Not since the victory celebration of 1945, when downtown was buried in ticker tape, had there been a World War II-related event of this magnitude in the community.

And chances are good there won’t be anything quite like Tulsa’s D-Day Extravaganza and American Troop Salute again.

Highlighted by an epic air show over the Arkansas River on June 6, 1984, the event commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Normandy invasion with several weeks of activities in May and June.

Not even the historic Memorial Day weekend flood of that year could sink the plans.

The air show, which drew a crowd of some 30,000 to Tulsa River Parks, boasted more than 30 vintage bombers and fighter planes, along with helicopters and more modern aircraft.

The vintage WWII-era planes flew low over the river and even carried out simulated strafing and bombing runs using actual explosives.

The charges were planted in the water prior to the runs to create the impression that the planes were actually bombing and machine-gunning the river.

If that weren’t enough, the event offered skydivers, a National Guard Band concert and a concluding round of fireworks.

In the end, the show went mostly as planned, reports indicate. The only hitch was when one of the skydivers landed wrong and broke an ankle.

Organizers noted at the time that the air show was probably a one-time thing because of the sheer difficulty of staging it. The Federal Aviation Administration had to waive several regulations, including one to allow the low-flying aircraft, which over one stretch of the river descended to about 500 feet.

In fact, the 1984 air show most likely is the only one ever in the U.S. staged over a major city.

Event spokesman Ed Hardy said at the time, “You had to take a good look yesterday because it may be the first and last Arkansas River air show. I doubt you’ll see it again.”

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Tim Stanley


Twitter: @timstanleyTW

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