CBC Digital Archives

VE-Day: 'On to Tokyo'

May 8, 1945, was a day to celebrate. It was VE-Day, the long-awaited moment when the Allied forces triumphed over Nazi Germany to claim victory in Europe. But the joy brought by news of peace was dampened by the memory of fallen comrades and the ongoing war in the Pacific. From the liberation of Holland through the German surrender, celebrations in Canada and the servicemen's return, CBC Archives follows Canadians as the war ends in Europe.

media clip
There's no flag-waving in the streets of the U.S. capital on VE-Day. "We still have a war to win, haven't we?" the locals tell a puzzled CBC correspondent when he asks why they're not celebrating. In the United States, the end of war in Europe simply means a shift in focus to the western horizon, across the Pacific. The United States still has millions of soldiers and sailors under arms, and they're determined to beat the Japanese to their knees.

Elsewhere in the United States, the mood is more jubilant. In Times Square, a huge crowd of New Yorkers "took the lid off." The New York Times takes the view that public celebrations are warranted. "If it is true that public rejoicing will not bring back our battle dead, or heal the maimed, may not people rejoice in the fact that in the chief theatre of the war there will be no more Americans killed or maimed?" 
. After the war was over in Europe, Canadian servicemen whose military service had been fulfilled had the option of returning home or staying on.
. Those who stayed on, as well as those who had yet to complete their service, were assigned to occupation duties in postwar Europe.
. For Canadian servicemen, participation in the Pacific war after VE-Day was voluntary. Those who opted in were entitled to a pay raise for the remainder of the war.

. Those who volunteered for Pacific duty got 30 days' leave -- i.e., a trip back to Canada -- before being sent for training and transport to the Pacific.
. On May 21, 1945, Prime Minister Mackenzie King announced that 30,000 Canadian soldiers were headed to war in the Pacific.
. Another 15,000 airmen volunteered for Pacific duty.

. Some Canadians spent almost four years of the war in the Pacific as prisoners of war. In November 1941 about 2,000 troops were sent to Hong Kong to help the British defend the island colony. They were quickly overcome by Japanese invaders and taken prisoner.
. See the CBC Archives clip Canadians captured in Hong Kong receive compensation to learn more.

. American servicemen in the Pacific war were pleased to learn of victory in Europe, if only because they thought it would bring reinforcements their way. In the book The Day the War Ended, former soldier Philip Freedman remembers thinking: "Good. Now get the European troops over here fast. Don't waste time celebrating; move your asses!"

. The United States did not enter the Second World War until Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Over 2,400 Americans died.
. Before then, however, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said any German or Italian submarine in the western Atlantic would be attacked. This announcement followed a German submarine attack on the USS Greer, an American destroyer, in the waters between Iceland and Newfoundland.

. In 1942, after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Canadian government worried that Canadian soil might also come under threat by the Japanese. Its response was to forcibly evict 22,000 Japanese Canadians from their homes and businesses on the West Coast and send them to internment camps elsewhere in Canada.
. Learn more about this subject in the CBC Archives topic Relocation to Redress: The Internment of the Japanese Canadians.
Medium: Radio
Program: Washington Commentary
Broadcast Date: May 13, 1945
Guest(s):
Reporter: Carlyle Allison
Duration: 5:09 This clip has poor audio.

Last updated: November 7, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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