For the 69th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, we decided to revisit Newsweek's coverage of the end of World War II on the continent. The May 14, 1945, issue of the magazine was dedicated to V-E Day, which was celebrated on May 8, 1945. The date marks the end of World War II in Europe. The war in the Pacific would drag on until August that year. Still, for Europe, the war was over, and people were ecstatic. From the editors' note:
This achievement—the glory of V-E Day—belongs to the armies, the navies, the air forces, the merchant marine, and the men and women of the shops, factories, and shipyards. But we are proud and grateful that we were able to see it and tell about it. And we like to feel that our week-by-week account has helped in some measure to unify the effort of the millions who have won this great victory, and whose total endeavor is now directed towards Tokyo.
The cover features two American soldiers standing on top of the Nuremberg stadium, a spot Hitler once used to address his Nazi audiences, now rubble and in the hands of American troops. The issue’s main story, "Victory in Europe: End of the Greatest War in History Shifts Knockout to the Pacific," provides a detailed account of the German surrender and the reaction to the conflict's final days in the United States:
A peace that passeth all understanding came to the world this week. It was anti-climactic, it was premature, it was confusing, it was the greatest news snafu of all time—but it was wonderful. On the 2,075th day of the costliest war in history, 25,000,000 men ceased fighting. The hardest peace ever to fall on a nation in modern times was meted out to Germany by the 48 countries that had declared war on the Reich. Ahead lay the difficult problems of the peace and the hard struggle to bring to an end the other half of the global war, the war against Japan. But for a few days at least a great burden was lifted from much of mankind.
As the allies celebrated, Newsweek staffers shared their V-E Day experiences in a small feature within the "Victory in Europe" package. We've reprinted it in full below:
V-E Day: The Biggest Holiday in the World
The news of victory brought joy to the hearts of men over most of the world.
London: "V-E Day was like Christmas," Mary Palmer of NEWSWEEK cabled. "Union Jacks and Allied flags hung from almost every building. The war-weary people of Britain clogged the streets, the churches, the pubs. Piccadilly seethed with celebrating crowds who spewed from the sidewalks into the streets. At one end of Shaftesbury Avenue I saw GI's doing an Indian dance in a circle of applauding admirers. Somebody got hold of some Roman candles and shot them into the night sky. Deep-throated boat whistles blended with nearer songfests of 'There'll Always Be an England,' 'Tipperary,' and anything else easy to harmonize.
"The London sky was reddened by the flames of victory bonfires. Up and down the streets in the center of town, GI's, Tommies, women in long dresses, and bare-legged girls sang and shouted. Many of them wore pink-paper caps and swung rattlers. London's pent-up emotions boiled over. It was the biggest holiday in the world."
Manila: From the Philippines capital, William Hipple, NEWSWEEK war correspondent, wirelessed: "The first flash came at 10:41 p.m. just before the 11 o'clock curfew. The word spread rapidly from mouth to mouth and the local newspapers soon had extras rolling. Soldiers, hurrying to their quarters to escape the MP's, were obviously impressed and happy, but there was no hat throwing or back slapping. 'That ought to hurry things over here against those Jap bastards,' said one."
Paris: The French capital indulged in an emotional orgy. Hundreds of thousands jammed the streets while planes dropped flares and fireworks popped and fizzled in the sky. Police seized the first few extras because of the unauthorized story, but then desisted. On the official announcement, the air-raid sirens screamed for three minutes. The government issued extra rations of wine, potatoes, butter, salt, and canned foods. For the moment, all friction between the Allies vanished. Frenchmen once again treated the Americans and the British as liberators.
The Front: The attitude of the men who won the war was summed up by a remark of an American soldier in Germany: "Well, where do we go from here?"