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A young man and a telegram: Celebrating the 75th anniversary of VE Day

Greg Melikian
May 07, 2020

Seventy-five years ago today, Gregory Melikian ended World War II in Europe.

Long before Melikian became the namesake of Arizona State University’s Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies, he was a young radio operator stationed in Reims, France, during WWII — a war whose European campaign he ended via telegraph communication. 

“I finished it,” said Melikian, for a recent article in The Guardian. “It was 74 words to the world saying that tomorrow, 8 May, at 11:01 p.m., hostilities will cease and that we will stop shooting each other.” 

Because Melikian was the youngest radio operator, in his early 20s, he was selected by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower to send the coded message himself to military groups and allies announcing Germany’s surrender.

The generals wanted Melikian to tell the story for the rest of his life. 

An original copy of the telegram, donated by the Melikians, is housed in the ASU Library, as part of its Distinctive Collections. 

In summary, it reads: “A representative of the German High Command signed the unconditional surrender of all German land, sea and air forces in Europe to the Allied Expeditionary Force, and simultaneously to the Soviet High Command at 0141 Hours, Central European Time, 7 May 1945, under which all forces will cease active operations at 0001B Hours, 8 May.”

University Librarian Jim O'Donnell says, "Every time we look at these artifacts, it's as if the past is sending us a telegram — about peace and war and memory. We should read it carefully." 

VIDEO: Gregory Melikian — 'How I ended WWII'

Melikian, now 97, is among a dwindling generation with first-person accounts of WWII.

Today, he commemorates the 75th anniversary of VE Day in Washington, D.C., as both a veteran and an advocate of promoting global citizenship through the learning of languages, a core value of ASU's Melikian Center.

"Greg Melikian had the true librarian's instinct, keeping these amazing telegrams for a future nobody in 1945 could have imagined," said O'Donnell. "We are in his debt."

Telegram that announced the end of WWII in Europe

Learn more about the ASU Library's Distinctive Collections.

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