Today is Victory in Europe Day, or V-E Day. At 0241 Tuesday, 7 May 1945 Generaloberst Alfred Jodl, Stabschef Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (roughly the equivalent of our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), representing Germany’s armed forces, surrendered to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force. The ceremony took place at Eisenhower’s headquarters in Reims, France. One-hundred and seventeen days later Japan would surrender and World War II was over.
World War II was the largest and most terrible event in human history. The war was fought on every continent including Antarctica. Conservatively, 60 million people died and millions more were wounded, displaced, or missing.
The end of the war marked the economic and political decline of Europe and the emergence of the United States and the Soviet Union as the world’s two dominant powers. It was the beginning of the Cold War, the Nuclear Age, the dissolution of European colonial empires, the rise of national liberation movements and the “Third World”, the formation of a world-wide monetary system, and the formation of a world-wide political organization.
“For the whole earth is the tomb of famous men; not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men. Make them your examples, and, esteeming courage to be freedom and freedom to be happiness, do not weigh too nicely the perils of war."
[Funeral Oration of Pericles]
― Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War