Monday the seventh of May was a day of confusion across the time zones of the world, as word crept out that the Germans had surrendered in the early hours of the morning in France. Eisenhower had at first attempted to delay the official public announcement by putting an embargo on the eight news correspondents who attended the signing ceremony. The intention was that there would be simultaneous official announcements in Moscow, London and Washington.
‘Hard nosed wire service reporter’ Edward Kennedy of the Associated Press decided to risk the wrath of the military and telephoned his report to New York via London. The Associated Press report was soon being quoted widely on the radio. At first the Americans tried to deny it, with President Truman arguing that they should wait for ‘Uncle Joe’ – Stalin. However the word was out. Merchant Seaman Les Owen was in New York:
The local radio stations were agog with the news from Europe. Hourly bulletins told of the final stages of the great drama now being played out in Germany. The atmosphere of excitement was stoked up continually by reports from ‘men on the spot over there’. I leaned on the rail that evening, watching the towering dominoes of the New York skyline lit by a million lights. So the war was drawing to a close — at least in Europe.
The Mayor of New York Fiorello H. La Guardia did his best to put a lid on it:
I want all the people of the City of New York who have thoughtlessly left their jobs, to go home . . . Maybe there’s still some fighting going on. You don’t know and I don’t know . . . Let’s be patient for just a few more hours.
Winston Churchill was on soon the hotline to Washington arguing that:
What is the use of me and the President looking to be the only two people in the world who don’t know what is going on . . . It is an idiotic position.
An attempt was made to telegram Moscow but an hour later there had been no reply – and Churchill was back on the telephone to say he could delay no longer. The British would later put out the announcement:
British Ministry of Information announced that to-morrow, Tuesday, May 8, will be V.E. Day, and a holiday throughout England. The Prime Minister will make a statement at 3 p.m. The King will broadcast at 9 p.m., and Wednesday, May 9 will also be a holiday in England.
The west was now significantly out of step with the Soviets. In Moscow military aide and interpreter with British Military Mission, Hugh Lunghi later recalled:
On Monday May 7 we received the news that Eisenhower at his Reims headquarters had in the early hours of that morning accepted General Jodl’s total capitulation of all German armed forces with a cease-fire at midnight on May 8. A General Susloparov had signed the surrender document on behalf of the Soviet Command.
Again the Soviet media ignored the historic event.
Instead of congratulations, we received a curt communication addressed to the then Head of our Military Mission, Admiral Archer, copied to the United States Head of Mission General Deane, from the Soviet Chief of Staff, General Antonov. He demanded that what he called the ‘temporary protocol’ signed in Reims should be replaced by ‘an act of general unconditional surrender’ which would be drawn up and signed in Marshal Zhukov’s headquarters in Berlin on the following day, May 8.
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.
These accounts appear in Barry Turner: Countdown to Victory: The Final European Campaigns of World War II.
A further surrender ceremony was now arranged in Berlin and the Soviet ‘VE Day’ was officially set for 9th May