|While it was a quiet day in Price on V-E Day, people still gathered in groups to celebrate the end of the war in Europe. In other places American soldiers contemplated their futures, while natives of other lands found only further repression.|
It was obvious that it was coming; Russian soldiers were approaching Berlin, over running it's suburbs. The Americans and British were approaching from the south and the west. The fall of Nazi Germany and victory in Europe was very close.
In that early May of 1945, people in the United States were looking forward to it despite the fact that, at that time, a victory against Japan could be two to three years away.
On May 2, Price Mayor J. Braken Lee told citizens of Carbon County that when the day came they should "limit their observance of VE day" to "keep the celebration within bounds." He asked that on the day of the announcement all places selling beer close. The state of Utah had already declared that the state owned liquor stores would be locked up.
"The commemoration of VE day should be observed in a systematic and proper manner with all interests, groups, firms, organizations, churches and schools cooperating," said Price's mayor.
He also added, since the day would come before cessation of total hostilities were ended there should be no stoppage of important work where war materials were being produced.
On May 8, people pretty much did what the mayor had asked. The Sun Advocate of May 10 reported that "The long awaited VE Day was ushered in by Price Citizens and people of most of the other communities in a rather quiet manner."
Many of the businesses and mines in the county closed that day, although there were no orders to do so. The Kenilworth and Horse Canyon mines did operate because the men there felt it was important to keep up their work.
But that didn't mean the day wasn't observed officially. The Carbon High band headed up parades in both Helper and Price, which involved members of the American Legion as well.
"All day Monday and Tuesday here little or no activity existed," reported the paper. "People mostly just stood around in groups. Hilarity, which some expected, was absent due to the fact that the war still has to be won with Japan."
The Helper Journal painted a slightly different picture of the proceedings with a huge headline across their front page on May 10 reading "V-E Day Comes--Calls For Thanksgiving."
That was because President Harry S. Truman had asked that a thanksgiving day be observed on Sunday, May 14 with churches offering prayers of thanks for the victory.
Local goings on May 8 were, howerver, reported to be quiet, with many miners taking the day off and many businesses locking their doors in celebration.
Many American soldiers remember where they were. If they were in the Pacific Theatre they noted that probably soon they would be receiving new comrades in arms from the European Theatre to help defeat the Japanese. If they were in Europe, many thought it wouldn't be long until they were transfered to the Pacific to continue the war.
It was a satisfying time for Americans at home, but being over 60 years ago, some can remember plainly where they were, while others have no recollection at all.
"I was just a 15 year old kid at the time and I can't remember a thing about it,"says Korean War veteran Clark Warren who now lives in Carbonville. "I don't know where I was and I don't remember what I did."
Buss Cline, who now lives in East Carbon was a World War II airman who was being held in Japan as a prisoner of war didn't even know the war in Europe had ended, because his captors never told them anything about it for months. Not long before Japan surrendered one of his captors told him he would be going home soon, but never mentioned the fact that the Germans were not in the war anymore.
But half a world away, a girl who wasn't much younger than Warren at the time remembers what happened very well. She was in the middle of the American-English and Russian armies when they met each other at the Elde River.
"When the armies approached I had gone to my grandmothers in Neustadt-Glewe to stay," says Christa Kaminski who has lived in Price since the late 1960's after she and her husband escaped from East Germany. "The Americans were supposed to stop at the Elbe River and let the Russian army take the area around where I was living, but the English came in first."
Months before, Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin, British Priminister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Roosevelt had met at Yalta and decided when the armies descended on Germany how things would be divided up by the allies.
The conference was held in the Crimea in February, 1945. The main purpose of Yalta was the re-establishment of the nations conquered and destroyed by Germany.
Organizing the occupation of Germany was one of the top priorities. During the meeting the parties agreed to divide Germany into zones controlled by each of the three nations present. It came to be resolved that with Stalin's army, Russia would take Berlin and control the eastern half of Germany upon its surrender.
The Soviets also said again that it was their intention to fight Japan and in return expected to occupy areas in the East. The secret Yalta agreement was signed on February 11, 1945 by Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin in which Russia agreed to declare war on Japan "in two or three months" after the surrender of Germany. The United States, Britain and Russia gave themselves "supreme authority" to take any steps deemed necessary to prevent future German aggression, including the breaking apart of the German state.
In diplomatic terms before the war ended that all sounded very good, but for an eleven year old girl who was watching her life come apart from near the Baltic Sea, it ended up not being good at all. The Yalta Conference had yielded something for her that would be hard to take in coming months. After the two weeks the British left and the Americans moved in, which she said was good.
|Christa Kaminski at about 13 years old. This photo was taken a couple of years after VE Day while she was attending school. She says that during the first part of the occupation no one had any cameras "and even if we had there would have been no where to develop the photos." Besides, her family was occupied with just trying to find enough to eat.|
"When the Americans and the British were there things stayed about the same as they had been, but then the western troops moved out and the Russians came in," she says.
The Americans and British had moved back to the Elbe River, about 30-40 kilometers away, where they were supposed to have stopped in the first place.
V-E Day and the consequential events were not happy ones for Kaminski.
"Before the British and Americans came my aunt came from where the Russian Army had been, but the troops weren't Russian, they were Mongolians," explained Kaminski. "My aunt came from there and she had been raped by one of those soldiers. In fact the Mongolians raped every woman in sight as they came through the countryside. My aunt had a daughter who watched the entire thing. She lives in Australia now and still can remember it."
Mongolian soldiers were eventually replaced by Russian soldiers and some of that type of behavior still went on, but it wasn't near as prevalent.
"When the war ended and we were occupied by the Russians everything broke down," she says. "There was no government, no businesses were open, school was closed, and there was no food. There were big changes in for those of us in East Germany, but the western part of the country under the Americans went on as usual."
For a long time after that Kaminski says that her family, who owned a contracting business, had to go to the country to trade what they had to farmers for food. Money wasn't worth anything.
"That's when the black market that traded in goods began," stated Kaminski.
VE Day was a good time for Americans, but obviously, it wasn't for everyone.