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80th Anniversary of the “Normandy-Neman” Regiment’s Participation in the Liberation of Belarus

Minsk, The Gulf Observer: 80 years ago, the French air regiment “Normandy” under the command of Major Pierre Pouyade was sent to the 3rd Belorussian Front.

The “Normandy-Neman” Regiment was the 1st separate French fighter aviation regiment, which participated in the Great Patriotic War in battles on the Soviet-German front against Nazi Germany. The personnel of the Normandy Squadron, 72 volunteers, arrived in the USSR in November 1942.

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In the summer of 1944, the French fighter regiment as part of the 303rd Air Division participated in the liberation of Belarus during the operation code-named «Bagration», which lasted from June 23 to August 29, 1944. The regiment covered the troops of the 3rd Belorussian Front from air strikes, participated in the defeat of enemy aircraft and troops at the airfields of Bolbasovo, Dokudovo, near Tolochin and Borisov (Belarus).

After the completion of the operation «Bagration» from September 1, 1944 the French regiment supported infantry and tank troops, which carried out reconnaissance combat to the south of the river Neman, then it was stationed in the village of Antonovo between Kaunas and Koenigsberg, where it took part in the battles in the Baltic States.

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During 1943-1945, 148 pilots of the Normandy-Neman air regiment flew more than 5 thousand combat sorties, 869 air battles, shot down about 280 enemy planes.

On November 28, 1944, for successful actions during the forcing of the Neman River, the regiment was given the honorary name “Neman”. The regiment was called “Normandy-Neman”.

Many pilots were awarded orders and medals of the USSR. During the war the losses of the regiment’s personnel amounted to 42 people.

In honor of the regiment “Normandy-Neman” named street in Borisov (Belarus). In one of the schools of Borisov there is a museum of the history of the French air regiment. In the Vitebsk region in the village Kopti, there is a stele in memory of the pilots with the inscription «Distant France! On this land your sons fought and died». One of the Yak-3 airplanes, on which the legendary air regiment fought, is currently kept in the Museum of Aviation and Astronautics at the «Le Bourget» air show in France.