The North American B-25 Mitchell bombers, fly the Doolittle Raid formation during a flyover over near the Washington Monument over Washington, May 8, 2015.
The U.S. and Europe marked Friday the 70th anniversary of what is known as Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day – the day in 1945 when Nazi troops laid down their arms, ending World War II on the continent.
In the United States, a large array of World War II aircraft flew over Washington in honor of veterans in town for a ceremony at the World War II memorial.
Organizers billed the Arsenal of Democracy: World War II Victory Capitol Flyover as “one of the most diverse arrays of World War II aircraft ever assembled.”
Starting from a Virginia airfield, 15 types of aircraft swept over the mall from the Lincoln Memorial, veering off southerly just before reaching the Capitol’s restricted airspace.
The hourlong air show cast the planes in historically sequenced formations, beginning with Piper L-Birds, twin-engine Cessna/Beaches, and Boeing Stearmans.
“I remember them from World War II, but I was just a kid then,” said Lewis Ewing, celebrating his 81st birthday at the flyover with his son, Mike, and granddaughter Jen Ewing.
The eldest Ewing, a retired bank CEO in Winchester, Virginia, served with the U.S. Army in Korea, escorting American diplomats as they were transported by helicopter to unsuccessful negotiations for a peace plan. He left the service as a colonel; now he directs the national Korean War Veterans Association.
The flyover honored troops who served overseas and those at home who supported troops or who built the planes, ships and tanks that defeated Germany and the Axis powers.
The anniversary of the bloody war’s ending “reminds us of the price of freedom,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice said earlier at the World War II National Memorial, at a ceremony honoring veterans.
She noted one positive consequence: “On the home front, the war effort unleashed opportunities” for women in the workforce and for integration of the services.
Among the ceremony’s honorees was Colonel Charles McGee, one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American pilots.
Featured aircraft included Curtis P-40 Warhawks, used after Pearl Harbor, Grumman Wildcats flown in the Battle of Midway, and many others.
Some of the planes will be on exhibit Saturday at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport in suburban Virginia.
In his weekly address, released early for the occasion, U.S. President Barack Obama paid tribute to those who served in the war, calling them “the generation that literally saved the world.”
“Let’s make sure that we keep striving to fulfill our founding ideals—that we’re a country where no matter who we are or where we’re from or what we look like or who we love, if we work hard and take responsibility, every American will have the opportunity to make of our lives what we will,” the president said.
“Let’s stand united with our allies, in Europe and beyond, on behalf of our common values—freedom, security, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law around the world—and against bigotry and hatred in all their forms so that we give meaning to that pledge: ‘Never forget. Never again,'” he said.
French President Francois Hollande also called for unity, describing VE Day as “the victory of an ideal over a totalitarian ideology.”
In Paris – the scene of massive celebrations in 1945 after Germany surrendered – President Hollande placed a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also took part in the ceremony.
In Britain, numerous remembrance ceremonies were taking place Friday, in addition to concerts and street parties meant to re-create the spirit of the celebrations 70 years ago. Prime Minister David Cameron was participating in the commemorations, while Queen Elizabeth will attend a VE thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey on Sunday.
Russia, meanwhile, will commemorate the end of the war with a huge parade Saturday on Moscow’s Red Square, attended by international dignitaries.