The Day the War Ended in Italy
The Day the War Ended in Italy
The 8th May 1945 marked this special date across Europe when the fighting of nearly 6 years came to an end.
The Surrender of Caserta of April 29, 1945 was the written agreement that formalized the surrender of German forces in Italy, ending the Italian Campaign of World War II The document, signed at the Royal Palace of Caserta, was to become effective at 2pm on May 2, 1945.
Although British Field Marshal Harold Alexander claimed the Surrender of Caserta shortened the war in Europe by six to eight weeks and saved Northern Italy from more destruction along with tens of thousands of lives, the German Commander-in-Chief of Army Group C Heinrich von Vietinghoff had noted on 28 April that fighting would cease within one or two days regardless of negotiations, the German troops having neither arms nor ammunition left. Further destruction was thus unlikely, Army Group C having decided already on 11 April to not carry out Hitler’s scorched earth policy.
Owing in part to Allied air attacks, the German forces in Italy had received no supplies from Germany since the first week of April. Since Allied aircraft had destroyed all bridges across the Po river, the Germans abandoned their heavy weapons and motor vehicles south of it during the Allied Spring Offensive what was left of the German infantry was mostly wiped out during the fighting. The remaining troops had retreated across the Po using improvised transports and were reorganized by blocking detachments to man the front line and fight on, but without arms their situation was hopeless.
On May 2, 1945, approximately 1 million German soldiers lay down their arms as the terms of the German unconditional surrender, signed at Caserta on April 29, come into effect. Many Germans surrender to Japanese soldiers—Japanese Americans. Among the American tank crews that entered the northern Italian town of Biella was an all-Nisei (second-generation) infantry battalion, composed of Japanese Americans from Hawaii.
On 29 April, the day before Hitler died, Oberstleutnant Schweinitz and Sturmbannführer Wenner, plenipotentiaries for Generaloberst Heinrich von Vietinghoff and SS Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff, signed a surrender document at Caserta after prolonged unauthorised secret negotiations with the Western Allies, which were viewed with great suspicion by the Soviet Union as trying to reach a separate peace. In the document, the Germans agreed to a ceasefire and surrender of all the forces under the command of Vietinghoff at 2pm on 2 May (local time). Accordingly, after some bitter wrangling between Wolff and Albert Kesselring in the early hours of 2 May, nearly 1,000,000 men in Italy and Austria surrendered unconditionally to British Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander at 2pm on 2 May
German Commander-in-Chief of Army Group C Heinrich von Vietinghoff and Supreme SS and Police Leader Karl Wolff, German officers in civilian cloths prepare to sign the surrender document in the Royal Palace of Caserta 29th April 1945. Effective from 2pm local time on 2nd May 1945