PARIS, February 13. /TASS/. Gael Taburet, the last wartime pilot of the legendary Normandie-Niemen Regiment, has died in France at the age 97, Ouest-France, a regional newspaper, reported on Monday.
According to the newspaper, the pilot died on February 10 and will be buried on February 22 in Cannes, where he has been living in the recent years.
Now, the only living Normandie-Niemen French participant is mechanic Andre Peyronie.
Normandie-Niemen, initially the Groupe de Chasse 3 squadron, was formed at the initiative of Gen Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the Free French Forces during World War II. De Gaulle who stood at the head of the French resistance movement viewed Russia as an ally in the struggle against Nazi occupation.
Gael Taburet earned a place for himself on the list of exploits of the famous regiment immediately after joining its combat operations in the Soviet Union - he brought down an enemy plane right during the first combat sortie.
He devoted his whole life to the Air Force. Born in Bretagne on November 12, 1919, he enrolled for a flight training school at an age of younger than twenty years old.
As a pilot of the Fighting France Air Force, he conscribed as a volunteer for service in the Normandie-Niemen regiment in January 1944. His combat record included the downing of five Nazi warplanes, for which he received three Soviet awards - the Order of the Red Banner, the Order of the Red Star, and the Order of the Patriotic War, Grade I.
He returned home together with other French pilots in June 1945 on a Yakovlev-3 fighter jet, which Joseph Stalin had presented to France as the Soviet Supreme Commander.
Normandie-Niemen has gotten a place in the history of the French Armed Forces as a regiment with the biggest number of awards, French and Soviet likewise. Its pilots made more than 5,000 sorties. A total of 42 of them lost their lives in combat actions.
A monument to the regiment was unveiled at Le Bourget ten years ago. The design of the monument comprises two figures, one of which is a French pilot and the other is a Soviet aircraft mechanic. They strain their eyes looking into the skies in an expectation of the return of their friends after a combat sortie.