What Might Have Been over Washington D.C.

Featuring the photography of  Shawn Byers, Mike Colaner, and Howard German.

The Arsenal of Democracy Fly Over, planned for September 2020, was the make-up date f0r the postponed May, 2020 Fly Over, planned to parade overhead the Mall in Washington D.C. This collective group of pilots and planes would have commemorated the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. The COVID-19 outbreak was the original reason that the Fly Over was postponed. As it came to pass, the autumnal date got “weathered out” by cloud ceilings and visibility, which were lower than the required minimums developed for safe passage through the tightly controlled airspace overhead Washington D.C. Originally, there were one hundred aircraft invited to participate, and around 75 aircraft agreed to take part in the parade over the Mall. The Fly Over would have presented a memorable living history performance of important chapters in World War II’s aviation history. 

Had the event taken place, the flying program called for twenty separate formations of aircraft, starting with the Civil Air Patrol and concluding with a Missing-Man tribute. In chronological order, these formations of aircraft represented historically significant World War II events. Below,  we have combined the theme of each formation with photos taken during the practice flying from Manassas VA and Culpeper VA airports from the week before the planned event. We’ve added some interesting facts about the aircraft that would have been part of the program. 

Daniel O. Myers wrote a pair of articles about the Arsenal of Democracy event. Three photographers from our journals – Shawn Byers, Mike Colaner and Howard German – happily photographed the practice flying sessions during the week prior to the September parade weekend. Since an abundance of great photos were taken, it  offered us an opportunity to publish more photos here in ClassicWarbirds.net. We still have full coverage of the large gathering of warbirds here, and in our sister publication – Photorecon.net.

Here are the twenty formations’ make-ups with what could have been many possible aircraft pairings.

1- Civil Air Patrol: Early during World War II, WACO biplanes were used by the U.S. Civil Air Patrol along coastlines. Duties included anti-submarine patrol, although this  1939 WACO UPF-7 aircraft wears training colors. 

2- America Trains for War: Primary trainers at the start of the war included Stearman/Boeing PT-17 and N2S biplanes like these.

3- Battle of Britain: Classic duo – Supermarine’s Spitfire (below in the photo) and Hawker’s Hurricane.

4- Pearl Harbor/ Flying Tigers: The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk was a primary fighter early in both the European and Pacific Theatres.

5- Doolittle Raiders: A huge morale booster, the Doolittle Raid on Japan used 16 aircraft carrier-launched, early model B-25s.

6- Battle of Midway: Grumman’s F4F Wildcat was both a Navy carrier-based and Marines land-based fighter. Britain’s Royal Navy also used the airframe, naming it the Martlet. This is a license-built FM-2 Wildcat built by General Motors. 

7- Guadalcanal Campaign: Bell’s unconventional P-39 Aircobra had its engine mounted behind the cockpit and was used primarily in the Pacific by U.S. forces.

8- Attacking Berlin: Some of the first bombing raids over Berlin were carried out by Royal Air Force Mosquito bombers.

9- Battle of the Atlantic: Consolidated built the PB4Y Liberator with twin vertical tails. This PB4Y Privateer wearing Coast Guard colors had a single tail and was used later in the War.

10- Long Range Fighter Escorts: North American P-51 Mustang fighters’ laminar-flow wing and Rolls Royce Merlin engine helped push the fighter to previously unseen performance by mid-War.

11- The Big Week: Early in 1944, the “Big Week” of strategic bombing included hundreds of B-17s, among the large U.S. Army Air Force and Royal Air Force effort.

12- D-Day: Paratroopers began the ground campaign in France on the eve of the Normandy Landings. Many troopers were carried aloft in C-47s wearing “Invasion Stripes” like these.

13- Battle of the Bulge: The Douglas A-26 Invader bomber/attack aircraft was just arriving in the European Theatre as the Battle of the Bulge occurred in late 1944.

14- Iwo Jima: Marine F-4U Corsairs, built by the Chance Vought company, bore a portion of the air support for the landing Marines.

15- The Final Act: B-29s operated from liberated Pacific islands during the last stages of the Pacific Theatre air war.

16- The Hump / Air Transport Command: Supplying the China/Burma/India Theatre with vital supplies and paratroop operations, C-46 and C-47 transports like these flew in naturally-dangerous mountainous and weather conditions.

17- Bearcats: After early Pacific naval air battles, fighters needed to have better climbing characteristics during combat to be more effective. One source also mentions an interceptor role against later Kamikaze attacks too. Grumman’s resulting F8F Bearcat arrived just a little too late to see battle in World War II, especially in the Pacific whose conditions necessitated it.

18- Air Battle of Chi Chi Jima: U.S. Navy Grumman TBM torpedo/bombers like this and Curtiss SB2C Helldivers bore the largest load of close air support of the “island hopping” bombing attacks in the Pacific.

19- Onward to Victory: The light liaison plane, such as this Stinson L-5 Sentinal, was used for naval and Army artillery spotting, communications and medivac missions as islands were invaded.

20- Missing Man Formation: “L-Bird” small utility aircraft that were “eyes in the sky” well before drones were invented. Flying low and slow, they endured many losses from anti-aircraft fire.

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