Victory in Europe (V-E Day)

“Our Victory is only Half Over”

Victory in Europe, or V-E Day is the day celebrating the formal acceptance by the Allied Nations of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces. German military leaders signed the surrender documents at various locations in Europe on May 7, 1945.

The surrender prompted mass celebrations in European and American Cities. President Harry S. Truman dedicated V-E Day to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died just weeks earlier, and is quoted with saying “Our victory is only half over” in reference to continued fighting in the Pacific Area.

On May 7, 1945, both Great Britain and the United States celebrated Victory in Europe Day. Cities in both nations, as well as formerly occupied cities in Western Europe, put out flags and banners, rejoicing in the defeat of the Nazi war machine.

The largest ever mobilization of American manpower, ultimately calling up over 15 million U.S. men and women to serve from 1941 to the end of hostilities in 1945, over 57,000 men and women seeing combat but a total 75,000 Montanans served World Wide.

Proportionately this was near the top of all states. Montanans were quick to enlist and they were healthy! The proportion that was rejected because of physical defect was smaller than the national average. Montana’s death rate in World War II was exceeded only by that of New Mexico, in proportion to population. Montana had the record of oversubscribing first in eight World War II savings bond drives.

The eighth of May spelled the day when German troops throughout Europe finally laid down their arms: in Prague, Germans surrendered to their Soviet antagonists, after the latter had lost more than 8,000 soldiers, and the Germans considerably more; in Copenhagen and Oslo; at Karlshorst, near Berlin; in northern Latvia; on the Channel Island of Sark—the German surrender was realized in a final cease-fire.

More surrender documents were signed in Berlin and in eastern Germany. The main concern of many German soldiers was to elude the grasp of Soviet forces, to keep from being taken prisoner. About 1 million Germans attempted a mass exodus to the West when the fighting in Czechoslovakia ended, but were stopped by the Russians and taken captive. The Russians took approximately 2 million prisoners in the period just before and after the German surrender.

Meanwhile, more than 13,000 British POWs were released and sent back to Great Britain. Pockets of German-Soviet confrontation would continue into the next day.

On May 9, the Soviets would lose 600 more soldiers in Silesia before the Germans finally surrendered. Consequently, V-E Day was not celebrated until the ninth in Moscow, with a radio broadcast salute from Stalin himself: “The age-long struggle of the Slav nations… has ended in victory. Your courage has defeated the Nazis. The war is over.”