Today marks a major anniversary, as noted by the RedState Department of History. On this date in 1945, Colonel General Alfred Jodl surrendered all German forces to the Western Allies, ending the Second World War in Europe.
Hitler had been dead for one week and Berlin was now in Soviet hands. Jodl had hoped to surrender only that portion of the German armed forces facing the Western Allies but was bluntly informed by Allied Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower that unless he surrendered all German forces, the Western Allies would seal the front lines from Germans attempting to flee westward from the Soviets.
Jodl received permission from Hitler’s designated successor, Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, to surrender — and that is what he did. View the first surrender document here. Read the BBC’s account of the surrender here.
Other surrenders had already taken place. The German Army in Italy had surrendered on May 2, while Army Group G north of Italy gave up on May 6. Troops in northwestern Germany surrendered to British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery on May 4.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Eisenhower had a personal instruction for Jodl:
You will, officially and personally, be held responsible if the terms of this surrender are violated, including its provisions for German commanders to appear in Berlin at the moment set by the Russian high command to accomplish formal surrender to that government. That is all.
There was something to that. Stalin was unhappy that the formal surrender had occurred outside territory conquered by the Soviets, so the entire ceremony was repeated in Berlin even though a Soviet representative had signed the original document in Reims.
After receiving the surrender, Eisenhower sent this message to the Allied armies:
“The route you have traveled through hundreds of miles is marked by the graves of former comrades. Each of the fallen died as a member of the team to which you belong, bound together by a common love of liberty and a refusal to submit to enslavement. Our common problems of the immediate and distant future can be best solved in the same conceptions of co-operation and devotion to the cause of human freedom as have made this Expeditionary Force such a mighty engine of righteous destruction.
Let us have no part in the profitless quarrels in which other men will inevitably engage as to what country, what service, won the European war. Every man, every woman, of every nation here represented has served to the outcome. This we shall remember-and in doing so we shall be revering each honored grave, and be sending comfort to the loved ones of comrades who could not live to see this day.”
Other events of historical note on this day:
May 7, 1864 – After the Battle of the Wilderness, U.S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac moves south. The Wilderness provided, at best, a mixed outcome for Federal forces, but movement toward Richmond after the battle began the Overland Campaign, and led to the famous description that “Ulysses don’t scare worth a damn.”
May 7, 1915 – The liner Lusitania is sunk off the coast of Ireland by a German submarine. 1,198 people, including 128 Americans, were drowned. The ship was carrying war munitions at the time of its sinking but this example of unrestricted German submarine warfare helped turn public opinion against Germany during World War I.
That’s it for today – enjoy today’s open thread and have a great Sunday.