It’s worth pausing this month to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, marked by Adolf Hitler’s suicide and Germany’s unconditional surrender. The Allied victory was a triumph of coalition warfare, the “Big Three” represented by the Soviet Union, the United States, and Great Britain, joined by so many other countries and peoples.
The Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, Dwight D. Eisenhower, sent a disarmingly simple message to mark Germany’s total defeat and surrender:
“The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 0241, local time, May 7th, 1945.”
It was a true “mission accomplished” moment — perhaps the last clear one America has had in any major war or conflict since then.
Eisenhower was a complex man who presented himself as a simple one. One thing he knew was how to lead, to bring people together, to keep hotheads like Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and General George Patton under control while maximizing their gifts. It’s difficult to imagine a better coalition commander than Ike.
I love this image of Ike from May 7, 1945 (Ike is seen here with his deputy commander, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder of the Royal Air Force):
Note the simplicity of Ike’s uniform (just three rows of ribbons, and no badges, devices, or other military gewgaws). The same can be said of Tedder’s uniform (a few ribbons, his wings, and that’s about it). Compare their uniforms to America’s current Chairman of the JCS, Mark Milley:
With all this self-congratulation and self-glorification, is it any wonder America’s generals found stalemate in Korea and defeat in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan?
VE Day represented enormous sacrifices by peoples around the world to defeat a murderous fascistic regime in Germany. Well should we remember it and learn from it.