COLLINS, MS (WDAM) - Charles Kroen still remembers where he was when he heard that the Germans had surrendered in World War Two. "We were all the way up in Poland when the war ended," said Kroen, 94, who was a sergeant in the U.S. Army's 51st Combat Engineer Battalion. "It was a Sunday and somebody said, 'hey the war's over, they surrendered,' so we all got a bottle of champagne and celebrated," he said.
Kroen and other World War Two veterans will join the rest of the world this week in marking the 70th anniversary of VE-Day, or Victory in Europe (May 8, 1945). That was the public holiday to celebrate the unconditional surrender of all German forces, ending the war in Europe.
"We had a job to do and we did it," said Kroen, a Baltimore, Maryland native who came to Mississippi to work in the oil industry after the war.
"It was strange for us, because we were a bunch of kids fighting the war. It wasn't any men, it was a bunch of kids," he said.
Those "kids" in Kroen's unit did a lot to win the war against the Nazis, including building the bridge over the Rhine River during the Battle of the Bulge.
Kroen survived the war uninjured, and returned home with all of the soldiers in his unit.
"I felt very fortunate for one reason. All my men came home alive, that was the main thing. All 14 of my men came home alive. I never lost a man (and) that was one of the things I was very proud of," he said.