|Military personnel and civilians celebrate VE-Day on Sparks Street in Ottawa on May 8, 1945. (CP Photo/ National Archives of Canada, PA-114617)|
Victory in Europe
CBC News Online | May 6, 2005
The news flash reached Canada at 9:36 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on May 7, 1945: “Germany has surrendered unconditionally.”
This time the news was real. There had been two earlier reports; one was erroneous and the second officially premature.
On April 28, as the war continued in Europe, as Russian and American troops met on the River Elbe, there were rumours from San Francisco, the site of the conference leading to the founding of the United Nations.
The second report came on the morning of May 7, when there was a flash from The Associated Press saying Germany had surrendered.
The military surrender agreement for the German armed forces was signed at a schoolhouse in Rheims, France, at 2:41 a.m. local time on May 7, 1945, by Colonel General Gustav Jodl, chief of staff of the German army; Lt.-Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, chief of staff for the Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower; General Ivan Susloparov for Russia; and General Francois Sevez for France.
But there were no confirming bulletins from other news organizations – Allied headquarters had ordered the news withheld for 24 hours, even though German radio had announced the surrender.
That news did reach Canadian soldiers in Holland; church bells rang across the country, and the troops took part in celebrations in Utrecht and Amsterdam.
On May 7, 1945, within minutes of a CBC bulletin that Germany had surrendered unconditionally, crowds flooded onto Rue Ste-Catherine in Montreal. (CBC Photo/Montreal Herald)With the premature news, celebrations had already started across North America; people gathered at Toronto City Hall and in small towns across the Prairies, as well as in New York and other major cities across the U.S. The parties dampened down when people heard that the news could be wrong again.
At 3 in the afternoon EDT, the BBC announced that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill would address the Empire at 9 a.m. EDT the next morning. Later, Washington said President Harry Truman would speak to the American people at the same time.
Something was definitely up, and six hours later the celebrations started up again when the German surrender was confirmed.
When Churchill went on the air, it was afternoon in the U.K. but first thing in the morning in Canada. He told the audience, “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toils and efforts that lie ahead. Japan, with all her treachery and greed, remains unsubdued.” He then declared “Victory in Europe Day,” soon shortened to VE-Day.
There were official celebrations across Canada, including a parade on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, crowds filled the streets of Toronto and Montreal, there were victory parades in small towns. Times Square in New York City and Piccadilly Circus in London were packed.
In Halifax, there were riots. The city was overcrowded, filled with navy and army personnel. For months there had been tension – many in the armed forces resented what they considered an indifferent or hostile attitude from the permanent civilian residents in the city.
The restaurants and liquor stores in both Halifax and Dartmouth were closed, but once the celebrations began some people began breaking into the liquor stores. What began as small incidents then became widespread vandalism and looting. In the end, three people were dead, 207 shops were looted, a total of 554 businesses damaged and many arrested.
Across the Atlantic, the surrender of the government of Germany was signed and ratified in Berlin at 11 p.m. local time, 6 p.m. EDT. After the ceremony, there was an official banquet for the victors, hosted by the Soviet commander, Marshal Georgy Zhukov.
In Moscow, the Soviet Union proclaimed what it called “Victory Day” would begin at midnight, May 9.
Fighting continued against the Japanese in the Far East theatre. The U.S. army was facing fierce resistance on the Philippine island of Mindanao, and U.S. aircraft sank or damaged 18 Japanese ships while American bombers hit the island of Kyushu.