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The world changed on this day 75 years ago

Amid all the confusion, controversy and hubbub surrounding the effect of the COVID-19 virus on our lives, is a special day in history.

Today is the 75th anniversary of VE Day; the day Germany officially surrendered to the allies, ending World War II. The VE stands for “Victory in Europe.”

I say officially because German Col. Gen. Alfred Jodl signed the unconditional surrender papers on May 7, 1945, but Gen. Dwight Eisenhower ordered news of the surrender embargoed, or delayed, until May 8. News of the surrender, however, got out despite the embargo thanks to AP Paris Bureau chief Edward Kennedy, who went ahead and released the story.

According to an AP article on the 75th anniversary, the surrender took place at a little red schoolhouse that was Eisenhower’s headquarters.

Lt. Gen. Walter Beddel Smith, Eisenhower’s chief of staff, signed the surrender papers for the Supreme Allied Command. Eisenhower was not present. According to the article, the surrender ended a conflict “that began when Hitler’s army invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, beginning the agony that convulsed the world for 2,319 days.”

With so much going on in the world today, World War II seems a minor footnote in our nation’s history, but like the Civil War did almost 159 years ago, the war changed the lives and the fabric of the nation. Young men, like my father, went to foreign lands, some with names they never heard of before, to battle an enemy bent on world domination and held the people of many countries hostage in some cases for more than five years.

Those families who had sons and daughters in the service hung blue star banners in their windows, a gold star if they lost a child to the war. People dug victory gardens and learned to live with rationing, blackouts and other measures to aid the war effort and protect the public.

Many young men returned to an America that had changed in the four years they had been gone and fighting their way through the towns and forests of Europe or the islands and jungles in the Pacific. Many never returned to see those changes and lie in cemeteries abroad.

The America those servicemen and women came home to was wealthier, booming and technology was just gaining ground, whether it was television or the evolution of the computer age. People were more mobile, suburbia was just beginning and to borrow from author William Allen White, there was a second “revolution of manners and morals.”

But I’ve gotten off the subject, VE Day is important because it ended a murderous and tragic conflict, and showed the nations of the world were able to put aside differences to face a common foe. We are free because of the actions of family members who answered the call, and that’s something we should think about as we go through our present struggles with COVID-19.

More than 75 years ago, our nation put up with hardships for the sake of the nation, and so should we now because then, as now, our survival is at stake.

And by the way, there’s not many of them left, so if you have a relative who was, or if you know a World War II veteran. Talk with them and tell them “thanks.”

 

John Surratt is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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