JSAragnaCOVERSeventy years ago today, the German Third Reich surrendered to the Allies and the war, at least the one that had raged across Europe since 1938, ended. This is my “recreation” of VE Day 1945, excerpted from the unpublished (and likely to remain so) novel JSA: RAGNAROK, written for iBooks. (The JSA, all characters, elements & appropriate images © DC Comics)

Chapter 9/ May, 1945

“…Our rejoicing is sobered and subdued by a supreme consciousness of the terrible price we have paid to rid the world of Hitler and his evil band. Let us not forget, my fellow Americans, the sorrow and heartbreak which today abide in the homes of so many of our neighbors, neighbors whose most priceless possession has been rendered as a sacrifice to redeem our liberty.”

The thin, even mid-western twang of the American president echoed across the urban canyon of Times Square from dozens of radio receivers in the doorways of dozens of storefronts, each understated phrase bringing a new wave of cheers from the gathered throng.

As much as Jay Garrick wanted to practice the restraint that President Truman was calling for in his announcement of Germany’s surrender, he couldn’t help but join the massive crowd of New Yorkers in exuberant celebration. It was more than three years since the Japanese bombing of the naval fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii had drawn the United States into the global conflict of the second world war and, while American troops still battled the Japanese in the hard slog of the Pacific front, the end of war in Europe was a joyous occasion nonetheless.

“…If I could give you a single watchword for the coming months, that word is: work, work, and more work. We must work to finish the war. Our victory is but half-won.”

We’ve worked plenty hard, Jay thought, the handsome young chemist’s face split by the same joyous smile that seemed to have spread like a contagion among the half million people jammed into the Great White Way. America had worked its way out of the worst economic depression in the nation’s history to build a war economy that had supplied the world with the weapons and materiel to win against the great German war machine. She had sacrificed the lives and limbs of a generation to that conflict, a tally counted in the Silver Stars and Purple Hearts in the windows of homes from one end of the country to the other.

“This is a solemn but a glorious hour,” the president had begun his announcement. “I only wish that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day.” In every city, in every town, in every home in America, there was the same wish, both for the president who had shepherded the country through the war, only to die less than a month ago before he could witness the fruits of his Herculean labors, and for the hundreds of thousands of brave young men who had perished on the battlefields of Europe and Africa and who were perishing still in the East.

But for all that, surely the United States could be allowed a pause in its mourning and be allowed to shout itself hoarse for this one glorious moment of victory.

The words had first flashed on the news zipper, the band of electric lights girdling the Times Tower at the crossroads of Seventh Avenue and Broadway where they met at 43rd Street at 9:35 that Tuesday morning. GERMANY SURRENDERS. Just like that. GERMANY SURRENDERS. And the war in Europe was done. It seemed like the whole city spilled out into the streets after that, drawn to Times Square, or further downtown to Herald Square, whatever space was large enough to accommodate the growing throngs. The war was over. Strangers were clasping hands, bending their heads together in prayers of thanks, women and men alike openly weeping. Jay had seen a sailor grab a passing nurse in her crisp white uniform and bend her over backwards in a kiss that was less about passion than unfettered joy.


Jay let himself pass through the crowd, shaking hands, exchanging congratulations with civilians and soldiers alike on his slow trek downtown, clapping strangers on the back, experiencing the moment, reveling in the delicious thrill of being a participant in a great and historic moment. At some point he paused before the replica of the Statue of Liberty that had been erected on the north side of the Times Building to promote the sale of war bonds and, a lump in his throat and a tear in his eye, had saluted the great lady. 3000195
“We must work to bind up the wounds of a suffering world, to build an abiding peace, a peace rooted in justice and in law. We can build such a peace only by hard, toilsome, painstaking work, by understanding and working with our allies in peace as we have in war,” President Truman told the nation and Jay Garrick could only nod. He understood better than most of the celebrants the cost of keeping the peace and the benefit of strong alliances.

It was, in fact, near time he met his allies. Normally such meetings were held in the privacy of their Gotham City headquarters, Jay and his associates clad in a rainbow of costumes and masks that were recognizable to every citizen of the nation. But today, they had decided, they would forsake the uniforms of the mystery men and meet in their civvies. Let the men who had served in the uniforms of their country receive the city’s approbation. 

Today, especially, belonged to them.

Jay made his way through the joyous throng. The celebrants were packed together tighter than sardines, leaving hardly enough room to draw a deep breath let alone make much progress from point A to point B with any deliberate speed. 

This was particularly frustrating for Jay Garrick. Under normal conditions, he could have run from Times Square to Boston and back again in the time it was taking him to wade across Broadway. He supposed this sort of thing was good for him, though. At least that’s what his girlfriend, Joan Williams, was always telling him. She thought the fastest man in a world full of slow pokes ought to practice patience and restraint. Joan thought it was too easy for him to go racing off before considering all the facts, but, of course, she couldn’t understand that his mind worked as fast as his legs. In the split second she was deciding between chocolate and vanilla ice cream for dessert, Jay would have worked out the chemical components of both flavors. But try explaining that to someone who didn’t share that ability. It would be like trying to describe the color red to a blind man.

Jay was exhausted by the time he broke through the thick of the crowd and could finally see pavement between the bodies at 41st Street. Though the experience had been akin to wading through quicksand wearing lead boots, he wouldn’t have missed it for the world. But now he was looking forward to a quieter celebration with his friends. He glanced at his wristwatch and saw that he was running late. Well, he would take some ribbing for that, but now that the crowds had thinned he needn’t be any later than he already was. He started to jog east and before he had gone ten steps, he was moving so fast as to be little more than a stiff breeze to those he passed on the street.

Two seconds later, he came to a stop across town, removing his hat in the revolving door of the Schraft’s restaurant in the lobby of the art deco Chrysler Building on 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue behind a businessman whose nose was buried in the pages of the New York Times. Everyone had heard the news by now and the usually dour faces of the New Yorkers around him were all brightened by dazzling smiles.

The hostess lead Jay to where his party waited, chattering away about the wonderful news out of Europe, about the president’s wonderful speech, wasn’t everything wonderful?

“Do you have someone over there?” Jay asked.

The young woman’s smile was dazzling as she nodded. “Yes, my husband,” she laughed. “He’s infantry, somewhere in Italy, last I heard. I know he’s seen a lot of combat but he tries so hard in his letters to make it sound like it’s no big deal, the silly lug. Well, I guess he’ll be coming home soon, now, don’t you think?”

Jay nodded. “Yes, I suppose he will. You must be very happy.”

Her hands fluttered before her like a pair of lost birds. “Oh, gosh, happy doesn’t begin to describe it. Were you…” she started to ask, her eyes darting to the lapel of his jacket, searching for the service pin that would have marked him for a veteran. But his lapel was empty. The red and blue costume of the Flash was the only uniform he had ever worn.

“War industry, ma’am,” he said quickly, feeling defensive as he always did when the question of why an able-bodied young man like him hadn’t been in the military came up. Or even when it hadn’t. “I’m a chemist.”

And, he thought, a mystery man. He had fought his share of Axis spies and saboteurs. There were hundreds of Fifth Columnists and black marketeers who had been put out of business because of him. He had done his part for the war effort. Jay Garrick had no reason to feel embarrassed by his status as a civilian.

And yet…

“I see my party,” Jay finally said. “Good luck to you and your husband.”

“He’ll be home soon,” she laughed, saying it again so she could make herself believe it.

The elegant Rococo restaurant was still jammed with the lunch crowd. Men in uniform sat in groups or with their civilian friends and family, everybody just a bit louder than usual. The same giddy disbelief that infected the hostess was present in their faces as well and with even more reason. Maybe they were on leave or preparing to ship out. Surely things would be different now, they were thinking. The fighting was over. There was no reason to be sent back, no need to be deployed.


The Justice Society of America were already seated, a dozen men and women at several tables pushed together before the far wall. To look at them, no one would suspect that this was anything but an ordinary gathering of friends, a group of young professionals meeting for a celebratory lunch on a momentous day.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment on VE Day, 1945

  1. Kevin says:

    Thanks for providing another glimpse into “Ragnarok.” The three excerpts I’ve read have me excited to read the whole novel, regardless of whether the continuity this story springs from exists any longer or not. I wish DC would self-publish this novel.

Leave a Reply