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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Last Yak-3 Lands in the Historical Museum

MTWorkers lifting the Yak-3 off the cobblestones of Red Square and sliding it through a window of the Historical Museum.
The sole survivor of a fleet of 40 Soviet-made Yak-3 fighters flown by French pilots in World War II goes on display next Tuesday at the Historical Museum as part of an exhibit on the late French leader Charles de Gaulle.

The Yak-3, which has a 8.5-meter-long fuselage and a wingspan of more than 9 meters, was shipped to Moscow by the French air force. Workers disassembled it to slide it through a window of the museum Tuesday evening.

The single-prop fighter is the only one left of the fleet that Soviet authorities donated to Normandie-Niemen escadrille de chasse, a French air force regiment, during World War II.

De Gaulle ordered the creation of the regiment in 1942 and sent a group of French airmen to train in the Soviet Union. The regiment, which initially flew Yak-1 planes, switched to the more advanced Yak-3s in 1944 and fought as part of the Soviet air force.

The French pilots flew 5,240 sorties that took them from Moscow to East Prussia. They shot down 273 enemy planes and damaged 80 others.

After the war, Stalin donated the aircraft to France. The planes remained in service until 1947, when they were transferred to flight schools.

The last Yak-3 later was placed in a museum in Le Bourget.

Historical Museum, 1/2 Red Square. M. Ploshchad Revolyutsii. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 292-3731.