T-33 USA military plane and misleading text exhibited in Albania, 2009
by Stephen Hewitt | Published 25 April 2021
The photographs here, taken in October 2009, show show the shell of a small aeroplane and the exhibition sign next to it at the castle in Gjirokastra, Albania (OpenStreetMap marker).
The sign included the text: “This proud trophy of the Cold War was made a symbol of the external threat which the communist leadership maintained was attempting to destabilise and overthrow socialism in Albania.”
This text is potentially misleading. By 2009 the fact of attacks on Albania by the UK and USA had been a matter of public record for decades. The book The Great Betrayal by Nicholas Bethell was published in 1984. Links to reviews of the book by USA newspapers such as the New York Times are below.
The main English language text of the sign was as follows
This is the remains of a United States Air Force two-seat Lockheed T-33 “Shooting Star” jet trainer. The T-33 made its first flight in March 1948 and was used by the US Navy as a land-based trainer from 949. A total of 6,557 “Shooting Stars” were manufactured.
The aeroplane was forced to land at Rinas Airport, near Tirana in December 1957, after developing technical problems and flying off course. The pilot was returned to the United States a short time later. The plane was brought to Gjirokastra in 1969 and exhibited in the National Museum of Armaments as a “spy-plane”. This proud trophy of the Cold War was made a symbol of the external threat which the communist leadership maintained was attempting to destabilise and overthrow socialism in Albania.
The Albanian People's Army Air Force (Forcaf Ushtarake Ajore Shqiptare), formed in 1951, operated a variety of combat planes supplied by the Soviet Union and China. Several squadrons of MiG-15s were in service as well as Yak-9 fighters. In the 1960s the Chinese supplied the Shenyang F-6 and Chengdu F-7A, both copies of Soviet MiG designs.
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- New York Times article: KIM PHILBY AND THE ALBANIAN MISSION Stephen Peters, New York Times, 13 October 1985
- LA Times article: Betrayed by Nicholas Bethell (Times Books: $15.95; 202 pp., illustrated) J. E. Talbott, LA Times, 3 November 1985