Warbirds Have Arrived in Hawaii for WWII 75th Anniversary Celebrations

Photo by Taigh Ramey

We have all watched in fascination over the past week or so as fourteen WWII-era aircraft were loaded aboard LHD 2 USS Essex for the journey to Hawaii to take part in 75th anniversary celebrations for the end of WWII in the Pacific. At a press conference on August 5th, Co-Chairs of the 75th Commemoration of the End of WWII announced the pending arrival of these classic combat aircraft which are slated to participate in Oahu flyovers as part of the celebratory events. The airplane arrived at Pearl Harbor yesterday aboard USS Essex (LHD 2). The fourteen historic airplanes are scheduled to conduct a series of flyovers around Oahu on Aug. 29 and 30, and in conjunction with the Sept. 2 ceremony aboard the Battleship Missouri Memorial.

The Warbirds arrive at Pearl Harbor aboard USS Essex (LHD 2) as part of a lift of opportunity for the 75th Commemoration of the End of WWII. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)

Salute Their Service, Honor Their Hope is the theme for the Commemorations in Hawaii in recognition of the veterans and civilians who participated in WWII and contributed to the actions that led to the end of the war. The 75th Commemoration of the End of WWII will include three Legacy of Peace Aerial Parades and will culminate with the Official 75th WWII Commemoration Ceremony on September 2nd. Warbird flyovers will be as follows: August 29th, Around Oahu; August 30th, Connecting the Military Bases; and September 2nd, Fly Over the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and Pearl Harbor to Waikiki. The Commemoration is supported in part by the generosity of sponsors including the national presenting sponsor, Linda Hope who represents the Bob Hope Legacy as part of the Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation.

“We are honored to join the State of Hawaii in supporting the 75th Commemoration series of events. The World War II Warbird aerial performances are a symbolic reminder of our Greatest Generation’s will and determination that ultimately led to victory. Indeed, the legacy of our World War II heroes lives on in the Pacific,” said ADM Phil Davidson, Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

At the press conference, organizers provided updates on the 75th Commemoration events, as well as detailed measures that will be implemented to ensure the safety of WWII veterans and their guardians; warbird crews; Hawaii, U.S. and Foreign dignitaries; media; and our community. For our WWI veterans and their guardians joining us from the U.S. Mainland or the Neighbor Islands, Southwest Airlines is the exclusive airline partner.

75th Commemoration Committee Co-Chairs, Maj Gen Darryll Wong, USAF (Ret) and Capt Steve Colón, USN (Ret) were joined by committee members, all of whom have worked diligently to create commemoration programs and events to honor the heroes of our Greatest Generation who fought on the battlefield and served on the home front.

“This 75th WWII Commemoration is especially significant because of the role all of our islands played in the efforts to help bring global peace, and our historic connections with the military, then and now,” stated Co-Chairs Maj Gen Darryll Wong, USAF (Ret) and Capt Steve Colón, USN (Ret). “Our primary efforts are focused on WWII veterans from around the islands and outside Hawaii, who are passionate and driven to be here to commemorate the end of WWII 75 years ago.”

Some details about the herculean efforts from multiple civilian and military organizations to coordinate, manage and transport the Warbirds to Hawaii were shared. More information about each aircraft, owners, pilots, and images will soon be available on the official commemoration website.

“For many of our WWII veterans, these Warbirds hold very special significance, unleashing memories that, in many cases, they never shared,” stated Elissa Lines, Executive Director of Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. “To have these Warbirds in Hawaii, flying over the very deck of the USS Missouri where the Instrument of Surrender was signed on September 2, 1945 ending this global conflict, to honor all WWII veterans, is a tribute that will live on in the hearts of all who see it. We can’t thank the DoD and our U.S. Navy enough for making this possible.”

The Warbirds arriving in Honolulu on August 10th will include:

A  North American SNJ/AT- 6 Texan which was the most widely used advanced training aircraft in the allied inventory and will be piloted by John Johnson. Four AT-6 Texans will be piloted by Kim Middleton, Jason Karlin, Joe Fisher, and Bruce Graham.

North American B-25 Mitchell owned by David Prescott, represents a medium bomber used by almost all Allied air forces. B-25 bombers were used in the famous Doolittle Raid on Tokyo.

Michael Polley will pilot a Grumman FM-2 Wildcat that was a carrier and land-based fighter flown by the U.S. Navy and Marines in battles such as Guadalcanal, the Coral Sea, Midway and the Solomons.

Photo by Taigh Ramey

Grumman F8F Bearcat, owned by John O’Connor was the next generation of Grumman fighters. While they didn’t see combat during WWII, they were just becoming operational at war’s end. The type is still considered one of the foremost piston-engine fighter designs of the WWII era.

Preparing the Bearcat for her ride up onto Essex. (photo by Taigh Ramey)
The Bearcat being prepared for loading. (photo by Taigh Ramey)
The Bearcat as it is loaded aboard USS Essex. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christina Ross/Released)

Boeing-Stearman Model 75 was the type of aircraft most widely used primary training aircraft in WWII. More than 10,000 were built. Later, many civilians purchased them to use them for crop dusting and aerobatic demonstrators. Dustin Mosher will fly the Stearman.

Stearman (Boeing) N2S-4 Kaydet BuNo 27984 being prepared for loading aboard the Essex. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christina Ross/Released)

Grumman TBM Avenger, brought into service in 1942, Avengers were the primary US Navy torpedo bombers in WWII and were used for the first time at the Battle of Midway in early June, 1942. The TBM taking part is provided by Bruce Graham.

The Avenger and SNJ after loading aboard. (photo by Taigh Ramey)

Kendall Wagner will fly a North American P-51D Mustang which excelled as a long-range, high altitude bomber escort. The Mustang became well-known for escorting the bombers over Europe and was one of the first escort fighters over Berlin.

The process of raising the Mustang up onto Essex begins. (photo by Taigh Ramey)
Another view of the Mustang and Bearcat aboard USS Essex. (photo by Taigh Ramey)
The F8F and P-51 strapped down securely to the deck. (photo by Taigh Ramey)
Photo by Taigh Ramey

Two Consolidated/Boeing Canada PBY Catalina, made possible by Cory Pfaff and John O’Connor, were primarily used for long range patrol and reconnaissance missions, anti-submarine warfare, as well as search and rescue. Thirty three Catalinas were destroyed during the December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, leaving only 6 serviceable examples on the islands after the Imperial Japanese Navy departed the area.

Photo by Melissa Barr Hayerstay

A new type of high-performance trainer emerged following WWII, as our air technology exploded. The piston-engined  North American T-28 Trojan served with the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines beginning in the early 1950, and proved a successful ground attack aircraft in a variety of conflicts too. Dan Hill will pilot the T-28 coming to Hawaii aboard USS Essex.

More details and updates are available by visiting the official website at 75thwwiicommemoration.org


Many thanks indeed to Taigh Ramey who provided a number of photos for this article. Taigh had hoped to be bringing his Lockheed P2V Harpoon aboard Essex for the journey to Hawaii, but sadly mechanical issues made this impractical. Even so he helped to load the other aircraft safely aboard the carrier.

Aircorps Art Dec 2019

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