World War II Day by Day: May 1945

In this final year of the war, Germany and Japan were defeated by a relentless tide of aircraft, tanks, ships, and men. Their cities were devastated by fleets of bombers, their armies were encircled and then annihilated, and their merchant and naval fleets were either sunk or trapped in port. There was no match for the economic might of the United States and the numerical superiority of the Soviet Union. Atomic bombs finally ended the war against Japan.

1 May

Politics, Germany

General Krebs, chief of the General Staff of the Army High Command, initiates cease-fire negotiations with the Soviets on behalf of the Nazi leadership in Berlin (Martin Bormann, Nazi Party Minister, and Josef Goebbels, Reichskommissar for Defense of the Capital). The Soviets demand unconditional surrender and the fighting in the capital and elsewhere continues.

Far East, Burma

In the early hours, the 2nd Gurkha Parachute Battalion makes an airborne drop to secure Elephant Point, southeast of Rangoon, to enable Allied amphibious forces to enter the Rangoon River unopposed from the sea. After a brief fight the site is secured.

2 May

Western Front, Germany

The British 6th Airborne Division of the 21st Army Group moves into Wismar, just in time to prevent the Red Army entering Schleswig-Holstein.

Eastern Front, Germany

Following a savage three-day battle, in which half the 5000-strong garrison has been killed, the Reichstag in Berlin falls to the Red Army and the Hammer and Sickle is raised above the shell-scarred parliament building.

General Helmuth Weidling, commandant of Berlin, surrenders the city and its remaining troops to Marshal Georgi Zhukov. Taking the city has cost the Soviets 300,000 men killed, wounded, or missing, over 2000 tanks and self-propelled guns, and over 500 aircraft. The Germans have lost one million men killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.

Far East, Burma

The Indian 20th Division captures the town of Prome, thus severing the Japanese line of retreat from the Arakan. In the south, the Indian 26th Division makes an amphibious landing along the Rangoon River.

3 May

Far East, Burma

Following 38 months of Japanese occupation, Rangoon falls to the Allies without a fight. The city’s infrastructure is in tatters, with buildings extensively damaged by bombing.

3-4 May

Politics, Germany

A grim-faced Admiral Hans von Friedeburg and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery finialize the German surrender
A grim-faced Admiral Hans von Friedeburg and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery finialize the German surrender

The whole of the northwest of the country is under British control. Admiral Karl Doenitz sends Admiral Hans von Friedeburg to Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s headquarters at Lüneburg to discuss surrender terms. On the 4th, the German delegation signs the instrument of surrender - covering German forces in Holland, northwest Germany, the German islands, Schleswig-Holstein, and Denmark - to come into effect at 0800 hours on May 5.

4-5 May

Politics, Denmark

Some 20,000 members of the Danish Resistance movement, organized under the central leadership of the Freedom Council, come out of hiding and take over the key points in the country. Soon, they are in control of Denmark. The first Allies arrive on the 5th.

5 May

Eastern Front, Czechoslovakia

With the Red Army getting nearer, Czech nationalists begin the Prague uprising. By the end of the day, there are 2000 barricades in the city, and all the important bridges over the Vltava River have been seized. Field Marshal Ferdinand Schörner, commander of the German Army Group Center, has ordered units to the city to crush the rebellion.

7 May

Politics, Germany

General Alfred Jodl, acting on behalf of the German government, signs the act of surrender to the Allies of all German forces still in the field. Hostilities are to cease by midnight on May 8 at the latest. In Norway the German garrison of 350,000 men capitulates to the Allies. The German Army Group South surrenders to the US Third Army in Austria.

9-10 May

Eastern Front, Czechoslovakia

Prague is liberated by the Red Army with the help of the partisans. By the evening, Soviet troops have sealed off all avenues of escape west for Army Group Center. German troops, seeing the hopelessness of their situation, begin to surrender in their thousands. On the 10th, the 1st Ukrainian Front makes contact with the US Third Army on the Chemnitz-Rokycany line.

15 May

Balkans, Yugoslavia

The last German troops fighting in the country surrender.

29 May

Pacific, Okinawa

The US 1st Marine Division takes Shuri after hard fighting. To date the Americans have suffered 20,000 casualties trying to take the Japanese-held island.