There are some days where I feel like the luckiest person to be living in Washington D.C., and today was one of these days – the 70th anniversary of V-E Day, or Victory over Europe Day. It was on this day, May 8th, 1945, when the Allies of World War II formally accepted the surrender of the Nazis, thus ending the war in Europe. Despite the ongoing battles still raging in the Pacific Theater, V-E Day was celebrated around the world. And today, 70 years later, it was celebrated again on the National Mall with an organized flyover of 19 varieties of WWII warbirds.
The event was staged with specific aircraft formations to honor the various, sequential events of WWII. With air traffic halted at Ronald Reagan airport between noon and 1pm, the vintage planes took off from airfields in Manassas and Culpepper, Virginia to head to the Mall. The first group to make the journey down the Potomac and the left turn at the Lincoln Memorial were the trainer planes: Boeing Stearman PT-17s, North American AT-6s, Beech AT-11s, and Piper L-4 Grasshoppers.
The next formations commemorated Pearl Harbor and the Doolittle Raids, and included P-40 Warhawks and B-25 bombers.
More formations of planes from the Pacific Theater followed to demonstrate the Battle of Midway (Grumman F4F Wildcats, Douglas SBD Dauntlesses, and a Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat), Guadalcanal (more F4F Wildcats), and the plane model that shot down Admiral Yamamoto and was dubbed the “fork-tailed devil” by the Germans (Lockheed P-38 Lightning).
The formation that I was most looking forward to was the one honoring the Ploesti Raids in Romania,because it included a B-24 Liberator and its escort planes, P-51 Mustangs. The Liberator is my favorite of all WWII warbirds. I’ve written before about my Grandfather, who was a B-24 pilot based out if Italy where these bombing campaigns initiated. I’ve also actually flown in a similar B-24 Liberator to the Diamond Lil that flew over D.C. today, the Witchcraft.
Wrapping up the formations were groups that included planes from Big Week bombing attacks in Germany, D-Day, Leyte Gulf, Battle of the Bulge, Iwo Jima, and the final air offensive over Japan. The planes that flew in these formations were the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, a Douglas C-47 Skytrain that dropped paratroopers in Normandy, a Grumman TBM Avenger similar to the one flown by President George H.W. Bush, Curtiss SB2C Helldivers, a Douglas A-26 Invader, Vought F4U Corsairs, and the carriers of the two atomic bombs – Fat Man and Little Boy – to Japan, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. The flyover was amazing to witness, and even more impressive than these magnificent machines that changed the course of history was the large number of people – young and old – who came to the National Mall or watched from the windows of their offices or found a spot along the river to stop and look up all for the purpose of honoring those who sacrificed their lives so we can live with the freedoms we have today. Thank you WWII Allied Veterans from around the world!