It’s the evening of VE Day, Victory in Europe Day. The allies accepted the surrender of Nazi Germany 71 years ago today, leaving just three months of serious mopping up to do in the Pacific, including a couple of atomic bombs, to put paid to World War II.
But you’d never know about this significant anniversary for all the coverage it received in American print and broadcast media today. With all the important stuff to concern ourselves with: a toxic presidential campaign, the threat of global warming, and hot-button civil rights issues, like whether or not men can relieve themselves in the lady’s room, there were few columns inches and air time available to commemorate putting an end to fascism and its mass murder.
I was privileged to be in London for a conference on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of VE Day in 1995. What a treat to view overflights of B-17s, P-51s, Spitfires and Lancasters. And to see all those veterans crowded into Hyde Park to commemorate their participation in a great historical event. The mood was electric and upbeat. There may have been more mutual good feeling between Londoners on that day than there had been since VE Day itself. Of course it didn’t much outlast the occasion, but it was good to see.
That night, in a hotel bar overlooking the Tower Bridge, I enjoyed knocking back a few pints of Guinness with a couple of vintage Royal Navy destroyer veterans from Wales, in town for the event. I had sailed some of the same waters in an American destroyer 20 years later than they had, the difference being these guys had been shot at and I hadn’t. It’s hard to excuse yourself when the company is good and the sea stories are flowing along with the Guinness, especially when it’s your round. But at a certain point, well past midnight, I realized that the conference sessions began at 0830, and after a few more sea stories with accompanying refreshment, I wouldn’t be able to make a fist at 0830, let alone be coherent. So I reluctantly bid goodnight to my new mates, thanking them for the good time, and for what they had done in The Big One, that put an end to what may have been the worst things the world has ever endured.
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