Tuesday, February 8, 2011

French Merlin-Hawks in Colour

I hadn't realised the French Armée de l'Air had operated the Merlin-powered Curtiss P-40F until I came across these great colour shots of the handover of several examples by US pilots to the newly re-constituted French Air Force. I found them on this blog, and went and did a bit more digging afterwards.

An Armée de l'Air Catholic priest to bless the machines?

Thanks to Wikipedia Commons, the caption to the Library of Congress photograph (below) reveals:
12 Curtiss P-40F Warhawk fighters on 9 January 1943 in Casablanca during a ceremony which officially transferred these former USAAF 33rd Fighter Group P-40s to the French in North Africa. In reality, these aircraft had been handed over to the Armee de l'Air on 25 November 1942. The recceiving French unit was Groupe de Chasse GC II/5, better known as the Lafayette Escadrille. Note the Curtiss Hawk 75 and at least two Dewoitine D.520s inside the hangar, still wearing Vichy-French identification stripes. A Douglas C-47 Skytrain is visible in the background.
The somewhat less revealing period caption: "Line-up of 13 P-40 United States Warhawks which Americans recently presented to the Fighting French air forces at an airport somewhere in North Africa on behalf of the people of the United States."

You can almost hear the Marseillaise.

EDIT: - Thanks to BenG and CDF on WIX, there's more info here and here (in French) and a couple more stunning images uploaded by Mike Furline on the WIX thread here.


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