V For Victory: History, Meanings And Symbolism

V For Victory: History, Meanings And Symbolism

- in Blog, Tattoo History
V For Victory

Have you ever wondered about when and why did people begin using the V for Victory symbol? You can find the answer in the year 1941.
It all started after midnight on July 18, 1941, with a radio host’s special message, Col. V. Britton. This message was on behalf of Prime Minister Winston Churchill to the occupied countries of Europe. The announcement was: “The V sign represents the symbol of the occupied territories’ unconquerable will and a warning of the fate awaiting Nazi tyranny. As long as the peoples maintain to decline the alliance with the invader, it is certain that his cause will expire and that Europe will be liberated.”V For Victory
This was the beginning of the most successful propaganda campaign in world history, recognized as the ‘V for Victory’ campaign. During the darkest days of Great Britain, Britain was sidelined against the Reich’s growing power, which had already overpowered the rest of Europe that Winston Churchill motivated and guided his countrymen. This symbol had great significance throughout the war period. Though it was Churchill who popularized this gesture, there were many before him to use it.
The first use was by a Belgian politician Victor de Laveleye in January 1941, who encouraged using it as a symbol for victory as V stands for both ‘Victoire’ in French, meaning victory and ‘Vryheid’ meaning freedom in Dutch. His radio message was broadcasted to the Low Countries. He encouraged them to use this symbol in every form and everywhere so that the person oppressing them should see it and feel like he is surrounded by people awaiting his downfall. His wish was for this sign to become an international symbol of solidarity. It spread throughout Belgium and both the Netherlands and France, then it reached England and was used by Churchill, who made it the most popular gesture in history.
After the speech in July, the Morse telegraphic code for the letter V including three dots and a dash was recognized as the beat of the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. This passage was immediately picked up and included in a lot of propaganda programs. It was also part of Britton’s theme song. Due to the frequent usage of the symbol soon, it became Churchill’s signature style.
Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels was furious at the V symbol’s success and claimed it was a German symbol as V also stood for ‘Viktoria,’ which in German meant a German composer wrote victory and the notes of the symphony.
The US envelopes included the V symbol printed in Morse code. After America joined the war, the American government formally adopted the campaign. In the years after the war, American politicians like Truman, Johnson, and RFK used the V-for-Victory on the campaign trail. They did that to signify their electoral successes. Many people can remember Nixon’s famous two-handed V as he rebelliously climbed the Air Force One steps for the last time. Embarrassed by scandal, he appealed to the iconic symbol to preserve his moral dignity.
The campaign even received a new form of correspondence called the V-mail or the ‘V. . . – Mail’. It was printed on stationery and was even modified by Eastman Kodak’s library microfilm system used in the military. Sixty-three V-mail letters were being shipped to military people all over the world every month by April 1944.
At some point, the V-for-Victory found its way to the Arab world. In their first election, the Iraqi voters showed their spread fingers stained with the dye used to mark those who voted. Consciously or not, Winston Churchill’s fight for democratic liberties was echoed by those brave men and women. They stood against the sectarian violence and suicide bombings instead of the Gestapo and the SS.
The Demonstrators displayed a similar gesture in defiance of fraudulent results against the 2009 Iranian election. They confronted government forces and subjected themselves to violence in the name of an idea, expressing their emotions and principles with this timeless symbol.
Nowadays, the “V” has found a new home in Egypt. Photo collections on CNN.com, The New York Times, and Washington Post websites show anti-Mubarak dissidents hurling rocks, climbing on tanks, and chanting in public, all the while flashing the ubiquitous hand sign. In that way, they embrace a rich liberal tradition. These (mostly men) join those ranks of millions who before them have used the sign to fight oppressors.
Some people seize this symbol, unaware of or indifferent to its broader historical moorings. Although this might be the case, the V-for-Victory’s ordinariness suggests that Western norms and standards could be important in many Egyptians’ hearts. Just as they accepted the “V,” they may similarly accept more profound principles of fundamental freedoms.

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