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. – AJW
President Proclaims Victory in Europe
Middletown Times Herald (Middletown, NY) May 8, 1945
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.”
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.”
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.”
Many celebrations were quiet and muted compared to the Armistice of 1918 ending World War I, as people recognized that the war in the Pacific was still seemingly far from over.
Here are a few snippets into what the celebrations were like outside of the limelight of the Big Apple. – AJW
Victory in Europe Day Proclamation touches off celebration: Downtown Hamilton thronged by thousands
May 8, 1945 – Hamilton Journal and Daily News (Hamilton, OH)
Blasts of air-raid siren ignite victory jubilation; certain dignity evidenced
Impromptu parades are formed thru city as pent-up feelings finally unleashed; business is halted by retail stores
At 8 o’clock this morning, President Truman, from the quiet oval room of the White House, broadcast to the nation and the world that peace had come to the western world.
Even while the President was making this historic announcement, a heretofore self-contained city of Hamilton, tense for the last fortnight awaiting the proclamation of total victory over Germany, released its pent up feelings to stage a gay victory celebration.
The celebration did not reach the stage of riotous revelry nor did pandemonium reign — but no one was left in doubt that Hamilton was going to let one of the most momentous days in history pass by without fitting recognition.
The President went on the air exactly at 8 o’clock. Everyone knew in advance that he was to make the historic proclamation. But up to the time his quiet, steady voice was heard over the airways, Hamilton was just a work-a-day city.
Then, two minutes after the President started speaking, came the first break in the tension. The first signal for Hamiltonians to launch a victory celebration was sounded by the air raid siren atop the municipal electric light plant on North Third street.
The wailing sound of the siren, which never had to be used to warn of an enemy attack throughout the two years of its installation, ignited the spark for a city-wide observance of V-E Day.
It was only seconds after the siren was sounded, that one factory whistle after another began to blast. Adding to the rising crescendo of sound was the hundreds of auto horns being sounded by motorists.
Among the first to start the celebration were many war plant workers, who, after more than five years of daily toil at their benches and lathes, finally let their hair down. They just couldn’t and wouldn’t be contained any longer.
When the President made the V-E proclamation they laid down their tools and immediately formed impromptu parades. The first parade of factory workers formed on North Third street. One of the marchers obtained a huge American flag.
When the parade reached Market Street, most of those in the procession boarded a big truck, and from that point rode around the business district singing a victory chant.
Pupils join in
The example of the shop workers soon was followed by many pupils of Hamilton High School. Some went to their classrooms, but hundreds who had not yet entered the building, turned around and marched to the business district. They, too, organized parades, flags and all.
One group of high school pupils marched on High street gayly singing the marine hymn. This group of paraders gained marchers as other high school pupils standing on the curbs, left their places to join the procession.
Victory in Europe Day Observance is orderly here
Business firms close and residents attend church this morning
With flags ripping on this breezy, sunny day, all Blytheville joined with the rest of the world in celebration of V-E Day in Europe.
Far different from the Armistice celebration in 1918, there were no signs of hilarity and on the surface, it was just another day.
But stores and other places of business were closed and many people went to church this morning at 8:45 o’clock to begin the observance in the manner requested by the Blytheville Ministerial Alliance and Mayor E R Jackson.
Carrying out the long-planned program exactly, the tolling of church bells began at 8 o’clock as President Harry S Truman made the official announcement of V-E Day in Europe.
Church doors were thrown open immediately and men, women and children began their trek to their favorite worship places to give thanks for victory.
They have left their newspapers and radio, by which they had heard the proclamation spoken by the president and an address by Winston Churchill, prime minister of England, after reading the official surrender news.
Following the one-hour services, some gathered informally to discuss the surrender of the Germans and to hazard a guess as to when the Japs would follow suit.
What Lowell did as sirens screeched
May 8, 1945 – Lowell Sun (Lowell, Massachusetts)
Here, briefly, is how Lowell officially observed Victory in Europe Day — “V-E Day”:
With the blowing of the sirens, schoolchildren were assembled and after signing the national anthem and uttering a prayer of thanks, they were dismissed for the day.
Downtown stores closed in accordance with previous plans. They will reopen tomorrow. Liquor establishments closed immediately for a 24-hour period.
City departments catering to the public, such as the ashes and waste divisions, carried on their work with no interruption.
Postal employees followed the same procedure in line with President Truman’s statement that government workers “would carry on.” Postmaster Charles E Slowey said there would be no break in the mail service.
There was no universal program for the city’s industries. Some continued to operate after employees had been notified that the long-awaited V-E Day had finally come.
Others shut down immediately, for the remainder of the day, and canceled night shift work. It all depended on where one worked.
Hundreds knelt in silent prayer in churches of the city.
The sirens were sounded on the order of City Manager John Flannery. The manager acted immediately on hearing the announcement of President Truman.
Nation rejoices, prepares to turn on lights as brownout ends; South celebrates quietly
May 8, 1945 – Blytheville Courier News (Blytheville, Arkansas)
In this country, every city, town and hamlet today is celebrating its own V-E Day, but everywhere there’s the realization that American boys in the Pacific are still fighting and dying and will be for months and maybe years more. But even that can’t stop the wave of rejoicing which has swept the nation.
Almost all over the South, V-E Day is being observed quietly, solemnly, and with reverence.
In Atlanta, people stood on the street to listen while radio loudspeakers brought them President Truman’s proclamation this morning. And a soldier, a soldier with an empty pants-leg, said “It’s hard to believe it’s over — but thank God it is.”
There was little excitement in Miami. Thousands remained away from work. but only long enough to hear the President’s address. There were no signs of jubilation at the hotels housing soldiers — they realized that not all of the war is over yet.
In South Carolina, state offices and bars closed, but most ordinary business houses did not, though Governor Williams had asked them to shut down. At the Charleston Navy Yard the workers took 10 minutes off for a brief service, and then turned back to their jobs.
Memphis was quiet, too. Memphis churches of all denominations plan services for tonight.
Major General Frederick Uhl, commander of the Army’s Fourth Service Command, said in Atlanta, “The home front must stay on the job until Japan is beaten — we must keep full faith with those Americans fighting and dying in the Pacific.”
Bright lights will be turned on again tonight throughout the nation with the blessing of the War Production Board. The brownout order is off, darkened shop windows, theater marquees and outdoor advertising signs can shine and sparkle again tonight.
MORE ABOUT WWII