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Paynesville Press - June 8, 2005

V-E Day: Sixty years ago, America celebrated Victory in Europe

By Michael Jacobson

Sixty years ago, the spring war news reaching Paynesville was generally positive: American armies were liberating France and moving into Nazi Germany along with other Allied forces, and the U.S. Navy kept creeping closer and closer to Japan.

Victory seemed to be getting nearer and nearer.

Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945. Germany surrendered to the Allies on Monday, May 7, 1945, and Tuesday, May 8, 1945, was declared as Victory in Europe Day, or V-E Day.

"The news of Germany's unconditional surrender to the western Allies and Russia came to the people of the United States as a rumor Monday morning (May 7)," stated the Press in its May 10, 1945, issue. "Later it was officially announced that the surrender had taken place at a little red school house which was the headquarters of General Eisenhower at 2:41 a.m. French time Tuesday."

"Paynesville received the joyful news of V-E Day with a quiet feeling of gratitude. There was no noisy outward celebration. Everyone was half expecting the wonderful news and yet when it finally did come, it was almost too good to be true."

"Those with loved ones 'over there' - either fighting or prisoner - could breathe a sigh of reliefŠthe greatest war in history had ended."

"It is well to remember that although Germany is finished, we still have the war in Asia to fight," added the Press on May 10, 1945. "It will be a long and bloody war with many lives lost. V-E Day was truly a day of rejoicing but not celebration. Wait until V-J Day, the unconditional surrender of JapanŠthen start celebrating, for truly then the world will be free and all our boys can come home again."

Since her husband had three brothers in the military, they were very relieved the war in Europe was over, recalled June Bolstad, who moved to Paynesville in 1944.

"I can just remember there was an awful lot of excitement. People knew the boys were coming home," said Delores Schwandt, who was still in high school during V-E Day and whose future husband, Hub, was returning home after two and a half years as a POW:

"Every family was waiting for someone to come home," she added. "Some didn't come back."

As a liberated POW, Hub was allowed to return to the states almost immediately following his release, said Delores. She remembers him being upset at Memorial Day that year, thinking about his lost comrades. Hub later told Delores that seeing the American flag coming to liberate his POW camp and seeing the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor were very emotional moments.

Milt Koshiol had also already been released from a German prisoner-of-war camp and was on his way home to St. Cloud. He celebrated V-E Day at Fort Devins, Mass.

"Of course, we were all happy about it," he recalled. "It was nice to be back in the United States. All the trouble was over there in Europe."

Mathias Leyendecker, a member of the 65th Infantry Division at the time, and his fellow soldiers celebrated V-E Day, he said, but they had duty the next day, too. Part of an intelligence/reconnaissance patrol, Leyendecker traveled with his unit from Le Havre, France, to Linz, Austria, in 1945 and then into Germany. He would stay in Germany until 1946.

V-E Day kept Clint Hoiseth, then stationed at an air base in Lincoln, Neb., from having to go to Europe. "We were tentatively penciled in for Europe, but after V-E Day that ended that," said Hoiseth, who was a bomber navigator for the Army Air Corps. "It was quite a celebration, but that meant we were going to the South Pacific (to fight Japan)."

Janet Hoiseth, Clint's future wife, was in college at Macalester when World War II ended in Europe. She remembers their being no boys at the school, including no tenors or basses in the choir. They were all in the armed services.

Elizabeth Hemmesch was washing windows on a farm in St. Martin Township in May 1945. She went into the house to get clean water and heard the news on the radio, she said. They, of course, were "pretty happy" to hear the news, she added.

And V-E Day meant an early discharge for Joe Sawrey, who already had three kids and was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., as an artillery trainer. "We sensed something was coming," said Sawrey of Germany's surrender. "They announced it over the loud speakers at Fort Bragg. It was about like it was everywhere elseŠwe were all pretty jubilant."

After a ten-month stint at Fort Riley in Kansas, Sawrey was discharged early (as the father of three) and sent home.

(Editor's Note: the Press editorial staff is still working on a story about surviving WWII veterans to go with the group pictures of veterans taken at Memorial Day. Hopefully, this story will be done by next week.)

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