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Archive for April 25th, 2008

On April 25, 1945, elements of the U.S. 69th Infantry Division advancing from the west met up with Russian soldiers moving from the east.  The meeting point, the Elbe River between Torgau and Strehla, was a scant 50 miles or so from Berlin.

The days preceding the link-up were filled with preparation and anticipation.  Signals between the two forces were arranged and U.S. and Russian tanks were given special markings to reduce the risks of “friendly fire” incidents.  Soldiers kept a keen eye out, hoping to be the first to make contact.

The first meeting occurred about 11:30am, when a U.S. reconnaissance platoon made brief contact with a Russian soldier on horseback just west of Strehla.  Speaking only briefly, he waved them further east and rode off in haste.  A Polish guide then led them to the Elbe River and, crossing over, they met a Russian major and a handful of soldiers an hour later.  Hands were shaken and pictures were taken for the sake of posterity.

There would be other encounters that day, including one with a full Russian rifle regiment near Torgau.  After nearly five years of fighting, the Allies now shared common ground against their beaten, but still kicking, enemy.

Recommended Reading: The Last Offensive – It’s another in the U.S. Army in World War II series and, despite the level of detail, these books are immensely enjoyable to read.

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