- Associated Press - Monday, May 11, 2020

Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, May 7

‘Victory In Europe’

In these uncertain days, let’s reflect briefly on the anniversary of a long-ago moment of bittersweet joy.

Seventy-five years ago today, half of World War II officially ended when the Allied powers formally accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. It unleashed celebrations around the globe, which would be repeated (and then some) three months later when Japan surrendered to bring this terrible conflict to a close.

The fact that V-E Day is still remembered tells you the kind of impact World War II, which ultimately killed as many as 61 million people, had and still has on us.

Germany’s surrender was not unexpected - Adolf Hitler’s ignominious suicide on April 30 telegraphed the inevitable. In fact, the Press & Dakotan published a massive banner headline (“WAR IN EUROPE ENDED”) on May 7 when news of an offer of unconditional surrender by Berlin spread like wildfire. Word of the official acceptance of the offer arrived in Yankton at about 8 a.m. the next day, setting off a symphony of whistles and sirens to signal the start of a long-awaited holiday.

But it was generally far from boisterous.

“With business and other activities at almost a complete standstill,” the P&D; reported, “Yankton observed the official ending of the war in Europe … with restrained rejoicing and in a spirit of thoughtful and solemn contemplation of the tasks remaining to be done - of defeating Japan, of reconstructing broken Europe and of building a lasting peace.”

It was likely more than the unfinished business in the Pacific that weighed on our minds. We still owned bitter memories of World War I and the failure of its flawed promises of peace. Most every town and family had lost too much in this second world war to forget the broken dreams of the first.

Still, this moment could not pass without some joy. Indeed, activities were in the planning stages for days as Germany’s capitulation grew increasingly likely.

“Is this V-E Day or isn’t it?” the P&D; wrote on May 7. “That’s the question Mr. and Mrs. Average Citizen of Yankton was asking today - withholding celebration until (receiving) the official proclamation by President Truman, which … might come later today or possibly tomorrow.”

The paper announced that the Yankton Ministerial Association was planning a thanksgiving service at city hall depending on when the end officially came. (The event wound up being held at 4 p.m. May 8.) Many churches also planned to open their doors for prayer and contemplation.

Meanwhile, most Yankton businesses and government offices closed immediately once the news arrived. A fireworks display at the baseball stadium was also scheduled for that night, but due to a lack of promotion, it was postponed to the following weekend.

The news also brought the start of a great unshackling, which echoes somewhat in our current situation. Wartime restrictions were soon rescinded, and the P&D; reported on May 10 that the midnight curfews and brownouts were being lifted: “Some business and entertainment places last night again turned on Neon and other electric signs and a few store show windows were lighted up for the first time in several weeks.”

One group in Yankton had a very different view on things, however, as there were still German prisoners of war quartered here. The Press & Dakotan noted, “In fact, these boys … were ‘enjoying’ business as usual this week while the U.S. and other Allied nations rejoiced over the final capitulation of Germany. … A stoic lot to begin with, the POWs displayed little feeling over the tremendous news from Europe,” and it appeared the “internees are just waiting out their turn to go home.” (Actually, “stoic lot” may be the kindest homefront description I’ve ever encountered of German soldiers from that war.)

The bittersweet sense of the moment was not confined to the Yankton area.

Not forgotten by anyone was the fact that President Franklin Roosevelt, who had died less than a month prior, did not live to see this triumph; in fact, Americans were still flying flags at half-staff in mourning on V-E Day. For his successor, Harry S. Truman, the day (which was also his birthday) was an occasion to honor his old boss while declaring that the victory was only “half won.” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, as ever, eloquently remarked, “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing (as Japan) remains unsubdued.” Alas, Churchill would be voted out of power in late July just before Japan was finally defeated.

The ending that arrived 75 years ago today was a mixed moment. It was a cathartic end to a monstrous evil, and yet we well knew there was a crushing load still to lift, although most of us probably didn’t foresee the atomic fire that would be used to that end.

Even on V-E Day, it was clear that, while so many had already died, we were bracing for more death to come - but we were resolute.

“With the war in Europe officially ended, greater attention can now be given to the task of polishing off Japan,” the P&D; declared. “(The) American people must gird themselves for the remaining job in the Pacific. There is plenty of evidence that they are in no mood to relax until that job has been finished, too.”


Madison Daily Leader, May 5

Local grads making the best of situation

We admire the spirit of the Class of 2020 for making the end of their senior year memorable.

While we haven’t talk to a lot of seniors, the ones we’ve spoken with are handling the pandemic with an optimistic spirit. They are sending out announcements, hanging their graduation gowns and letter jackets in front windows, putting signs in the front yard, setting up Zoom sessions to discuss celebrations that can be creatively done online.

Some have even gone so far as saying their graduation year will be unique and will be remembered much longer than others, due to the unique circumstances of the pandemic.

South Dakota seniors may enjoy their graduation a little more than those in states with strict lockdown rules. We expect most graduates will celebrate with their families. The traditional photo display or slide show at the reception could still be emailed to friends and relatives.

Some other graduation traditions will be modified or delayed. Most churches recognize high school graduates within their congregations, and some provide a gift such as a quilt. The public recognition may not occur, but the gifts still can be delivered.

Final concerts, recitals or athletic events have been canceled, but we’ve also seen videos of performances circulating among music teachers, school faculty and fellow students.

Graduates will still spend time at the dining room table writing thank-you notes. It may not be a fun activity, but the cards are important to the relative or friend receiving them.

We offer our best wishes to the Class of 2020 and express our admiration for keeping your heads up during these unique times.


The Huron Daily Plainsman, May 6

An impossible decision made

Monday night, the Huron city commissioners made a very difficult decision.

I want to open this very clearly. I do not envy their decision. I respect each man with a vote on that commission, and I know that I can have a logical discussion with each of them.

That’s what made Monday’s incredibly illogical decision to repeal the March 22 resolution/ordinance limiting businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic so blindsiding to me, especially with the news of COVID exposure in Mitchell last weekend … after they’d opened up essentially in the same way being proposed.

There wasn’t a tapered re-opening that allowed non-dining open for two weeks, then dining for two weeks, then on-sale liquor after that, all subject to change if an outbreak were to occur within the county (or something to that tone as many have been expecting).

This was pure, rip-off-the-Band-Aid ordinance gone.

All this to be finalized on Saturday morning, with a promised list of guidelines. It will go into effect 10 days after it’s published - this is not an immediate thing.

Huron in particular, and in Beadle County as a whole, has been held up over and over again by Governor Kristi Noem for the work done by its residents.

The difficult joint decision made by the county and city commissions on March 22 was strong, yet tactful. We lost two beloved residents of our community to the virus, and whether the swift action of the joint commissions or those deaths made public by their families is what sent the city and the county to the place where there has not been a positive test since April 1 would be impossible to gauge, but it’s been a blessing to see.

A blessing, because we have a turkey processing plant that is doing the right things here in town. A blessing, because we have a community significantly supporting local businesses so much that our local tax revenue is holding its own - for March of 2019 to 2020 - during a time when we cannot enter restaurants and many other businesses. A blessing, because many of our local counties saw hot spots jump up, like the Lane Cafe in Jerauld County, while Beadle was able to focus on social distancing.

Now, business owners are put in an incredibly precarious position. If I own a restaurant and have been doing good business on take out, as many in Huron have during this time, the city repealing its ordinance and opening up dining areas means I can open my restaurant again.

While that is certainly appealing to me, especially if I happen to have an on-site liquor license, I worry that my employees could take home the virus from a dining room full of customers.

Let’s say my top waitress has her 71-year-old mother living with her due to a chronic heart condition. If she comes in to work, she could be exposed to the virus by any one of dozens of customers she serves that day and take it home that night, potentially endangering her mother’s life. She’s able to barely survive on unemployment now with the COVID-19 boost from the federal government, but if I open my restaurant, she is forced to come to work or she will lose her unemployment.

Well, I, as the owner, don’t want to see her forced into potentially exposing her vulnerable mother, so I’ll stay closed. Heck, I’m making good money on take out, right? Except that every other restaurant in town is now opening their dining room, and no one wants my take out anymore, meaning I’m quite literally going to have to decide between the potential lives of my employees and their families or the survival of my business.

What really puts the icing on the cake is that earlier in the meeting Monday night, the city commission ironically read into its record a proclamation recognizing National Nurses Week (May 4-8) and National Hospitals Week (May 10-16). It’s good to recognize them both. We could be utilizing them heavily soon enough if we follow our neighbors to the south and their no-holds-barred re-opening.

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