The official declaration of peace in Europe came as no surprise to the men of the 100th Bomb Group. They had flown their last combat mission on 20th April and had spent the week from 1st May dropping food parcels to civilians in Holland. After their final “Chowhound” mission on 7th May, air crews returned to a base on lockdown as rumours swirled that peace would be declared the following day. The Quartermaster’s diary recorded the following: “Peace rumor all day. The Base Hq put out a restriction for all at noon today. No one could leave the base unless authorized by Base Commander.”
The announcement that the war in Europe had ended was broadcast to the British people over the wireless later that evening. It couldn’t have been better timing for the Radar Section at Thorpe Abbotts, who had already planned a big party for the 7th. “We got all our beer, moved a piano down from the Sergeant’s Club and a lot of food from the Mess Hall. When the word got through that the war was over, we were naturally, very glad that we were prepared to celebrate,” recorded William R. Fogle.
[The 100th Bomb Group join a victory parade through the red, white, and blue-strewn streets of Diss]
As the nation took to the streets in celebration on 8th May, the 100th Bomb Group spent the day in the confines of the base. Some were frustrated at not being able to join the crowds, while others used the time for quiet reflection. Services were held in the base chapel and a special parade of thanksgiving was carried out at the flagpole at 3.30pm. American and British flags flew from the windows of cottages surrounding the base. In the evening, the sky was lit up by flares fired from Air Force Very pistols. Lt James Lantz remembered the constant peal of church bells, which “seemed to say over and over again the silent prayer of everyone, "Thank you God, Thank you God".
[A 100th Bomb Group party in May 1945]
For those lucky enough to be on leave before the base restrictions took hold, it was a chance to take in the jubilant atmosphere on the streets. The Quartermaster’s Diary reported that “Marshall was lucky to be on TD London, so he would be there to see the big celebration.” Lt ‘Rosie’ Rosenthal was also in London on VE Day. Rosie recalled how he’d “be walking through a throng of people with a pretty girl on my arm and all of a sudden she was gone, replaced by another one. It was a madhouse, a beautiful, beautiful madhouse.” John Gibbons was on rest leave in the south of England when peace was declared, “VE Day came, and I laid on the beach, said some Hail Mary’s and thought to myself, "It’s over".
[The Lee Jacobs crew of the 100th Bomb Group on VE Day]
Although the war in Europe had ended, there was still work to be done. Lt Billy Bittle spent 8th May transporting Prisoners of War back to France, "We picked up thirty French who had been in a German Prisoner of War Camp. It was a pitiful sight to see how tattered and emaciated they were. Our crew consisted of pilot, co-pilot, navigator, flight engineer and radio operator, and we all gave them what gum, candy, etc. we had.” It was a reminder that whilst the fighting had ended, the suffering was far from over. For those at Thorpe Abbotts, attention soon turned to the Pacific, where allied forces were still fighting a defiant enemy. It was this uncertain future that worried James Lantz as he recalled the day’s events in his diary, “No one here got too excited because we knew that the war is not yet over for us, but I think everyone is deeply thankful in their hearts.”
Celebrations continued over the next few days as the 100th Bomb Group waited to learn of their next move. The base restriction was lifted on 9th May and a base holiday was declared. The Americans surged into the local pubs to celebrate with their English friends. In Diss, the 100th joined a victory parade through the red, white, and blue-strewn streets. Over the next few days, weeks and months, personnel made the journey home to the States and awaited redeployment. The war would be over before the 100th reached the Pacific, with VJ Day (2nd September 1945) signalling the end of the conflict.