“…a solemn but glorious hour” - Remembering the 371st Fighter Group on Victory in Europe Day, 2023

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Terrence G. Popravak, Jr. (Retired) 142nd Wing History Office (Volunteer)
  • 142nd Wing/Historian's Office

On this day in 1945, May 8, Allied forces celebrated the hard-fought victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War’s war in Europe.  President Harry S. Truman proclaimed to members of the media gathered in the Oval Office “This is a solemn but glorious hour.  General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations.  The flags of freedom fly all over Europe.”

He continued, “For this victory, we join in offering our thanks to the Providence which has guided and sustained is through the dark days of adversity.  Our rejoicing is sobered and subdued by a supreme consciousness of the terrible price we have paid to rid the world of Hitler and his evil band.”

The 371st Fighter Group, today’s 142nd Wing, contributed to the victory in combat operations over the continent from April, 1944 through the end of the War in Europe.  The group was given credit for participation in six military campaigns across Northwestern Europe and was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation, the highest level of unit award, for actions over Germany between March 15-21, 1945. 

Starting on April 12, 1944, the group flew 1,749 missions consisting of 17,866 sorties, expended 5,390,321 rounds of .50-cal ammunition and 4,167 tons of bombs in helping bring an end to fascism in Europe.  Fifty-five officers and men of the group were killed, with over four score of P-47 Thunderbolt fighter planes lost or damaged beyond repair in the service and sacrifice of those war years.    

To learn more about the unit’s activity on that V-E Day 78 years ago, see “There at the Finish – The 371st Fighter Group on Victory in Europe Day” here.

President Truman took pains to remind the nation about the ongoing war in the Pacific: “I want that emphasized time after time, that we are only half-through.”  Indeed, Oregon’s first military aviation unit, the 123rd Observation Squadron, redesignated as the 35th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron in 1943 (today’s 123rd Fighter Squadron), deployed to China for operations against Imperial Japanese forces since September, 1944, was in that unfinished fight.  But that is a story for another day.

On this solemn day, May 8, we remember the victory achieved in Europe and the important contributions the personnel of 371st Fighter Group made to that end.