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May 8, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of the formal declaration of victory in Europe. The surviving German military leaders had surrendered in the earliest hours of May 7, with a ceasefire holding through the day until the national leaders of the British Empire, Russia, and the United States could make the formal announcement on the morning of May 8, 1945.
Sadly, this year there will be no great outdoor public ceremonies. Yet, there are other sorts of public commemorations. The British television schedule is filled with commemorative events, culminating in a speech by the Queen, to be broadcast at the same time as her father’s speech 75 years ago. President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump joined a small group of World War II veterans, who flew to Washington D.C. to honor their fallen comrades at the World War II Memorial. In Arizona, the three largest airplanes in the Commemorative Air Force flew in formation around the Valley of the Sun.
President Trump joined World War II veterans, laying a wreath at the WWII Memorial:
The veterans joining Trump include Gregory Melikian, 97, of Phoenix, who sent the coded message to the world that the Germans had unconditionally surrendered.
Participants in the D-Day invasion that turned the tide in the war include Steven Melnikoff, 100, of Cockeysville, Md., Guy Whidden, 97, of Braddock Heights, Md., Harold Angle, 97, of Chambersburg, Pa.; and Frank Devita, 96, of Bridgewater, New Jersey.
Other veterans joining Trump are Donald Halverson, 97, of Minnesota, who fought in some of the war’s fiercest fighting in Italy, John Coates, 96, of Maryland, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and Jack Myers, 97, of Hagerstown, Md., was part of a unit that liberated the Dachau concentration camp.
The British television broadcast schedule includes these events:
VE Day 75: The People’s Celebration, BBC One, 8pm
Presented by Sophie Raworth, this is the big entertainment event of the night, put on by the BBC and the Royal British Legion to show thanks to our veterans. Stars will celebrate the happy events of 1945 with popular songs from the era, culminating in a rousing rendition of We’ll Meet Again at 9pm, which the whole country is encouraged to sing along to. The full line-up for The People’s Celebration will include Katherine Jenkins, Adrian Lester, Anton Du Beke, Beverley Knight, Helen George, Sharon D Clarke, Shane Richie and Emma Barton.
Address by the Queen, BBC One, 9pm
The Queen will have her pre-recorded speech broadcast at the same time her father King George VI gave his radio address on 8th May, 1945.
In Arizona, residents heard the rumble of big radial engines as three war birds flew in a V formation around the Valley of the Sun as the Commemorative Air Force, conducted a VE Day flyover:
Taking off from Falcon Field, the first turn was over the old Mesa Cemetery at 8:30 a.m. Here they come, flying south over downtown Mesa, (3) on the map. They were headed for Gilbert and Chandler, before turning north to pass over Tempe, Phoenix, and the west end of the valley, then completing the circuit of the valley.
C-47 Skytrain cargo aircraft:
B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber:
B-25 Mitchell medium bomber:
On May 8, 1945, the formal surrender of Germany was publicly announced by political leaders of the victorious Allied Powers. President Harry S. Truman, less than a month after assuming the office of the President of the United States, announced to the American people that Germany had surrendered. He spoke to the American people about victory in Europe and all that was left to do in the other half of the world:
May 08, 1945
THIS IS a solemn but a glorious hour. I only wish that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day. General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations. The flags of freedom fly over all Europe.
For this victory, we join in offering our thanks to the Providence which has guided and sustained us through the dark days of adversity.
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 the 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.
We can repay the debt which we owe to our God, to our dead and to our children only by work–by ceaseless devotion to the responsibilities which lie ahead of us. If I could give you a single watchword for the coming months, that word is–work, work, and more work.
We must work to finish the war. Our victory is but half-won. The West is free, but the East is still in bondage to the treacherous tyranny of the Japanese. When the last Japanese division has surrendered unconditionally, then only will our fighting job be done.
We must work to bind up the wounds of a suffering world–to build an abiding peace, a peace rooted in justice and in law. We can build such a peace only by hard, toilsome, painstaking work–by understanding and working with our allies in peace as we have in war.
The job ahead is no less important, no less urgent, no less difficult than the task which now happily is done.
I call upon every American to stick to his post until the last battle is won. Until that day, let no man abandon his post or slacken his efforts. And now, I want to read to you my formal proclamation of this occasion:
“A Proclamation–The Allied armies, through sacrifice and devotion and with God’s help, have wrung from Germany a final and unconditional surrender. The western world has been freed of the evil forces which for five years and longer have imprisoned the bodies and broken the lives of millions upon millions of free-born men. They have violated their churches, destroyed their homes, corrupted their children, and murdered their loved ones. Our Armies of Liberation have restored freedom to these suffering peoples, whose spirit and will the oppressors could never enslave.
“Much remains to be done. The victory won in the West must now be won in the East. The whole world must be cleansed of the evil from which half the world has been freed. United, the peace-loving nations have demonstrated in the West that their arms are stronger by far than the might of the 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.
“For the triumph of spirit and of arms which we have won, and for its promise to the peoples everywhere who join us in the love of freedom, it is fitting that we, as a nation, give thanks to Almighty God, who has strengthened us and given us the victory.
“Now, therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, do hereby appoint Sunday, May 13, 1945, to be a day of prayer.
“I call upon 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 ways 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 Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed.”
Delivered from the Radio Room at the White House at 9 a.m.
Here is what British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said on the end of the war in Europe:
Broadcast, London, and House of Commons
Yesterday morning at 2:41 a.m. at Headquarters, General Jodl, the representative of the German High Command, and Grand Admiral Doenitz, the designated head of the German State, signed the act of unconditional surrender of all German Land, sea, and air forces in Europe to the Allied Expeditionary Force, and simultaneously to the Soviet High Command.
General Bedell Smith, Chief of Staff of the Allied Expeditionary Force, and General Francois Sevez signed the document on behalf of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, and General Susloparov signed on behalf of the Russian High Command.
To-day this agreement will be ratified and confirmed at Berlin, where Air Chief Marshal Tedder, Deputy Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, and General de Lattre de Tassigny will sign on behalf of General Eisenhower. Marshal Zhukov will sign on behalf of the Soviet High Command. The German representatives will be Field-Marshal Keitel, Chief of the High Command, and the Commanders-in- Chief of the German Army, Navy, and Air Forces.
Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight to-night (Tuesday, May 8), but in the interests of saving lives the “Cease fire” began yesterday to be sounded all along the front, and our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed to-day.
The Germans are still in places resisting the Russian troops, but should they continue to do so after midnight they will, of course, deprive themselves of the protection of the laws of war, and will be attacked from all quarters by the Allied troops. It is not surprising that on such long fronts and in the existing disorder of the enemy the orders of the German High Command should not in every case be obeyed immediately. This does not, in our opinion, with the best military advice at our disposal, constitute any reason for withholding from the nation the facts communicated to us by General Eisenhower of the unconditional surrender already signed at Rheims, nor should it prevent us from celebrating to-day and to-morrow (Wednesday) as Victory in Europe days.
To-day, perhaps, we shall think mostly of ourselves. To-morrow we shall pay a particular tribute to our Russian comrades, whose prowess in the field has been one of the grand contributions to the general victory.
The German war is therefore at an end. After years of intense preparation, Germany hurled herself on Poland at the beginning of September, 1939; and, in pursuance of our guarantee to Poland and in agreement with the French Republic, Great Britain, the British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations, declared war upon this foul aggression. After gallant France had been struck down we, from this Island and from our united Empire, maintained the struggle single-handed for a whole year until we were joined by the military might of Soviet Russia, and later by the overwhelming power and resources of the United States of America.
Finally almost the whole world was combined against the evil-doers, who are now prostrate before us. Our gratitude to our splendid Allies goes forth from all our hearts in this Island and throughout the British Empire.
We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead. Japan, with all her treachery and greed, remains unsubdued. The injury she has inflicted on Great Britain, the United States, and other countries, and her detestable cruelties, call for justice and retribution. We must now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our task, both at home and abroad. Advance, Britannia! Long live the cause of freedom! God save the King!
[Editor’s Note: After making his broadcast announcement of Germany’s unconditional surrender, Churchill read the same statement to the House of Commons shortly afterwards and added]
That is the message which I have been instructed to deliver to the British Nation and Commonwealth. I have only two or three sentences to add. They will convey to the House my deep gratitude to this House of Commons, which has proved itself the strongest foundation for waging war that has ever been seen in the whole of our long history. We have all of us made our mistakes, but the strength of the Parliamentary institution has been shown to enable it at the same moment to preserve all the title-deeds of democracy while waging war in the most stern and protracted form. I wish to give my hearty thanks to men of all Parties, to everyone in every part of the House where they sit, for the way in which the liveliness of Parliamentary institutions has been maintained under the fire of the enemy, and for the way in which we have been able to persevere-and we could have persevered much longer if need had been-till all the objectives which we set before us for the procuring of the unlimited and unconditional surrender of the enemy had been achieved. I recollect well at the end of the last war, more than a quarter of a century ago, that the House, when it heard the long list of the surrender terms, the armistice terms, which had been imposed upon the Germans, did not feel inclined for debate or business, but desired to offer thanks to Almighty God, to the Great Power which seems to shape and design the fortunes of nations and the destiny of man; and I therefore beg, Sir, with your permission to move:
That this House do now attend at the Church of St. Margaret, Westminster, to give humble and reverent thanks to Almighty God for our deliverance from the threat of German domination.
This is the identical Motion which was moved in former times.
Hear, finally, King George VI deliver a deliberate, clear, determined address, heightened by his battle with a stutter that so often rendered him incapable of public communication.