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Happy 2nd Lieutenant William Robertson and Lt. Alexander Sylvashko, Russian Army, shown in front of sign [East Meets West] symbolizing the historic meeting of the Russian and American Armies, near Torgau, Germany.

26-12-2016

Elbe Day, April 25, 1945, is the day Soviet and American troops met at the Elbe River, near Torgau in Germany, marking an important step toward the end of World War II in Europe. This contact between the Soviets, advancing from the East, and the Americans, advancing from the West, meant that the two powers had effectively cut Germany in two.

Elbe Day has never been an official holiday in any country, but in the years after 1945 the memory of this friendly encounter gained new significance in the context of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

The first contact between American and Soviet patrols occurred near Strehla, after First Lieutenant Albert Kotzebue  , an American soldier, crossed the River Elbe in a boat with three men of an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon. On the east bank they met forward elements of a Soviet Guards rifle regiment of the First Ukrainian Front, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Gardiev  . The same day, another patrol under Second Lieutenant  William Robertson with Frank Huff, James McDonnell and Paul Staub

 Image  met a Soviet patrol commanded by Lieutenant Alexander Silvashko on the destroyed Elbe bridge of Torgau.  The three soldiers,left to right,  Silvashko, Major Anavim, 58th Guards  Larionov and Robertson.

On April 26, the commanders of the 69th Infantry Division, nickname “The Fighting 69th”  of the First Army and the 58th Guards Rifle Division of the 5th Guards Army( Soviet Union)  met at Torgau, southwest of Berlin. Arrangements were made for the formal “Handshake of Torgau” between Robertson and Silvashko in front of photographers the following day, April 27.

The Soviet, American, and British governments released simultaneous statements that evening in London, Moscow and Washington, reaffirming the determination of the three Allied powers to complete the destruction of the Third Reich. Casualties of the 69th Division total battle casualties: 1,506, killed in action: 341, wounded in action: 1,146, missing in action: 9.

Lieutenant William Robertson and lieutenant  Alexander Sylvashko met again, now in Torgau, in 1975 for the 40e Commemoration of the meeting. The original 1945 photographer Alexander Oestinow was still in life and present on this commemoration, he is in the middle of the photo below. Robertson became a neuro-chirurg and Sylvashko became a school teacher in the village Kolki.

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