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The Day Freedom Rang

Posted on Wednesday, May 8, 2024
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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12 Comments
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Soldiers from US, Germany and France with flags at parade on 8th of may. STRASBOURG, FRANCE - MAY 8, 2017: US, German French soldiers at ceremony to mark Western allies World War Two victory Armistice in Europe victory over Nazi Germany in 1945

How soon we forget days … that meant everything to those who came before. Our parents and especially our grandparents knew what May 8 was, why it mattered, and how it affected them. You may not recall what May 8 is, but perhaps a refresher is worth the time.

May 8, 1884, was important, of course, because it was the birthday – now 140 years ago – of Harry Truman, our 33rd president, poker and piano player, plain talker, pain in the side for Thomas Dewey, who twice thought he would be president, 1944 and then losing in an upset to Truman in 1948. 

Born in Missouri, Truman served almost eight years, taking the reins when FDR died in early 1945, making the fateful decision to save a million American lives – likely many Japanese – with the atomic bombs, ending World War II in the Pacific, August of that same year. 

But May 8 was something else also, arguably more important than Truman’s birthday. On May 8, 1945, the war in Europe – World War II in the European theater – came to an end, after six long years, four for the US, and Germany’s unconditional surrender the day before.

Princess Elizabeth, who would be coronated within seven years and become Great Britain’s longest-serving queen, was 19, had worked under military trucks during the war, and just mingled with the British public that night, calling it “one of the most memorable nights of my life.” 

After so much death, so much uncertainty, personal loss for Americans and our beleaguered Allies, the constant anxiety – my mother recalls all pulled blackout curtains every night of the war – the long nightmare was over. 

The cost of that war to America – as to our Allies – was incalculably high, yet we had entered determined to win, did as we said we would, and saved Europe and the world. We started with one division to Nazi Germany’s 60 divisions. 

We started after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941. American boys – and girls – knew exactly who they were, and measured themselves by honor, love of nation, town, family, and freedom. They did not want to go to warbut they rose and went without hesitation.

Talking with WWII vets and their onetime girlfriends, who became their wives, I have been forever humbled, and in awe of the way they lived their lives. They did what had to be done, did not look back, and did not forget those who never came home, or the agony of the loss, but they rallied and went on. 

Self-pity was not in their vocabulary, not after what they had all been through, a few short years after the Great Depression, with losses high and 16 million boys in uniform, and they were boys.

They were – in a word – grateful, eternally and unforgettably grateful, quiet in their remembering, not boastful or interested in talking about what might have been, fathers, sons, brothers, husbands lost. They did not dwell, did not want sympathy, and knew the grand and terrible idea of God’s will.

They tended to live their lives, most of them – those who went away and those who suffered when those they loved went away – as if every day mattered because they knew it did. 

They knew about things like honor, sacrifice for someone else, looking after each other, love made deep by seeing how deep love gets, and what one human will do for another when only they can. 

They knew men in uniform going to a neighbor’s door, or their own, or thought about that when the reports came back when the town suffered another loss, 450,000 boys killed, never coming home. 

And then, showing the kind of conviction that deepens love for others, for those lost and those not lost, reminding all of what it takes to win, and why freedom calls us all – they watched as the Allies moved on the Nazis in North Africa, Italy, up from Sicily, through Anzio, Rome, Florance, the Po Valley, then in at Normandy, by ships, and from the sky, fighting to live, ready to die. 

Finally, on May 8, 1945, they learned to breathe again, they strained to remember what life was like without war, what living was like when freedom was nearly lost, regained at cost, and treasured. No one alive that day ever forgot it – and they hoped, in that way, people do, that no one ever would. 

But lives are passed to lives, years become decades, children grow and have children who have children, and people forget. They forget what it took, what it cost, how dear freedom is, how dear freedom always is, and why our defense of the good … makes us great. Remember on all days, but especially May 8. That is V-E Day, Victory in Europe Day, for which so many once knelt to pray.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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Lieutenant Beale
Lieutenant Beale
2 months ago

The Second World War and it’s tremendous cost was laid on the backs of the sons and daughters of the Great Depression. They truly were “The Greatest Generation.

Gen X, Y, Z and, I dare say, even some of the Boomers don’t realize or count the cost that was paid.
Moreover, they knew who real men and women were. No pronouns necessary.

Max
Max
2 months ago

RBC, thank you for this reminder of history that was important to all freedom loving people of this world. Of course, in this corrupt world, most of history is being rewritten for the worse while the truth is being distorted. It is definitely disgraceful toward all who paid the price of freedom with their lives so that others might enjoy their lives to the fullest.
Happy V-E Day to those who remember.

John Burtis
John Burtis
2 months ago

While my father served in the US Navy, my mother took a leave from teaching and served as a military police officer in the USAAF. They married in June 1945 in New York while my father’s ship, LST-308, was ordered from Normandy to Saipan via Pearl Harbor. After an abbreviated honeymoon, dad caught his ship in Alameda. My final photo of him shows his ship at Pearl Harbor in July of 1945 as they prepared for the invasion of Japan. The old man always said that Harry Truman saved his life with the atomic bombs.

Melinda
Melinda
2 months ago

Good history that we once learned and then forgot. I was a small child when Truman was president, but I remember my parents appreciated him. Those were good times, and also when Ike was president. Thanks for the reminder that our freedoms cannot be taken for granted.

Doc
Doc
2 months ago

Awesome article. Thank you!

anna hubert
anna hubert
2 months ago

Had FDR lived a bit longer he sure would not have the brains or resolve to do what HST did Too bad there were not a bomb to end the communism

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
2 months ago

VE Day & then over Japan in Sept 1945

John
John
2 months ago

Amend! The greatest generation ever!! But it saddens my heart to see so many of the current generations turn away from Freedom.

David
David
2 months ago

Outside forces Good night destroy Americans democracy. But I’m afraid the unconditional forces from within are tempting to destroy the entire country much less the American democracy that we grew up with as baby boomers. I feel sorry for our nation today if we were faced with having to fight a war and give as much of our freedoms and our finances towards fighting a totalitarian regime like the Nazis and the Japanese I’m afraid we would roll over on our backs and and give up. And the country will end it doesn’t take atomic bombs through the story our nation anymore All it takes are they anti-Americans regimes residing in the White House

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
2 months ago

Test

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