This week we honored May 8 – Victory in Europe or VE Day – celebrated all over the world in 1945. Can you imagine what this news meant to people who had been at war for many years?
This is a photo of the actual room in Reims France where the Germany General Jodl signed his surrender. My husband and I were on a World War II tour of Europe in June 2017and I took this shot.
Doesn’t look like much of a room, does it? But what happened there and what it meant for people around the world cannot be overstated. The war that Germany had started in 1939 by invading Poland was over!
After interviewing 200+ American World War II veterans, I pulled up stories from some who relayed where they were upon hearing that news. The following is an excerpt from my book WWII Legacies: Stories of Northeast IN Veterans:
After securing the beaches of Normandy in June 1944, Gene Dettmer and other Army troops pushed through Luxembourg toward Berchtesgaden in southern Germany, near Austria’s border. The Nazis had purchased the area in the 1920s as its headquarters. Nicknamed ‘Eagles Nest’ for its lofty perch and known as one of Hitler’s residences, it was a prime target for Allied forces.
By April 1945 Allied forces had secured the region (Hitler was not present during the takeover). American soldiers used the place as a resort. “We each had our own room to sleep in,” said Dettmer. The scenery captured the attention of the soldiers who now had time on their hands. “Lake Königssee was beautiful,” he said.
The Allies stayed at Berchtesgaden until the war ended in September 1945 with the surrender of Japan and several months beyond, maintaining peace.
This photo is one I shot standing at Eagle’s Nest in June 2017. What a view! I can see why the guys wanted to stay!
The following two stories are from my book They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans:
On May 8, 1945 Frank Garrison was working as part of a convoy with the 124th Calvary for the Chinese army when news arrived that the Axis forces in Europe had surrendered. The news thrilled the Allied soldiers. “We knew Japan could not last much longer,” he said.
Oren Huffer was perhaps in one of the most exciting places to be when Germany surrendered:
By summer 1945, the war in Europe had ended. Huffer with the 13th Airborne, 326th glider infantry in Europe received a 3-day pass which he used to see London. “Hundreds of buildings had been destroyed and holes from bombs were everywhere,” he said. Then Huffer witnessed a truly emotional and historical event. The City of London turned on its lights.
The city had observed blackouts when every type of light was put out since the war began in 1940. “Residents had been forced to endure blackouts each evening since 1939,” he said.
Where would you have wanted to be when the war ended with Germany? I think any place would have been ecstatic! Remember to thank a veteran for his/ her service! We live in a great country!