REIMS, FRANCE, MAY 7 — Today marks the 50th anniversary of the German surrender. Price Day, who covered the war for the Baltimore Sun, was the only staff correspondent of an individual newspaper to witness the surrender of Germany at Reims. He was offered a last-minute opportunity to cover the historic surrender for Exchange Telegraph, a British news agency, which enabled him to be present.
In 1947, while covering the first year of independence in India, Mr. Day obtained the last interview given to a newspaper correspondent by Mohandas K. Gandhi shortly before the Indian leader was assassinated. It was for his correspondence from India that Mr. Day received the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1948.
In 1952, Mr. Day joined the editorial-page staff of The Sun, becoming an associate editor in 1956 and, in 1960, editor-in-chief of the Sunpapers, a post he held for 15 years.
He died in 1978.
This article is an abridged version of the report that appeared in The Sun.
Reims, France, May 7 -- At 2:45 o'clock on this warm spring morning, Col. Gen. Gustav Jodl signed his name for the fourth time and carefully put down his pen. Europe's long war was over.
Jodl stood up. His back was rigid, his heels in their black boots were close together. He rested the tips of his fingers on the wide, battered oak table that filled a good part of what, until tonight, was the most secret of all the secret chambers of Europe -- SHAEF's War Room.
For Better Or Worse
General Jodl said in German:
"With this signature the German people and German armed forces are for better or worse delivered into the victor's hands."
Lt. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, chief of staff to General Eisenhower, watched him impassively. So did four other Americans, three Russians, one French and three British officers seated at the table.
On Jodl's left a German admiral, on his right a German major stared straight ahead. Still speaking of the civilians and soldiers of his beaten nation, Jodl said:
"In this war, which has lasted more than five years, they both have achieved and suffered more than perhaps any other people in the world. In this hour I can only express the hope that the victors will treat them with generosity."
He sat down and then at once stood up again. The admiral and major stood up with him. There was no answer. There were no salutes.
It Was Surrender
His face grey with strain, but his step steady, Jodl turned and walked from the room.
He was followed by the others, the major carrying Jodl's cap with its German high command insignia. Seventeen Allied war correspondents shifted aside to let them pass.
With their going, the solemn tableau of the surrender broke up. The Allied officers spoke a few words to each other, rose from their chairs, chatted quitely for another moment and strolled from the room. Everybody was very tired.
That was how it was. That was it -- the victory of all the Allies over the German forces on land, sea and air. This was not an armistice, it was surrender, total and complete.
More than 45 hours must still go by before the peace effected tonight at General Eisenhower's headquarters in Reims' barracks-like pinkish brick Ecole Professionale would settle over the battlefields.
But of these battlefields only a few were still the scenes of battle. Every man around the table knew that his ceremony was in large part simply the proper recognition of the accomplished fact of the defeat of Germany.
The signing of the surrender document by Smith, Jodl, Major Gen. of Artillery Ivan Susloparov, of the Red Army; and Gen. F. Sevez of France came at the waning of a long night in the course of which it had begun to seem certain that the great event would have to wait until the dawn of another day.
For five and a half hours the German representatives had been conferring alone in a billet in a house on Rue Godinot near the great Cathedral of Reims.
The Americans, British, Russians and French had no word from this conference throughout the evening. Then, deciding that the acceptance seemed unlikely tonight, they all left headquarters. Many went to bed.
As midnight came and went a hush fell over Reims, except in one corner of the G-4, or supply sector, of the main building of SHAEF's command post, where the correspondents waited.
Military police guarded every corridor and gate as, indeed, they do on all nights. Perhaps tonight they watched even more carefully, and stood a bit straighter at their posts.
Light on the Foliage
Out in the darkness of the wide, graveled courtyard enclosed by low, utilitarian brick buildings, rested jeeps, trucks and dozens of high-echelon staff cars with their red-plaqued fronts and rears studded with a Milky Way of stars.
A faint, warm breeze came through the open windows. Here and there an electric light shone out on the pale green foliage of the trees that ringed the courtyard. Everything was still and suspended, waiting.