On this day in 1945, both Great Britain and the United States celebrated Victory in Europe Day, generally known as V-E Day. That was the day Germany officially surrendered, ending the European portion of World War II. Celebrate with us by answering these trivia questions about V-E Day...
What Brought V-E Day About? Much is made over how the sudden bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought about the end of the Japanese/Pacific side of the war. But in Europe, the end was more gradual and, by May, expected. Germany had been in dire straits, attacked on all sides by the British, Americans, and Soviets, as well as from within by resistance groups. Allied forces had made such good progress that by April, Berlin was surrounded, and Hitler committed suicide. At that point, the new German commander, Grand Admiral Karl Donitz, arranged for a surrender.
Where Was Italy in All This? Germany was not the only major European Axis player; Italy, led by Benito Mussolini, had also been a top power (the Axis was the alliance formed by Germany, Italy, and Japan). You would think that Italy would do what it could to help Germany; however, Italy had surrendered to the Allies back in 1943. (While this was obviously well-known back then, most current stories about the end of World War II tend to focus on Germany, in effect sweeping mentions of Italy's surrender under a rug.) Mussolini had been deposed, and the new Italian leader, General Pietro Badoglio, immediately started negotiating for Italy's surrender to and cooperation with the Allies. This led to massive campaigns by both Germany and the Allies, and with Italy now on the Allied side, Germany was becoming outnumbered and weak, even though Germany continued to fight viciously.
Did All the Fighting Stop on V-E Day?
As you'd expect, not all of the German troops simply gave up. Germany
and the Soviets had a major battle on May 9, resulting in the death of
about 600 Soviet soldiers, and there were other skirmishes that day as
well. However, the physical fighting was pretty much over after May 9.
Emotional battles would continue for decades in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder, but there was another type of emotional battle that didn't get a lot of attention: the loss of purpose. The war effort, particularly in Britain, required a lot of concentration and dedication. With the war in Europe over, some of those who had found a sense of purpose in keeping Britain's home front strong suddenly found themselves at a loss. They were well aware that it was good that the war was over, but now they had to find new avenues in their lives for the energy they had directed toward the war effort.
One more battle remained very visible for years after V-E Day: rationing. Both Britain and the United States had instituted strict rationing programs for food, clothing, and more. In Britain, this rationing had to continue after the end of the war partly because supply lines were still being repaired, partly because the country still had large armed forces to feed, and partly because all of the recovering countries now needed more food but didn't have the agricultural resources to produce what they needed. Many of the countries occupied by the Nazis were close to starvation; for example, the Netherlands experienced famine during 1944 and 1945, and Britain had a responsibility to provide food for people there and in other newly liberated countries. Rationing ended in the United States in 1947, but it continued in Britain until 1954.
What Little-Known Surprise Took Place in Britain on V-E Day?
As you'd expect, crowds gathered outside Buckingham Palace; jubilant
Britons wanted to see their Royal Family on this triumphant day. They
weren't disappointed; King George VI and the rest of the family appeared
on the balcony. However, at one point, the crowd was closer to the
royals than they realized. The King and Queen allowed then-Princess
Elizabeth and Princess Margaret to anonymously slip into the crowd.
Princess Elizabeth, who had spent the latter years of the war as a
volunteer mechanic and driver, later said she and her sister chanted
right along with the crowd, making it one of her more memorable days.