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1945: Russians and Americans link at Elbe
Russian and American troops have joined hands at the River Elbe in Germany, bringing the end of the war a step closer.

Statements have been released simultaneously in London, Moscow and Washington this evening reaffirming the determination of the three Allied powers to complete the destruction of the Third Reich.

According to a statement issued by Downing Street, the commanders of a United States division and of a Russian Guards division met at Torgau, south of Berlin on 26 April at 1600 hours local time.

Here we met the Russians who had advanced from the East. This was the first meeting of the Allied Forces
In fact the first contact was made between patrols on 25 April when a first lieutenant and three men of an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon of the US division met forward elements of the Russian Guards division.

First Lieutenant Albert Kotzebue of the 3rd Battalion, 273rd Infantry, 69th Infantry Division took his men in a boat across the Elbe to be greeted by Lt Col Alexander Gardiev, Commander of the 175th Rifle Regiment of the 58th Guards Division, 34th Corps.

They made arrangements for the formal handshake in front of photographers at Torgau the following day.

By joining forces at Elbe, the American and Soviet troops have successfully cut the Germany army in two. However, The Times correspondent warns of the of the possibility of "a protracted period of mountain warfare".

The American and Russian military leaders have paid tribute to their troops. In Moscow 324 guns fired a 24 salvo in honour of "victory of the freedom-loving peoples over Germany".

General Omar Bradley, commander of the US 12th Army Group, praised the Soviet troops for their determination in forcing the Germans to abandon Russia and push them back to the Elbe River.

He went on to pay tribute to the American forces: "In 10 months you have advanced 1,120km (696 miles) from the invasion beaches. All this has been attained thanks to your courage, your spirit and initiative and thanks to your comrades who died in order to achieve this."

The British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, said: "We meet in true and victorious comradeship and with inflexible resolve to fulfil our purpose and our duty. Let all march forward upon the foe."

President Harry STruman welcomed the news: "This is not the hour of final victory in Europe, but the hour draws near, the hour for which all the American people, all the British people and all the Soviet people have toiled and prayed so long."

Marshal Joseph Stalin spoke of the war still ahead: "Our task and our duty are to complete the destruction of the enemy to force him to lay down his arms and surrender unconditionally.

"The Red Army will fulfil to the end this task and this duty to our people and to all freedom-loving peoples."

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Watch/Listen
American GI greeting Russian soldier with handshake and arms round shoulders
Formal handshake for the cameras: American GI Lt William Robertson greets Russian soldier Lt Alexander Sylvashko

BBC reports on the events at the Elbe



In Context
Three days later (30 April) Adolf Hitler committed suicide with his wife of only a few hours, Eva Braun, in the underground bunker from where he had been directing operations.

On 4 May a representative of Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, Hitler's successor as chief of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces surrendered the Netherlands, Denmark and north-western Germany to Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery at Luneberg Heath, south-east of Hamburg.

The six-year European phase of history's most destructive war ended on 7 May with Germany's unconditional surrender to Eisenhower at Reims.

Victory in Europe Day was celebrated on 8 May.

However, the Soviets refused to accept the Reims agreement and insisted another peace deal was signed in Berlin on 8 May. As the Red Army was still fighting for control of Prague at the time, the ceasefire did not come into effect until 11 May.

Stories From 27 Apr


 
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