V-E Day 2004 — 59 Years Since Victory in Europe

German radio broadcast on May 7, 1945 that General Alfred Jodl would sign the official surrender of Nazi Germany the following day. Winston Churchill immediately announced that May 8, 1945 would be a national holiday. This date became known as Victory in Europe (V-E) day. Eight months earlier, on September 5, 1944, Stars & Stripes columnist Ernie Pyle wrote his last column in Europe. He returned to the U.S. for health reasons, but was unable to stay away for long. Shortly afterward, he returned to the Pacific where a Japanese machine-gun bullet killed him on the island of Ie Shima on April 18, 1945, at the age of 44. The draft of a column he intended to publish in anticipation of the end of the war in Europe was found in his pocket. It is reprinted below (courtesy Ernie's War: The Best of Ernie Pyle's World War II Dispatches, edited by David Nichols, pp. 418-19).

And so it is over. The catastrophe on one side of the world has run its course. The day that it had so long seemed would never come has come at last. I suppose emotions here in the Pacific are the same as they were among the Allies all over the world. First a shouting of the good news with such joyous surprise that you would think the shouter himself had brought it about. And then an unspoken sense of gigantic relief and then a hope that the collapse in Europe would hasten the end in the Pacific. It has been seven months since I heard my last shot in the European war. Now I am as far away from it as it is possible to get on this globe.

This is written on a little ship laying off the coast of the Island of Okinawa, just south of Japan, on the other side of the world from Ardennes. But my heart is still in Europe, and that's why I am writing this column. It is to the boys who were my friends for so long. My one regret of the war is that I was not with them when it ended. For the companionship of two-and-a-half years of death and misery is a spouse that tolerates no divorce. Such companionship finally becomes a part of one's soul, and it cannot be obliterated. True, I am with American boys in the other war not yet ended, but I am old-fashioned and my sentiment runs to old things. To me the European war is old, and the Pacific war is new.

Last summer I wrote that I hoped the end of the war could be a gigantic relief, but not an elation. In the joyousness of high spirits it is easy for us to forget the dead. Those who are gone would not wish themselves to be a millstone of gloom around our necks. But there are many of the living who have had burned into their brains forever the unnatural sight of cold dead men scattered over the hillsides and in the ditches along the high rows of hedge throughout the world. Dead men by mass production in one country after another month after month and year after year. Dead men in winter and dead men in summer. Dead men in such familiar promiscuity that they become monotonous. Dead men in such monstrous infinity that you come almost to hate them.

These are the things that you at home need not even try to understand. To you at home they are columns of figures, or he is a near one who went away and just didn't come back. You didn't see him lying so grotesque and pasty beside the gravel road in France.

We saw him, saw him by the multiple thousands. That's the difference ...

V-E Day followed Ernie's death by just three weeks. Some 90 days later, victory over Japan was announced (V-J Day), and World War II came to an end ... the lasting image of that famous kiss during a V-J Day celebration in New York City's Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt freezing the moment forever.

Click the button below to print out an easy-to-read version of Ernie's column ...



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V-E DAY CELEBRATIONS IN NYC, MAY 8, 1945

V-E Day Celebrations in New York City, May 8, 1945.
U.S. Coast Guard photo via Gregory Sutter.

PAINTING OF V-E DAY CELEBRATION IN ENGLAND

A painting by an unknown artist depicts a V-E Day celebration
between Yanks and Brits in England.

MORE CELEBRATIONS

In an unidentified American city, the news of the German surrender spreads like wildfire.