US and Soviet troops are shaking hands in Germany (April 25, 1945) - History Key

US and Soviet troops are shaking hands in Germany (April 25, 1945)

Right before the end of World War II and the downfall of the Nazis, United States and Soviet troops met on Elbe River at Torgau in Germany. Soviets were advancing from East and the Americans advancing from West and they met for a specific purpose: to cut Germany in two. This action led to separating Europe into Eastern Europe and Western Europe with strong political and economic influences on both sides from Soviets and US.

It was a random meeting?

Soviet and American troops
Soviet and American troops cut through the Wehrmacht divisions and met in the middle of Germany on the Elbe River. © Image Source: UllsteinBild/Vostock-Photo

Soviet troops were trying for years to advance from East, pushing the Nazi troops back all along the Eastern Front. In June 1944, the American and British troops opened a Western Front in Europe, fighting the Nazis on the ground from west. Somehow, the enemies of Nazis met near Torgau Germany, across the Elbe River on April 25, 1945. This day is also known as the Elbe Day and it was a big ceremony in 1945. However, Elbe Day was never a holiday and after 1945, the memory of this friendly meeting gained a new sense because of the Cold War.

When the two troops made contact, both sides were skeptical about the encounter. The Americans didn’t have any flag, so they started to draw one as the best they could to look like the stars and stripes from the American flag. Soviets thought at first the US troops are actually Germans playing a tricks on them. However, one member of each side met in the center of a bridge crossing the Elbe. The two soldiers embraced and made a hand signal that stands for victory.

The new friendship between US and Soviets

Lt. William Robertson (U.S. Army) and Lt. Alexander Silvashko (Red Army)
Lt. William Robertson (U.S. Army) and Lt. Alexander Silvashko (Red Army) © Image Source: Wikipedia

The two soldiers made the arrangements for the formal handshake in front of the photographers the following day. A big ceremony took place with dozens of soldiers from both sides exchanging between them buttons, stars and patches from their uniforms. The official handshake was between Lt. Alexander Silvashko from the Red Army and Second Lt. William Robertson from the US army. They also swore an oath in the memory of the victims and built a bridge over the river. They named it the bridge of friendship.

The friendship between them was taken to higher levels. Officers from both sides exchanged gifts. Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev gave Omar Bradley his war horse and Bradley gave Konev a jeep. Also, the top Soviet General, Georgy Zhukov gave Commander Dwight Eisenhower with the Order of Victory which is the highest honor of the Soviet Union. Eisenhower gave Zhukov the Legion of Honor. Maybe the friendship was taken to the extreme and that is why lasted too short. Both sides had very high expectations from each other. For instance, Eisenhower loved Coca-Cola and shared a drink with Zhukov. Zhukov was impressed by its taste so a special version of Coca-Cola was made for him: White Coke.

After the historical event, monuments and coins were created in order to maintain the spirit from Torgau. Even books and movies were made to remember that all soldiers that fought on the war understand the meaning of it. And if they will have to choose, there would be no war anymore.

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