DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, May 8, 2015 – “The world rejoiced in the hope of peace” upon the Allies’ acceptance of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany’s armed forces during World War II, President Barack Obama said today, marking the 70th anniversary of the victory in Europe during his weekly address.
“On V-E Day, after the Nazi surrender, people swarmed the streets of London and Paris and Moscow, and the cloud of fear that had hung for so many years finally lifted,” Obama said in his address. “Here at home, from small towns to Times Square, crowds gathered in celebration, singing and dancing with joy.
“There would still be three more months of deadly fighting in the Pacific,” he continued. “But for a few hours, the world rejoiced in the hope of peace.”
Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower announced Germany’s surrender with little fanfare, noting simply that the Allies’ mission in Europe was fulfilled, the president said.
But Eisenhower’s message “belied the extraordinary nature of the Allied victory -- and the staggering human loss,” Obama said. “For over five years, brutal fighting laid waste to an entire continent. Mothers, fathers, children were murdered in concentration camps. By the time the guns fell silent in Europe, some 40 million people on the continent had lost their lives.”
Paying Tribute ‘to All Who Served’
Today on V-E Day, “we pay tribute to all who served,” the president said.
“They were patriots, like my grandfather who served in Patton’s Army -- soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines -- and the women of the WACs and the WAVES and every branch,” Obama said. “They risked their lives, and gave their lives so that we, the people the world over, could live free.”
Those who served to secure Allied victory during World War II, the president said, also included the “women who stepped up in unprecedented numbers, manning the home front, and -- like my grandmother -- building bombers on assembly lines.”
The ‘Greatest Generation’
This was the generation, he said, “that literally saved the world -- that ended the war and laid a foundation for peace. This was the generation that traded in their uniforms for a college education so they could marry their sweethearts, buy homes, raise children and build the strongest middle class the world has ever known.
“This was the generation,” the president continued, “that included heroes like the Tuskegee Airmen, the Navajo Code Talkers and the Japanese-Americans of the 442nd Regiment -- and who continued the fight for freedom here at home, expanding equality and opportunity and justice for minorities and women.”
Rededicate to Freedoms
The nation and world “will be forever grateful for what these remarkable men and women did, for the selfless grace they showed in one of our darkest hours,” Obama said. “But as we mark this 70th anniversary, let’s not simply commemorate history. Let’s rededicate ourselves to the freedoms for which they fought.
It’s important for Americans to “make sure that we keep striving to fulfill our founding ideals -- that we’re a country where no matter who we are or where we’re from or what we look like or who we love, if we work hard and take responsibility, every American will have the opportunity to make of our lives what we will,” the president said.
He added, “Let’s stand united with our allies, in Europe and beyond, on behalf of our common values -- freedom, security, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law around the world -- and against bigotry and hatred in all their forms so that we give meaning to that pledge: “Never forget. Never again.”
(Editors note: Although May 8, 1945, marked Germany’s exit from the war, the Japanese Empire would continue to fight on until its surrender in mid-August and the formal signing of the surrender documents Sept. 2, 1945.)