Planners for the upcoming 75th anniversary of the end of WWII are optimistically sticking to an ambitious schedule of events from August 29 to September 2 in Hawaii – despite continued uncertainty with COVID-19 restrictions.
The celebration, with the theme “Salute Their Service, Honor Their Hope” in recognition of the veterans and civilians who served and whose actions led to the end of the war, is scheduled to have several warbird flyovers and a ceremony. on or beside the battleship Missouri, site of Japan’s unconditional surrender in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945.
As of last week, more than 30 World War II veterans and their families from outside of Hawaii have pledged to come to Oahu for the events, said Tony Vericella, executive director of the 75th Committee. World War II Memorial in Hawaii.
Elissa Lines, executive director of the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, said in February that owners of 19 planes across the country had requested to participate in overflights.
Aircraft on the list at that time included a B-25 Mitchell bomber, A-26 Invader, SBD Dauntless dive bomber, P-40 Warhawk, TBF Avenger torpedo bomber, P-51 Mustang, F4F Wildcat, C-47 transport, PBY Catalina, F-8 Bearcat and T-6 Texan.
Much has changed since then with the coronavirus bulldozer across populations around the world, but there is still a possibility that US Navy ships heading to Hawaii for Rim of the Pacific shortened maritime exercises from the 17th to the 31st. August could take part of World War II with them. warbirds, officials said.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a Jan.27 memo that he is seeking a coordinated defense effort for an “opportunity” to bring up to 24 private warbirds to Oahu for the events to unfold. from August 29 to September 2.
“A priority for the Department of Defense is to tell the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world and to help all generations understand the price of freedom,” Esper said in the memo. . “As we approach the 75th anniversary of VJ Day (Victory over Japan) on September 2, 2020, I encourage all departments to seek opportunities to honor this milestone. “
Vericella said the involvement of veterans and others from the mainland hinges on lifting a 14-day self-quarantine for out-of-state arrivals and replacing it with a COVID-19 test before arrival.
Vericella spoke last week about events going as planned – even though so many more have been postponed due to the coronavirus. He noted that Hawaii “has done a phenomenal job of containing the spread of COVID here.”
“The thought really comes down to: September 2, 2020 is the 75th commemoration of the end of World War II,” he said in a telephone interview. “This date is this date. It’s not going to change. It is the historic and significant date of the end of the Second World War.
Delaying the commemoration would do veterans of the “greater generation” a disservice – and if they can’t be in Hawaii, the commemoration can be presented to them via live streams, Vericella said.
However, a tandem event in Washington, DC commemorating the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day scheduled for May 8 has been postponed due to the coronavirus. More than 100 planes were to fly in 24 formations above the National Mall and the National World War II Memorial. The flyby was postponed to September 25.
“We’re definitely moving forward with the 75th commemoration on roughly the same schedule we originally planned,” said Vericella. “Of course, all events involving people together are all going to be downsized in size and scope.”
He added that “we will make sure we follow state guidelines, city and county guidelines, and Hawaii Naval Region guidelines” for COVID-19 safety.
Some family members have “been very protective and careful of their family members in terms of traveling here,” he said. “But I would say the vast majority of those we have communicated with outside of Hawaii are absolutely determined (to come) if they are healthy enough to travel. COVID aside, they absolutely want to do it. “
Southwest Airlines is the airline’s exclusive sponsor, and veterans and a family member will be airlifted and accommodated at a local hotel. The commemoration committee is also looking for WWII veterans in Hawaii to attend the events.
“We really want the families of WWII veterans across the state of Hawaii to get in touch with us and let us know how to contact them so that we can really engage them more,” said Vericella.
Local veteran families can email Jayann @ 75thwwii commemoration.org or Tony @ 75thwwiicommem oration.org.
According to the Hawaii Group website at 75thwwiicommemoration.org/victory-in-the-pacific/hawaii-events, Wheeler Army Airfield, where more than 35 men were killed in aircraft strikes on December 7, 1941, will be the staging, take-off and landing site for several Legacy of Peace parades.
A community open house is scheduled in Wheeler from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on August 29. The first flypast around Oahu will take place from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on the same day.
“At this point, we’re still hoping that we’re going to get a number of WWII planes here with their owners and pilots and that they can go on parades as we’ve kind of planned.” , said Vericella.
He also said that “just like the talks about upcoming WWII veterans, if there are 10 WWII veterans out there or 100 WWII veterans there? , we are going to be excited. If there are a few planes that can do it, we’re going to be excited. “
A second World War II base-link flypast is scheduled from 1 pm to 2 pm on August 30.
The movie “1st to Fight: Pacific War Marines” will premiere on August 30 at the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. The Battleship Missouri Memorial will welcome former crew members on August 31. A commemoration dinner is scheduled for September 1.
The 75th official commemoration of the end of WWII will take place on the bridge or beside the Missouri on September 2, with a final flypast over the battleship and along the Waikiki coast. More than 800 bombers and other planes flew over the surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay in an overwhelming show of force.
Also on September 2, a parade is planned with an opening ceremony on the Kuroda grounds at Fort DeRussy in Waikiki at 5 pm, with the “Victory Parade” starting at 6 pm on Kalakaua Avenue.