VE Day: 65 years on, the world remembers while America forgets.

May 9, 2010

British leaders commemorate VE day, May 8, 2010 (AP/Matt Dunham)

You didn’t read about it in my hometown paper, the Joplin Globe. A search on and Kansas pulled up but two snippets: a dispatch from Germany and one from Russia. (There were a couple of wire stories on Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Eisenhower library citing a need to cut defense bureaucracy but no local bylines found.)

There is not a word of it on the White House website. (To be fair, the President was pre-occupied with his weekly address telling us how wonderful he was for giving us healthcare “reform”.)

Although England, Germany, Russia, and even Canada thought it important enough to take pause and remember, a Google search finds nothing of significant, official United States observance.

What, pray tell is this “omission” that has this professional curmudgeon so personally perturbed?

HINT: The date marks the end of the worst conflict in human history, a conflagration that in its path left over 50 million dead. Those who survived it are dying daily in the thousands while those of us who owe them everything, remember them so little.

The date America has forgotten is May 8th, 1945,Victory in Europe Day, VE Day, the day the surrender of Nazi Germany to Allied forces was ratified in Berlin, thus ending hostilities in the European theatre of operations.

A day just five years earlier at that time, many thought might never come. A day tens of millions never did see come. A day that tens of millions more began picking up the pieces and wondering, what now? A date that today, most Americans are oblivious of.

Come on Caldwell, another one of your molehill mountains? Why should we care about some paper signing decades now past?

American’s are, after all, in a constant state of Alzheimer’s when it comes to our history.

We forget it all too often, re-write it as special interests demand, and when presented with true lessons to be learned from it, prefer instead to delude ourselves that “this time it will be different”.

And to be fair, the first week of May 2010 had a lot for us to absorb.

Oil in the Gulf (this time ours, not theirs), the Times Square bomber, Nashville and middle Tennessee suffering it’s most destruction since the civil war, a “who knows what the hell happened” Wall Street ride, and of course American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, the last season of LOST, and Betty White hosting Saturday Night Live.

Yes, we had a lot to absorb last week. We could almost be forgiven for overlooking a ceremonial date commemorating an event that happened so long, long ago. After all, most of those alive during that time have already died off and those left are getting really, really old.

And we Americans don’t like old. We constantly shuffle off our people into “homes”; blow up stadiums if they’ve dared lasted more than a couple decades, and will bulldoze virtually anything for the sake of “progress”.

But to ignore a major anniversary of without a doubt one of the most important dates of the 20th century is troubling indeed.  It’s not the overlooking per se, it’s the underlying meaning.

In times of crisis it is the wisest of the wise that scour the past to glean from it solutions for the present and preparedness for the future. And these are most certainly, crisis times.

Sixty-five years ago America was approaching her zenith. The brainpower and factories that supplied the “arsenal of democracy” would soon be re-tooling and transforming the country into an economic and military powerhouse the likes of which the world had never before seen.

Some say our zenith has passed. That we are now a nation in decline, the inevitable victim of our own past success, marching down the path of every great civilization before us.

Believe such dismay if you must, but before you become beholden to such thought take a moment to believe in something else.

Take a moment to reflect upon this nation, as we were those 65 years past. How the country must have felt. Accomplishing so much in relatively such little time. How just 3 ½ years after the devastation of Pearl Harbor the greatest evil known to man had been defeated and its ally was soon to succumb.

Believe in that spirit. Believe in that America.

But most of all, believe in the importance of history.

Believe in learning from it and correcting for it.

For without that, any future is destined to doom.


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