President Barack Obama has led VE Day events in Washington, marking the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War Two.The president hailed veterans and those who supported the war effort – especially women – calling them a generation that “saved the world”.
For nearly an hour, vintage war planes roared over Washington, symbolising key battles of the conflict that killed over 40m people in six years of war.
Thousands attended the event.
There were street parties across the UK and elsewhere in Europe when Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945, bringing to a close six years of war.
The flyover included over 50 aircraft, which represent how aircraft technology evolved over the period of the war.
One plane from the flyover was forced to make an unscheduled landing at nearby Reagan National Airport.
An airport authority spokesman told the Dailyreleased the pilot of the Curtiss Helldiver was uninjured after safely landing the plane, following a radio call to report mechanical issues.
Earlier in his weekly radio and internet address, the president paid special tribute to the women “manning the home front”, many of whom worked in factories to aid the war effort.
He also called on Americans to continue standing with its allies in Europe “on behalf of our common values”.
“This was the generation that literally saved the world – that ended the war and laid a foundation for peace,” Mr Obama said in his weekly address, which was released a day early so it would coincide with the memorial day.
“We will be forever grateful for what these remarkable men and women did, for the selfless grace they showed in one of our darkest hours,” he said.
Up to 10,000 people were expected at the event in Washington, including 300-500 of the last living veterans of the war, Agence France Presse reported.
The flyover is the first time civilian-owned aircraft have been allowed to fly over Washington since the attacks of 11 September 2001, when the US capital became a prohibited airspace.
A tale of two veterans…
- Merle Hancock’s B17 was shot down over Germany during a raid, he was held as a POW during the war and witnessed fellow American captives die from dysentery as Germans marched them 600 miles from Gross Tychow to Cologne
- Bud Anderson piloted the famous P51-Mustang over Germany during the war and shot down 16 Luftwaffe, earning him the title of “Triple Ace”, he laughs now at the “greatest generation” tag, saying “We really were doing what we had to.”Ceremonies around the world are marking the occasion. In the UK, the main party leaders, after a late night awaiting election results, attended a ceremony at the Cenotaph in London.
In Reims, the capital of France’s champagne region, where the German surrender was signed, four days of events have been planned.
The Champs Elysees in Paris was closed to traffic so that a procession of motorcades and mounted military escorts could make their way to the Arc de Triomphe, the site of France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
And in Germany, officials gathered at Berlin’s Reichstag parliament building to mark the end of the war in an hour-long commemoration ceremony.