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A commemorative plaque now stands where the "East Meets West" moment took place in Torgau on Elbe Day, 1945.

The Line of Contact marked the farthest advance of American, British and Soviet Armies into Germany at the end of World War II. This contact began with the first meeting between Soviet and American forces at Torgau, near the Elbe river on Elbe Day, April 25, 1945. The line continued to form as American, British and Soviet forces took control of, or defeated, Nazi forces, up until about the time of the May 8 unconditional surrender of Germany. This line of contact did not conform to the agreed-upon occupation zones, as stipulated in the Yalta Conference. Rather, it was simply the place where the two armies met each other. The American and British forces had actually gone far beyond the Yalta agreement boundaries, in some cases up to two hundred miles past, going deep into the laender of Mecklenburg, Saxon Anhalt, Saxony, as well as Brandenburg. The city of Leipzig, in Saxony, was probably the largest of the cities captured by the Americans that were inside the areas to be later passed to the Soviets. The land of Thuringia was completely occupied by American forces.

U.S. forces held onto these gains until July 1945, when under orders from President Harry S. Truman, and against the advice of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill the U.S. forces withdrew to the Yalta agreement boundaries dividing Germany into occupation zones. What this meant was that many villages and cities initially occupied by American troops, and held by them for two months, now saw these forces leave and Soviet troops come in. For many Germans in the affected areas, already ravaged by six years of war, this was a bitter pill to swallow. The consolation was that by this time the marauding and pillaging Soviet shock troops that had devastated places such as Berlin, in the aftermath of the battle of Berlin, would be replaced by comparatively sedate Soviet forces now that hostilities were over. It is worth noting that the Soviet Union may not have allowed American and British forces into Berlin, which was completely under their control, if the U.S. had not honored the Yalta agreement boundaries.

Line of Contact can also refer to the demarcation between any two armies, or more. This contact can be between belligerent or between allied armies.

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Multimedia

  • CBC Archives CBC Radio reports on the Russian and American meeting at Torgau on May 1 1945.

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