On May 8 each year, nations all over the world, especially in the UK and America, celebrate VE Day–but with so many different holidays on the calendar, it can be easy to get why we celebrate each one confused. Here’s a brief primer on what VE Day is, and why it’s worth raising a toast to.
At 3 p.m. local time on May 8, 1945, UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a momentous announcement over the radio: the fighting that had consumed Europe throughout World War II had come to an end. Germany had issued its surrender one day prior.
For millions of people throughout Europe and the world, choosing to celebrate VE Day isn’t just a way to remember an end to the conflict that had ravaged the continent, but an end to the tragic bloodshed that had become a way of life throughout many war-torn nations. After achieving multiple early victories through their brutal Blitzkreig approach to warfare (which involved rapidly overwhelming opponents through a combination of air and ground attacks) Nazi Germany had fallen, and with it, fell its brutal dictator, Adolph Hitler.
At the time, surrender was not necessarily an immediate thing–it took time for word to spread to far-flung battlefields, as Germans surrendered on one front to Soviet forces and another to American and European allied troops. Fighting on the Soviet front continued for another full day, in part because word had not yet reached the front lines, and in part because Nazi soldiers began attempting to flee West, in order to avoid capture by the Soviet forces. A total of 2 million Nazi soldiers were captured by the Soviets after their surrender. That surrender also marked the release of 13,000 British prisoners of war.
Today, VE Day is celebrated as a reminder of the brutal conflict that consumed the world, and while the war in the Pacific would continue for months longer, that makes this spot on the calendar resonate well with American and UK citizens today. With the war on terror continuing on multiple fronts in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere, we’re more aware than ever of just how momentous the end of a conflict might feel.
Today, we honor the bravery and the sacrifices that led to VE Day in May of 1945. We remember the men and women that fought, toiled, and died for our way of life. We express our gratitude to those who wore our uniforms before us, and we’re reminded of our ties to our brothers and sisters in uniform across the ages, to our allies, and to the future.
VE Day is one day that’s well worth celebrating, even from isolation at home.