Paul Albert Pierre Tarascom was born in Le Thor, France on the 8th of December 1882. Tarascon joined the French Military in 1901; upon his release from active duty, he was assigned to the 4e Regiment d’Infanterie Coloniale. He became interested in Aviation upon his release, and decided to learn to fly. In 1911, whilst learning to fly, he crashed his aircraft so badly that his right foot had to be amputated. This would spark his later nickname, I’as la jambe de bois ( the ace with the wooden leg )
Despite his handicap, when World War ! began, he volunteered as an aviator and was accepted. On completion of Military training he received Military Pilot’s Brevet No. 1741 on the 4th of December 1914, and became an instructor in January 1915. He requested a combat assignment, and was sent to Escadrille 31 on the 6th of October 1915, to Ecscadrille3 on the 1st of May !916 and shortly after to Escadrille 62.
Flying a Nieuport fighter he scored his first victory on the 15th of July 1916. By the 17th of November he had run up his score of victories to eight whilst flying Nieuports. Before he resumed scoring on the 6th of April 1917, he had changed aircraft and was now flying a SPAD. He scored twice more in mid 1917, then one final time on the 15th of July 1918. Tarascon’s emblem of the fighting cock was adopted by his unit.
Tarascon’s motto ‘Zigomar’ was apparently based on a character in a French mystery story. He was a Criminal Mastermind. I would imagine something similar to Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Moriarty’ in the Sherlock Holmes stories. An interesting choice.
Paul Tarascon was Awarded the Medaille Militaire on the 4th of August 1916, His citation reads, ‘Adjutant Pilot of Escadrille N.62 Excellent pilot, always prepared to work. Although one leg has been amputated, he entered aviation and has carried out numerous reconnaissance’s over long distances and has had 15 aerial combats. On the 15th of July 1916 he downed an Aviatik de Chasse, which fell in flames in enemy territory.’ He was made a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur citation of 15th of November 1916, reads, ‘Adjutant pilot of Escadrille N.62. Remarkable pilot by his devotion, skill, coolness and initiative. He has distinguished himself for over a year, during the course of numerous reconnaissance’s, protections and pursuits. On the 9th of August 1916, his plane was hit over 100 times by enemy bullets. Since the 1st of July, he has had 35 combats, downing five enemy planes and has forced two others to land in a damaged condition.’ Tarascon was also awarded the Croix de Guerre with Twelve Palmes. He had twelve conformed victories and ten unconfirmed in World War One.
(C) Damian Grange 2021