On May 8, 1945, Great Britain and the United States celebrated Victory in Europe Day. German troops across Europe laid down their arms. That surrender effectively ended WWII on the Western Front but several events led up to May 8 to make German surrender possible. The end of WWII did not occur until September 1945 when Japan surrendered.
- December 1944: The Germans attempt to reconquer Belgium in the Battle of the Bulge but are in retreat on January 1, 1945.
- January - April 1945: The Soviets liberate Warsaw and Krakow, force the Germans out of Hungary and capture Vienna on April 13.
- March 7, 1945: US troops cross the Rhine River, considered to be the path into the interior of Germany.
- April 16, 1945: The Soviets launch the final offensive of the European theatre, eventually encircling Berlin, which surrendered on May 2.
- April 30, 1945: Adolf Hitler commits suicide in his bunker.
- May 4, 1945: A German delegation meets at the headquarters of British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. Montgomery accepts the unconditional surrender of German forces in Denmark, the Netherlands and northwest Germany.
- May 7, 1945: Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower accepts the unconditional surrender of all the German forces. The surrender goes into effect on May 8, 1945. The BBC interrupts its scheduled programming to announce that Victory in Europe Day would be a national holiday on May 8. Special edition newspapers were printed with the news that the Germans had surrendered.
- May 8, 1945: Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill addresses the nation and says, "We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead." Japan had still not surrendered. King George VI also addressed the nation, saying, "Let us remember those who will not come back...let us remember the men in all the services, and the women in all the services, who have laid down their lives. We have come to the end of the tribulation and they are not with us at the moment of our rejoicing."
- Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were allowed to mingle anonymously in the celebrating crowd. Watch a fictionalized account of their evening in A Royal Night Out.
- Curious how nations around the world celebrated? Read about VE Day in the Soviet Union, the United States, South Africa, France and more.
- Victory in Japan Day didn't occur until August 14, 1945, when Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allies with a formal surrender on September 2, 1945.