Friday, May 8, 2015

On This Day in History: V-E Day

Newport Navalog, Vol. 45, No. 19, p.1
Naval Historical Collection
Newspaper Collection 9, Box 10

Today marks the seventieth anniversary of Germany’s surrender to the Allies during World War II. Like most places in the United States, the celebration at Newport Naval Training Station was muted. The Newport Navalog described the moment when the news broke as one of “qualified happiness,” tempered by the understanding that the war with Japan was still far from over. The commanding officer of the Training Station, Commodore Clinton E. Braine, encouraged base personnel to attend worship services, but in all other respects, normal work routines continued. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Ernest J. King emphasized that now was not the time to pause and celebrate, but rather to redouble the nation’s efforts to defeat Japan and end the war for good. King had already stated that the Navy would not demobilize following Germany’s surrender, and that personnel stationed in Europe would be transferred to the Pacific after V-E Day (Victory in Europe).

Newport Navalog, Vol. 45, No. 19, p.8
Naval Historical Collection
Newspaper Collection 9, Box 10

Looking back on this time from the safe distance of 70 years, it can be hard to fully understand the sense of dread that many sailors felt at the prospect of transferring to the Pacific theater. The war would actually end in just three more months, but of course nobody knew that in May 1945. High level planners assumed that the Allies would have to invade the Japanese mainland in order to force a surrender. The Joint Chiefs of Staff estimated that American forces would suffer 1.2 million casualties conducting such an operation. The expectation that the most difficult fighting of the war still lay ahead made for very muted celebrations indeed when newspapers announced that Germany had been defeated.


Newport Navalog articles courtesy of the Naval Historical Collection

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

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