When Did WWII End? Inside The End of the War

Jamie Hayes

On Tuesday, May 8th, 1945, the Daily Mail in England had the words: VE DAY—IT’S ALL OVER written in huge, bold letters across its front page. All across the Western world, similar headlines were printed. But was it all over?

In America, the New York Times had a similarly jubilant but less all-encompassing headline: THE WAR IN EUROPE IS ENDED! SURRENDER IS UNCONDITIONAL. That’s because May 8th, or Victory in Europe (VE) Day, as it’s come to be known, wasn’t the end of World War II. In fact, it’s not even unanimously agreed to be the day that the war ended in Europe.

Because World War II was one of the largest and most complex wars in history, it couldn’t simply end in an instant, like flipping a light switch. While pictures of crowds dancing in the streets on VE Day are a fond memory, WWII was not yet over. There were still months of bloodshed ahead…

Like Dominoes

As 1945 began, the Axis powers in Europe were hemmed in by massive armies, and defeat was all but certain. By the spring, the Allies had taken 1.5 million Axis soldiers prisoner. They had also begun liberating the Nazi concentration camps, and the horrific extent of the Holocaust began to become known. The end seemed nigh.

On April 28, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was executed, and his body was hung in the Piazzale Loreto in Milan. The Italian armed forces surrendered soon after. Less than a week later, on April 30, as Russian troops surrounded Berlin, Adolf Hitler committed suicide alongside Eva Braun, his wife of fewer than two days. Hitler was aware of Mussolini’s demise, and hoped to avoid a similar fate.

Yet, while Hitler and Mussolini were dead, the fighting was not yet done. The Axis armies were active all across Europe, under many different commanders, so it took many surrenders before the Allies could officially claim victory. It had begun in Italy, when Heinrich von Vietinghoff signed a document surrendering his forces on April 29, the day before Hitler’s suicide. Days later, on May 2, nearly a million soldiers in Italy and Austria officially surrendered.

Soon after that, on May 6, Hitler’s second-in-command Hermann Goering surrendered to the American General Carl Spaatz. Finally, Karl Doenitz, the man left in charge of Germany after Hitler’s suicide, agreed to the complete and unconditional surrender of all German forces. This was written up and signed on May 7th, in a document that included the line: “All forces under German control to cease active operations at 2301 hours Central European Time on May 8, 1945.”

Victory at Last?

The Allies had done it, and it was finally VE Day…well, mostly. While the Western Allies accepted the Germans’ surrender on May 8, the Soviets insisted that they receive their own surrender, which they did a day later. So today in Russia, the day celebrated as the end of WWII in Europe (or the Great Patriotic War, as it was called in the USSR) is May 9.

This small quirk aside, it was official. After more than half a decade of brutal warfare, the war in Europe was over. But this was a world war, and it spread much further than Europe. The Axis consisted of three nations, and while Germany and Italy were defeated, Japan fought on.

The Japanese refused to agree to an unconditional surrender like the other Axis powers. While the war was clearly lost, they believed they were in a better position, and that they could receive more favorable terms. It was at this point that Harry S. Truman, who had been President of the United States only since April, weighed his options. Truman knew that a full-scale invasion of Japan would almost certainly result in many, many more military and civilian casualties. To avoid this, he authorized the use of America’s newest, most terrible weapon.

Destroyer of Worlds

On August 6, the atomic bomb known as Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. It caused destruction unlike anything the world had ever seen, killing over 100,000 people. Even so, the Japanese indicated they were still determined to fight on, so on August 9, another atomic bomb, this one known as Fat Man, was dropped on Nagasaki. Another 40-80,000 lives were lost.

Around the same time as the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Soviets invaded Japanese-held Manchuria and defeated their forces there. With this final blow, it became clear that the Japanese no longer held the advantage they had perceived. They informed the Americans of their surrender on August 15, and officially signed the surrender documents on September 2, on the deck of the USS Missouri.

VJ Day, or Victory over Japan Day, was finally the end of World War II, but even that is not so simple. Because of the time difference between Japan and America, while the Japanese technically surrendered on August 15, the announcement happened on August 14 in the US and the rest of the Americas—that’s why the iconic picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square took place on the 14th, not the 15th.

But remember, while people were celebrating for weeks at the time, the surrender wasn’t officially signed until September 2. So now we have April 29, May 6, May 7, May 8, May 9, August 14, August 15, and September 2, 1945. The death of Hitler. VE Day and VJ Day. You see, ending the war really was no simple handshake.

Though the writing was on the wall for the Axis powers early in 1945, it took many months of battles, negotiations, and the use of the deadliest weapons ever created to finally end World War II—but eventually, peace was achieved. Next, of course, the world was forced to deal with the war’s devastating aftermath.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Factinate Featured Logo Featured Article
When Edward VIII’s baby brother Prince John died of severe seizure at only 13 years old, Edward’s response was so disturbing it’s impossible to forget.
43 Scandalous Facts About Edward VIII, The King Who Lost His Crown 43 Scandalous Facts About Edward VIII, The King Who Lost His Crown “I wanted to be an up-to-date king. But I didn't have much time.”—King Edward VIII. For such a short-reigning king, Edward VIII left behind no shortage of controversy. First, there was the scandalous womanizing of…
Factinate Featured Logo Featured Article
The average person doesn't even get 50% correct. I guess it's hard to be smarter than an 8th grader...
Quiz: Are You Smarter Than An Eighth-Grader? Quiz: Are You Smarter Than An Eighth-Grader?
Factinate Featured Logo Featured Article
I had an imaginary friend named Charlie. My parents asked what he looked like, and I always replied “a little man.” When we moved away, Charlie didn't come with us. My mom asked where he was, and I told her that he was going to be a mannequin at Sears—but that wasn’t even the most disturbing part. The years passed by and I’d forgotten my imaginary friend, but when someone told me a story about my old house, I was chilled to the bone.
People Describe Creepy Imaginary Friends from Their Childhood People Describe Creepy Imaginary Friends from Their Childhood “I was a loner as a child. I had an imaginary friend—I didn't bother with him.”—George Carlin. Many adults had imaginary friends as children. At their best, these make-believe buddies were cute, helpful, and whimsical…
Factinate Featured Logo Featured Article
The average person only gets 10 right. You muggles don't stand a chance...
Quiz: How Much Do You Really Know About Harry Potter? Quiz: How Much Do You Really Know About Harry Potter?

Dear reader,

Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to Thanks for your time!

Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at Thanks for your help!

Warmest regards,

The Factinate team