Victory in Europe

Victory in EuropeItaly had surrendered two years before, but Nazi Germany continued to fight. By the 28th April, 1945, Hitler was two days away from committing suicide having already lost control of his military and various factions of the German Army began surrendering to the Western Allies. Although the Soviet Union had nearly captured Berlin, many in the German Army were fearing the retribution of the Soviets and sought to surrender to the Western Allies. It was in these conditions that reliable and false reports began surfacing creating some confusion among the news media as what was the truth. This bulletin from NBC on the 28th indicated it appeared Germans wanted to surrender, but the Allies were sticking to their demand for unconditional surrender.

Then on the 6th May, events began moving rapidly. More and more Germans were surrendering officially and for many soldiers of the Western Allies, their war was over. But still the world waited for anything official from Supreme Allied Headquarters. Former CBS and now Mutual war correspondents, Paul Manning, was in Paris and explained to Americans at home what was happening and reassuring us that for many of our boys, the war was finished.

On May 7th at 2:41 a.m. (French Time), Germany officially surrendered to the Allies in a school house in Reims, France. Signing the document were Colonel General Gustav Jodl. Present were representatives of the Allies (Gen. Walter Bedell Smith), Soviets (Gen. Ivan Susloparov). Official witness was French Major-General Francois Sevez. It seemed the war in Europe was over. In the room were 17 reporters who had agreed to withold the news for a few hours while things were offically cleared by all Allies.

Then, the reality of politics settled in. Immediately, the Soviets rejected the agreement as the official surrender indicating it was an agreement to "formalize the surrender that had been going on the previous few days." Months before all three Allied countries agreed to abide by an official surrender that would follow conditions set down by the European Advisory Commission which represented all Allies. Those conditions were not in the signed document. Finally, it was agreed that there would be a formal surrender to be held in Berlin on May 8th. Meanwhile reporters who promised to wait a few hours before announcing the surrender, were now told they would have to wait another 36 hours. This was all due to the politics involved in meeting all expectations of surrender. Additionally, the Western Allies wanted to have a simultaneous announcement go out while the Soviets would do their own announcement.

Reporters who witnessed the signing and were sitting on what they felt was the story of century, grumbled about having to wait, which they were told was to protect the troops. The truth was that Churchill and Truman had agreed to sit on the announcement so Stalin could announce the surrender in Berlin. The story on how the word got out is here. Ed Kennedy, the AP bureau chief, found out that the hold was for political purposes rather than humane ones. He then heard the news being announced to the German people via Admiral Doenitz Flensburg radio network at 2:09 p.m. French Time and immediately tried to get the American censor to allow him to release the story. When that failed, Kennedy made the decision to do so anyway via an unrestricted military telephone.

When the AP released the story, not knowing about the restrictions that had been placed upon Kennedy, the rest of the media began picking up the story. However, as they began doing follow-up to the AP story, there seemed to be no confirmation coming from Washington or Europe officially leading to confusion on whether this was another false VE report similar to what occurred a week ago. NBC's Don Goddard references the confusion as well as Kennedy's release of the story. Mutual's Fred Vandeventner reflected the confusion when he said on May 7th "there is little doubt that this is NOT VE Day."

Despite Vandeventner's report, the local feed of Mutual, WOR Radio, was reporting at 10:00 a.m. New York time that VE Day had come. VE DayThis was because Eisenhower had no choice but to confirm that there had been a surrender earlier in the morning, though he cautioned it wasn't the official announcement. This WOR report confirms that the word was already getting out to both German listeners and reporters who heard the German radio report.

The actual agreement for VE Day was that Truman and Churchill would announce at eleven a.m. Eastern War time 3:00 p.m. UK time, simultaneously and that Stalin would announce on the 9th May. Both Truman and Churchill announced via the radio. Stalin would announce via Moscow radio according to CBS Radio on the 9th May as the Berlin signing took place 1 minute after midnight Moscow time.

Sources

Photo used with permission of National Archives

"Jubilant American soldier hugs motherly English woman and victory smiles light the faces of happy service men and civilians at Piccadilly Circus, London, celebrating Germany's unconditional surrender." Pfc. Melvin Weiss, England, May 7, 1945. 111-SC-205398."