May 8th 1945, Victory in Europe Day, marked the end of one part of World War II. War with Japan continued until two atomic bombs were dropped in July and Japan’s formal surrender was signed September 2nd.
My mother was on Dundas Street East in London Ont. on VE Day. She said when the news spread, everyone ran into the street screaming, laughing, hugging anyone at hand. They stayed outside for hours, revelling in the knowledge that the war was over. Bluebirds were flying over the white cliffs of Dover, the boys were coming home.
Coming home took time. My dad’s official discharge papers are stamped November 28th 1945, Wolseley Barracks, London Ontario. My mother and her parents met him. My 3½ year old brother was in his grandpa’s arms. He didn’t know the man they all were hugging and kissing and crying over. But he connected the name with the daddy he’d been told about. He slithered, Mom said, across from Grandpa’s arms to Dad’s.
My parents knew they had been luckier than others in the war and the post-war adjustment. Mom was happy to stop restaurant and factory work and stay home with her child. Dad had spent his war working on army vehicles in England and Scotland. At home, he worked on civilian vehicles. They made their contribution to the Baby Boom. The war receded into the background, never forgotten but not active in their lives.
Decades later, Mom found an undeveloped film in a drawer. It wasn’t one of hers. From the printing on it, she saw it was from the UK. Realizing it was Dad’s from the war, she was a bit nervous about having it developed. So was he, I think. What would be on the pictures? Soldiers. Some of them he hadn’t seen since.
My parents-in-law survived it too. They had to wait until VJ Day for it to be over. Bill was a pilot in the US Army Airforce. A blast to his eardrum during training put an end to his hopes to be a fighter pilot. Instead he flew transport planes, cargo and people. Some of his passengers, near the end of the war, were survivors from POW camps and Buchenwald, a concentration camp.
He came home to Kentucky in August 1945. He brought gifts from Paris for a girl he had met when home on leave in 1944. One was a gold sequinned Juliet cap. She wore it at their wedding three months later.