Dozens of WW2 aircraft will fly over the National Mall in Washington D.C. on May 8, organized into formations and spaced at regular intervals, beginning at 12:10 p.m. EDT. See our Flyover Viewers’ Guide for tips on where to watch. Scroll down for information on each of the airplanes, in the order they will appear. (You can also download these spotter cards as a printable PDF or view them on your smartphone (at airspacemag.com/spotter).
More World War II trainers fly today than any type of aircraft from the war, partly because so many were built and partly because as trainers, they had to be simple, forgiving, and sturdy.
- Boeing Stearman
- Piper L-Bird
- North American T-6s/SNJ
- Cessna/Beech Twin Bomber Trainer
Several P-40s were able to scramble to attack Japanese fighters on December 7, 1941, the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. At the time, the Curtiss P-40 was one of the most advanced fighters in U.S. service.
- Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
Led by then Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, 16 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers launched from the aircraft carrier Hornet to bomb Tokyo in retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor. Knowing they couldn’t return to the carrier, the pilots planned to land in China; after crash landing or ditching in the ocean, 69 of 80 pilots made it back to U.S. territory.
- North American B-25 Mitchell
The first major U.S. offensive in the Pacific War, the fighting in Guadalcanal was mainly a naval and Marine operation, helped along by a motley collection of airplanes, referred to as the Cactus Air Force. The campaign weakened the Japanese forces and strengthened U.S. resolve.
- Bell P-39 Airacobra
- P-63 Kingcobra
Battle of Midway
Between June 4 and 7, 1942, this battle between aircraft launched from carriers was the turning point of the war in the Pacific. The Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber was responsible for sinking four Japanese aircraft carriers.
- Consolidated PBY Catalina
- Grumman F4F/FM-2 Wildcat
- Douglas SBD Dauntless
The twin-engine Lockheed P-38 Lightning was one of the most capable fighters of the war. Its long range made it the fighter chosen to intercept the Mitsubishi “Betty” bombers carrying the general staff of Admiral Isokuru Yamamoto, the commander of the Japanese fleet, on April 18, 1943.
- Lockheed P-38 Lightning
A 14-month series of bombing raids against oil refineries in Ploesti, Rumania in 1943 and 1944 diminished, at a cost of hundreds of B-24 bombers, the supply of gasoline for German vehicles.
- Consolidated B-24 Liberator
North American P-51 Mustangs were the primary, long-range fighter escorts for Allied bombers headed to Berlin and other German cities. The first U.S. heavy bombers struck Berlin in March 1944. The formations were enormous: On that first mission, 730 bombers struck, escorted by 800 fighters.
- North American P-51 Mustang
In a single week in February 1944, U.S. bombers flew 3,500 sorties against German aircraft manufacturing centers. Although both sides suffered losses, the Luftwaffe was badly mauled, leaving few fighters to resist the coming Normandy invasion.
- Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
On June 6, 1944, British and American forces landed in Normandy to liberate western Europe from German occupation. Douglas C-47 Skytrains towed gliders and carried paratroopers across the English Channel. Medium bombers, mainly Martin B-26 Marauders, were successful against the German forces dug in behind the beaches.
- Douglas C-47/R4D Skytrain
Philippine Sea / Leyte Gulf
The Battle of the Philippine Sea was known as the “Marianas Turkey Shoot” because U.S. Navy Hellcat fighters shot down high numbers of Japanese aircraft, further weakening a limping Japanese air force. Four months later, the navies fought the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which finished off the Japanese surface fleet.
- Grumman TBM Avenger
- Grumman F6F Hellcat
- Grumman F8F Bearcat
- Curtis SB2C Helldiver
Battle of the Bulge
In December 1944, the German army launched its last offensive, intended to drive a wedge through the Allied forces. The Allies held, but the U.S. Army lost 100,000 troops in a series of desperate battles.
- Douglas A-26 Invader
- Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
The name of this Japanese island, eight miles square and 750 miles south of Tokyo, will always make Americans think of U.S. Marines. Supported by F4U Corsairs, the Marines fought a bloody, five-week battle beginning in February 1945 to secure airfields that would become emergency landing sites for B-29s carrying nuclear weapons.
- Vought FG-1D Corsair
Final Air Offensive
In fighting between June and August 1944, Allied forces seized the island of Tinian, 1,500 miles south of Tokyo, and began constructing air bases. That October, B-29 bombers began arriving. The B-29 could fly a round trip between the Tinian and Tokyo in 12 hours. Although the firebombing of Tokyo caused more casualties, the two atomic bombs dropped by Boeing B-29s on Hiroshima (August 6) and on Nagasaki (August 9) ended the war.
- Boeing B-29 Superfortress