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Lexington World War II veteran remembers VE Day

(WDBJ)
Published: May. 8, 2020 at 5:01 PM EDT
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“General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations.”

With those words, President Harry Truman told the people at home the war in Europe was over.

But for the soldiers there, it wasn’t that big a surprise.

“There was almost no opposition at that point," said John Gunn, a veteran of the final campaign in Europe. "So basically, we were just sitting there on the river, waiting for it to end. It was very anticlimactic in a way.”

Gunn had come ashore in November of 1944, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

“I also had my 21st birthday in the Battle of the Bulge," he said, "Lying in a slit trench.“

But as US forces advanced through Europe, it became clear that the war was coming to an end.

“The German army just collapsed after losing the Rhine River barrier," Gunn remembered. "So we went from the Rhine River to the Elbe in 13 days. That’s about 300 miles. And most of it riding in trucks.”

The soldiers celebrated in real and symbolic ways, like destroying the swastika on the infamous Nuremburg stadium where Hitler rallied the Nazi party.

As part of the occupation, Gunn was transferred to Paris for an educational break at the Sorbonne.

It was there he got the biggest news of all, glancing a newspaper on the street.

“And there in the headline in the largest typescript I ever saw were just two words, it said: Atom bomb," he said. "And I knew enough about physics to know what that meant. And I’ll never forget my emotional reaction. It was utter elation as I thought: Pacific, here I don’t come.”

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