Several formations of vintage aircraft from World War II buzzed the National Mall on Friday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the allied victory in Europe, or V-E Day.
A total of 56 planes participated in the event, from small trainers to P-51 Mustang fighters to the mighty B-29 Superfortress bomber. They took off from regional airports in Virginia and flew along the Potomac River into normally highly restricted airspace above the National Mall.
Crowds cheered as the decades-old propeller-driven aircraft thundered over the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and the Capitol building. One of the Mustangs ran into difficulty and was forced to make an emergency landing at Reagan National Airport after losing hydraulic pressure.
The event, called Arsenal of Democracy Flyover, involved more than a dozen formations of aircraft owned and operated by nonprofits and other historical organizations, including the Texas-based Commemorative Air Force. It was sponsored in part by aerospace and defense companies.
Bob Vaucher, a 96-year-old resident of Bridgewater, New Jersey, who retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Air Corps, was among the few hundred World War II veterans who gathered at the war memorial on the Mall for a wreath-laying ceremony before the flyover.
Vaucher said he was delighted to see so many vintage planes coming together to celebrate the anniversary.
"It's fantastic," he said in an earlier interview with Military.com. "In my wildest dreams, I wouldn't have thought that at the age of 96 I would see every airplane that the Air Force had in World War II fly over the capital of the United States. That's a happening to behold in your lifetime."
Vaucher also said it was an educational opportunity for younger generations.
“Most youth today do not realize how precious the freedom is that we have,” he said. “And that it can be taken away from us if we went and let it happen.”
Tens of thousands of spectators watched the flyover, including many from the rooftops of buildings downtown. A statement on the event's website said a video archive of the flyover will be available within one to two days. A detailed list of the formations was posted on the site beforehand.
Many of the planes that flew in the event will also be on display from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at email@example.com