Victory in Europe
The German leadership was in turmoil by late April 1945. Having lost all communications with Hitler, and fearing him captured or dead, Göring planned to take control of the Germany if he did not get word from Hitler. This move was interpreted as a coup attempt and led to Göring's arrest by the SS. Only intervention from Hitler saved him from execution. At the same time, Albert Speer conspired with senior German officers to arrest key officers and officials. Speer himself attempted to kill Hitler, but was foiled at the last minute. With his officer corps in turmoil, Hitler appointed his top sailor as his successor in his will. On April 30th, 1945, with the Russians in Berlin, Hitler committed suicide. Seven days later, on May 7th, 1945 Grossadmiral (Grand Admiral) Karl Dönitz formally signed the surrender papers officially ending the war in Europe. The war had lasted 5 years, 8 months and 8 days. The toll in combatant and civilian life was horrendous. Most of continental Europe lie in smoldering ruins, and the survivors faced the seemingly daunting task of rebuilding.
For bomber command of the 8th Air Force, the strategic air campaign ended 2 and a half weeks earlier. Fighters of the 8th Air Force, and medium bombers of the 9th Air Force continued flying tactical missions in support of the ground troops until the very end. Still, the war wasn't completely over and air crews continued to fly, and train in preparation for their pending transfer to the Zone of the Interior (ZOI) and then the PTO.
After peace was won the 8th AF was tasked with a new mission: Mercy flights to the mainland. Food and medical supplies were sorely needed by the beleaguered citizens of Europe. Bombers now carried supplies of mercy to the continent, and repatriated exiles and POWs on their return trips. The 486th flew several such missions during the months of May and June. In addition to the mercy flights, the 486th gave some of its ground personnel a Victory Tour of France, Germany, and the BENELUX countries to view the damage created by the intense bombing campaign. Ironically, for some air crews peace didn't make flying any safer. A few aircrews would survive German flak and fighters, only to lose their lives in flying accidents.
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