French President Emanuel Macron (C) and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe lay a wreath during a ceremony Friday marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day in Paris, France. Photo by Charles Paltiau/EPA-EFE
May 8 (UPI) -- French President Emanuel Macron led a series of events in Europe Friday that commemorate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, with a small ceremony in Paris.
Macron, accompanied by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, several political leaders and former Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande, attended a remembrance of the May 8, 1945, Allied World War II victory over Nazi Germany at the Arc de Triomphe, which was nearly empty due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Macron laid a wreath at a statue of former President and WWII Gen. Charles de Gaulle. Strict social distancing protocols were followed during the small gathering.
The ceremony set the tone for other VE Day events planned in Europe on Friday. All were to be modest as large gatherings are still prohibited.
VE Day is the anniversary of the day when the Allied leaders formally accepted Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender, ending the war in Europe.
In Britain, the Royal Air Force Red Arrows team performed flyovers to mark the anniversary. Queen Elizabeth II was scheduled to address the nation from Windsor Castle at 9 p.m., the same time her father, King George VI, gave a radio address in 1945.
Historic new material released by British intelligence officials to commemorate the anniversary included the last recorded message intercepted from a German military communications network.
The message, sent on May 7, 1945, said: "British troops entered Cuxhaven at 1400 on 6 May -- from now on all radio traffic will cease -- wishing you all the best. Lt. Kunkel."
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier were scheduled to lay wreaths at the Neue Wache war memorial in Berlin.
In Washington, D.C., President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the World War II memorial on the National Mall.
"Today, we celebrate the forces of freedom who defeated tyranny and emerged victorious," Trump said in a statement.
"As we reflect ... we are reminded that no challenge is greater than the resolve of the American spirit. Over the past months, our nation has faced remarkable adversity during the coronavirus pandemic. But just as we have so many times before, America will triumph, and we will emerge from this a stronger and more united country."