Arsenal of Democracy: World War II Victory Capitol Flyover


Click HERE for the Spotter cards for the flyover  



Photo by Paul Bowen

Trainer Formation

  • Boeing Stearmans
  • Piper L-Birds
  • North America T-6s/SNJs
  • Cessna/Beech Twin Bomber Trainers

America Trains For War

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt made his speech first describing America as the Arsenal of Democracy in December 1940, many people well understood that war was on the horizon. In preparation for this anticipated war the American Industrial complex was mobilized to produce modern weapons, not least of which was the airplane – with automobile manufacturers even pitching in.

With aircraft production steadily on the rise, who would fly these new aircraft? Schools to train airmen were rapidly established across the United States. Hundreds of thousands of Americans would answer the call to serve in the air, undergoing rigorous training to prepare them for a different kind of war.

Click HERE for the formation lineup.


Photo by Kevin Hong

Pearl Harbor

  • Curtis P-40 Warhawks

A Sleeping Giant Awakens

Dec. 7, 1941 would bring the United States screaming into the ever expanding global conflict. There is no one event which galvanized the people of the United States more so than the sudden and deliberate attack the Japanese launched on U.S. forces in Hawaii. It was their intention to wipe out the Pacific fleet in its anchorage, which had been thought to be impervious to torpedo attack from the air.

By mid-day, that fateful Sunday, it was clear, the anchorage could be attacked – and the fleet could be brought to the brink of destruction. From amid the flames and wreckage however, a terrible resolve began to fill the most powerful nation on earth. A sleeping giant had been awakened.

Click HERE for the formation lineup.


Photo by Kelli Gutow

Doolittle Raid

  • North American B-25 Mitchells

The War Comes to Japan

Pearl Harbor was followed swiftly by Japanese attacks across the breadth of the Pacific. Defeat after defeat beset American forces. Wake Island, the Philippines – one by one the forward outposts fell. Something had to be done to shatter the Japanese sense of invincibility, but with the enormous distances across the Pacific, compiling a plan was difficult. What was produced was a child of necessity, where Army medium bombers intended for use on land would take off from a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. Bomb key Japanese cities and head on to land in China. The mission itself faced tough decisions and harsh consequences, but went down in the history books as a spectacular triumph.

Click HERE for the formation lineup.


Photo by Paul Bowen

Guadalcanal Campaign

  • Bell P-39 Airacobras
  • P-63 Kingcobras

Thrusting Towards Japan

While the U.S. had been caught off guard by the speed of the Japanese advance across the pacific, U.S. forces were ready to strike back – hard – by August 1942. The Guadalcanal Campaign would be directed at capturing key airfields and supply bases in the Solomon Islands which, if held by the Japanese would isolate the United States from its Allies, Australia and New Zealand. While the fight could be characterized as a brutal up-close brawl in the dense jungles of the Island, the aircraft stationed there came to play a key roll in the campaign as well.

Click HERE for the formation lineup.

Photo by Paul Bowen

Battle of Midway

  • Consolidated PBY Catalinas
  • Grumman F4F/FM-2 Wildcats
  • Douglas SBD Dauntless

Turning the Tide In the Pacific

Hot on the heels of the Doolittle Raid, the U.S. Navy’s carrier forces had begun to actively seek the Japanese carriers, hopping at each opportunity to even the playing field. While the encounter at Coral Sea was costly for both sides, it had cost the U.S. as much as it had gained. Something would need to happen to give the United States an edge. This edge was gained when Naval Intelligence who had been deciphering pieces of Japanese coded transmissions determined that the next Japanese attack would fall on the tiny Midway Atoll. An invasion which would certainly be supported by the Japanese carriers. Midway would be the bait – and the trap would be sprung by the USS Enterprise, USS Yorktown, and USS Hornet. In the final accounting of the Battle, the U.S. lost 1 carrier, to the Japanese 4 (each of which had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor) – a resounding victory, and a turning point in the Pacific War.

Click HERE for the formation lineup.


Photo by Paul Bowen

Yamamoto Shootdown

  • Lockheed P-38 Lightnings

Lightnings Strike

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was the architect of Japanese Naval strategy in the Pacific, and had personally planned the attack on Pearl Harbor – and when broken Japanese codes revealed that he would by flying around the South Pacific inspecting Japanese bases, American forces were eager to bring down his aircraft. On April 18, 1943, sixteen P-38s succeeded in intercepting and downing the admiral’s airplane – which crashed into the jungle below.

Click HERE for the formation lineup.

Photo by Scott Slocum


Ploesti Raid

  • Consolidated B-24 Liberators

Into the Smoke and Flames

Officially known as Operation Tidal Wave – the Ploesti Raid was organized targeting Romanian oil refinery complexes around the town of Ploesti which was a major center for the production of Axis petroleum products being used in the War. It was thought that if a sizable force of bombers could fly to Romania from an Allied base – that their bombs could disrupt oil production and bring the war to a more expedient end. The attack was deemed unsuccessful because it lead to no curtailment of overall product output, even though the refinery complexes were set ablaze and damaged by the raid. Raids on the complexes continued throughout the war, with varying degrees of success.

Click HERE for the formation lineup.


Photo by Paul Bowen

Escorting the Bombers

  • North American P-51 Mustangs

Big Fight, Little Friends

Pre-war bomber designs focused on defensive armament – because their long range meant that they were expected to pass beyond the range of friendly escort fighters. In practice, this did not work – and U.S. Bomber formations in Europe suffered staggering losses on early missions over occupied Europe. Particularly horrific events stand out in history – The Schweinfurt-Regensburg Mission is an example of these early raids – where 60 bombers were lost in a single afternoon and 95 were heavily damaged leaving 557 men Missing in Action, about half were imprisoned by the Germans. Something had to change, and quickly – the U.S. was losing Air Superiority over Europe because of their enormous losses. Enter the Little Friends.

Click HERE for the formation lineup.


Photo by Paul Bowen

Big Week

  • Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses

Flying the Fortresses on the Offensive

Formally known as Operation Argument, Big Week was planned as a series of attacks by allied strategic bombers flying from bases in England and Italy. It was intended to lay waste to the German aircraft production industry. The attack had almost no impact on the German aircraft factories and their production capabilities. The lasting impact of the Big Week was that the Luftwaffe’s aerial defense squadrons had been nearly neutralized by the new P-51 Mustang. Approximately 17 percent of the Luftwaffe’s trained defensive pilots were killed in a single week. Air superiority shifted to the Allies in February 1944, not because of destroyed factories, but because the Luftwaffe had a critical shortage of trained airmen.

Click HERE for the formation lineup.


Photo by Paul Bowen


  • Douglas C-47/R4D Skytrain
  • B-26/A-26s

Falling Into France

As the War progressed, it became increasingly obvious that it was necessary to open a Western front against the Germans, which would hopefully ease the pressure on the Soviets in the East – the Allied landings in Sicily and later Italy – had partially served this purpose, but the terrain there favored the strong German defense – and landing sites in Northern France began to be considered for an operation of unparalleled scope scheduled for the Spring of 1944. The start of the operation was delayed by planners – and later by weather – eventually occurring on June 6, 1944.

Click HERE for the formation lineup.


Photo by Paul Bowen

Marianas Turkey Shoot

  • Grumman TBM Avengers
  • Grumman F6F Hellcat
  • Grumman F8F Bearcats
  • Curtis SB2C Helldiver

The Great Turkey Shoot

The Battle of the Philippine Sea was a naval battle which eliminated the remainder of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s carriers – completely marginalizing the threat they had once posed. The battle itself occurred alongside the sea-borne invasion of the Marianas Islands by the Marine Corps. Yamamoto’s successor Admiral Koga sought to engage the U.S. Navy in a single battle which would see the U.S. Carriers destroyed. He imagined that catching them in the midst of an amphibious operation would be ideal – however advances in American training and equipment, meant that the airmen of Task Force 58 would deliver a knock-out blow to the Japanese instead.

Click HERE for the formation lineup.


Photo by Paul Bowen

Battle of the Bulge

  • Republic P-47 Thunderbolts

Defending the Line

Contemporary Media coined the phrase Battle of the Bulge, for what Allied high command described as the Ardennes Counteroffensive. It represented the last major German effort to push the Western Allies back before they could cross the Rhine. It was intended to drive a wedge into allied lines, separating the American forces from their allies, and in turn from their supplies. The Germans imagined that by encircling 4 separate Allied Armies, that they could sue for a peace with the Western Allies which would allow them to focus their resources on the Eastern front. Understanding that the effective use of Allied Airpower was the recipe for disaster, the Germans were careful to plan their operation around a period of poor weather. The force of the initial German attack on Dec. 14, 1944 sent U.S. forces reeling – the hard and fast blows being dealt by the German armored units meant that U.S. forces which were not wiped out, were left without an effective way to regroup. Amidst the chaos however, some units held their positions, waiting for the weather to improve.

Click HERE for the formation lineup.


Photo by Paul Bowen

Iwo Jima

  • Vought FG-1D Corsairs

Fighting for Every Inch

Understanding that conquering the vastness of the Pacific could take a very long time, and cost a huge number of lives the U.S. Armed Forces adopted a strategy of island hopping, whereby they would skip past heavily fortified Japanese Islands, isolating them from supplies and reinforcements. This would allow the U.S. to access strategic islands across the Pacific without having to beat the Japanese back on every single island they occupied. One of the Islands identified to be captured was Iwo Jima – its black volcanic sand beaches would soon become the scene of horrific fighting, as the Japanese – against all reason, fought to retain every last inch of the island.

Click HERE for the formation lineup.


Photo by Kevin Hong

Final Air Offensive

  • Boeing B-29 Superfortress 

Onward to Victory

Even as Nazi Germany surrendered in the Spring of 1945, the war looked set to continue into 1946, with no sign that the Japanese were going to relent. Allied forces knuckled down for what they knew would be a long slog against a seemingly intractable enemy, none of them knowing that August would bring a cataclysmic series of events which would force the Empire of Japan to its knees, ending the War, and saving millions of lives.

Click HERE for the formation lineup.


Missing Man Formation to “Taps”

  • TBM Avenger
  • Mix of Fighter Aircraft

Honor the Fallen

Over 12 million Americans answered the nation’s call over the course of the Second World War – 407,000 servicemen would pay the ultimate price for freedom. Meeting death on the ground and in the skies over war-torn continents, or in the seas between them, the cost of ultimate victory must never be forgotten. The Missing Man formation serves to remind us of those who sacrificed their future for that of our nation, and is a tradition which dates back to World War II. The symbolic moment when a single aircraft breaks formation and soars skyward, leaving behind the others, albeit with a missing man in their ranks.
Click HERE for the formation lineup.

Download the Arsenal of Democracy: World War II Victory Capitol Flyover Fact Sheet.



Click HERE for the Spotter cards for the flyover  



Aircraft listed have agreed to participate, but due to factors such as weather or mechanical issues, participating aircraft are subject to change without notice.

Arsenal for Democracy is a 501(c)(3) organization established under the sponsorship of the Commemorative Air Force. Tax ID 74-1484491.

1400 K Street, N.W. Ste. 801  Washington, D.C. 20005 | 202-393-1504 |   | DONATE