May 1945

May

31

1945

For millions of people the war is not yet over

There had been a lot of talk about going home for the last month or so. The sound of distant battles had stopped. Opinion on the cause of the cessation was divided. Some said that it was because the Germans had been defeated; others that they had won. It didn’t mean a thing to me at the time.

Another interesting factor to be stirred into the argument was the sudden absence of refugees — farmers and residents of the surrounding countryside fleeing their homes before the advance of the Russian Army or deserting soldiers on the run.

May

29

1945

U.S. Ex-POW Kurt Vonnegut writes home

We were given long hours at extremely hard labor. Our food ration was two-hundred-and-fifty grams of black bread and one pint of unseasoned potato soup each day. After desperately trying to improve our situation for two months and having been met with bland smiles I told the guards just what I was going to do to them when the Russians came. They beat me up a little. I was fired as group leader. Beatings were very small time: — one boy starved to death and the SS Troops shot two for stealing food.

May

25

1945

Okinawan civilians try to leave the battlefield

All the men we had nursed were simply lying there. One of us asked, “Soldier, what are you going to do with these people?” “Don’t worry,” he responded, “I’ll make it easy for them.” Later we heard that the medics offered them condensed milk mixed with water as their last nourishment, and then gave them cyanide and told them, “Achieve your glorious end like a japanese soldier.”

May

21

1945

Okinawa – Medal of Honor for Conscientious Objector

6th Div Marines Okinawa

On May 21, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited 5 hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover.

May

17

1945

Okinawa: the bloody occupation of Ishimmi Ridge

The 2nd Platoon had gone over the center of the ridge and dropped into a long Jap communication trench which was about six feet deep. Small dug-outs in this trench contained about 10 or 12 sleeping enemy who were quickly disposed of by bayonet or rifle fire. However, tunnels from inside the ridge led into either end of the trench and the enemy soon attempted to force their way upward. At first, surprise was so complete that a japanese officer and his aide, laughing and talking, came toward us in the trench, walked completely past one of our men and were killed without realizing what hit them.

May

16

1945

Berliners learn to accommodate the Red Army

One national trait puzzled us. This was the habit of nearly every Russian who came to visit us of relieving nature in various, and to us strange and unusual places. We discovered these faecal visiting cards in every corner, on tables, beds, carpets and one, strangest and most ambitious of all, on the top of a particularly high stove. My own theory that this was the remains of an old superstition which implied than an object be possessed if the owner had stooled on it, did not obtain any general currency. But I still think it a possibility in the absence if any more valid theory.

May

9

1945

In the Far East the battle against Japan goes on

When Slim stood under the trees at Meiktila and told us: “Rangoon is where the big boats sail from”, the idea that we might one day get on one of those boats and sail halfway round the world to home might seem unreal, but it was a reminder that we were unique (and I don’t give a dam who knows it). We were Fourteenth Army, the final echo of Kipling’s world, the very last British soldiers in the old imperial tradition.

May

8

1945

End of the War in Europe – ‘VE Day’

Thousands of King George’s subjects wedged themselves in front of the Palace throughout the day, chanting ceaselessly ‘We want the King’ and cheering themselves hoarse when he and the Queen and their daughters appeared, but when the crowd saw Churchill, there was a deep, full-throated, almost reverent roar. He was at the head of the procession of Members of Parliament, walking back to the House of Commons from the traditional St Margaret’s Thanksgiving Service. Instantly, he was surrounded by people …

May

7

1945

The world waits for an ‘official announcement’

Stalin, it was obvious, intended that the only ‘real’ surrender should be to a Soviet commander. Years later we learned from Soviet generals’ memoirs that Stalin had been furious that a Soviet representative had added his signature to the Reims surrender: ‘Who the hell is Susloparov? He is to be punished severely for daring to sign such a document without the Soviet government’s . . , permission.

May

6

1945

Eisenhower refuses to allow any more German delays

‘You have played for very high stakes,’ Smith said when Jodl had finished. ‘When we crossed the Rhine you had lost the war. Yet you continued to hope for discord among the Allies. That discord has not come. I am in no position to help you out of the difficulties that have grown of this policy of yours. I have to maintain the existing agreements among the Allies. As a soldier I am bound by orders.’ He looked at Jodl and concluded, ‘I do not understand why you do not want to surrender to our Russian allies. It would be the best thing to do for all concerned.’