Read an interview about VE Day with America’s Ambassador to Britain, Robert ‘Woody’ Johnson, on
To mark VE Day, we thought we’d talk to the man who today represents one of our closest allies during the war, the USA. Here’s what the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Woody Johnson, had to say.
Why is VE Day so important?
It is a monumental opportunity to remember and pay tribute to the millions of people who gave so much to make that victory possible – those who resisted behind enemy lines, those who worked tirelessly in our factories and on our farms, those who fought on land, sea and air. We can draw tremendous pride and inspiration from the courage, determination and sacrifice of all those who came before us.
Do you have any relatives who took part in the war?
Yes, I’m particularly proud of my mother’s involvement. Like most American women then, she was determined to help win the war any way she could, so she actually served in the US Navy, teaching navigation skills to sailors.
Why didn’t the whole war end when Germany surrendered?
The war in Europe was just one part of the story. There was tough fighting all over the world – particularly in the Pacific and Far East. That didn’t end until months later, with the surrender of Imperial Japan on 15 August.
Did the war bring America closer to Europe?
Undoubtedly. Look at America’s relationship with Britain, for example. Our countries went through so much together, and it forged an unbreakable bond of trust and friendship between us. But we should also remember that our former enemies in Europe are now some of America’s closest friends and allies, which shows how much progress is possible.
What would it have meant for the world if the Nazis had defeated the Allied forces in Europe?
I’ll leave it to the TV producers and authors to imagine what that world would have looked like! What I do know is that life under the Nazis would have been full of oppression [cruel treatment], fear and suffering – and that’s why so many people gave so much to stop it ever happening.
VE Day was the end of fighting in Europe, but millions of people died, so should it be a happy or sad day?
For me, it’s always a bit of both. On the one hand, it’s impossible to reflect on the end of the war without thinking about the millions of lives lost and the full horror of the war, including the Holocaust. But I think we should also take enormous pride in all the people of our countries, who stepped up to fight for the liberty of others, whatever the price might be. That’s something we should always remember and celebrate.
Has the world changed enough now so that there won’t be another world war?
I would like to say yes. Certainly, we have a lot of international institutions now, like the UN, NATO and even the EU, which have helped preserve peace over the last 75 years. But there are still a lot of threats to our collective security, and the fact is, we have to remain vigilant and we have to remain capable of defending our rights and liberties if necessary.
How will you be marking VE Day this year?
Well, sadly I had to cancel the big party I had planned. But there are still lots of ways to celebrate from home, so my family will be getting involved from our residence, Winfield House, in London. We’ll be joining in the nation’s toast and tuning in to hear the Queen like the rest of the country. With my sons, I’ll be colouring in and displaying the poster that you’ll find in this edition. I encourage everyone reading this to do the same.