Vintage aircraft filled the skies over Washington, D.C., on Friday to salute the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (V-E) Day, which marked the end of World War II in Europe.
Wave after wave of World War II fighters, bombers, trainers, and transports—more than 50 in all—thundered over the Potomac River and the National Mall.
At the National World War II Memorial, where the day began with a wreath-laying ceremony, many World War II veterans gathered to watch the day’s events. Along the mall, thousands of onlookers clapped, waved, and snapped pictures as a parade of P-51 Mustangs, B-25 Mitchells, B-17 Flying Fortresses, Corsairs, and other types flew 1,000 feet overhead. Drawing special attention was the only flying B-29 Superfortress in the world, as it flew solo and gracefully banked over the Lincoln Memorial.
Called the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover, the event was a year in the making, said organizer Peter Bunce. Congressman Sam Graves of Missouri, an avid pilot, contacted Bunce in May 2014 to figure out how to bring the World War II aircraft over the nation’s capital to honor WWII heroes. Organizers spent months coordinating the event with pilots and historic aircraft owners, and meeting with government agencies to get approvals for the flyover, in what is usually restricted airspace over the capital.
“Since we can’t drive tanks down Constitution Avenue or put ships in the Tidal Basin, the warbirds are the perfect platform to honor our greatest generation,” said Bunce, himself a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot during the 1980s and 1990s.
Congressman Graves flew one of four planes in the final maneuver of the 50-minute flyover, a traditional missing-man formation. As three of the planes flew level, one plane pulled up and away, symbolizing a departure to the heavens of those who have died.