The last battles
6 June 1944 was D-Day, when Allied forces landed in Normandy (France) to begin the liberation of western Europe. Everyone hoped the war would soon be over. However, there were many fierce battles in Europe and in the Pacific war with Japan before the fighting stopped in 1945.
Life was very hard for children in the countries where the last battles were fought. Towns were bombed day and night. Railways and roads were blown up. There was fighting in villages and city streets. There was so little fuel or food that millions of people were cold and starving. Many people became homeless refugees.
On 8 May 1945 people celebrated VE Day (Victory in Europe Day). Crowds packed the streets, cheering, singing and dancing. Children joined in the fun, waving flags, dressing up and making party hats. There were fireworks and bonfires, speeches and Church services, parades and street parties.
In August 1945 Japan stopped fighting. On 2 September, the Allies officially celebrated VJ Day (Victory in Japan Day). World War 2 was over.
Soldiers, sailors and airmen came home: over 100,000 every month. Men and women swapped uniforms for 'civvy' (civilian) clothes. Also coming home were thousands of prisoners of war or POWs. Some had been prisoners for 5 years.
People had got used to war. Now they had to get used to peace. Families were together again, but life was not easy. Many homes had been destroyed in air raids. Some homeless families moved into 'prefabs' - concrete bungalows built in factories for quick assembly. Many children found it strange getting to know again a father who'd been away for years. Not all families got back together happily.
World War 2 left millions of people homeless as refugees. Some had escaped from the Nazis before the war. Others had been driven from their homes by fighting. In Europe there were more than 12 million refugees, or 'displaced persons', including millions of Germans. There were people seeking missing relatives, and many children without parents.
The Allies set up the United Nations to keep the peace. One of its most urgent tasks in 1945 was to help refugees return to their homes or find new ones.