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The Rheims Surrender Pens

(This page revised March 14, 2024)

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]


On May 7, 1945, the German Act of Military Surrender executed at Rheims, France, was signed with three fountain pens. Two belonged to General Dwight Eisenhower, one did not. What were they, who used which one, and where are they now?

SHAEF

Captured German troops march past the main entrance to the “little red schoolhouse,” the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) on Rue Henry Jolicoeur, Rheims, France. U.S. Army photograph.

The Setting

Initially arranged for May 6, the signing was postponed until May 7 in response to the Germans’ request for a 48-hour extension. Eisenhower granted the delay without hesitation, stating that he would close American and British lines 48 hours from midnight that night, allowing no more Germans through.

Note
Note
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Fountain pen set
Butcher with pens

Photo © Walter Wolf. Used under 17 U.S.C. §107, Fair Use.

Eisenhower had promised Parker that the Buckskin Beige pen would be used in the signing and that there would be a photograph showing it in Ike’s hand. The other pen, a Dove Gray Parker “51” with a gold-filled cap, also belonged to Eisenhower.

After the war, Eisenhower had the Buckskin Beige pen engraved and gave the pen/pencil set, in its box (which was gold-stamped to commemorate the gift), to President Harry Truman. It is now in the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, in Independence, Missouri.

The Preliminaries

Desk set
Desk set close-up

Jodl and the First Copies

Butcher had placed the Dove Gray Parker “51” in front of Jodl, who picked it up and at 2:41 a.m. (shown below) signed the first copy of the “Undertaking” (below, second image), which was an agreement made beforehand that the Germans would appear at a place to be designated by SCAEF (Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force) in order to sign the surrender documents. Jodl then signed the Act of Military Surrender, after which Butcher immediately retrieved that pen, exchanging for it his own Carmine Red Sheaffer Valiant for Jodl to use in signing the remaining copies of both documents.

Jodl signing
The Undertaking

Eisenhower’s Dove Gray “51”, shown below, now resides in the Parker Pen Company Archives in London, England. As indicated by the style of the clip and the attached tag, the original cap was replaced in 1951 with a cap from an Aero-metric “51”. Harry Butcher’s Carmine Red Sheaffer pen (below, second image), in the case for one of Eisenhower’s Parker “51” pens, now resides in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, in Abilene, Kansas.

Fountain pen
Photo source unidentified. Edited to correct underexposure and
severe geometric distortion. Used under 17 U.S.C. §107, Fair Use.
Fountain pen

Photo © Walter Wolf. Used under 17 U.S.C. §107, Fair Use.

An amusing contemporaneous anecdote provides convincing evidence for the timing of Butcher’s hasty pen switch while also casting some doubt on the actual ownership of the Sheaffer Valiant.

Jodl and the Remaining Copies

Jodl signing the second copy
Jodl signing the second copy

Everybody Else

As Jodl signed the documents, the copies were passed over the table to the Allies. The Buckskin Beige “51” had been placed before Beetle Smith, who signed the Act of Military Surrender with it on Eisenhower’s behalf (shown below, left). Sousloparov used a large green pen of unidentified manufacture to sign on behalf of the Soviet High Command (below, center), and Sevez signed as witness with the “51” that Smith had used (below, right). The man seated behind the empty chair between Smith and Sousloparov is Sousloparov’s translator, Lt. Ivan Cherniaeff.

Smith signing Sousloparov signing Sevez signing

When the three Allied representatives had all signed the Act of Military Surrender (below), Butcher corralled all three of the American pens.

The Act of Military Surrender

With the signing finished, Jodl stood and said in English, “I want to say a word.” Smith assented. A pathetic figure, with his voice breaking, Jodl delivered a brief speech, saying in German, “With this signature, the German people and the German armed forces are, for better or worse, delivered into the victor’s hands. In this war, which has lasted more than five years, they both have achieved and suffered more than perhaps any other people in the world. In this hour I can only express the hope that the victor will treat them with generosity.” No one translated this speech for the others present, and there was no response.

The Finish

After a brief uncomfortable silence, the Germans were led down the hall to Eisenhower’s office, where he sat behind his desk, waiting for them. When they entered the office, he stood and, without formality or preface, asked in a cold voice if they understood the terms of the surrender. They answered in the affirmative. He then stated that they would officially and personally be held responsible if the terms were violated. Ending with, “That is all,” he fell silent; and the Germans, realizing that the meeting was at an end, departed. The war in the west was over.

Eisenhower’s V Sign

Gen. Eisenhower holding the two Parker “51” pens in a V sign. L to R: Gen. Ivan Sousloparov, an unidentified aide, Lt. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, Kay Summersby, Gen. Eisenhower, Capt. Harry Butcher, Air Marshal Arthur Tedder.

The Aftermath

The Soviet High Command refused to accept the surrender. Soviet chief of staff General Alexei Antonov expressed concern that the continued fighting in the east between Germany and the Soviet Union made the Rheims surrender look like a separate peace. The Soviets said, correctly, that the Act of Military Surrender at Rheims did not adhere to the wording that had been set out by the European Advisory Commission; that the surrender should be at the seat of the losing aggressor government; and that the signing should take place in a unique, historical ceremony. Eisenhower agreed, and a formal surrender ceremony was staged late in the evening of May 8, in the Soviet headquarters at Karlshorst, near Berlin.

This article is one in a series about the historic pens used at the official German and Japanese surrenders that ended World War II.



Notes:
  1. In French, and in English today, the name of the city is spelled Reims. In English, it was formerly spelled Rheims, and that is how it appears in the English copies of the surrender documents. For historical continuity, I have chosen to adhere to that convention.  Return

  2. Butcher, Harry C., My Three Years with Eisenhower: The Personal Diary of Captain Harry C. Butcher, USNR, Naval Aide to General Eisenhower, 1942 to 1945 (New York: Simon &Amp; Schuster, 1946), 831ff.  Return

  3. The surname of the Soviet emissary at Rheims is customarily spelled Susloparov in English, but his signature on the Act of Military Surrender reads Sousloparov. For historical continuity, I have chosen to adhere to that version. The spelling in Russian (Суслопаров) is the same for either transliterated version.  Return

  4. As of this writing, at least one published account of the surrender places Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery at Rheims, but he was not present there. His moment in the sun had come at Lüneburg Heath on May 4, when he accepted the surrender of German forces in Holland, Denmark, and northwestern Germany. Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, who had headed the German delegation at Lüneburg, also attended at Rheims but was not a signatory there. His presences at Rheims might have been the source of the story putting Montgomery there.  Return

  5. Generaloberst = Colonel General.  Return

  6. Generaladmiral = General Admiral. This flag rank, between Admiral (U.S. Admiral) and Großadmiral, (U.S. Fleet Admiral), had no direct equivalent in the U.S. or British systems.  Return

  7. Morin, Relman, “In a Schoolhouse at Rheims, Four Copies Were Signed,” Reporting to Remember" Unforgettable Stories and Pictures of World War II (The Associated Press: New York, 1945), 61.  Return

  8. Most of the unattributed photographs used in this article were produced by the U.S military and are in the public domain under 17 U.S.C. §105. All other unattributed photos used herein are more than 75 years old and are assumed to be in the public domain.  Return

  9. “SURRENDER PEN: Butcher Substituted One Given to Him by Daly,” Broadcasting, the Weekly Newsmagazine of Radio, May 14, 1945, 16.  Return

  10. The English copy of the Act of Military Surrender bore a superscription above the title, stating that the English version was the only authoritative version.  Return

  11. “First German Emissary Unable to Act on Terms, so Jodl Was Sent,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 8, 1945, 3A.  Return


The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information.

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