VE and VJ Days 1945
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Tuesday 8 May 1945 was V.E. Day, celebrating 'Victory in Europe' and the beginning of the end of the Second World War. Nazi Germany was defeated, having surrendering unconditionally to Britain and the Allies. However, fighting continued against Japan in the Far East.
From the beginning of 1945, German capitulation seemed inevitable. Allied bombs fell on German cities, while on the ground Russian and Western Allied armies entered Germany from two directions. The Russians took Berlin on 21 April 1945. On 30 April, Adolf Hitler killed himself. German forces in Italy surrendered on 2 May. The war officially ended with the signing of the document of unconditional surrender on 7 May. This took place at the French headquarters of the American Commander in Chief, General Dwight Eisenhower.
In London, Winston Churchill announced the German surrender, to a roaring multitude, from the balcony of the Ministry of Health in Whitehall. He paid tribute to the men and women who had died defending their country. Churchill cried out to the crowd, "This is your victory", to which the crowd replied, "No, it is yours".
George VI, his wife Queen Elizabeth and their two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, also appeared on a balcony at Buckingham Palace to cheering crowds.
In London and all over Britain, V.E. Day was marked by street parties. Many people could not wait until the official day of celebration on 8 May, but started celebrating immediately with parties, firework displays, and the burning of Hitler effigies on bonfires. Many people wore red, white and blue rosettes. Streets were hung with banners and bunting, and there were joyous celebrations as friends, families and strangers hugged, sang songs and danced together.
Other people chose to celebrate in a more reflective way, packing St Paul's Cathedral and other churches in services of thanksgiving and to honour the dead. Although V.E. Day meant an end to the hard times of the war years, there was also great sadness: Londoners and people across the nation mourned friends and family who had died in battle or in air raids.
In the Far East, war against Japan continued. Many soldiers there felt they were fighting a 'forgotten war', one that had been overlooked in the jubilation of V.E. Day.V.J. Day, 15 August 1945 marked end of the final phase of the Second World War. Japan surrendered following the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August. Around 140,000 civilians died, many slowly and painfully as a result of radiation sickness. The Japanese government capitulated, although the official document of surrender was not signed until 2 September 1945. Both dates are called V.J. Day.
In Britain, America, and Australia, a two-day holiday marked V.J. Day. Celebrations were more subdued than they had been on V.E. Day, though everyone rejoiced that the Second World War was now finally over. Many hoped that the Second World War was the 'war to end all wars', and that its ending would herald an era of world peace.
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