Archive for May 7th, 2008

07
May
08

On This Day, 5-7-08: Germany Surrenders

Germany surrenders unconditionally to the Allies at Reims

On this day in 1945, the German High Command, in the person of General Alfred Jodl, signs the unconditional surrender of all German forces, East and West, at Reims, in northwestern France.

At first, General Jodl hoped to limit the terms of German surrender to only those forces still fighting the Western Allies. But General Dwight Eisenhower demanded complete surrender of all German forces, those fighting in the East as well as in the West. If this demand was not met, Eisenhower was prepared to seal off the Western front, preventing Germans from fleeing to the West in order to surrender, thereby leaving them in the hands of the enveloping Soviet forces. Jodl radioed Grand Admiral Karl Donitz, Hitler’s successor, with the terms. Donitz ordered him to sign. So with Russian General Ivan Susloparov and French General Francois Sevez signing as witnesses, and General Walter Bedell Smith, Ike’s chief of staff, signing for the Allied Expeditionary Force, Germany was-at least on paper-defeated. Fighting would still go on in the East for almost another day. But the war in the West was over.

Since General Susloparov did not have explicit permission from Soviet Premier Stalin to sign the surrender papers, even as a witness, he was quickly hustled back East-into the hands of the Soviet secret police, never to be heard from again. Alfred Jodl, who was wounded in the assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944, would be found guilty of war crimes (which included the shooting of hostages) at Nuremberg and hanged on October 16, 1946-then granted a pardon, posthumously, in 1953, after a German appeals court found Jodl not guilty of breaking international law.

“Germany surrenders unconditionally to the Allies at Reims.” 2008. The History Channel website. 7 May 2008, 12:36 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6446.

1274 – The Second Council of Lyons opened in France to regulate the election of the pope.

1429 – The English siege of Orleans was broken by Joan of Arc.

1525 – The German peasants’ revolt was crushed by the ruling class and church.

1912 – The first airplane equipped with a machine gun flew over College Park, MD.

1915 – The Lusitania, a civilian ship, was sunk by a German submarine. 1,198 people were killed.

1937 – The German Condor Legion arrived in Spain to assist Franco’s forces.

1939 – Germany and Italy announced a military and political alliance known as the Rome-Berlin Axis.

1942 – In the Battle of the Coral Sea, Japanese and American navies attacked each other with carrier planes. It was the first time in the history of naval warfare where two enemy fleets fought without seeing each other.

1946 – Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corp. was founded. The company was later renamed Sony.

1954 – The United States and the United Kingdom rejected the Soviet Union’s bid to join NATO.

1958 – Howard Johnson set an aircraft altitude record in F-104.

1975 – U.S. President Ford declared an end to the Vietnam War.

1977 – Rookie Janet Guthrie set the fastest time on opening day of practice for the Indianapolis 500. Her time was 185.607.

1984 – A $180 million out-of-court settlement was announced in the Agent Orange class-action suit brought by Vietnam veterans who claimed they had suffered injury from exposure to the defoliant while serving in the armed forces.

1992 – A 203-year-old proposed constitutional amendment barring the U.S. Congress from giving itself a midterm pay raise was ratified as the 27th Amendment.

1997 – A report released by the U.S. government said that Switzerland provided Nazi Germany with equipment and credit during World War II. Germany exchanged for gold what had been plundered or stolen. Switzerland did not comply with postwar agreements to return the gold.

1999 – In Belgrade, Yugoslavia, three Chinese citizens were killed and 20 were wounded when a NATO plane mistakenly bombed the Chinese embassy.

 

French defeated at Dien Bien Phu

In northwest Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh forces decisively defeat the French at Dien Bien Phu, a French stronghold besieged by the Vietnamese communists for 57 days. The Viet Minh victory at Dien Bien Phu signaled the end of French colonial influence in Indochina and cleared the way for the division of Vietnam along the 17th parallel at the conference of Geneva.

“French defeated at Dien Bien Phu.” 2008. The History Channel website. 7 May 2008, 12:26 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4981.

Pontiac’s plot is foiled

On this day in 1763, Major Henry Gladwin, British commander of Fort Detroit, foils Ottawa Chief Pontiac’s attempt at a surprise attack. Romantic lore holds that Gladwin’s Seneca mistress informed him of the western Indians’ plans for an uprising.

When Pontiac arrived at the fort with his men, who were concealing weapons under their trading blankets, they discovered that Gladwin had assembled his men and prepared them for a defense of the fort. Knowing that, without the element of surprise, their efforts would not be successful, Pontiac withdrew and instead laid siege to the fort for the rest of the summer, while his allies successfully seized 10 of 13 British forts in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions by June 20. The western Indians’ efforts to unite all Native Americans in an attempt to free themselves of addictions to European trade goods and alcohol, guided by their spiritual leader, a Delaware named Neolin, seemed to be succeeding. However, the French failed to come to the Indians’ aid in driving the British back to the Atlantic as hoped, dooming the rebellion.

“Pontiac’s plot is foiled.” 2008. The History Channel website. 7 May 2008, 12:28 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=615.

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