When East met West at Torgau in 1945

As the Allied Armies advanced across Nazi Germany, with the Soviets coming from the East and the British and Americans coming in from the West, it was only a matter of time before their soldiers met on the battlefield. The first instance of this was at Torgau on the River Elbe on 25th April 1945, an event now known as Elbe Day.

War correspondents interviewing Corporal James McDonnell.

The first contact was when an American patrol crossed the Elbe by boat and met up with Russians from the Guards Rifle Regiment on the Eastern bank. On the same day another patrol met with Soviet troops on the destroyed bridge over the Elbe at Torgau. The men involved in these contacts were interviewed by the War Correspondents on the spot, which included the English Journalist Iris Carpenter, who was by then reporting for The Boston Globe.

Colonel Allen C. Williams, the 69th Division Quartermaster, and Brigadier General Robert W. Mareist, the Division Artillery Commander arriving on the east bank for a meeting with the Russians on 26 April 1945.

The next day, 26th April 1945, senior officers from the US 69th Infantry Division crossed the Elbe by boat and met with their Soviet counterparts. As part of this Second Lieutenant William Robertson was photographed shaking hands with Alexander Silvashko, the Soviet soldier he met on the bridge, to recreate the famous event.

In an arranged photo commemorating the meeting of the Soviet and American armies, 2nd Lt. William Robertson (U.S. Army) and Lt. Alexander Silvashko (Red Army) stand facing one another with hands clasped and arms around each other’s shoulders. In the background are two flags and a poster. (NARA)

William Robertson recalled his part in the meeting at Torgau many years later in an interview (above). An ordinary GI had been witness to one of the most notable events of the conclusion of the ETO,

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