The French Pilots fighting on the Eastern Front – The Squadron ‘Normandia – Neman’.

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In March 1942, the French National Liberation Committee ” Fighting France ” appealed to the authorities of the Soviet Union with a proposal to send a group of pilots and aircraft mechanics to the USSR to participate in hostilities against Germany. On November 12, 1942, the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR approved Resolution No. 1806-850ss “On an agreement between the command of the Red Army Air Force and the Military Command of the fighting France on the participation of French Air Force units in operations in the Soviet Union”. On November 25, 1942, a Soviet-French agreement was signed on the formation of a French aviation squadron on the territory of the USSR. The squadron was formed on September 1, 1942 in the town of Rayak.(Lebanon). At the suggestions of the personnel, the new military unit was named ” Normandy “, in honor of the French province. Thus arose the French fighter squadron, later transformed into a regiment, whose military glory spread all over the world.


The squadron’s personnel consisted of 72 French volunteers (14 pilots and 58 aircraft mechanics) and 17 Soviet aircraft mechanics. The squadron was equipped with Yak-1 fighters, later Yak-9 and Yak-3. With the help of the Yak-1 fighter, Soviet Pilots could outnumber the enemy aircraft in the air during the war. It was this machine that received high recognition and praise from it’s pilots. The model line was constantly being improved.

On March 22, 1943, after the personnel had mastered military equipment, the squadron was sent to the Front, where it was first included in the 204th Bomber Aviation Division, and from April – in the 18th Guards Fighter Regiment of the 303rd Fighter Aviation Division of the 1st Air Army…

On April 5, 1943, the squadron began combat operations. The squadron also adopted the coat of arms of the province of Normandy – a red shield with two golden lions. Subsequently, it was replenished and on July 5, 1943 was transformed into the Regiment “Normandy”, which already included four squadrons, bearing the names of the four main Norman cities: ” Rouen “, ” Caen “, ” Le Havre ” and ” Cherbourg “…


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The regiment took part in the Battle of Kursk in 1943, the Belarusian operation in 1944, in the battles to defeat the German troops in East Prussia in 1945.

On November 28, 1944, by order of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Armed Forces JV Stalin, the regiment was given the honorary name “Neman” for military services and displayed courage during the air battles over Lithuania and during the crossing of the Neman River, since then it has become known as the regiment “Normandy – Niemen”.

Unit Performance

During the hostilities on the Soviet-German front of World War II, the regiment’s pilots flew 5240 sorties, conducted about 900 air battles, scored 273 confirmed victories, 36 unconfirmed ones, and damaged more than 80 German aircraft. Losses during the conduct of hostilities amounted to 42 pilots. In total, during the conduct of hostilities, 96 combat personnel passed through the squadron.

After returning to France, the 3/5 “Normandie-Niemen” regiment on Yak-3 fighters was based at the Le Bourget airfield. The Normandy was reorganized into a two-squadron air defense regiment of 16 Yak-3s each, and on September 20, 1945, it was included in the structure of the Paris air defense district, thus returning to combat service. Since November 1945, the regiment began to receive new aircraft – Supermarine Spitfire, NC-900 ( FW-190 French assembly), and even Moran-Saulnier MS-500 (French version of Fieseler Fi 156 Storch)


Servicemen of the Normandie-Niemen regiment marched along Red Square in Moscow in the ceremonial formation of the 2010 Victory Parade.


In 2011, it was decided to revive the Normandie-Niemen regiment. The restored Régiment de chasse RC 2/30 Normandie-Niemen, which has a fighter regiment status unique to the modern French Air Force, is actually a combat squadron. RC 2/30 became the third combat squadron of the French Air Force on Rafale fighters On September 14, 2012 the Normandie-Niemen air regiment officially celebrated its 70th anniversary.


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18th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment “Normandy-Niemen”


In honor of the 50th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War in 1995, the 18th Guards Vitebsk, twice Red Banner of the Order of Suvorov of the third degree, the assault aviation regiment was given the honorary name “Normandy-Niemen”. The regiment was stationed in the Primorsky Territory at the Galenki airfield.

The 18th Guards Fighter Regiment (until March 7, 1943 – the 6th Fighter ) was formed in the Far East in 1938. From July 20, 1941 he took part in battles against German troops. After an air regiment was formed on the basis of “Normandy”, the 18th Guards Aviation Regiment and the regiment of French pilots together were part of the 303rd Fighter Aviation Division.


During the Great Patriotic War, the 18th Guards. IAP performed 12,638 sorties and destroyed 427 enemy aircraft. After the end of World War II, the regiment took part in the Korean War.

On September 18, 1992, the 50th anniversary of the 2/30 “Normandie-Niemen” air squadron was celebrated in Reims, to which the “Normandy” veterans from the countries that were part of the USSR were invited. The celebration was attended by the Minister of Defense and the Commander of the Air Force of the Russian Federation, as well as the aerobatic team ” Russian Knights”. After returning to Moscow, Pavel Grachev proposed in honor of the Russian-French friendship to assign the name “Normandie-Niemen” to the regiment, on the basis of which the squadron was formed… In response, in 2006, the French government “for the courage and heroism shown during the Second World War, the preservation of traditions and respect for the memory of front-line friendship” awarded the 18th Guards the state award of France – the cross of the Order of the Legion of Honor.


During the war, the loss of personnel of the regiment amounted to 42 people. In 1956, a memorial was erected in Moscow with the names of all the dead pilots, and in 1964, at the Vvedenskoye cemetery, on the grave of a French pilot, whose remains were found in the Oryol region, a monument was erected to the Unknown pilot of the Normandy-Niemen regiment.

The French government awarded the regiment the Order of the Legion of Honor, the Order of Liberation, the War Medal, the War Cross 1939-1945 (6 palm branches) and the Military Cross of Foreign Theaters of War (2 palm branches).

Distinguished Warriors

  • Roland Custom d’Ivua de la Poype, lieutenant, commander of the 1st Fighter Regiment Fighting French decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR from November 27, 1944 awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.
  • Marcel Olivier Albert, senior lieutenant, squadron commander of the 1st Fighter Aviation Regiment of Fighting France was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union by the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on November 27, 1944.
  • Jacques Andre, junior lieutenant, flight commander of the 1st Fighter Aviation Regiment of the Fighting France on June 4, 1945, was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Gold Star No. 6656.
  • Marcel Lefevre, senior lieutenant, squadron commander of the 1st Fighter Aviation Regiment of Fighting France by the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of June 4, 1945, was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union (posthumously).

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