It’s the 70th anniversary of V-E Day — and a good day to thank a World War II veteran.
We’ll begin with a classic newsreel, “The War Ends in Europe,” which includes footage of President Harry S. Truman on May 8, 1945, announcing the Nazi surrender. The Missourian had been president for just about a month, following the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The film was created by United Newsreel for the U.S. Office of War Information, and it’s one of a treasure trove of World War II-era films shared on the U.S. National Archives YouTube channel. Watch until the end to see the U.S. flag slowly cover a swastika at the stadium in Nuremberg, Germany, where the Nazis used to hold huge political rallies. Then American troops blow up a Nazi party emblem.
According to the Veterans Administration, 16 million Americans served in the military during the war; 400,000 died; and 670,000 were wounded. About 1.7 million World War II veterans are living today.
V-E Day, short for Victory in Europe, is a national holiday throughout much of Europe, although the war continued in the Pacific theater until Aug. 14, 1945, when the Japanese surrendered. Some historians estimate that more than 80 million people died in the global war, half of them civilians.
The anniversary is being commemorated throughout Europe and in Russia. There are also ceremonies today at the National World War II Memorial in Washington and the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
World War II Registry
If you have a family member or friend — military or civilian — who contributed to the war effort, you can honor that person through the National World War II Memorial. Here's a link to the online registry.
Harry S. Truman Library and Museum
V-E Day events are being held at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence. (May 8, 1945, was also Truman’s birthday.) The “Till We Meet Again” exhibit runs through Jan. 3; it traces the events of 1945, including Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb.
The German surrender document is on display through May 18 at the library. From Aug. 14 - Sept. 11, Emperor Hirohito's Rescript will be on display. The rescript is Hirohito's order to the Japanese people and military to lay down their arms and surrender to the Allies..
Missouri History Museum
The exhibit “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda’’ runs through Sept. 7 at the Missouri History Museum. It’s a traveling exhibition produced by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum that examines how the Nazis used propaganda to win broad voter support, which enabled them to implement and justify war and mass murder.
Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum
The 70th anniversary of the end of WWII will be celebrated as part of Midwest Airport Fun Days at St. Louis Downtown Airport May 29-31. The event is hosted by the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum. Local veterans and will be honored, and World War II-era aircraft will be available for tours and flight experiences.