An exciting account of Free French pilots fighting alongside Soviets against Nazi Luftwaffe on the Eastern Front!
This is the exciting, gripping, and true account of the elite all-volunteer Free French fighter unit that fought the Nazi Luftwaffe on the Eastern Front alongside the Red Air Force’s First Air Army in World War 2.
Stunning actual period aerial combat footage is intertwined with the surviving veterans’ own recollections of what those deadly duels were like with their Nazi opponents.
Four of their number became Heroes of the Soviet Union, and several lived to their nineties, dying as recently as 2010!
Becoming operational on March 22, 1943, by war’s end in 1945, the then Regiment had a kill score of 273 German planes shot down and 73 more “probables” in 869 aerial dogfights out of a total of 5,240 combat sorties flown; and destroyed 27 trains, 22 locomotives, two Navy E-boats, 132 trucks, and 24 staff cars.
As for losses, 42 pilots were killed and 87 airplanes destroyed. Fully 30 of the unit’s pilots became recognized aces, with at least five kills each. Four of its aces were named Heroes of the Soviet Union: Marcel Albert, Marcel Lefevre, Jacques Andre, and Roland de La Poype.
Soviet Marshal Josef Stalin proclaimed that the former Normandie Regiment be renamed the Normandie-Niemen Regiment, in honor of its stellar combat record fighting in the Battle of the Niemen River 1944.
Over the course of three major Red Army campaigns, the Regiment accrued the battle honor names of Bryansk, Orel, Ielnia, Smolensk, Konigsberg/Kalingrad, and Pillau.
In addition to its Heroes’ awards, the Normandie-Niemen Regiment received both the Russian Order of the Red Banner and the Order of Alexander Nevsky, with 11 citations to boot between those two Orders.
A grateful France also awarded it the Legion of Honor, the Cross of the Liberation, the Military Medal, and the War Cross with six palms.
Having been sent to Russia by Free French leader Gen. Charles de Gaulle as the 3rd Fighter Group, it was one of but two Allied air units to see combat duty on the embattled Eastern Front, the other being of the British RAF.
The initial force comprised but 12 fighter pilots and 47 ground crewmen for training in the Soviet Yakolev Yak-1 aircraft, but soon began racking up its impressive total of kills. Graduating in 1944 to a fourth escadrille and the better Yak-3 fighter plane, the unit was so hated by the Nazis that German Army Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel allegedly decreed that any captured French pilot from it would be shot.
So impressed was Marshal Stalin with the Regiment’s battle honors that he gave France 37 of the unit’s Yak-3 aircraft, which the pilots flew home to be received in a heroes’ welcome at Paris on June 20, 1945. Today, one of those Yak-3 fighters is still displayed at Le Bourget’s Air and Space Museum outside Paris.
Its successor unit was deactivated in 2010, but then reinstated in 2011, and so the laurels of the Normandie-Niemen Regiment live on still!
USSR,1972, B&W 60 Minutes, English Commentary.
NTSC Region 0 encoding (Entire World)