Just three weeks before Germany’s surrender and four months before Japan’s admission of defeat, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died in Warm Springs, Georgia, on April 12, 1945. The next day, a funeral train carried Roosevelt’s coffin slowly from Warm Springs back to Washington, DC, at thirty-five miles per hour so that grieving citizens could pay respects as it passed through their towns.
The loss of President Roosevelt was one of the last great shocks of World War II. More than 320,000 Georgians fought in the war, over one-tenth of the state’s population. Of this number, 6,754 Georgians died or were missing in action. When Japan’s surrender was announced in the United States on August 14, 1945, Georgians welcomed the war’s end by closing their businesses, throwing parades, organizing thanksgiving services, and crowding the main thoroughfares of their respective towns and cities.
Officers returning home were honored with great fanfare. General Courtney Hodges, a native of Perry, Georgia, who commanded the United States First Army in northwest Europe, returned to Georgia in May 1945, where he and forty-nine servicemen were given the nation’s first homecoming celebration in Atlanta. A dinner for Hodges was also held back in Perry.