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Victory In Europe Day

Iron Locust

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Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day or VE Day) was May 7/8, 1945, the date when the Allies during World War II formally celebrated the defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. (For the end of the war with Japan, see VJ-day.)


On that date, massive celebrations took place, notably in London, where over a million people celebrated in a carnival atmosphere the end of the European war, though rationing of food and clothing was to continue for a number of years. In London crowds massed in particular in Trafalgar Square and up The Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the Palace to cheering crowds. Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed to wander anonymously among the crowds and take part in the celebrations in London.


In the United States, President Harry Truman, who celebrated his 61st birthday that day, dedicated the victory to the memory of his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, because he had been so committed to ending the war. Roosevelt had died less than a month earlier, on April 12. Flags remained at half-staff for the remainder of the 30-day mourning period, which ended on May 12, to pay tribute to Roosevelt's commitment towards ending the war.


At 02:41 on the morning of, May 7, 1945, at the SHAEF headquarters in Rheims, France, the Chief-of-Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, General Alfred Jodl, signed the unconditional surrender documents for all German forces to the Allies. All active operations were to cease at 23:01 Central European Time on May 8 1945. However as the British were operating on British Double Summer Time this was 00:01 May 9 in London.[1]


Western journalists broke the bombshell news of Germany's surrender prematurely, precipitating the earlier celebration. Fighting continued on the Eastern front in May however, when the Germans surrendered specifically to the Soviets at Karlshorst. The Soviet Union kept to the agreed celebration date, and Russia and other countries still commemorate the end of World War II, a significant part of which is known as the Great Patriotic War in Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union, as Victory Day on May 9.


By 8 May 1945, most of Germany had already been taken by Allied forces. Hence V-E day itself was not such a drastic change for most German civilians. In the years after, V-E day was predominantly perceived as the day of defeat. But over the decades, this perception changed, culminating in the speech by West German President Richard von Weizsäcker on the 40th anniversary of V-E day in 1985, in which he called 8 May "the day of liberation" from the Nazi government.


The Allied victory over Japan, and with it the formal end of World War II, was known as V-J Day. It took place on August 14/15, 1945.



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