V-E Day

"Nation Hails V-E Day" Universal Newsreel 18-397 (1945/05/10) from National Archives
"Nation Hails V-E Day" (quote from Universal Newsreel Vol. 18-397, May 10, 1945):

"Seattle, Washington: Spirited Boeing employees celebrates news of victory over Germany by wheeling out a giant B-29 bomber carrying 'On To Tokyo' sign. Washington Aglow - When full outdoor illumination is restored to Washington, D.C. the shining dome of the nation's capitol commands the most attention. BroadWay is 'White Way' Again - When all the lights are turned on again in Times Square, the dazzle and brilliance convinces all Broadwayites that V.E. has been achieved." Newsreel scenes include Boeing workers rolling out an extra B-29 in Seattle, Capitol dome in DC, New York Times Square lit up, the 'Great White Way' at night, Statue of Liberty once more lighted at night."

"Wild Crowds Greet News In City While Others Pray," (quote from New York Times, May 8, 1945):

"New York City's millions reacted in two sharply contrasting ways yesterday to the news of the unconditional surrender of the German armies. A large and noisy minority greeted it with the turbulent enthusiasm of New Year's Eve and Election Night rolled into one. However, the great bulk of the city's population responded with quiet thanksgiving that the war in Europe was won, tempered by the realization that a grim and bitter struggle still was ahead in the Pacific and the fact that the nation is still in mourning for its fallen President and Commander in Chief.

Times Square, the financial section and the garment district were thronged from mid-morning on with wildly jubilant celebrators who tooted horns, staged improptu parades and filled the canyons between the skyscrapers with fluttering scraps of paper. Elsewhere in the metropolitan area, however, war plants continued to hum, schools, offices and factories carried on their normal activities, and residential areas were calmly joyful.

One factor that helped to dampen the celebration was the bewilderment of large segments of the population at the absence of an official proclamation to back up the news contained in flaring headlines and radio bulletins. With the premature rumor of ten days ago fresh in everyone's mind, and millions still mindful of the false armistice of 1918, there was widespread skepticism over the authenticity of the news.

By mid-afternoon loudspeakers were blaring into the ears of the exulting thousands in the amusement district the news that President Truman's proclamation was being held up by the necessity of coordinating it with the announcements from London and Moscow, and that the formal celebration of the long-awaited V-E Day would be delayed until today.

This sobering note gradually calmed the wild demonstration that had started in the heart of the city within a few minutes after the Associated Press flash at 9:35 A. M. had given the world its first news of the surrender. For six hours Times Square was closed to all vehicular traffic by a crowd that the police placed at 500,000 between noon and 1 P. M., but by 4:30 P. M. the police had cleared the streets sufficiently for street cars and buses to operate.

Jubilation in the other areas in which crowds gathered, such as the district centering about Wall and Broad Streets, the Borough Hall section of Brooklyn, Union, Madison and herald Squares, and the garment manufacturing center in the West Thirties, followed an almost identical pattern. Along Fifth Avenue, on the other hand, the excitement never attained the crescendo that it did elsewhere.

Perhaps the best index to New York's reception of the news was to be found in the strain it placed on the city's communications and transportation systems. When the flash reached them, millions of persons reached for their telephones, either to seek confirmation or to pass the glad tidings to friends or relatives. The result was to give the New York Telephone Company one of the busiest days in its history. Between 8 A. M. and noon, a record four-hour total of 1,163,470 calls was handled by the company, and it appeared last evening that the all-time high mark for a single day of 11,820,978 calls set last Sept. 14, the day of the hurricane, probably had been surpassed. At the peak the calls were coming in so rapidly that many delays in service resulted, and local broadcasting stations were asked to appeal to the public to avoid making any but essential calls. Soon after the long-awaited news came, the influx into such mid-Manhattan points as Rockefeller Center and Times Square placed an exceptionally heavy strain on the city's rapid transit system. By calling in workers from their days off, however, the Board of Transportation was able to put extra trains into service that coped with the rush. At 11:30 A. M. the board said that about 25,000 persons were clogging the Times Square subway stations, but nevertheless normal service was being maintained.

Only the usual handful of morning idlers was watching The New York Times bulletins on Times Tower when the electrifying news was posted there. Their outward response was not spectacular, but from mouth to mouth the news spread with astonishing speed. Meanwhile, from offices and loft buildings, thousands who had heard it on the radio were pouring into the streets and the crowds grew steadily larger until the police estimated that 500,000 were in the Times Square area. A few blocks to the south, in the garment district, the enthusiasm reached an even more ecstatic level. From their loft windows towering many stories above the street, workers threw odds and ends of brightly colored materials into the breeze. Then they dropped their work and rushed pell-mell into the sunshine to help celebrate. . . "

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Defeat of Germany 1945 from the WWII Timeline | WWII links | Topics | Pictures | Maps | Documents | Bibliography | revised 2/16/05 by Steven Schoenherr