Memorial Stone for Normandy-Niemen Squadron Opened near Kaliningrad
Ms. Yelena Lyubimova, Head of the Bagrationovskiy District Cultural Office, noted that the project, implemented on the eve of the 75th Victory anniversary, has been actively supported by the town residents of Severniy.
On Sunday, the memorial stone to the pilots from the French Fighter Squadron Normandy-Niemen was opened in the town of Severniy, Bagrationovskiy District, Kalinigrad Region. As the municipality's Head of the Cultural Office, Ms. Yelena Lyubimova told TASS that the project was implemented as part of the international Roads of Victory campaign and of the 75th anniversary of the capture of Preußisch Eylau (today Bagrationovsk) by the Soviet Army.
"The memorial stone in Serverniy is set to eternally memorialize the famous Normandy-Niemen aircraft unit. In February 1945, the French pilots assaulted and defeated German troops in East Prussia using the Jesau (Wittenberg) aerodrome – it no longer exists today – as their base. This is what the inscription on the 1.2 meter – high granite stone commemorates," she said.
Ms. Lyubimova also added that they are waiting for relatives of the squadron pilots to come to Bagrationosvk in April, and for representatives of a French public agency to arrive too, and fly along the Normandy-Niemen battle route.
The memorial stone to the French Normandy-Niemen pilots is "a public project which residents of Serverniy and Bagrationovsk have actively been involved in preparing," Ms. Lyubimova highlighted.
A year ago, a memorial stone was installed in the town of Yuzhniy to commemorate the legendary 689th Guards Fighting Aviation Regiment named for Aleksandr Pokryshkin, Aviation Marshal and Three-time Hero of the Soviet Union, at the request of and with support from the residents of Bagrationovsk.
The French Normandy volunteer fighter squadron was founded in 1942 and, in line with the French-Soviet Agreement, was garrisoned in the USSR. The squadron took part in combat operations starting in 1943, and was later reorganized into an individual aviation combat regiment bearing the same name.
In November 1944, the regiment earned the name Normandy-Niemen for its conspicuous service in liberating Lithuania and forcing the Niemen River. The regiment participated in the Battle of Kursk (1943), the Belorussian Operation (1944), and the defeat of the German Army in East Prussia (1945). Altogether, 96 pilots belonged to Normandy-Niemen, 42 of them were killed. In combat operations on the Eastern Front, the pilots made more than 5,000 sorties, engaged the enemy over 900 times, and shot down more than 270 German aircraft. Four members of the squadron were awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.
On February 10, 1945, Preußisch Eylau, a large military station that defended the enveloped Heilsberg group from the Northeast at the time, was captured by Soviet troops after heavy combat.
Ceremonies to commemorate this day will take place on Sunday and Monday. Residents of Bagrationovsk will gather to lay flowers at the memorial complex by the mass grave of Soviet soldiers who died fighting to capture the city. The historic Preußisch Eylau castle will host a re-enactment of one of the battles, and the local Bagrationovsk History Museum will offer the Path to Victory exhibition for residents.