The experienced French pilots completed the retraining course quickly and departed to the front line on March 22nd. The ‘Normandy’ squadron (later reformed into a regiment) took part in the Battle of Kursk, Operation Bagration (the liberation of Belarus), offensive operation in Eastern Prussia. The air-unit was awarded the second name ‘Niemen’ for its extraordinary performance while covering Soviet troops crossing the river Niemen. From that point the regiment was known as ‘Normandie - Niemen’.
96 French pilots who served in the unit made a total of 5240 sorties, achieved 273 confirmed and 36 unconfirmed victories. In acknowledgement of the unit’s invaluable service, when the War ended Joseph Stalin personally allowed the airmen to fly their trusted Yak-3 fighters back home, to France.
One of the most famous ‘Normandie - Niemen’ regiment’s aces was captain Marcel Albert, commanding officer of one of its squadrons. He started his battle path in May 1940 when the Germans invaded France. On May 14th Albert had achieved his first aerial victory: piloting a Dewoitine D.520 fighter he shot down a Dornier Do-17 bomber. France surrendered on May the 22nd and Albert had to continue service under the pro-fascist Vichy government. His unit was deployed to Algeria, where it was supposed to fight the British. However Albert defected to Gibraltar as soon as he saw an opportunity. From there he departed to England, joined the RAF and performed 47 operational flights in Supermarine Spitfires in 1942. In December he volunteered to join the newly formed ‘Normandy’ squadron.
He quickly became one of the unit’s most successful pilots. On November 15th a squadron under his command engaged a group of 20 German bombers and 6 escort fighters and shot down 9 enemy planes. The very next day the French squadron took down 29 enemy aircraft without losing any Yak-3’s of their own. In a single week from October 12th till October 18th Albert acheived 10 confirmed victories both solo and in a group. By the end of the war his personal count reached 23 aerial victories.
The War Thunder Team
Also check out these cool 'Normandie-Niemen' Yak skins by Kabanovich on War Thunder Live:
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