By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, May 5, 2015 – America will remember the millions who helped make possible the European theater victory in World War II with a flyover of the Capitol and National Mall area by historic aircraft Friday.
To mark the 70th anniversary of the end of fighting in Europe, or VE Day, aircraft from all periods of World War II will take to the skies over the nation’s capital during the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover.
Organizers expect hundreds of World War II veterans to gather at the National World War II Monument for ceremonies before the flyover.
The flyover — coordinated by the Commemorative Air Force based in Dallas — will feature more than 50 aircraft representing the evolution of aviation technology throughout the war. The aircraft will fly in historically sequenced formations signifying the decisive battles of the war. Led by trainers, the aircraft will represent battles from Pearl Harbor and Midway to D-Day and Iwo Jima, with a final missing man formation.
The fighter aircraft will fly out of Culpepper, Virginia, and the larger transports and bombers will stage at Manassas Regional Airport, Virginia.
The aircraft will be over the Capitol at 12:10 pm Friday.
‘Educational and Historic Value’
This is the first time civilian aircraft will be allowed to overfly the National Mall since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Reagan National Airport will be closed to incoming and outgoing flights from noon to 1 p.m.
A slew of federal agencies cooperated to make the VE Day flyover possible. Organizers worked with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration, the National Park Service, the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Capitol Police to receive clearance.
“The public interest is served by the educational and historic value of this single signature event in commemorating this significant milestone in history,” an FAA official wrote in approving the event.
The aircraft will fly at a minimum of 1,000 feet from west to east along Independence Avenue on the south side of the National Mall, and there will be a 30-second interval between flights.
America Enters the War
President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on America to become the Arsenal of Democracy during a speech in December 1940. At the time, Germany’s triumph seemed inevitable. The Nazi regime had taken Poland, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. Hitler had signed a pact with Soviet leader Josef Stalin to divide Eastern Europe, making the Nazis look unstoppable.
Britain, chased from the continent in May 1940, stood with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other commonwealth countries against the Nazis.
The United States was still recovering from the Great Depression when Roosevelt called upon America to support its allies. In five years, the United States did become the arsenal of democracy and much more.
The United States produced around 6,000 military aircraft in 1940. In 1944, it produced just short of 100,000. In total, the United States produced more than 300,000 military aircraft during the war and launched 27 full-size aircraft carriers and 107 escort carriers.
U.S. workers produced 60,000 tanks, compared to fewer than 20,000 turned out by German production lines. Americans also produced 13 million rifles and carbines.
In 1939, there were 334,473 personnel in all the U.S. armed forces. By VE Day, there were 12,209,238 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen under arms.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)
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