Remembering V-E Day: May 8, 1945

Victory in Europe Day, more commonly known as V-E Day, is celebrated each year to commemorate Germany’s unconditional surrender to the Allies near the end of World War II on May 8, 1945. Several hundred members of Washington University Medical Center community were serving in the U.S. armed forces on V-E Day, many of them attached to the 21st General Hospital medical unit.

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Smiling patients celebrate V-E Day with the 21st General Hospital staff on May 8, 1945.

The 21st General Hospital’s medical officer and nursing corps were predominately doctors and nurses from Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes Hospital. They were treating patients in Mirecourt, France when the German surrender was announced. Having treated over 65,000 patients (mostly Allied soldiers wounded in Algeria, Italy and France), the 21st General Hospital’s staff enthusiastically celebrated the long-awaited end to the fighting in Europe along with the patients.

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Over 1,000 patients of the 21st General Hospital attended the V-E Day celebration in Mirecourt.

Even though the fighting had ceased in Europe, much of the 21st General Hospital’s staff remained in France for several months after the Germans had surrendered. They continued to treat patients until finally returning to the U.S. on October 28, 1945. This extended stay allowed the 21st staff to celebrate V-J Day (Victory over Japan Day) in France as well on August 14, 1945, when fighting with Japan ended and the armistice was declared, finally bringing an end to WWII.

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Patients of the 21st General Hospital celebrate the end of World War II at the 21st General Hospital’s V-J Day party on August 14, 1945. Local French women from Mirecourt were invited as guests to dance with the patients.

See Becker Library’s image gallery for more photographs of Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes Hospital doctors and nurses serving in the 21st General Hospital.