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Pierre Henri Clostermann

Pierre Henri Clostermann, DSO, DFC and bar (28 February 1921 – 22 March 2006) was a French flying ace, author, engineer, politician, and sporting fisherman. Over his flying career he was awarded the Grand-Croix of the French Légion d'Honneur, French Croix de Guerre, DSO, DFC and bar (United Kingdom), Distinguished Service Cross (USA), Silver Star (USA), and the Air Medal (USA).

Clostermann was born in Curitiba, Brazil, into a French diplomatic family. He was the only son of Madeleine Carlier from Lorraine and Jacques Clostermann from Alsace. After receiving flying tuition from German pilot Karl Benitz (died in 1943, Russia), he completed his secondary education in France and gained his private pilot's licence in 1937.

On the outbreak of war the French authorities refused his application for service, so he travelled to Los Angeles to become a commercial pilot, studying at the California Institute of Technology. Clostermann joined the Free French Air Force in Britain in March 1942.

After training at RAF Cranwell and 61 OTU, Clostermann, a sergeant pilot, was posted in January 1943 to No. 341 Squadron RAF (known to the Free French as Groupe de Chasse n° 3/2 "Alsace"), flying the Supermarine Spitfire.

He scored his first two victories on 27th July 1943, destroying two Focke-Wulf Fw 190s over France. With 33 recorded victories to his name, he received at only 24 years of age, a Commendation by General Charles de Gaulle, who called him "France's First Fighter". While serving in Lincolnshire, Pierre met and married Lydia Jeanne Starbuck at St Denys Church in Sleaford.

In October 1943, Clostermann was commissioned and assigned to No. 602 Squadron RAF, remaining with the unit for the next ten months. He flew a variety of missions including fighter sweeps, bomber escorts, high-altitude interdiction over the Royal Navy's Scapa Flow base, and strafing or dive-bombing attacks on V-1 launch sites on the French coast. Clostermann served through D-Day and was one of the first Free French pilots to land on French soil, at temporary airstrip B-11, near Longues-sur-Mer, Normandy on 18th June 1944, touching French soil for the first time in more than four years. Clostermann was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross shortly afterwards, after which he was reassigned to French Air Force Headquarters.

In his 432 sorties from January  1943 - 27th July 1945, Clostermann was credited officially with 33 victories (19 solo, 14 shared, most of them against fighters) and five "probables", with eight more "damaged". He also claimed 225 motor vehicles destroyed, 72 locomotives, five tanks, and two E-boats.

He was one of the first Free French pilot's to land on French soil after D-day, on 18th June 1944, at Airstrip B-11, near Longues-sur-Mer, Normandy.