On May 8, we marked the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, a victory for the forces of freedom that shaped the world for all of us who followed.
Most of us have no direct memory of how America and its allies joined together to save the world from tyranny. Most of us can only read about how General Dwight D. Eisenhower rallied his troops before they parachuted into France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
“Soldiers, Sailors and Airman of the Allied Expeditionary Force!” he said, in his D-Day statement. “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”
He added in encouragement, “The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!”
Our forces didn’t let Eisenhower down.
That same general who would later be president was much more subdued when victory was in hand. After Germany signed an initial surrender, the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force struggled with how to capture the moment. Eisenhower kept it simple: “The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 0241, local time, May 7, 1945,” he wrote.
A final surrender was signed on May 8, 1945, and the war was over.
Our knowledge of history is based on interpretations of these mile markers. But millions of men and women lived in the terrifying moments in between, and only they know how they made Eisenhower’s rallying cry come true. We are fortunate that some of those who lived through this incredible chapter of American history are still with us today. Their triumph is not forgotten at the Department of Veterans Affairs, where we still care for some of these brave service members who didn’t falter when the eyes of the world were upon them. And we know their victory will never be forgotten by this grateful nation.
To all those who carried the fate of the world on their back so very long ago – we thank you, and we remain in your debt. And congratulations on the 75th anniversary of your great victory.