Seventy years ago this Saturday, a wing of 38 Russian-built Yak-3 fighters touched down at Le Bourget. Not for the first post-war air show, but for the welcoming home of a group of Free French pilots who had served in the Soviet air forces on the Eastern Front for more than two years, flying 5,240 missions and scoring  273 confirmed victories plus 36 probables.

The “Normandie-Niemen” squadron lives on, now equipped with Rafales at Mont-de-Marsan. Even during the Cold War, France and Russia maintained air force links based on their shared experiences and occasionally made squadron exchanges to each other’s countries with Mirages and MiGs.

The name “Normandie-Niemen” survives in other forms, too. On June 4, a monument to the unit was erected in a park near school No. 56 on Lezhnevskaya Street in Ivanovo, Russia. At the same time, the Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace here at Le Bourget inaugurated a new memorial to the squadron, which includes the last remaining example of a Yak-3 from that original homecoming flight.

And 3 km from the air show site is Metro station “Normandie-Niemen.