FROM THE ARCHIVES
Germany quits: Victory in Europe Day
By STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 8, 1945
Today, May 8, is VE-Day and will be officially proclaimed so by the leaders of the Big Three in simultaneous declarations in Washington, London and Moscow.
This was announced last night following unofficial celebrations yesterday afternoon throughout the world, inspired by a broadcast by Germany's new Foreign Minister that the Wehrmacht High Command had ordered its armed forces to surrender unconditionally, and by press reports, unconfirmed by SHAEF, that the Reich's capitulation to the Allies and Soviets had been signed early yesterday morning at Rheims, France, at a schoolhouse serving as Gen. Eisenhower's HQ.
Following publication yesterday afternoon of an Associated Press dispatch datelined Rheimsand reporting that the surrender terms were signed by Lt. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, Gen. Eisenhower's chief of staff; Russian Gen. Ivan A. Suslapatov and French Gen, Francois Sevez, for the Allies and Russia, and Col. Gen. Gustav Jodl, new Wehrmacht chief of staff, for the Germans.
The British Ministry of Information announced in London that today would be treated as VE-Day, ending the war five years, eight months and seven days after the Nazis invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939.
Prime Minister Churchill will broadcast the proclamation to the British at 3 p.m. in London today. Since the announcement will be made simultaneously by the Big Three leaders, this means that the statements by President Truman and Marshal Stalin will be broadcast from Washington and Moscow at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. respectively.
Breaking by The Associated Press of the story on the surrender negotiations created a furore, coming soon after Flensburg Radio, on the Danish-German border, carried the broadcast announcing Germany's unconditional surrender.
SHAEF authorized correspondents there to state that, as of 4:45 p.m. yesterday, it had not made anywhere any official statement for publication up to that hour concerning the complete surrender of all the German armed forces in Europe, and that no story to that effect had been authorized.
United Press and International News Service said dispatches from their Paris bureaus told of the suspension by Allied military authorities of the Associated Press filing of news dispatches from the ETO because of its Rheims dispatch. Lack of direct confirmation, for the Rheirns story—though there was no outright denial of the details—created considerable confusion before the Ministry of Information announcement was released.
The Columbia Broadcasting System's chief correspondent in London reported in a broadcast to New York that both Truman and Churchill were prepared to issue their proclamation last night, but that Marshal Stalin was not ready to do so, with the result that all three had agreed to postpone the announcements until they could be made at the same time.
In Washington yesterday afternoon President Truman announced, through his press secretary Jonathan Daniels, that he had agreed with London and Moscow to make no statement concerning the surrender in Europe until all three leaders could speak simultaneously. “Until then there is nothing I can or will say to you," he added.
Microphones have already been set up in Mr. Truman's office for such an occasion. Gen. Charles de Gaulle, it was said, will broadcast to the French people today at the same time as the Big Three leaders.
The Canadian government declared today a national holiday. King George VI will broadcast at 9 PM in London on the ending of the war in Europe. Although the war's end in Europe awaited only official pronouncement, there still was some fighting under way in Czechoslovakia.
Front dispatches, which may or may not have been filed before events took the turn they did yesterday, told of twin columns of the 4th Armored Division of the 3rd Army dashing toward Prague, meeting little or no resistance. Two broadcasting stations were operating in Prague, one apparently in Czech patriot hands and the other in German control, each contradicting the other concerning the situation in the Czech capital.
The Czech broadcasts said the Americans were 15 miles south of Prague. Last positions given by correspondents with the 4th Armored put the two columns at 25 miles southwest and 52 miles south of Prague. The 4th, after resting up following its recent spectacular drives, passed through both the 5th and 19th Infantry Divisions, a dispatch said.
Eighteen other divisions under Gen. George S. Patton's 3rd Army control were on the move along a 150-mile front. Sunday's toll of prisoners was 40,000, it was reported. In eastern Czechoslovakia, Soviet troops broke into the outskirts of Olomouc, 130 miles east of Prague.
The Soviet advance in this area, coupled with another Red Army push northeast of Brunn, was said to be steadily crumbling away at the eastern end of the Czechoslovak pocket.
Although Count Ludwig Schwerin von Krosigk, new German Foreign Minister appointed by Grand Adm. Karl Doenitz, when he took over as Hitler's successor, announced over Flensburg radio, on the Danish-German border, that the German high command, on Doenitz's orders, had instructed its troops to lay down arms as of yesterday, the German-controlled Prague station declared that the Germans in Bohemia and Moravia would continue fighting against the Soviets, since the "armistice" was effective only on the Allied front.
Reuter reported that a delicate situation had arisen in Czechoslovakia, because the fortunes of war had made it necessary for the Americans to move to the aid of Czech patriots. In doing so, Reuter said, they entered territory scheduled as the Red Army's operational zone and for joint Russian and Czech military government until the area ceased to be operational.
The German commander was exploiting the situation, the agency added, making no serious attempt to oppose the U.S. advance while fighting hard against the Soviets, thus enabling the Nazi-controlled station in Prague to put out broadcasts making it appear that the Americans were going to Prague to rescue the Germans from the Red Army.
The Associated Press Rheims dispatch said the surrender was signed there at 2.41 AM yesterday (French time). Eisenhower was not present at the signing, but later received Jodl and the latter's chief aide, asking them if they fully understood the surrender terms imposed on Germany and if they would be carried out, the dispatch said. The Germans signified agreement, it added.
Jodl, The Associated Press said, asked permission to speak. It was granted. "With this signature," the agency quoted him as saying, “The German people and armed forces are for better or worse delivered into the victors' hands.”
The Associated Press in New York said no reason was given for its suspension, adding that its Rheims story, written by Edward Kennedy, chief of the AP staff on the Western Front, was transmitted via Paris from Rheims, Eisenhower's advance HQ, to London and relayed from there to New York via the agency's leased cables.
The Russian general present was identified by Reuter as the official in charge of Red Army repatriation." He visited the Rhine-Maas front early this year. Prior to the announcement by Krosigk, it was disclosed that Doenitz had issued an Order of the Day to the German Navy to cease hostilities and return to port, thus ending the long U-boat war. This statement, broadcast by Flensburg Radio, forbade the crews to scuttle their craft and ordered them to remain aboard.
News of the capitulation in Norway was broadcast yesterday afternoon over a Danish radio wavelength under Allied control. There were an estimated 300,000 German troops in the country, which had been occupied since Apr. 9, 1940. A number of troops were reported heading for the Swedish frontier in advance of the formal surrender.
Marshal Stalin issued last night an Order of the Day to Marshal Koniev announcing the capture of Breslau and the taking of 40,000 prisoners. The latest message broadcast by the Czech-Prague station said there was fighting in the capital's streets and that German planes had bombed houses in the center of the city. Aircraft and other aid was requested, according to the account received by Czech circles in London.
This article appears as it did in the print edition of Stars and Stripes.