Memorial Day like never before: Vintage planes to fly over L.A., but the crowd will be online

Nihil Smith pays respect to his longtime friend U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Kenneth Pipes at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego on May 24, a day before Memorial Day.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Memorial Day 2020 in California will be one like no other.

With social distancing rules in place, large memorials in Los Angeles and Orange counties are being replaced by virtual ones, as well as a flyover of vintage planes.

In San Diego, home to a large number of veterans and active military person, and which traditionally observes the holiday with four large public events, the event will move online in one coordinated effort to bring the remembrances to audiences at home safely.

Phil Kendro, a board member of the Mt. Soledad memorial’s board of trustees, said the one-hour joint event is unique.


“We recognized that we would not be able to conduct our normal Memorial Day commemorations this year, so we built a partnership with four iconic San Diego sites to create a unique virtual commemoration that is the only one of its kind,” Kendro said in a statement.

The plan to go virtual has been in the works for weeks, said David Koontz, marketing director of the Midway Museum.

On the Memorial Day holiday, we recognize the valor of U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen — regardless of whether the wars themselves were rightful.

“We had to think out of the box to pay tribute but at the same time allow people to tune in and attend,” Koontz said. “We’re really looking forward to being able to do this.”

Despite the unique circumstance of the pandemic, it is important to remember the sacrifices of members of the military, said Carlos Inot, president and CEO of the Miramar National Cemetery Support Foundation.

“On a Memorial Day, unlike any our country has experienced before, we hope that all who view this program will be inspired to take a moment to remember and pay their respects to our veterans and active duty military, and to their families who have sacrificed so much for our country,” Inot said.

Here are some key events around the region:

— Memorial Day will also be marked by a flyover of an 18-plane formation of historic war birds. The 70- to 90-minute flyover will begin at noon near Loma Linda University Medical Center, then fly over the Riverside National Cemetery and several locations in Orange County. In Los Angeles County, the aircraft will fly over the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach, the Queen Mary, the battleship Iowa, which is docked at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes, Zamperini Airport in Torrance, Los Angeles International Airport, Santa Monica Airport, Los Angeles National Cemetery, the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center and City of Hope National Medical Center.


— The 131st Memorial Day Celebration at the Los Angeles National Cemetery in Westwood will begin at 10 a.m. and be broadcast on KABC-TV Channel 7 and streamed on The ceremony is described by KABC as a distanced experience. The station will use multiple cameras and drones to produce a broadcast of the featured guests’ presentations, performances and dedications.

— Archbishop Jose H. Gomez will celebrate a Memorial Day Mass at 10 a.m. at Holy Cross Cemetery and Mortuary in Culver City honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. The Mass will also include a tribute to those who have died during the coronavirus pandemic and have not had funeral Masses. The Mass will be livestreamed on and

— Forest Lawn will hold a live virtual celebration at 10 a.m. on its Facebook page, It will include a message from Los Angeles Controller Ron Galperin, patriotic music and a Scottish bagpipes and drums performance by Harry Farrar.


City News Service and Andrew Dyer of the San Diego Union Tribune contributed to this report