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Global events mark 70th anniversary of World War II's end in Europe

Cities and towns across Europe and the United States are noting the anniversary of the war's end.

By Ed Adamczyk
Global events mark 70th anniversary of World War II's end in Europe
World War II era aircraft fly over the National World War II Memorial as part of the Arsenal of Democracy: World War II Victory Capitol Flyover in honor of the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Fifteen waves of World War II era aircraft flew over the National Mall representing significant battles in celebration of the Allied victory. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, May 8 (UPI) -- Global events marked the end of a world war Friday, noting the 70th anniversary of V-E Day, the end of World War II in Europe.

On May 8, 1945, Allied troops formally accepted the terms of Germany's unconditional surrender of its military forces, as submitted by Karl Dönitz, president of the German government and successor to Adolf Hitler, who had committed suicide on April 30. The surrender was signed on May 7 in Reims, France, and on May 8 in Berlin. The Allies called the event V-E Day, for "Victory in Europe." Cities across the world partied and celebrated in a manner befitting of New Year's Eve.

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Among the international observances is a planned flyover of Washington, D.C., by several dozen World War II-era military aircraft.

The anniversary is being noted with a massive parade in Moscow, with dozens of world leaders expected to attend and dozens more who declined invitations in protest of Russian involvement in Ukraine. The conflicting nature of alliances in the past 70 years, as well as revisionist looks at who participated in the war and their current status in history, has made some celebrations more controversial than others.

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Latvia offers an instructional example. It was occupied, during the war, by the Soviet Union, then Nazi Germany and finally by the Soviet Union again. With current thinking that the Nazi regime was more humane and beneficial to Latvia than the Soviet Union was, a traveling UNESCO exhibition on Nazi concentration camps was banned in Latvia, and members of the "Latvian Waffen SS Volunteer division," organized by the Nazis but fighting for an independent Latvia, are honored with graveside wreaths despite their involvement in the destruction of Jewish ghettos.

Nine European presidents joined Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon in a solemn ceremony in Gdansk, Poland, near the site of the first shots of the war in 1939. The observance was billed as an alternative to the more grandiose parade in Moscow.

Lesser, but equally important, commemorations will occur across the United states at municipal buildings, American Legion halls and cemeteries. Erie, Pa., has an online project of interviews with veterans of Europe's final World War II battles, typical of ways in which V-E Day is remembered. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that only 855,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in the war are still alive.

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"It's important that people know about what went on over there and what happened," said Joseph Steger, 88, of Erie, who served aboard a tank landing ship in the war. "Even some kids nowadays have no idea about World War II. They don't know what we're talking about."

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