May 8, 1945
The Allies overran Germany from the west during April 1945 as Russian forces advanced from the east. Only a few strategic targets remained for attack from the air and these were rapidly destroyed. The last mission against an industrial target took place on April 25 when the famous Skoda armament works at Pilsen, Czechoslovakia were bombed.
The AAF then began flying mercy missions, dropping food to people in northern Italy and the Netherlands and evacuating released prisoners of war. On May 2, German forces in Italy and southern and western Austria stopped fighting and on May 7, after 5 1/2 years of war with the Allies, Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally.
The air offensive conducted by the AAF in conjunction with the RAF against Germany and Italy was of tremendous value in bringing about victory in Europe with the final defeat of these two nations. It was costly, however, for the AAF losses from all causes totaled 27,694 aircraft, including 8,314 heavy bombers, 1,623 medium and light bombers, and 8,481 fighters destroyed in combat. Total AAF battle casualties were 91,105 personnel -- 34,362 killed, 13,708 wounded, and 43,035 missing, captured, or interned.
By April 1945, the German Army was shattered. On April 25, American and Soviet forces met at the Elbe River. Five days later, Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin bunker. His successor, Admiral Karl Doenitz, sent General Alfred Jodl to the SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces) detachment in Rheims to seek terms for an end to the war. At 2:41 a.m. on May 7, general Jodl signed for the unconditional surrender of German forces on all fronts, which was to take effect on May 8 at 11:01 p.m. After six years and millions of live lost, the Nazis were crushed and the war in Europe was finally over.
Information courtesy of the US Air Force Museum, with permission