What Is VE Day? 7 Facts You Need To Know

Sailors reading newspaper about VE Day

What is VE Day?
When President Harry S. Truman, British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin simultaneously announced that Nazi Germany had surrendered on May 8, 1945, the United States let out a reserved, but collective sigh.

May 8, 1945 became known as Victory in Europe Day or V-E Day. Celebrations erupted around the world to mark the end of World War II in Europe as most of the fighting in Europe came to an end.

The war had been raging for almost five years when U.S. and Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. The invasion signaled the beginning of the end for Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. In less than a year, Germany would surrender and Hitler would be dead. But in his speech to the nation on V-E Day, President Harry S. Truman cautioned that Allies must “work to finish the war” by defeating the Japanese in the Pacific.

The war had started in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. Roughly six million jews were killed during the war.

world war two photo of german officers planning at a table

But to answer the question, what is VE Day, we have to look at the events that led up to it. First, there were actually two surrender signings. The first was on May 7, 1945 when German Col. Alfred Jodl signed Germany’s surrender on all fronts in Reims, France. The second signing was insisted upon by Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, was signed by German Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel the following day in Berlin. Jodl and Keitel were later found guilty of war crimes by the international military tribunal in Nuremburg, Germany and both were executed.

What is VE Day to Veterans Who Fought in Europe?
More than 250,000 U.S. troops died during World War II in Europe. More than 16 million Americans would serve in World War II, a staggering 11 percent of the American population at that time.

World War II was a significant life event for those who fought there and even for those who were back in the states. The country rallied around America’s involvement in the war.

Today, as more and more World War II veterans pass away and their numbers dwindle, there is no doubt that the many VE Day celebrations they attended over the years were an important part of their lives and of those in their lives.

These events are important because it allows veterans to heal and to share some of the heaviness of what they experienced. For many of these humble heroes, these commemorations are the only time they share reflections of their war service.

two older ww2 vets hugging

What is VE Day to the Public?
When President Harry S. Truman announced VE Day to the American people, he said: “Our rejoicing is sobered and subdued by a supreme consciousness of the terrible price we have paid to rid the world of Hitler and his evil band. Let us not forget, my fellow Americans, the sorrow and heartache, which today abide in the homes of so many of our neighbors—neighbors whose most priceless possession has been rendered as a sacrifice to redeem our liberty.”

For many American families, the war would never end and there would be the constant reminder of the sacrifices made for others; for liberty. Many never returned home.

Today, VE Day is an opportunity for Americans to share the history of the Greatest Generation with younger generations. These extraordinary tales of sacrifice and the defense of freedom are wonderful opportunities for younger generations to learn about a group of people they likely will never meet. A group of people who helped shape the world as it is today.

What is VE Day For Those Who Fought Against Japan?
Simply put, VE Day wasn’t cause for celebration for those still fighting against Japan in the Pacific Theater. Remember, Japan was ruthless and did not believe in what they labeled as the dishonorable act of surrender. Those fighting in the pacific still had to deal with kamikazes and infantry who would charge with bayonets fixed on empty rifles.

VJ Day, or Victory over Japan Day, marks the end of World War II, one of the deadliest and most destructive wars in history. When President Harry S. Truman announced on Aug. 14, 1945, just three months after the German surrender, that Japan had surrendered unconditionally, war-weary people around the world erupted, again, in celebration.

world war II veteran smiling wearing custom military cap

What is VE Day for Veterans Today?
As of December 2021, there are around 240,000 World War II veterans alive today and more than 200 die each day. The living history is passing and veterans today feel their connectivity to those warriors of the past slipping away.

VE Day is a great opportunity for those who are still serving to embrace the heroes of World War II and engage them if they are able. Veteran organizations can also ensure these brave men and women get recognized on VE Day to ensure they know that they are appreciated and not forgotten.

Military leaders should never pass up an opportunity to invite World War II veterans to their events or to share their knowledge with younger generations of military personnel. Linking the modern warrior to those of the past provides heritage and serves as a generational bridge.

What is VE Day to Europe?
Every year, since the end of World War II in Europe, people gather at various sites around Europe to recognize the VE Day. In American cemeteries in Europe, at Normandy and in other key European locations where battles were fought and won, sometimes at great expense, people gather and remember.

There is no doubt that Europeans have a deep appreciation for what the Greatest Generation gave them and every year they recognize those gifts by ensuring that those sacrifices are not forgotten. By hosting memorial events, they remember what others did for them.

The nations that were liberated in western Europe thrived after the war. Those liberated by the Soviets in eastern Europe, suffered and barely grew.

What is VE Day to the Rest of the World?
Many countries were impacted by World War II, including nations in Africa that had many battles fought on the continent. The impact of World War II has left indelible marks all over the world.

VE Day is celebrated almost universally around the world, but mostly by westernized countries and countries that accept democracies as their form of government. Nations where the power lies with a dictator or is centralized to a particular party do not really recognize or appreciate VE Day.

What is VE Day? It is a day to remember the most brave individuals to ever serve in the U.S. military. Their contributions to mankind will forever be heard and never forgotten. What is VE Day? It is about remembering.

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