World War II: Liberation, Surrender, and Victory


Figure 1.--Here an American boy salutes during the VJ Dat Parade in New York City celebrating the end of World II. Similar celebrations took place throughout the United States, albeit on a smaller scale.

The end of the World War II was of course received differently in the various belligerent and occupied countries. This began with the libertion of Axis occupiued countries, first in German-occupied areas in the Soviet Union (December 1941) and then Italian and French colonies in North Africa (November 1942). The celebrations in The East were muted because of the terrible discoveries of NAZI attrocities. In North Africa the French celebrated. The Arabs were for the most part passive observers. The libration of Europe began in earnest with D-Day (June 1944). Joyous celebraions followed with Allies armies drivig the Germans out of one occupied capital after another. Thegreat celebration was of course the liberation of Paris (August 1944). Celebrations in th East were again more muted as the much of the populaion saw the Red Army advance as simply an exchange of occupiers. In the Pacific, he Amricans in the Marianas (June 1944) and the Philippine (October 1944) were received as enthuiastically as libators. This was different in the forner European colonies (1945). The War ended differently in the three principal Axis countries (Italy, Germany, and Japan). The first Axis country to surrender was Benito Mussolini's Fascist Italy. After the fall of Sicily. the Fascist Grand Council arrested Mussolini (July). The country's leadership began to plan a exit from the War. This was complicated by the fact that Hitler would intervene to prevent this. And Germany despite reverses in the East still had the capability to do this. Italian leaders pledged that they wold continue the War while at the same time they began secret negotiations with the Allies. The Italian surrender when it finally came was conducted more like a country joining the Allies than surrendering. This was in part because Germany immediately moved to seize control of Italy. There were no ambiguities about the surrender of Germany and Japan. Joyous celebrations broke out in the Allied capitals and Moscow the ceebrate Victory in Europe (VE) Day. The same occurred throughout the United States on Victory over Japan (VJ Day).

Occupation

Almost all of Europe, much of Oceania and Asia, and some of Africa was occupied by the Axis powers during World War II. The Japanese Militarists even before the NAZIs took power in Germany began invading and occuoyibg Asian countries. The Soviet Union was for a time allied to the Axis and like the European Axis countries occupied several European countries at the onset of the War. Subsequently Italy joined the Germans and occupi Only the Americas escaped Axis occupation and even here, Vichy controlled French colonies for a while. The Axis abd Soviet occupation regimes wee som of the most brutal and deadly in Europen history. There was really nothing like them since the Viking invasions during the Middle Ages, brining a mix of robbery, destruction, slaughter and slavery. The occupation experience varied from country to country. Here various factors were involved such as etnicity and willingness to cooperate with the invaders. Ethnicity was especially important to the race-crazed NAZIs, thus the occuoation regime was much more brutal in the East and the West. The German Generalplan Ost is perhaps the most horific document in European history. Few in the Western countries occupied, especially Vichy France, however, understood that the NAZIs were restrained during the War so as not to disrupt the economy and contribution to the War effort. Not was it known that SS think tanks were studing what was to be done with these counries and populations after the War was won. German plans for Britain after it was dfeated follow the outlines laborated in the East and he same wouls have followed in other Westrn countries like France, presumably more sever because the population was less Germanic/Nordic.

Liberation

The end of the World War II was received differently in the various belligerent and occupied countries. This began with the libertion of Axis occupiued countries. Ethipia which was the first Axis victim ws te first to be liberated (May 1941). This was even before the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. The Germans achieved enormous success, but were badly damaged by the RedcArmnyvdefense before Mosow. ThecRed Army also managed to liberate areas in western Russia (December 1941). The British and Americans liberated most of North Africa (Novemnber 1942). . In North Africa the French celebrated. The Arabs were for the most part passive observers. The Red Army began the libertion of large sreas of the Doviet Union which the Stalmgrad offensive made possible (November 1942). As the Red Army moved west, the celebrations in The East were muted because of the terrible discoveries of NAZI attrocities and the fact that the Eastern Europeans were exchanging one totalitarian occupier for another. In the West, the situation was different. The libration of Westernn Europe began in earnest with D-Day (June 1944). Joyous celebraions followed with Allies armies drivig the Germans out of one occupied capital after another. The greatest celebration was of course the liberation of Paris (August 1944). Celebrations in the East were again more muted as the much of the populaion saw the Red Army advance as simply an exchange of occupiers. In the Pacific, the Americans in the Marianas (June 1944) and the Philippines (October 1944) were received as enthuiastically as liberators. This was different in the former European colonies (September 1945). Most were relieved to see the Japanese defeated, but they alao saw how easily the Europeans had been defeated which boosted nationalist movements throughout the area.

Axis Surrenders

Hitler could have saved Germany from devastation. Most of the damage to the Reich occurred after D-Day. He of course was not about to do that. He knew that surrender meant not only the end of NAZI Germany, but his own trial as a war criminal. Thus Germany fought to the end until Allied armies met in Germany and the Soviets fought an Apocalyptic battle in Berlin. After Hitler committed suicide, Admiral Dönitz, the second Führer ordered Keitel and Jodl to surrender (May 1945). Japan had joined the Axis so that the more powerful Germans could prevent America from focusing on them. After the German surrender, this was precisely what occurred. The Japanese strategy was to make it so costly in blood and material for the United States pursue the War to a Japanese unconditional surrender. Okinawa so horrified the Americans that to avoid a bloody invasion became a virtual necessity. The Japanese were still undecided, but the combined impact of two atomic bombs and the Soviet declaration of war finally convinced Emperor Hirohito to surrender (August 1945).

Victory Celebrations

Joyous celebrations broke our in the Allied capitals and Moscow the ceebrate Victory in Europe (VE) Day. Here there was a day difference. After the Whermacht generals signed the surrender documents in Reims (May 7). It took effect the following day. This is the date celebrated in the West. Actually two separate surrender ceremonies took place. Stalin insisted tht they be flown east to Soviet-occupied Berlin for his own surrender ceremony. Perhaps the most heart-felt celebratin occrred in Lonon, a city which only a few weeks earlier was still being pomded by V-2 atacks. Celbratins in Paris did not rival the tumault of liberation a year earlier. VE Day came as no great surprise. Allied and Soviet armies had met, Belin had fallen, and Hitle was dead. It was obvious that it was just a tter of days before NAZI Germany surrenered. This was different in the Pacific. Both the military public and the American public believed after the fanastica resitance on Iwo Jima and Ojinawa that the Japanese were going to fight i out to the nittere end. This Emperor Hirohito's decesion to surrender came as a welcomed surrise (August 15). The actual surrendr dcuments came to weeks later in Tokyo Bay under the bigu guns of the USS Missouri The Japanese peoplwee even more surprised. It was the only decision of the War that he took largely on his own iniative. It is widely believed in America that it was the atomic bombs were the deciding factor. The Emperor has never addresed this issue, but the Soviet invasion and possibility of Soviet occupation that was the deciding factor. As a result, the celebration in America were even more racaious than that for V-E Day. Celebrations were held throughout the United States on Victory over Japan (VJ Day). Muted celebratins occurred in Britain, but relatively litle notice occurred in other capitals. Many of the Ameican servicemen men being shifted from Europe to the Pacific were sure that the Japanese surrenbder saved their lives. The iconic celebratin occurred in New Yoork's time square imortalized by a sailr kissing a girl. But communitis all ver the country celebrated. Life Magazine which chronicled the War in images wrote, "But in the giddy, chaotic first few hours after the announcement, people naturally took to the streets of cities and towns all over the country. And while some of the merriment was no doubt of a quieter, G-rated variety, it’s hardly surprising that countless grown men and women seized the opportunity for cathartic revelry, giving vent to joy and relief as well as to the pent-up anxieties, fears, sorrows and anger of the previous several years. In other words: the nation let loose." There were both big-ciy celebrtions as well as local celebrations where the kids took part, understanding that brothers, uncles, and fathere were coming home.

Aftermath

World War II in many ways fashioned the shape of our modern world, in both Europe and Asia. No one was sure how to treat Germany and Japan. The Axis countries were the most changed, but the Allies, including America, Britain, and the occupied countries were also changed. The United States in West Germany and Japan oversaw an occupation with changed the nature of German and Japanese society, rooting out NAZIism and militarism and fomenting the development of democratic political regimes and social structures. The results by all practical measures have been an overwhealming success. Germany and Japan today as well as Italy are some of the most prosperous and democratic societies in the world. There were, however, major differences in the occupation policies in the two countries. Germany and Japan took different approaches to the War. Germany fully admitted to its culpability and accepted responsibility for the War. The Japanese never fully admitted their responsibility or told the Japanese public just what their military did. Using the atomic bomb attacks, Japan has adopted the stance of a victim of the War. Europe was awash with displaced persons uprooted by the NAZIs and Soviets. The War made the Soviet Union a superpower at the time that Europe was in shambles. The ethnic cleansing that Hitler and Stalin commenced continued after the War. It left Europe an ethnically tidier region than before the War. Europe was in desperate condition, but to the surprise of almost everyone, within only a few years an amazing recovery began in the West that would bring unprecedented prosperity. In the Eastern Europe occupied by the Soviet Union, recovery proceeded more slowly and left the countries poor cousins to the vibrant west. The developing Cold War divided Europe into two armed camps. America's decision to remain this time meant that Western Europe would not be overwhealmed by the Soviet colossus. In Asia, the Japanese Empire was dismantled. Manchuria was returned to China and the Civil War was fought to a conclusion with the Communists winning. Korea became independent and the Chinese Nationalists found refuge on Taiwan. War empowered nationalist groups who in a short period of time ended colonialism. Many of these new countries were influenced by socialist economics and the seemingly rapid Communist approach to development.







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Created: December 29, 2002
Last updated: 6:15 PM 11/12/2014