the name that has become traditional for the 1st Detached Fighter Aviation Regiment of the Fighting French; the regiment operated as part of the 303rd Aviation Division of the First Air Army on the Soviet-German front in World War II from 1943 to 1945.
The personnel of a squadron arrived in the USSR on Nov. 28, 1942. In March 1943 the squadron first saw combat, and on July 5, 1943, it was expanded into a regiment consisting of French pilots and Soviet technical personnel; the planes were Soviet-made. The regiment was given the honorary name “Neman” for distinction in the fighting to liberate Lithuania and in crossing the Neman (Nemunas) River. From 1943 to 1945, French pilots flew more than 5,000 combat sorties, engaged in 869 aerial battles, and shot down 273 German aircraft and damaged 80 more.
The regiment was awarded the Soviet Order of the Red Banner and the Order of Alexander Nevsky and the French Order of the Legion of Honor, the Order of the Combat Cross with Palm, the Cross of Liberation, and the Military Medal. Pilots M. Albert, R. de la Poype, J. André, and M. Lefevre (posthumously) became Heroes of the Soviet Union. After the victory over fascist Germany, the pilots flew home in Soviet Iak-3 planes given to France by the Soviet government. In 1956 a memorial plaque with the names of 42 French pilots who died in battle was placed on the side of the building of the former French military mission in Moscow. In 1964 a memorial to the Unknown Pilot of the Normandy-Neman Regiment was erected in the Vvedenie Cemetery in Moscow on the grave of a French pilot whose remains were found in Orel Oblast, RSFSR. The Normandy-Neman aviation unit continues to exist in the French Air Force and is based at Reims. Also in existence is the Association of Veteran Pilots of the Normandy-Neman Regiment in France and the Council of Veteran Technicians of the Normandy-Neman Regiment in the USSR.
I. R. IL’IN