19 Aug 2018 21:59

Fragments of Normandy-Neman Air Regiment's fighter jet recovered from swamp outside Smolensk

VORONEZH. Aug 19 (Interfax) - The Russian Defense Ministry's international expedition has completed an operation to recover a lot of fragments of the Normandy-Neman Air Regiment's fighter aircraft, which has been shot down in 1943, from a swamp in the village of Byvalka in the Smolensk Region, the press service of the Western Military District told Interfax.

Search efforts joined by specialists of the Western Military District, the expedition center of the Russian Defense Ministry and French representatives were complete on Saturday with the recovery of an engine, the largest fragment of the downed fighter jet that has been discovered. The expedition has discovered a total of over 1,000 fragments of the warplane in a week and a half.

"The engine is in quite a good condition. Over 56 12.7mm rounds for a Berezin machine gun were also discovered," the press service quoted chief of the international expedition Anatoly Kalemberg as saying.

Disposal experts of the Western Military District have seized all the munitions that were found to describe and destroy them.

One can say with determination that the fighter aircraft was burning when falling, the expedition chief said.

"There is no rotor of the engine that indicates it was still running when falling. Large parts of the engine crankcase and an oil pump, which contain oils and technical liquids in a perfect condition, were discovered," Kalemberg said.

No remains of the pilot were discovered, this is why, he remains unaccounted for. In addition, several parts of the pilot's clothing, an earpiece of his earphone helmet and the parachute harness were found.

"According to tentative information, one can say that this is a [Yakovlev] Yak-1 warplane, which belonged to French pilot Jean de Sibour," Kalemberg said.

The identification number is still seen on the engine, which will make it possible to identify the fighter jet absolutely accurately. Then the expedition will continue searching through the archives so as to draw final conclusions.

As previously reported, over 50 troops and 15 units of special equipment of the Combined-Arms Army of the Western Military District were involved in search efforts.

The Normandy air squadron was formed on December 4, 1942, so as to take part in the fighting against Nazi Germany. Its personnel included 72 French volunteer servicemen (14 pilots and 58 mechanics), and 17 Soviet mechanics. The squadron took part in the Battle of Kursk, the hostilities outside Smolensk, the offensive operation in Belarus and in the battles to liberate Lithuania. It was re-designated as an air regiment on July 5, 1943.

The air regiment was given the honorary name "Neman" on November 28, 1944, for the outstanding combat service and courage displayed when liberating Lithuania and crossing the Neman River.