed (1rst Marine Division) recalled:

On 8 May Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally. We were told this momentous news, but considering our own peril and misery, no one cared much. “So what” was typical of the remarks I heard around me. We were resigned only to the fact the Japanese would fight to total extinction on Okinawa, as they had elsewhere, and that Japan would have to be invaded with the same gruesome prospects. Nazi Germany might as well have been on the moon.

The main thing that impressed us about V-E Day was a terrific, thundering artillery and naval gunfire barrage that went swishing, roaring, and rumbling towards the Japanese. I thought it was in preparation for the next day’s attack. Years later I read that the barrage had been fired on enemy targets at noon for its destructive effect on them but also as a salute to V-E Day.

One down and one to go for the US, seventy years ago today.

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