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Victory in Europe: Honoring Those Who Served

Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division

May 8th is Victory in Europe Day, or V-E Day, which marks the day the Allies officially accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, thus ending World War II in Europe.

This year’s theme, “A Hard-Won Homecoming,” highlights the courage and sacrifice of our troops in combat and of their loved ones at home. The Allied Victory in Europe entailed both uncertainty and celebration on the home front as well as an extraordinary effort to bring troops back home.

At the Naval History and Heritage Command, we wish to honor our those who served in Europe during World War II by sharing stories of their courage and valor. This year, we’ve asked our followers on social media to submit homecoming stories and photos of their family members who had served in Europe during World War II. The following photographs and captions are from that post.

Editor’s note: All language and imagery were provided by our fans through our various social media platforms. To find out more about Navy’s role in World War II, visit our website.

From Twitter fan Dennis Hogan (son): I saw your request on Twitter for a photo and mini-bio of Navy personnel who served in Europe in WW2. I include my father’s information:

*graduated from V-12 program at Notre Dame University in Jan. 1944.

*  shipped to England and assigned to Amphibious Training Base at Appledore.

* assigned to LST-51 as a small boat officer (LCVPs).

* participated in Normandy landings at Omaha beach with task force O-3.

* participated in landings in Southern France at Camel Blue beach.

* assigned to LCI-524 which was returning to the States for refitting.

* sailed through the Panama Canal with LCI-524 and onward to Alaska.

* participated with Project Hula, training of Russian naval personnel in amphibious warfare. * assigned as exec officer with LST-41 after it returned to the West Coast

From Facebook fan Tarba Fibb: My father in Gelnhausen, Germany during the occupation. He came home with many stories, many of which, I was able to experience when the Navy stationed me in Germany.

From Facebook fan Jon Frank: My mother, 1LT Rebecca J. Gilbert, was in London on VE day. LT Gilbert was a US Army nurse assigned to the 58th Hospital Train. Attached photos taken by her and her colleagues. She returned to her hometown, Mount Joy PA on the Queen Elizabeth in September.

From Facebook Fan Jon Strupp, who’s father, James O. Strupp, was trying to get home from Okinawa for his sister’s wedding, who was marrying a man who had returned with the Army after being wounded in Italy:

My father James O. Strupp served aboard the USS Chiwawa AO-68. When VE-day came The USS Chiwawa was in Agentia, New Foundland. In June 1945 the ship went to Norfolk, VA to be refitted for the war in the Pacific. In Late August 1945 the ship arrived at Okinawa to refuel ships taking troops home. My father rarely spoke about his Navy days. This is my favorite story he did tell us, his journey home for discharge from the Navy. I have attached it and a picture of my father in uniform taken sometime in the first six months of 1944.

Christmas 1945 was a memorable one for the Strupp family in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  I was not around then, but it was my favorite story my dad used to tell about his Navy days.

My dad’s sister, Monica, was getting married on New Year’s Eve 1945.  Her husband-to-be arrived home from the Army in October 1945 after being wounded in Italy the previous April.  My dad was supposed to be the best man in the wedding.  The problem was Dad was at Okinawa on the USS Chiwawa AO-68.  On November 28 the ship left Okinawa headed for San Francisco.  Everyone was anxious to get home since the war was over and many had enough points to be discharged.  One of the crew painted a map of the Pacific Ocean on the bulkhead of the mess hall and a red line showed their progress toward home.  It was the only time my dad said he knew where he was during the entire war when the ship was at sea.  When they arrived in San Francisco on December 13 my dad had enough points for discharge, but learned the Navy had a shortage of Watertenders (my dad’s rate was Watertender 1C) and their points had been frozen.  He had no idea when he would get out of the Navy.  My dad got his orders to leave the ship on December 13.  He went to Treasure Island to start his discharge process.  He and 2 friends rented a dumpy hotel room on the edge of China Town.  It was his first exposure to Chinese food and he liked it.  He had to take a train to Great Lakes in Chicago to continue his processing for discharge.  He had to wait for a train with many other military personnel to get to Chicago.  Every day he went to what he described as a big warehouse and sat on the floor waiting to hear his name to be read from 8 am until they ran out of trains, usually about 2 pm.  They told the desk clerk at the hotel that if they were not back by 5 pm they were not coming back and he could rent the room to some one else.

[…]

He finally got a train to Chicago.  It was a troop train with standing room only and no bathing facilities.

[…] The trip from San Francisco took 5 days. They ran out of food on the last day and had only crackers to eat.  The train arrived in Chicago at 11 pm.  The man that greeted them told them they would be processed in 72 hours.  My dad sarcastically thought, “Yeah, right.”

[…]

Dad said the Navy kept their word and did have them out in 72 hours.   He was discharged from the Navy on Christmas Day 1945.  He arrived in Oshkosh on the 7 pm train on Christmas Day.  He had not been home for Christmas since 1941.  When he got to my grandma’s house he hugged Grandma so hard he broke her ribs.  Grandma always said it was the best Christmas present she ever got, her son back in one piece.  Needless to say, Dad was home in time for the wedding.  On Christmas morning every year until he died I said to my dad, “Merry Christmas and welcome home.”

There are two side points I’d like to mention.  Grandma said Dad brought the underwear home he wore during the five day train trip and expected them to be cleaned.  Grandma said they were so bad she threw them away.

I asked Aunt Monnie if she had a back up plan in case Dad didn’t make it home for the wedding.  She said, “No, but I would have thought of something.”