This Week in 1945 (May 3–May 9)
This week during the last year the Cubs went to the World Series (before 2016)…
World War II ends in Europe
*Rocket scientist Werner von Braun and 120 members of his team surrender to U.S. forces. (Many of them become the backbone of our future space program)
*The North German army surrenders to Marshal Bernard Montgomery.
*Admiral Karl Dönitz orders all U-boats to cease offensive operations and return to their bases.
*General Alfred Jodl signs unconditional surrender terms at Rheims, France, ending Germany’s participation in the war. The document takes effect on May 8, 1945, which becomes V-E Day.
*Herman Goering is captured. His first day as a prisoner is captured on film…
*The Chicago Tribune announces the news in their May 9th edition…
BIG 3 PROCLAIM VICTORY AT 8 A.M.;
Truman to Address Nation by Radio This Morning
Chicago Turns to Next Step: Lick the Japs
“With emotions wrung dry by a series of war climaxes, Chicagoans will receive the official announcement today that victory has ben achieved in the war in Europe.It will be a sober day—almost a sorrowful day—because of the realization that another war needs to be fought in Asia and because of the memory that the price of V-E day was paid with the lives and blood of many Chicago sons. Churches will be open. The call to prayer will be sounded by the great bells of Holy Name Cathedral…Elaborate precautions have been taken to prevent a repetition of the riotous Armistice day celebration of 1918…Police Commissioner Allman expressed regret that the formal announcement of victory was delayed until today. Yesterday’s rain would have helped curb unruly celebrants, the commissioner said.”
*Despite the predictions, revelers still celebrate on State Street when word comes that victory in Europe has been achieved.
*PRICE CHECK: Marvel Enriched Bread is just 13 cents per loaf, and margarine is 18 cents per pound.
*The Cubs hear the big news in Philadelphia, because they are on their longest road trip of the season. (They won’t be back to Wrigley Field until May 23rd.) Some members of the team leave their hotel (The Ben Franklin Hotel) to celebrate with the rest of Philadelphia. (Photo)
*Before traveling to Philly, they had lost a series in St. Louis, and gotten some bad news. Pitcher Ed Hanyzewski has been called in for his pre-induction physical. He was previously declared 4-F, so the entire roster is on edge.
*The Cubs have lost six of their last seven games.
In Pop Culture
*Duke Ellington releases a song to celebrate the Victory in Europe. It’s called “Jump for Joy.”
*”The Valley of Decision” starring Greer Garson and Gregory Peck debuts (and becomes a top ten box office hit for 1945.) Garson will be nominated for an Academy Award.
*Mike Wallace hears about VE Day while serving aboard the USS Anthedon—a submarine tender. He turns 27 the very same day.
*Don Rickles celebrates his 19th birthday and VE Day aboard the USS Cyrene.
*A little baby is born in Michigan. His parents name him Robert Seger.
*And in downstate Illinois a boy, future Cubs fan George Will, celebrates his fourth birthday. He is probably wearing a bow-tie.
Cub of the week
LENNIE MERULLO was the starting shortstop for the Cubs in the 1940s, including the pennant winning season of 1945. Merullo averaged an error every three and half games or so (172 errors in 602 games), a home run every 345 at-bats (6 in 2071), and he had a lifetime average of .240. He may not have been a very good player, but Lennie Merullo showed plenty of spunk. He was known for his hot temper and his tendency to talk with his fists. Two of those incidents have become part of Cubs lore. One time he fought former Cub Eddie Stanky, leading to a benches clearing brawl. While Stanky and Merullo punched each other repeatedly, Cubs pitcher Claude Passeau attacked the most hated man in baseball, Leo Durocher—-tearing off his shirt in the process. (Leo would become the manager of the Cubs in the 1960s.) The day after the Stanky/Durocher beating, Lenny and Phil Cavaretta attacked Dixie Walker before the game, and had to be pulled off by the police. Walker lost a tooth and chipped another. Merullo got an eight game suspension. He retired after the 1947 season.