There were so many events surrounding the recent visit of England's Queen Elizabeth II to America that one of the major dates in British and American history was virtually lost in the shuffle. That would be May 8, the date in 1945 when victory in Europe emerged with the defeat of Nazi Germany.
The queen and her people visited the impressive World War II Memorial in Washington and paid appropriate attention to what it stands for, most importantly to honor the more than 400,000 who died during the conflict. But V-E Day is a joint celebration for the British and Americans.
To be sure, the United States was aiding Great Britain long before the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, forced our entry into the world battle. After Uncle Sam stepped forward and took up arms to an amazing extent, the British benefited handsomely after a long and draining period.
Setting the stage for V-E Day, which might never have occurred otherwise, was the noble Battle of Britain won by the harried, haggard and decimated Royal Air Force in the late summer and fall of 1940. Adolf Hitler and his minions had major plans for an invasion of Great Britain and seemed to have all the equipment and manpower needed to make it a success.
But the Germans, rightly or wrongly, determined they had to control the skies over eastern France, the English Channel and England before they could make their invasion. The RAF, those gallant few to whom we all owe so much, developed a spine of steel and lead and refused to surrender despite incredibly unfavorable odds. They could not be beaten because they would not be beaten.
Had the RAF failed in this horrendous assignment, the world as we know it today, including the United States, would be a far different place. At this pivotal point, these air force fliers were the final barrier between the free world and Nazi tyranny.
While it was not covered extensively, we can be sure Queen Elizabeth a number of times expressed gratitude to the residents of a former British colony for what they did from 1941 to 1945. At the same time, we hope President Bush and his people were cognizant enough of 1940 history to let the queen know we understand and deeply appreciate the courage and nobility the Brits displayed in that crucial 1940 period.