18 historic warbirds set to take wing in Memorial Day flyover


An 18-plane formation of historic warbirds will fly the skies above the Inland Empire and Orange and Los Angeles counties on Memorial Day, saluting “veterans who gave so much,” as well as healthcare workers taking risks daily amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“We came up with the idea after seeing the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels making the rounds,” said Bill Prosser, operations manager for the Commemorative Air Force Inland Empire Wing.

“We’re going to be a lot slower than the T-Birds and Angels, so people can see us better. It’s not like, ‘Boom — they’re gone.’ We’ll be doing 120 mph.”


The U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds have crossed the nation, making high-speed, low-pass appearances as part of “Operation America Strong,” a campaign intended to boost morale during the pandemic. The Thunderbirds were in the L.A. area last week.

Prosser said he and Steve Rose, commander of the Commemorative Air Force Inland Empire Wing, reached out to organizations statewide to solicit support for what was dubbed “Memorial Day: Operation Social Strong,” and the response was immediate.

“We’ve got no sponsors, just partners,” he said. “We reached out to them, and they said, ‘Heck, yeah, let’s do this!’”

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May 22, 2020

According to Prosser, the Inland Empire Wing’s Riverside-based “D-Day Doll,” a Douglas C-53D manufactured in 1943 to carry paratroopers and cargo in World War II, will lead the formation, which will also feature C-47 transports, P-40 Warhawks and P-51 Mustangs.

“We’ll be up there for 70 to 90 minutes,” Prosser said. “We’ll have smoke trails. We’ll be low, slow and loud.”

The formation has 19 designated flyover locations, listed below, in order of the planned itinerary, with the operation starting about noon on May 25:

  • Loma Linda University Medical Center
  • Riverside National Cemetery
  • Anaheim
  • St. Joseph hospital, Tustin
  • John Wayne Airport, Santa Ana
  • Pacific View Memorial Park, Corona Del Mar
  • Newport Beach
  • Long Beach Veterans Administration Hospital
  • The Queen Mary
  • Battleship Iowa Memorial, San Pedro
  • Green Hills Memorial Park, Rancho Palos Verdes
  • Zamperini Field, Torrance
  • Los Angeles International Airport
  • Santa Monica Airport
  • Los Angeles National Cemetery
  • UCLA Medical Center
  • USC Medical Center
  • City of Hope Hospital, Duarte
  • Chino Airport

“On the D-Day Doll, we’ll be carrying a veteran from each war going back 80 years — a World War II vet, a Korean War vet, a Vietnam vet, an Afghanistan vet and an Iraqi Freedom vet,” Prosser said.

“We cannot forget our veterans who gave so much. Memorial Day is about remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Veterans Day is for all veterans. But Memorial Day is to honor all those who secured the freedoms we have today.”

With health care workers on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19, they deserve recognition on the occasion, as well, Prosser said.

“It’s a way to say thank you,” Prosser said.

Along with the CAF aircraft, the Palm Springs Air Museum’s Planes of Fame will be in the formation, as well as a Flabob Express transport from Jurupa Valley, a historic aircraft owned by the Benovia Winery in Santa Rosa and Betsy’s Biscuit Bomber, a restored C-47 based in Paso Robles.