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Today in History

By Will Vega, Copy Editor

Instead of covering one event in depth today, we’re hitting a couple of them today! Here are some German military blunders.

The Norway Debate

On May 7, 1940 there was a particularly nasty spat in the British House of Parliament. The background: Nazi Germany had been waging a tremendously quick war throughout Europe, including in Britain, and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had — to put it in polite terms — seriously dropped the ball in terms of the war effort, making compromise after compromise with the Nazi Party as their agreements were repreatedly violated. As Germany began its campaign through Norway, Parliament banded together to figure out what to do and implore their head of government to take functional action. He didn’t.

Three days of debate went on, resulting in a vote in bad faith in Chamberlain and leading to Churchill’s start as Prime Minister on May 10. British people consider it one of the highest points of their parliamentary history, and Americans really like Churchill for some reason — I thought it was fitting.

The German Instruments of Surrender

A couple of years later, the war ended up going terribly on Germany’s part. The Soviets had blasted a path to Berlin all the way from Stalingrad, the other Allies were closing up the rear, several German towns and cities simply didn’t exist anymore and Hitler had just killed himself in the Führerbunker; they were pooped. With the remainder of the German military in scattered and isolated pockets dwindling and dying, Hitler’s successors — having been commanded to stand resolutely and fight to the last man — disobeyed their predecessor’s direct order, given that the last men were going to run out faster than the Führer had thought.

On May 7, 1945 President Eisenhower demanded unconditional surrender on all fronts. Remaining Nazi leadership scrambled to persuade him otherwise and were promptly stifled by threats of resumed bombings. In Reims, France the German general Alfred Jodl signed the surrender papers that would lead to the Nazi Party’s dissolution and the war’s end. Fighting would continue in the east for a couple days, as neither German nor Soviet leadership were happy with the terms of surrender, and a second treaty would be signed in Berlin in coming days.

In honorable mentions, on May 7, 1915, Germany sunk the British ship RMS Lusitania, killing 128 U.S. citizens and changing the popular American opinion from neutrality to war. The U.S. wouldn’t join the fray for another two years but that, plus several other military mistakes, drew America from a strict isolationist policy into a strong contender in World War I.

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