In Honor of VE Day 1945

Today we honor the many sacrifices that were made seventy-seven years ago, when on May 8th, 1945 VE Day, Victory Europe was declared. The end of WWII in Europe had begun with the German surrender and while the war continued on in the Pacific and peace was not entirely secured yet in Europe, the end was in sight. Today is an important day to remember that hard-fought victory and the many sacrifices that were made.

WWII changed the lives of everyone. It was the second time in the same century that the world was engaged in conflict and sadly it was not the last time that nations were fighting each other. Kids and adults had to fight to secure peace. It was not an easy victory, it took time and many lives. As we go through these uncertain times now, let us not forget the past and most certainly not repeat it.

Seven years ago, I had the privilege to document the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover, in which 52 aircraft flew over the nation’s capital in honor of the 70th anniversary of VE Day. Over 800 veterans and 30,000 people were in attendance at the national mall. The Texas Flying Legends Museum brought eight aircraft in support of the flyover. This is what it was like for them.

10 and 80, How Time Flies!

You might have seen that title and wondered what the heck I was talking about. 10 years ago I went to Grimes Field in Urbana, OH for the 70th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. It was an event like no other and it cemented my love of aviation. There were 20 of the flying B-25’s in the world at one place at one time, it was the most ever seen together since WWII. Better than that four of the last surviving Doolittle Raiders were in attendance, along with Carol Glines an honorary raider, and one of the survivors of the USS Hornet CV-8 (I’m sorry to say I don’t recall his name at this time). Since then, Edward Saylor, Dick Cole, David Thatcher, and Thomas Griffin have all passed away with Dick Cole being the last of the raiders to go. Today marks the 80th anniversary of the raid that made them all famous.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, Roosevelt went to Congress to ask to declare a proclamation of war against Japan. Congress agreed and soon after Japan and Germany declared war on the US with the US declaring war on Germany. This would set off the United States’ involvement in WWII. Roosevelt went to his military leaders to come up with a strike against the heart of Japan in response to Pearl Harbor. A submarine commander came up with the idea of launching bombers from a carrier to attack mainland Japan. It was a bold and highly dangerous plan in which the precious American fleet would have to go well into the domain of the far superior Japanese fleet. 16 B-25 bombers launched from the USS Hornet on April 18th, 1942, and bombed mainland Japan before flying further onto China where the planes were to be handed over to American allies in China for further use in the war. This did not happen as all but 1 plane crashed due to bad weather and nightfall. The one surviving plane landed in Russia and was confiscated. The history of the raid is fascinating and many historians have spent a lot of time researching and interviewing survivors from all nations. This blog post hardly does it justice. You can read an older post of mine here to learn a little more but I would advise you to pick up Carol Glines, the Doolittle Raid for a more in-depth account of events.

Lastly, while the anniversary of the Doolittle Raid has always been about the brave men that took part in the raid itself, being able to remember and honor those folks wouldn’t have been possible without volunteers like those of the Children of the Doolittle Raiders, National Museum of the United States Air Force, all the private museums that fly and maintain the B-25’s and all the folks that are involved with these planes, the veterans and honestly those just helping to make these events function.

Remembering Pearl Harbor 80 Years Later

80 years ago today marked the beginning of four years of turmoil for the United States. While the rest of the world had already gone to war the US had stayed as neutral as it could be without declaring war. On December 7th, 1941 the US Navy was attacked at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese government. The next day Roosevelt asked congress to declare war on Japan and shortly after Germany. This launched us into World War II and for many December 7th is the day that will never be forgotten. Nor should it be.

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The events of Pearl Harbor have been studied for eighty years and new pieces of information are still being discovered. What happened there has for some become an obsession. It wasn’t just a military operation but a political statement that is as analyzed as any other major event. For those that haven’t studied the attack, it can be summed up much more easily, the day we went to war. The Japanese Zero, as seen above, for a long time was hated but now is treasured as a rare piece of history. The Zero was the primary plane launched by Japanese Carriers to bomb Pearl.

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Among the Zero’s many adversaries, the P-40 Warhawk was an early contender at Pearl and in the Aleutian Islands. The later contender the FG-1D Corsair fought in many battles over the Solomon Islands, up and done the slot.

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But one can never forget what happened that day and the many lives that were lost. While little remains of the Battleships and buildings that once covered Ford Island, Barabara’s Point, Hickam Field, and Pearl Harbor, the stories have lived on. If you’ve ever met a Pearl Harbor survivor then you’ve met someone who has lived through something that no one else can understand. Take a moment today and say thanks, for it would be a very different world today if not for the events that happened on December 7th.

Not Having the Right Lens

Photographers love having lots of gear, that is a known fact in this industry. The reality is sometimes having all that gear is justified because different scenarios result in needing it. Now how to know what is needed and what is not can be tricky but often comes down to experience. I knew when I got the call to fo flying this one beautiful Sunday afternoon that I would not have the right lens. Having been in biplanes before, the 18-35mm would just not be wide enough. A fisheye creates a better perspective but since I didn’t have it I had to make do with what I did have. Now the question is, is it worth getting?

It Only Takes One

Over the years, if you are a follower of my Dad and thus me, then you’ve probably heard the sentiment that it only takes one to make a shoot worthwhile. That’s a very true sentiment! While it’s always nice to have diversity it can also be very overwhelming to have too many options and thus you might end up not seeing all the details or best photo opportunities of just one subject.

The Summer Flyovers

Even if there are no airshows going on in your area, if you live by an agricultural area then odds are at some point you will see an air tractor flying overhead. These yellow, red, or white birds are often flying low over the wheat, alfalfa, or hay fields that encompass Gallatin valley. If you’re feeling the need to photograph some planes and there are no events in your area then maybe there’s an air tractor flying around.

DDay 77 Years Later

Today marks one of the largest military achievements in modern history. 77 years ago Operation Overlord, the allied plan to establish a foothold in occupied Europe, began. Thousands of naval ships launched one of the largest amphibious assaults on the beaches of Normandy, France. For months leading up to the invasion, disinformation was leaked out about the upcoming invasion to fool the German army to think the allies would be landing in Calais. A complex series of fake vehicles made of rubber were even made to fool aerial reconnaissance and German Spies. Britain was the staging ground for it all and it was one packed island before it was over.

Along with the men who went ashore on the landing, crafts were the Paratroopers that landed behind enemy lines in a joint effort to meet up with those on the ground and catch the Germans in between. It was a massively complex Operation with many variables that could go wrong. Without the efforts of D-Day, the events and longevity of WWII could have been much different.

VE Day 76 Years Later

Today we honor the many sacrifices that were made seventy-six years ago, when on May 8th, 1945 VE Day, Victory Europe was declared. The end of WWII in Europe had begun with the German surrender and while the war continued on in the Pacific and peace was not entirely secured yet in Europe, the end was in sight. Today is an important day to remember that hard-fought victory.

WWII changed the lives of everyone. It was the second time in the same century that the world was engaged in conflict and sadly it was not the last time that nations were fighting each other. Kids and adults had to fight to secure peace. It was not an easy victory, it took time and many lives. As we go through these uncertain times now, let us not forget the past and most certainly not repeat it.

Six years ago, I had the privilege to document the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover, in which 52 aircraft flew over the nation’s capital in honor of the 70th anniversary of VE Day. Over 800 veterans and 30,000 people were in attendance at the national mall. The Texas Flying Legends Museum brought eight aircraft in support of the flyover. This is what it was like for them.

Straight Plane or Straight Horizon?

The Hawker Hurricane is an amazing fighter plane with a very colorful history. It’s sad that so few exist in the world. At the time of its conception, it was a ground breaking plane with its retractable landing gear, speed, and armament. Like most planes, though it was merely a stepping stone along the line of the next great thing to come along. Still one of my favorites. While in England many years ago I had the chance to photograph a Hurricane on a beautiful evening shoot. This question popped up like has happened so many times in the past, do you level the subject or the background? I’ve dealt with this a lot and for me, the answer has always been the subject because that’s where the eye goes first. It just looks weird to have the subject crocked to me and if that means the horizon is at a slant, well then that just means the subject is on a hill.

One Heck of a Flying Boat

Ever since I got started with Aviation photography, I was drawn to the PBY. Something about the design of the plane made it stand out compared to the others, which isn’t to say that the others were bad looking. Made by Consolidated Aircraft Company the Catalina PBY had a wide array of roles throughout WWII, including as I have just learned, a horizontal bomber during the first year of the war. It was quickly found out that the PBY-4 was a terrible horizontal daylight bombing aircraft. 

The two greatest contributions the plane made was as a patrol aircraft and a search and rescue plane. Downed airmen or stranded sailors looked to the skies in both the Pacific and Atlantic for these great winged birds descending from the skies to bring the stranded back to safety. As a patrol plane, the PBY could go large distances and with a nine-man crew, there were lots of eyes scanning the horizons for ships. Unfortunately, like most things in time they become outdated and more trouble then they are worth. Due to the size and limited interest, only a handful of airworthy PBY’s are still flying today.

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