German armed forces surrendered unconditionally on May 7. Hostilities in Europe ended officially at midnight, May 8. 1945.
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.
During the celebrations that followed the announcement of the end of the war in Europe, Churchill and his principal colleagues appeared on the balcony of the Ministry of Health in Whitehall, and made two brief speeches to the vast crowd. After the words “This is your victory” the crowd roared back, “No-it is yours.” It was an unforgettable moment of love and gratitude.
Churchill waves to crowds on 8 May 1945 from the Ministry of Health balcony.
“My dear friends, this is your hour. This is not victory of a party or of any class. It’s a victory of the great British nation as a whole. We were the first, in this ancient island, to draw the sword against tyranny. After a while we were left all alone against the most tremendous military power that has been seen. We were all alone for a whole year.
Listen to part of Churchill’s speech here.
There we stood, alone. Did anyone want to give in? [The crowd shouted “No.”] Were we down-hearted? [“No!”] The lights went out and the bombs came down. But every man, woman and child in the country had no thought of quitting the struggle. London can take it. So we came back after long months from the jaws of death, out of the mouth of hell, while all the world wondered. When shall the reputation and faith of this generation of English men and women fail? I say that in the long years to come not only will the people of this island but of the world, wherever the bird of freedom chirps in human hearts, look back to what we’ve done and they will say “do not despair, do not yield to violence and tyranny, march straightforward and die if need be-unconquered.” Now we have emerged from one deadly struggle-a terrible foe has been cast on the ground and awaits our judgment and our mercy.
On June 4, British and American troops entered Rome. On June 6, D-Day, the long-awaited Allied invasion of Europe began, the principal landings being in Normandy. Churchill’s statement that fighting was taking place in Caen was, however incorrect.
The House should, I think, take formal cognisance of the liberation of Rome by the Allied Armies under the Command of General Alexander, with General Clark of the United States Service and General Oliver Leese in command of the fifth and Eighth Armies respectively. This is a memorable and glorious event, which rewards the intense fighting of the last five months in Italy. The original landing, made on January 22nd at Anzio, has, in the end, borne good fruit. In the first place, Hitler was induced to send to the south of Rome eight or nine divisions which he may well have need of elsewhere. Secondly, these divisions were repulsed, and their teeth broken, by the successful resistance of the Anzio bridgehead forces in the important battle which took place in the middle of February. The losses on both sides were heavy-the Allies losing about 20,000 men, and the Germans about 25,000 men. Thereafter, the Anzio bridgehead was considered by the enemy to be impregnable.
After the Quebec conference in 1943, Churchill relates in Closing the Ring, “the President was very anxious for me to keep a longstanding appointment and receive an honorary degree at Harvard. It was to be an occasion for a public declaration to the world of Anglo-American unity and amity.” It was to be more than that: “Law, language, literature — these are considerable factors,” Churchill told his audience … “Blood and history – I, a child of both worlds, am conscious of these.” He explained how well the combined chiefs of staff system worked – should continue to work – and how much Harvard and Cambridge had done for the abbreviated language called “Basic English” – a similar simplified vocabulary is still used by British and American broadcasts abroad (if not as often as it should be among immigrants wishing to be citizens). He reminded us that if we, the English-Speaking Peoples are together, nothing is impossible. He supported the concept of an effective international organization, but implored us not to pass along the defense of our lives and liberties “until we are quite sure [it] will give us an equally solid guarantee.”
May 19, 1943. Joint Session of Congress, Washington, D.C.
On 13 May Allied Forces completed their Northern African Campaigns, achieving total victory. Churchill commented in The Hinge of Fate: ‘The sense of victory was in the air. The whole of North Africa was cleared of the enemy. A quarter of a million prisoners were cooped in our cages. Everyone was very proud and delighted. There is no doubt that people like winning very much.’ On 16 May the Royal Air Force, in a brilliant raid deep into Germany, destroyed the Möhne and Eder dams, causing widespread flooding and destruction to the Ruhr Valley. It was under these auspicious circumstances that Churchill addressed the US Congress for the second time. Read More >
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Timeline PhotosPrime Minister Winston Churchill, President Harry Truman and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin shake hands after the meeting during the Potsdam Conference, on this day in 1945. Code-named TERMINAL, this was the final ‘Big Three’ meeting of the war.
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