My father took the surrender of the Third Reich. Yes, truly.
It happened like this. My father was a Squadron Leader in the Royal Air Force, duty officer on the day in question on a North German airfield occupied by the British in 1945. Hitler had committed suicide and Admiral Doenitz had taken over as Reichs President at the instruction of Hitler, and the war was as good as over, although this was not yet clear to my father and his fellow officers.
A Nazi aircraft was spotted, approaching the airfield. My father said he was in a quandary. Should he order it shot down? He let it land.
The plane taxied to the spot where my father and his squad were standing, arms at the ready, guns loaded. Out of the plane walked Reichs President Doenitz in full Naval uniform and decorations. My father was dumbfounded. Doenitx gave a Nazi bow and clicked his heels. ( I asked my father if he had saluted a senior officer, but he avoided responding)
”I am here to tender the unconditional surrender of the Third Reich,” said Doenitz, in English and proffering the handle of his sword
This development “posed a bit of a problem”, my father told me later, one of the understatements of the Century. Should the man be handed over to Montgomery, the British commander, or to Eisenhower? What was the proper way to deal with this unexpected event. Being British he said the first thing that came into his head:
”Sir, said Dad, “could I offer you a gin and tonic in the Mess?”
So Doenitz got his drink, but nobody thought it appropriate to discuss the flight, the weather or, indeed, the war. Doenitz was sent on the Eisenhower’s headquarters that day and he and other senior Nazis were arrested and later tried. It appears that he flew to the British sector to avoid the Russians and because he thought he would be treated by the British in a gentlemanly manner. He got that right.
This story is absolutely true but is not mentioned in the historical accounts, to the best of my knowledge. I don’t want it to be lost. The gin illustrates my father’s Epicurean persuasion.