The war had been raging on for six long years. During 1944, several events had begun to turn the tides of war against the Axis powers. In April of 1945, the Allies were marching towards peace, but they knew it would take a coordinated effort from both the American troops in the East and the Soviet armies from the west. The units were not to make contact with each other. They were ordered to remain on their respective banks of the Elbe River while officers from each division formalized the occupation of Berlin. But when the two armies met south of Berlin in Torgau, on the banks of Elbe, patrols were sent across the river in a small boat. The first to make contact were American First Lieutenant Albert Kotzebue and Soviet Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Gardiev, along with their commands. Two days later, photographers commemorated the historic event of the Eastern front meeting the Western front. This meeting meant that the two powers had, effectively, cut Germany in two.
Elbe, or East Meets West, Day has never been an official holiday in any country but in the years that followed 1945 this friendly encounter gained new significance in the context of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. There are monuments, however, both in Torgau and in the United States, in Arlington National Cemetery. In 1949, the Russian film company, Mosfilm, commemorated Elbe Day i n the black-and-white film, "Encounter at the Elbe. The meeting at Elbe is also also represented in the war strategy game R.U.S.E. which was released in 2010, the 65th anniversary of Elbe, and again in 2011. The game is loosely based on WW II events.
You can celebrate by visiting a WW II museum or monument, reading up on this historical event, or by using #eastmeetswestday or #elbeday to share on your social media today.