On Sunday May 3rd, WWII reenactors will be recreating Germany on 7 May 1945 at Latta Plantation in Huntersville, NC. The following represents a brief synopsis of what the 504th P.I.R. was doing in the days before the surrender of German troops, otherwise known as VE (Victory in Europe) Day:
- 2 May: All throughout Germany roads are clogged with German soldiers and other displaced persons attempting to reach American and British lines before being overtaken by Soviet troops. Under these conditions the 504th is advancing towards the town of Ludwigslust, a city of about 10,000 people. General Gavin, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division meets with and accepts the surrender of the German 21st Army Group. The surrender will take place over the next 7 days as all of the army group’s troops filter through 82nd roadblocks and checkpoints.
- 3 May: 82nd paratroopers make contact with Soviet troops in the town of Eldenberg. Toasts to Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill are accompanied with copious drinks of vodka. For the 504th, the fighting is over.
- 5 May: The 504th discovers Wobbelin, a concentration camp home to Russian, French, Spanish, Belgian, Polish, Dutch, and German citizens who were considered undesirable by the Nazi party. While not an extermination camp, hundreds of dead litter the camp from a combination of being worked to death, starvation, and disease. Citizens of Ludwigslust are forced to help exhume and respectfully bury bodies found there.
- 7 May: German General Alfred Jodl signs documents of unconditional surrender at 02:41. In Ludwigslust 504th chaplains lead a service to commemorate the dead.
- 8 May: Full surrender of German forces goes into effect at 11:01 am.
- For the following weeks the 504th performed occupation duties, mainly looking after German prisoners.