The memories, the celebrations and even the phrase itself are all quickly fading. Sixty-three years ago today, victory was declared by the Allied Forces in Europe. That didn’t automatically end World War II, because a major adversary — Japan — continued to fight. But the declaration of Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 1945, meant there was light at the end of the tunnel.
A study of population trends in the United States indicates that a majority of citizens either weren’t born yet or weren’t old enough to remember the end of hostilities in Vietnam, much less the end of the battle for Europe during World War II. But the events of 1945 are vivid to all who lived through them, even though they are a precious, diminishing few. Their ranks include those who fought on the battlefield, certainly, but also those who worked in support of the war effort and waited anxiously at home.
The lessons the world learned from World War II are no longer taken from experiences most of the free world can claim as firsthand knowledge. To most of the world’s population, it’s history as ancient as the Revolutionary War. But a high price in human life and property was paid, and to forget runs the risk of forcing humanity to pay that price again. Nevertheless, the sacrifices made and the dedication shown by that generation of Americans and citizens of allies have been preserved. That history can be an inspiration to many generations to come.
Without victory in World War II, the global situation today would vastly different, and miserably so. The victories in Europe and Japan years ago set the stage for the economic and technological advances all of us enjoy.
World War II was a defining moment for this nation. It was a time of sharing and of sacrifice which few younger Americans can fully appreciate. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, only begin to duplicate the unified purpose which residents of the United States experienced in the early 1940s.
The veterans of that era are getting more difficult to find every year, but they are still out there. Time still remains to capture those memories, to preserve that inspiration — to offer them our thanks — before that era fades into history.