Although a latecomer to La Première Guerre mondiale, the Letord bomber (first flown in 1917) nevertheless saw a great amount of service in the Aéronautique Militaire of France. I am not certain which version of the Letord this is, but it is possible that it is the Let.7, a bomber intended for night attack. Also, note the camouflage paint.
42-30177 started life with the USAAF but was donated to the Free French Air Force. Christened “Bir Hakeim” to honor the heroic Libyan battle where Free French forces held off the Germans for weeks in 1942, it was used as a transport by the commander at Bir Hakeim, General Marie-Pierre Kœnig.
After the war, the French Institut Géographique National (IGN) acquired B-17’s and began what was a decades long affiliation with the aircraft. Used for research and mapping, several of these planes soldiered on until the 1980’s. “BEEB” was not so fortunate; she crashed in 1949. “BEEC” was luckier. She continued to fly with the IGN until 1987 and then was sold to the Lone Star Flight Museum to be restored to a WWII configuration and renamed “Thunderbird.”
This aircraft (42-30177) survived until the 1970’s when it was foolishly allowed to be scrapped. Future famed aviation expert Pete Bowers, then with the USAAF, leans casually on the elevator. An absolute airplane aficionado, Bowers was also a pleasure to know. He was kind enough to give me a copy of this photo.