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In the afternoon of June 5, 1940, Werner Mölders, Germany's ace of aces with 25 aerial victories and Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 53, led his unit on patrol over France. Spotting a group of French fighters near Compiègne, he gave the signal for the attack, expecting an easy victory.
The German ace eagerly engaged what he thought to be outdated Morane-Saulnier MS.406 fighters. In reality, his opponents were pilots of the Groupe de Chasse II/7 flying the new Dewoitine D.520 fighter, an aircraft at least as capable as the German Messerchmitt Bf 109.
Sous-lieutenant René Pomier-Layrargues, a young pilot who was already credited with shooting down four bombers since the beginning of the invasion, faced and engaged the German fighters. Flying D.520 n°266, he managed to shoot Mölders down in the midst of an unequal battle in which the French were totally outnumbered. Mölders bailed out of his stricken aircraft and was soon captured by French troops.
Pomier-Layrargues then engaged one of Mölders' wingmen and shot him down as well. He then came under attack by the rest of the group, eager to avenge their fallen leader. After a long chase that took him and his pursuers a few feet above the rooftops of Beauvais, Pomier-Layrargues was finally shot down and killed in the crash of his fighter.
VALOR AT COMPIEGNE- Dewoitine D.520
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