Seventy years ago today, May 8, 1945, was the day of the party I always wish I had been born in time to see.
It was V-E Day – Victory in Europe Day. After twelve years of creating Hell, six of which involved waging war and killing soldiers and non-combatant innocents, the Nazis had finally given up, capitulated, surrendered, bowed out, were done. Hitler-the-coward had killed himself rather than face a war crimes tribunal, and the “Thousand Year Reich” didn’t make it past this day in ’45. The Nazis were kaput. It certainly took long enough.
The Reign of Terror was over.
And the Allies, of course, rejoiced!
One of my favorite stories of VE-Day was told to me by my mother. On Broad Street in Elizabeth, New Jersey, a man stood outside giving people sheets of toilet paper from a roll, joyously shouting, “Here’s to the end! Here’s to the end!”
To anyone who answered the call, way back when, and served your country, thank you! You’re all so inspirational to the rest of us today. So many of you never said a word about your service after you came back, either. You just went on with your lives as courageously as you once fought the enemy. I was astounded to realize, only recently – often when I see where they served in their obituaries – that I grew up among children whose fathers had invaded Italy, Normandy, and islands in the Pacific. My parents’ friend Dusty, the one who would swing a jump rope like a lariat at picnics and sing “I’m an Old Cowhand”? He landed at Normandy! Mom’s friend’s husband? He was the runner first sent ashore to scout a Pacific island right before our forces landed there! Our neighbors in Roselle, Johnny Lanza and Eugene LaBonia? One was part of the European campaign, the other, the Pacific. The vice-principal of my high school, Mr. Raymond Schnitzer, the one who looked just like the hilarious Burt on the sitcom “SOAP” and would imitate his routine of making himself invisible, to the delight of the kids? He won the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in the Navy! They all made the world a better place, and had decent lives when they got back.
Tom Brokaw’s term “The Greatest Generation that any nation has ever produced” certainly did them justice.
What great parties there were all over the free world, back then, on this frabjous day, to borrow a word coined by Lewis Carroll.
Happy 70th Anniversary of VE-Day, World!