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Victory in Europe Day (1945)

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After six years of total warfare across Europe which saw cities and entire countries devastated, along with millions of soldiers and civilians killed, the Allied powers were finally able to celebrate on May 8, 1945, with the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany.

Just one week after Adolf Hitler committed suicide during the Battle of Berlin, his successor Karl Dönitz authorized the surrender which was signed on May 7th in Reims, France and on May 8th in Berlin.

While the war with Japan would continue until August, the end of combat in the European theater prompted celebrations across the world, from London and New York to Chicago and Los Angeles. Thousands packed London’s Trafalgar Square and New York’s Times Square, while President Harry Truman dedicated the victory to the memory of his predecessor Franklin Roosevelt who died less than a month earlier, and declared it his most enjoyable birthday — Truman having been born May 8, 1884. – AJW

New York Times Square cheering the news of the unconditional surrender of Germany

President Proclaims Victory in Europe

Truman warns Japanese to quit or face destruction; unconditional surrender will be ratified in Berlin

Washington — President Truman proclaimed victory in Europe today but told the nation its fighting job would be finished only “when the last Japanese division has surrendered unconditionally.”

He said “Our victory is only half-won.” He gave this counsel for the months to come: “Work, work, work.” He gave this advice to the Japanese: “Surrender.”

Surrounded by his government leaders, Mr Truman issued his proclamation of victory and his statement of the work yet to do at a historic news conference in the White House. Then he broadcast them to the nation. Outside, while the President spoke a chill rain fell.

“This,” the President said, “is a solemn but glorious hour.” He voiced the thought of millions by adding: “How I wish Franklin Roosevelt had lived to see this day.”

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The President reminded the nation in its flush of victory that it had not been fighting alone. And he proclaimed Sunday, May thirteenth, a day of prayer.

“I call upon all the people of the United States, whatever their faith, to unite in offering joyful thanks to God for the victory we have won and to pray that He will support us to the end of our present struggle and guide us into the way of peace. I also call upon my countrymen to dedicate this day of prayer to the memory of those who have given their lives to make possible our victory.”

France on VE Day, May 7, 1945

In London, Prime Minister Churchill proclaimed the end of the war in Europe and pledged that Britain would now concentrate all her forces against Japan. Britain may allow herself a “brief moment of enjoyment,” he told his countrymen in a brief radio speech, but added: “Japan with all her treachery and greed remains unsubdued. Her despicable cruelties call for justice and retribution. We must now concentrate all forces for the task ahead. Long live the cause of freedom! God Save the King!”

Churchill announced that Germany’s unconditional surrender would be “ratified and confirmed” in Berlin today.

President Truman sent his congratulations and thanks to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Premier Josef Stalin, General Charles De Gaulle. To General Dwight D Eisenhower he said: “All of us owe to you and to your men of many nations a debt beyond appraisal for their high contribution to the conquest of Nazism.”

Mr Truman counted the cost of victory. He did not forget “the terrible price we have paid to rid the world of Hitler and his evil band.” But he also sounded a note of triumph and hope. “United, the peace-loving nations,” he said, “have demonstrated in the west that their arms are stronger by far than the might of dictators or the tyranny of military cliques that once called us soft and weak. The power of our peoples to defend themselves against all enemies will be proved in the Pacific war as it has been proved in Europe.”

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troops in Burma stop work briefly to read President Truman's Proclamation of Victory in Europe

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