(Stars and Stripes)
On May 8th, 1945 President Truman announced the end of the war in Europe. He had been the President for less than a month – President Roosevelt died on April 12th, never seeing his war efforts come to fruition (although he knew the end was coming). Celebrations broke out all over Europe and the Americas as the news spread that the Nazis were vanquished.
The joy, however, was tempered by the fact that on the other side of the world the war was still raging, and many more American lives would be lost before the World War was truly over.
The battle in Okinawa was already a month old, and wouldn’t end until June 22nd. Fighting would continue all over the Philippines for another six weeks. More ominously, the Joint Chiefs of Staff soon would approve Operation Olympic, the first phase of Operation Downfall, containing battle plans for the invasion of Japan to begin the first of November. Confirming the Allies’ worst fears, Japanese Premier Suzuki announced that Japan would fight to the end, rather than surrender. Casualties were expected to be in the hundreds of thousands for the Allies (some estimates approached one million), and in the millions for the Japanese. Few people expected that the plans would become obsolete within a few months.
So VE Day was a day of reserved celebration. Some of the troops who danced in the streets in Europe would find themselves fighting in the Pacific within weeks. Others braced for the inevitable losses that defeat of the Japanese would require. It wasn’t until VJ Day – August 14, 1945 – that the world could truly celebrate the end of the war.
But for those warriors who fought in the European Theater, this is your week to take comfort in knowing that through your own blood, sweat and tears an entire continent was able to shake off the yoke of tyranny and live a life of freedom. You are our heroes of the week.