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Summary

  1. Fifty-six World War Two-era military aircraft have flown over the National Mall in Washington to mark VE Day
  2. Seventy years ago, the Axis powers, led by Nazi Germany, surrendered in Europe
  3. The flyover began shortly after midday local time, watched by hundreds of veterans
  4. This is the first time civilian-owned aircraft have been allowed to fly above the National Mall since the 9/11 attacks

Live Reporting

By Tom Geoghegan, Paul Blake and Taylor Kate Brown

All times stated are UK

And that concludes our coverage of the VE day flyover. For more developments on the commemorations, go to bbc.com/news. Thank you for joining us.

A tale of two wars

The BBC spoke to two World War Two veterans at the event who had very different experiences.

"War is hell, it truly is, its bad, really bad," Merle Hancock says, whose B-17 was shot down over Germany during a raid.

Hancock
BBC

Hancock was held as a prisoner of war, witnessing fellow Americans captives die from dysentery as Germans marched them hundreds of miles from Poland to Germany to avoid liberation by Russian forces.

"If you couldn't get up the Germans would either bayonet you or shoot you." he said. For his service, the US Army awarded Mr Hancock a purple heart and a silver star.

Meanwhile, Bud Anderson said he lived his dreams as he piloted the famous P51-Mustang over Germany during the war and shot down 16 Luftwaffe.

Bud Anderson
BBC

"They call us the greatest generation and I kind of laugh about that we really were doing what we had to do."

Mr Anderson would later serve as a commander of a fighter wing in Vietnam before retiring from the service to become a test pilot for McDonnell Douglas.

As the flyover draws to a close, it's worth remembering the note President Harry Truman sent to Prime Minister Churchill upon the surrender of Germany:

With the unconditional surrender of all the armies of Nazidom and the liberation of the oppressed people of Europe from the evils of barbarism, I wish to express to you, and through you to Britain's heroic Army, Navy and Air Forces, our congratulations on their achievements. The Government of the United States is deeply appreciative of the splendid contribution of all the British Empire forces and of the British people to this magnificent victory. With warm affection, we hail our comrades-in-arms across the Atlantic.

Emergency landing

One of the vintage planes had to make an unscheduled landing at nearby Washington Reagan International Airport.

The pilot radioed the airport to say that he was experiencing mechanical problems and was unhurt.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority tells the BBC incidents like these are a "fairly common occurrence" and that traffic was not disrupted because the airport was closed for the ceremony.

Wally Pede, a B-17 navigator said the event was "great" for veterans.

Pilot navigator b17 in the war
BBC

Missing man

The Missing Man Formation roars over the World War II Memorial in Washington. One plane broke from the pack, soaring skyward, and leaving the others to fly on alone - symbolising a missing man in their ranks.

Over 12m Americans served during the war, and 407,000 servicemen lost their lives.

Bill Stein, a former B-17 pilot, was shot down during the war.

Bill Stein B17 pilot
BBC

The next formation is one C-47 Skytrain and one C-53 Skytrooper. One thousands C-47s were used on D-Day to drop paratroopers into France.

Up to 10,000 people were expected at today's event, including 300-500 of the last living veterans of the war.

VE Day in Washington

World War II re-enactors salute while the National Anthem plays during ceremony commemorating 70th Anniversary of VE Day at the National World War II Memorial
Getty Images
World War II re-enactors salute the National Anthem
World War II era planes fly over the National Mall during a ceremony to commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE Day
Reuters
World War II reenactors salute while the National Anthem plays during ceremony commemorating 70th Anniversary of VE Day at the National World War II Memorial
Getty Images

Now flying above the National Mall are the B-24 bomber and the P-51 Mustang. The B-24 was the plane Louis Zamperini, the subject of the book Unbroken, was flying in when he was shot down

This is the first time civilian-owned aircraft are allowed to overfly the National Mall since the attacks of 11 September 2011, the US Department of Defense says.

Following are more fighters planes, the PBY Catalina, the SBD Dauntless and the F4F Wildcat, which were crucial to the Midway and Guadcanal campaigns

B-52s

In the next formation are three B-25 bombers. B-25s were part of the Doolittle Raid, which took major Japanese cities by surprise.

Plane factory
Getty Images
Planes were mass produced at the Bell Aircraft Niagra Falls assembly plant, seen here circa 1941

Some quick facts on the number of aircraft produced during World War II:

  • 1940: 6,000 military aircraft
  • 1944: a little less than 100,000 military aircraft
  • Total war effort production: more than 300,000 military aircraft, plus 27 aircraft carriers and 107 escort carriers

Source: US Department of Defense

National Mall
Getty Images

A couple dances the jitterbug at the National World War II Memorial in Washington.

Next up are the Flying Tigers, the P-40 Warhawks. As the Japanese began to attack Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, some pilots rushed to these planes to try to provide some sort of defence against the surprise attack.

These first planes, the PT-17, the Piper L-4 and the T6 Texan, were the primary training aircraft for Allies in World War Two.

The aircraft are flying in historical formations that signify the decisive battles of World War II, the US Department of Defense says.

The flyover is being coordinated by the Commemorative Air Force, which is based in Dallas, Texas.

The first formation has begun passing over the National Mall.

We will be live tweeting on the @

BBCNewsUS Twitter account, including broadcasting via Periscope from our vantage point on the roof of the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC.

Meet FIFI

FIFI
BBC

Meet FIFI, a fully restored B-29 Superfortress. Of the nearly 4,000 built during World War Two, there are only 25 that remain in existence. FIFI is the only one currently certified to fly.

FIFI, who is flying alone in a formation, may be identified from the ground by her distinctive glass dome which houses the Norden bombsight.

FIFI bombsight
BBC
inside FIFI
BBC

FIFI was found in the 1970s at a California Navy proving grounds where she was being used as a missile target. She costs $10,000 (£6,500) an hour to fly according to her owners, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF).

Tiki girl
BBC
propeller
BBC

Tuskegee Airmen honour

Bradford Lang
BBC

"History for a lot of folks is so long ago," one of today's pilots, Bradford Lang, tells the BBC. "There are a lot of things that folks take for granted."

Lang, a commercial airline pilot who flies for the Commemorative Air Force in his spare time, will be flying the P51-C Redtail.

P51
BBC

Brad shares a special connection with his plane - his father was a Tuskegee Airman, the nickname given to the all African-American squadron of the Army Air Force. It was the first time in US history African-Americans were allowed to fly in the military.

In over 200 missions during the war, the Tuskegee airmen never lost a single plane to enemy fire, a record unmatched in the war.

"No matter what your challenges are you can rise above them like the Tuskegee Airmen did."

Bradford Lang
BBC

The event is scheduled to begin at 12:10 local time (16:10 GMT) and will last just under an hour.

Organisers say they have decided to hold the event because it is likely to be the last milestone anniversary where a significant number of WW2 veterans will be alive. Most, if not all are over 90 years old.

In this Monday, March 23, 2015, photo, Leland "Bud" Lewis, a WWII veteran, gives a thumbs up during the OBON 2015 Returning Ceremony at the Barbey Centerin Astoria, Oregon.
AP

A first since 9/11

The flyover will consist over more than a dozen formations - and will be the first time civilian-owned aircraft have flown over the National Mall since the 9/11 attacks.

Fifty-six World War Two-era military aircraft will fly over the National Mall in Washington, DC in honour of the 70th anniversary of VE Day.

Welcome to the BBC's live coverage of the Arsenal of Democracy flyover on the National Mall in Washington DC.

FIFI propeller
BBC