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As incredible as it it, there are still some WW2 pilot veterans living in 2014 - one of them is Oliver "Sandy" Kallio, now 103 years old. He is a US citizen and lives in Michigan. However, he volunteered to fly in Royal Canadian Air Force and RAF, in which he served throughout the war flying Hurricanes and Spitfires in the North African and Mediterranean fronts during the years 1942-1945. He was a squadron commander of RCAF 601 and 417 Squadron.

During the war Kallio achieved 4 confirmed air victories, claimed 1 probale and 4 damaged enemy planes. Although not officially an ace (with five confirmed "kills"), Kallio deserves attention as a "less known ace" .

Here more info on this impressive pilot and interview made in 2012 (the man has a sharp memory at the age of 101):

 

http://flyingforyourlife.com/pilots/ww2/k/kallio/
http://immigrantsofwar.blogspot.fi/2012/02/oliver-sandy-kallio-american-volunteer.html
http://www.stafaband.info/watch/6zHNs9dyBsc/oliver_sandy_kallio_dso_dfc_no_145_squadron/

 

Edited by hanwind
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Another less known pilot veteran of WW2: Günther Scholz. He participated in Spanish Civil War (Legion Condor), Polish Campaign 1939, Battle of France, Battle of Britain, Invasion on Yugoslavia and Operation Barbarossa until finally "settling" in the German North Front near Arctic Sea (Norway and North Finland). One could say that he participated in every major Luftwaffe operation during the war. Curiously he started his combat pilot career in southern end of Europe (Spain) and ended up to the very north end of European continent. "Only" 32 confirmed air victories, so he is less known Luftwaffe ace. Günther Scholz was born in 8.12.1911 and passed away on 24.10.2014 at the age of 102. Little more: http://guerra-abierta.blogspot.fi/2011/07/experten-alemanes-gunther-scholz.html

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His memoirs have been published and are available in English: http://www.amazon.com/In-Skies-over-Europe-Luftwaffe/dp/0764337602

Edited by hanwind
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Pavel Kutakhov
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Pavel Kutakhov was born on 16.4.1914 in Malokirsanovka, Rostov region of Russia near Asova Sea. Initially he was not keen to be a pilot but rather a aircraft mechanic and in early 1930´s he worked at the aircraft plant in Taganrog. However his mind changed during military service and in 1938 he graduated as a pilot from the Stalingrad Military Aviation School in 1938. After that he was posted in the 7 IAP (Fighter Regiment) in the Leningrad Military District.

Due to be located quite near of Finnish border the 7 IAP was mobilized to take part in the Winter War against Finland 1939 – 1940. Kutakhov´s combat career did not start well – on the second day of war (1.12.1939) his I-15 bis fighter was
 shot down as a "enemy plane" by I-16´s of 7 IAP. Fortunately Kutakhov managed to bail out successfully. Kutakhov flew several combat sorties during the Winter War but did not make any claims.

When the Great Patriotic War against Germany started in June 1941, Kutakhov was posted in 145th IAP in Murmanks region near the Artic Sea. The unit was equipped with Mig 3 and I-16, and Kutakhov flew the latter type. On 23.7.1941 he claimed his first air victory after which long “dry season” followed. However this was to change when Kutakhov and his comrades got more modern equipment than obsolete I-16. British allies were not content with Airacobra I fighter, which they had bought from USA. Therefore they decided to send Airacobras to USSR, which was in need of more modern planes to replace the ageing Polikarpov fighters.  

Airacobra was unsuitable for high altitude air combats of Western Europe, but in Soviet Western Front air combats took place mostly in low and medium altitudes, in which Airacobra was a decent plane and in the hands of skilled pilot Airacobra was able to challenge German fighters. Furthermore some modifications were made and wing guns were removed which made the Airacobra lighter and more manouverable than it had been in British and American hands.   

By the time of arrivals of Airacobras Pavel Kutakhov was commanding the 1st Squadron of  19 GIAP (Guard Fighter Regiment).  The 145th IAP had been baptized with new GIAP name which was to honour its service and achievements. Kutakhov was the first man of 9 GIAP to testfly Airacobra on 19.4.1942 and like so many other Soviet pilots learned to like it.

Compared to old I-16 the new Airacobra showed to give better chances against Germans, and Kutakhov was one of the numerous Soviet pilots to take those chances. On 15 of May 1942 Kutakhov claimed a Bf 109 which was his first air victory claim with Airacobra.  However Kutakhov himself was shot down couple of weeks later but he survived without serious injuries. After this Kutakhov´s tally began to rise and his abilities as a commander  became visible.  When the war ended in May 1945, Kutakhov was a coronel and commander of 19 GIAP. He was credited with 13 air victories and several shared ones.  His record has been checked by the study of German sources and at least 5 of Kutakhov´s air victories have been verified.

For his exploits Pavel Kutakhov was awarded with the title of Hero of Soviet Union (HSU) and other decorations. These certainly were not bad thing for his military career which continued after the war. By the end of 1950´s he a Air Army commander in the Baltic Military district and by 1967 he became Deputy commander of Soviet Air Force. By 1969 he was at the very top of Soviet Air Force being its Commander-in-Chief until 1984. Air Chief Marshal Pavel Kutakhov died in Moscow on 3.12.1984.  


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Edited by hanwind
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Since 75 years has passed from the outbreak of Winter War 1939-1940, it is time for Finnish ace:


Gustaf Magnusson (1902-1993), the "father" of Finnish fighter pilots

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Gustaf Magnusson was born in Ylitornio (Northern Finland) in 1902. He got first baptims of fire in Finnish Civil War in 1918 in which he served as a infantry soldier despite his young age of 15. This proved to be the beginning of notable later military career. After finishing his civilian studies he went again to military service in 1923 After finishing the basic phase of military service he applied to Military Academy of Helsinki and was accepted to the course of flying corps officers. In 1925 he joined the Sea Flight Squadron, which operated with float planes. In 1930 he was promoted to flying lieutenant and in 1932 to captain.  During 1930´s he served in different landplane units ending up finally to command 24th Fighter Squadron (24. Lelv). This unit was to later to become famous with many ace pilots.

Almost all Finnish fighter pilots were trained by Magnusson, who was known as a skilled and popular commander. Already by mid 1930´s Finnish fighter pilots were learning to fly in flexible pairs and the old vic three plane formations were abandoned. The flexibility and superiority of pair formations compared to “vic” had been noted by Finnish major Richard Lorenz already in 1934. When Magnusson visited Germany four years later, he noted that Germans had come to same tactical solutions – although independently from Finnish example. The later experience showed that the basic formation on a pair and its multiplications according to need were the right ones.

Finns would later have tactical advantage against an enemy who still flew in “vics”. Magnusson taught also his pilots to adopt positive attacking spirit and not to fear numerically superior enemy. However the main Finnish fighter Fokker D XXI was a “stiff” plane and slower than such planes like later types of Polikarpov I-16 and I-153. Both were also more maneuverable than Fokker (the Finnish model was also somewhat slower than the later Dutch Fokker D XXI model). Thus as a general rule Finnish pilots were adviced to avoid fighter vs. fighter engagements and concentrate in enemy bombers. 

By 1939 Finnish-Soviet relationships were complicated because Soviet Union made territorial demands and wanted a military base in Finland. According to Soviets these claims were justified by the security of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in tense international situation.  Many Finns saw these kind of claims as the first possible step to Soviet occupation and annexation. The fate of Czechoslovakia and other similar incidents were fresh and remembered. Still there were negotiations to reach some kind of compromise, but the talks failed.  As a consequence Soviet Union decided for military solution and on 30.11.1939 the Soviet-Finnish Winter War started. The difference between Finnish and Soviet air units was huge. Finnish Air Force (FAF) had in total 116 airworthy combat aircraft against the 2350 Soviet aircraft allocated for operations against Finland.

During the first day of war the capital of Finland Helsinki and other targets were bombed and Finnish AA shot down its first victims. However there were no combat contacts between Finnish and Soviet planes. This changed on next day 1.12.1939. On that fateful day 250 Soviet bomber were sent over Finland, and Finns threw all of their airworthy fighters against them. Magnusson piloted one of those fighters and led a flight of Fokkers to combat over southern Karelia.

Magnusson and his men met a formation of SB bombers of 41 SBAP (Fast Bomber Regiment) which were heading to bomb the town of Imatra. Soviets had not expected to meet resistance in air and thus bombers were on their own when Finnish Fokkers dived on them. The surprised Soviet formation tried to keep its form, and bombers were not entirely defenceless. Soviet bomber gunners tried to do their very best – but it was not enough. Combat was one sided with bombers going down in flames one after another. Magnusson was one of the Finnish pilots who scored that day:

“1.12.39 at 1410-1445 hours. Based on announcement that a Soviet bomber was approaching Imatra and we took off. We met the formation above Imatra. I attacked the one flying on the extreme right wing shooting first along the fuselage. When the firing did not seem to have any effect, I aimed the fire on starboard engine, which started to smoke after a few bursts.
I had to interrupt my attack since the one on the left reduced speed going about 70 metres on my port side with the dorsal gunner firing me all the time. I slowed down behind this plane and shot it into flames. The plane crashed burning in the round.
Since the squadron did not have other than normal bullets and tracers, it was not possible to gain results with a small amount ammunition. 1200 rounds spent.”

The plane that Magnusson shot down was a SB of 2nd squadron of 41 SBAP. The whole crew of three men perished. The death toll on 2/41 SBAP on that combat was heavy as it lost four planes and 11 men, only one of the crew of lost four bombers survived to be taken POW. Fokker fighters did also shot down four further SB bombers of other Soviet units on the same day. Two bombers and their crews went missing – it is likely that they were damaged in air combat and crash-landed in unknown locations. However Soviets continued to send stubbornly bombers over Finland without fighter escorts. As a consequence they lost in two months more than 100 bombers and aircrews in air combats - most of them by Fokker pilots led by Magnusson. Finally Soviets recognized the need of change of tactics and started to use drop tank equipped fighter escorts to minimize their losses during the rest of war. 

Magnusson was a commander who both trained and led his men in combat.  He was not the top scoring ace, but could show with his own example that the methods he had taught also worked in practice. During the Winter War he shot down three more Soviet planes and in the later other Soviet-Finnish War (Continuation War) 1941-1944 he was credited with one and one shared air victories. This made him an ace with 5 and half air victories. He might have scored more, but in August 1941 he was considered too valuable as a commanding officer to be lost in combat sortie and banned to participate in combat. The score of downed planes was not his most important legacy, it was his ability and competence as commanding officer, in which men under his command trusted. He created also the efficient basic training program for Finnish fighter pilots who even with inferior flying equipment were able survive, challenge and defeat enemy in many air combats.

In 1944 Gustaf Magnusson was awarded with Mannerheim Cross, which was the highest Finnish military award. This was a recognition of the importance of years of  work which he had made for the development of the fighter force of FAF. He left FAF as a colonel lieutenant  in 1946, after which he made also notable civil career. Gustaf Magnusson passed away in 1993 at the age of 91 in Helsinki.

If interested on Fokker D XXI (Magnusson´s plane in Winter War), more info can be found here: http://www.sci.fi/~fta/fr-fin-1.htm
 

Edited by hanwind

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Václav Jícha - an ace less known to me found via model building (my Morane 406 kit box included decals for his aircraft).

 

Well-known and inspiring figure for Czech military aviation historians, but a less-known pilot with a story interesting enough for others. I considered to write a short version of his career but ended up (admittedly by laziness) to the conclusion to recommend this link as an introduction: https://fcafa.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/vaclav-jicha-one-of-the-few/

 

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Chinese-American Ace Arthur Chin:
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Wikipedia:
Chin was born in Portland, Oregon to a Chinese father of Cantonese origin and a mother of Peruvian background. Motivated by the Japanese invasion of China, Chin enrolled in flight school in 1932. Along with 15 other Chinese Americans, he left for China and joined the Guangdong Provincial Air Force as the first and original group of American volunteer combat aviators, and ultimately integrated into the central government's air force under the KMT. After completion of additional aerial-gunnery training in Munich Germany, he returned to China for combat duty in which he was credited with destroying nine enemy aircraft between 1937-1939. In 1939, while flying a Gloster Gladiator, the fighter in which he scored 6.5 of his 8.5 aerial victories, he was hit by enemy fire and forced to bail out of his burning aircraft, and although he parachuted to safety, he suffered serious burn injuries. Nevertheless, after several years of surgery and recovery, and an escape from the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong,[1] he returned to China in 1944 to fly supplies over the Himalayas, a route known as the "Hump".

Chin is recognized as America's first ace in World War II. A half-century after the war ended, the U.S. government recognized Chin as an American veteran by awarding him the Distinguished Flying Cross. About a month after Chin died, on October 4, 1997, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Airpower Heritage Museum in Midland, Texas as the first American ace of World War II.

After his aviation career, Chin became a postal worker in his hometown of Portland. On January 29, 2008, Congressman Representative David Wu (D-Oregon) introduced House Resolution 5220 to name a United States Post Office in Aloha, Oregon after Major Arthur Chin as the "Major Arthur Chin Post Office Building". It was unanimously approved by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. President Bush signed it into law on May 7, 2008.

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And there was Marcel Albert, a French ace with 23 kills that served in the Armee de l'Air, the Vichy air force, the RAF, and the Free French air force under Soviet command on the Eastern front, and then in Czechoslovakia as an attache after the war. Quite a legendary character.

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Buffalo of the Chinese Sky: Wong Sun-sui (Wong Sun-Shui)

 

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Early Years

Wong Sun-sui (Wong Sun-shui), called “Buffalo”, was born in 1914 at the Taishan (Kwangtung/Canton provice, nowadays Guandgong in South China) although some sources claim that he was born in Los Angeles (USA). The truth is that his parents moved to USA in 1922 and founded a Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles and thus Wong became at least a half-American speaking very fluently English. Despite the chances to spend his life peacefully in USA he chose other way. In 1932 he enrolled to the Chinese Aviation School in Portland which was educating Chinese American young men to fly and getting an option to serve in the Chinese Air Force (CAF) which needed trained and language skilled men in its ranks. The institute was financed by Chinese American donors interested in aviation and who had saw that the nascent Chinese Air Force needed privately funded schools and planes for its build up. The limited resources of the Republican (Nationalist) Chinese government were not enough and thus patriotic private donors came to its aid and funded both the planes and pilot training for the CAF.

In 1934 Wong had completed his preparatory training in USA and together with many other Chinese-American pilots he returned to China and joined the 2nd Pursuit Squadron of Provincial Kwangtung Air Force.  Short and physically very solid Wong was called as “Buffalo” by his comrades who saw his physical build-up to have some resemblance to Asian water buffalo.  The CAF was by that time taking a shape in more centralized form when the semi-independent Provincial Air Forces were joined to so-called Central Air Force which officially became called as the Air Force of the Republic of China (ROCAF). After this restructuring of Chinese Air Force “Buffalo” was posted as a flight and squadron deputy leader to 17 Pursuit Squadron of 3rd Pursuit Group with the task of defending the Chinese (Nationalist) capital of Nanking. The squadron was equipped with Boieng 281 which was a export version of USAAF fighter P-26 “Peashooter”.

The First Combats

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Buffalo Wong´s Boeing 281 n:o 1703 in 1937.

Following the so-called Marco Polo brigde Incident a full scale war broke out between Japan and China in 7.7.1937. Japanese sought not to conquer the whole vast China but they had a clear aim to make China as a satellite state by occupying large areas of East China and force Chinese Nationalist government to accept a deal which would have diminished the sovereignty of China as a independent country. Thus there was not room for compromise and the war would take eight long and bitter years. Japanese invasion was swift and successful but only partly – due to technical and organizational superiority they could win the most of the battles but they could not win a war against a determined and prolonged Chinese resistance.

In the air Japanese had all the advantages: more and better planes, better trained pilots and more efficient organization. During the first weeks of war unescorted Japanese bombers flew as they wanted without meeting serious opposition.  But on the air combats of 14th and 15th of August 1937 this changed.  On 14th of August Chinese fighters shot down first Japanese G3M (“Nell”) bombers and on 15.8.1937 it was time for Wong´s unit to score over Nanking.  “Buffalo” and his comrades attacked  a formation of four G3M. By that time “Buffalo” had already worked out a tactic to attack the enemy bomber from the rear and left using the blind spot of rear gunner around the left vertical tail of the “Nell”. This approach ensured him the first air victory when he first shot at the tank of the left wing of plane setting in fire and finished the Japanese bomber by setting also its other wing tank in fire. The “Nell” crashed in flames east of Nanking. On the next day “Buffalo” was near to repeat his success but in the critical time the electronic system of his guns failed and the Japanese bomber escaped.

On 19.9.1937 there was a big air battle raging over Nanking and Buffalo led his flight of Boieng fighters against eight E8N (“Dave”) floatplanes.  The floatplanes did put up a tough fight – soon one Boieng 281 was shot down and the parachuted Chinese pilot was killed by the gunners of floatplanes.  “Buffalo” tried to intervene to save his comrade but the A5M (“Claude”) fighter cover of the floatplanes came at that time after Chinese fighters.  “Buffalo´s” fighter was hit and he had to bail out.  He was saved from strafing in air but was injured which kept him out of fight for some months.



Gladiator Ace

After recovering from his injuries “Buffalo” became a commander of 29th Pursuit Squadron which was equipped with Gladiator Mk I. This became the plane with which “Buffalo” made most of his air victory claims despite some nasty technical problems like fuel leaks and the irritating guns that tended to jam during the critical moment of combat. Some pilots even lost their life due to this problem but “Buffalo” was more lucky by surviving and also scoring in combat with his Gladiator.

On 23.2.1938 Buffalo and other Gladiator pilots scrambled to meet a Japanese floatplane formation which was sent to bomb the airfield of Nan Hsiung where the Gladiator squadrons PS 28 and PS 29 were located.  They did not find the enemy formation and decided to return to their airfield.  The timing was lucky: as the frustfrated Gladiator pilots were nearing to homebase they spotted the Japanese floatplane formation coming from south. Before the Japanese E7K (“Alf”) floatplane bombers could release their bombs “Buffalo” and his comrades dived on them.  “Buffalo” set one of the Japanese floatplanes in fire but the skilled Japanese pilot managed to extinguish flames by sharp dive and escaped. The same repeated with another Japanese plane – again same trick saved it. Then Buffalo and three other Gladiator pilots combined their forces to attack a third plane.  This one also managed to escape although it left a strong trailing fuel vapour coming from its peppered fuel tanks. During the combat Chinese had to deal also with E8N floatplanes which acted as a fighter cover for the E7K bombers.  These nimble floatplanes with their well trained aircrews proved to be tough nut to crack in combat – specially when the guns of Gladiators were jamming during the critical moments. Two Chinese Gladiators were shot down and their pilots killed. However Chinese were actually more successfully than they knew – many of the damaged Japanese planes crash-landed and ditched to sea. As a a result of the combat Japanese lost five floatplanes.

The day of 13.4.1938 became a tough fighting day for Buffalo and other Gladiator pilots defending the airspace over Canton. During the morning the Chinese air warning system reported that three Japanese formations were approaching Canton. These were 18 D1A1 biplane divebombers (“Susie”) of the carrier Kaga escorted by six A5M and three A4N biplane fighters.  Buffalo and seventeen other Gladiator pilots took their planes and scrambled to meet the enemy. After half an hour of flying the enemy formations were spotted and Buffalo led a flight of eight Gladiators to attack. In his first drive he did hit one divebomber which left the formation leaving a trail of smoke behind it (it later ditched to the sea and was written off by the Japanese).

The Japanese fighters intervened to protect the divebombers.  In the following dogfight Buffalo out-turned a A4N and shot it down in flames. Then a A5M attacked him from rear but Buffalo managed to pull the nose of his Gladiator and make a head-on attack on the enemy. Again the bad ammunition and jamming guns were a problem – only one of machineguns of the Gladiator functioned, but it proved to be enough to hit the A5M which went down and crashed. Then Buffalo´s luck ended: another A5M climbed behind his Gladiator and got hits wounding Buffalo´s left hand. His engine in fire and wounded Buffalo had to bail out although he knew that it was risky as Japanese regularly strafed parachuting Chinese pilots.  The air combat over China was merciless and there was no place for gallantry.

However this time the enemy was too occupied with other Gladiators to make a killing pass on Buffalo. His wingman Li You-rung attacked the A5M nearest to parachuting Buffalo and probably saved his life. But the brave Li in turn was attacked by another A5M which shot him down – Li crashed to his death in his burning machine. Four other Gladiators were also shot down although three of the downed pilots survived from the combat. Also Japanese air combat losses were considerable – they lost two A4N fighters, one A5M fighter and two D1A1 divebombers.

The combat of 13.4.1938 left Buffalo without a small finger in his hand and he had to spend a long time out of duty to recover from his wounds.

Chaika vs. Zero

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In November 1940 Buffalo was again fit for service and he was promoted to the commander of the 5th Pursuit Squadron which was equipped with new Soviet I-153 (“Chaika”) fighters. However the planes were not in good condition and the Chinese mechanics found out that the new fighters had been assembled with used and worn-out components. This resulted with all sorts of mechanical failures: oxygen system did not function in high altitudes, guns could not fire and the engine could not provide full power forcing pilots to abort missions.

As a consequence of the above problems 5th Pursuit Squadron could send in air only four I-153´s in air in the fateful day of 14.3.1941 when Japanese formation was seen to near Chengdu and its Chinese airfields. Buffalo managed to get in air together with other I-153 pilots of 3rd and 5th Pursuit Squadrons to meet a challenge of ten B5N (“Kate”) carrier bombers escorted by 12 A6M Zero fighters. The Zeros did split up in two groups – seven went to strafe the airfields of Shuang-liu and Taipingsu and five remaining in high altitude as top cover.

The Chaikas of two Chinese flight leaders were equipped with radios and they were directed to take on the strafers at the airfields. Arriving over the Shuang-liu airfield Buffalo spotted the Zeros strafing the airfield. He and his flight dived to attack these Zeros but failed to spot the top cover. The leader of second I-153 flight, Ma Kwok-lim was going to follow Buffalo and his men but he saw three Zeros of the top cover coming fastly from their higher altitude. He pulled up the nose of his Chaika to meet the enemy but as his plane was without radio he could not warn Buffalo of the danger. The Zeros dived on Buffalo and his flight before anyone could intervene to stop them. Buffalo and his wingman were hit and did not survive from the combat. Seriously wounded Buffalo managed to force-land his badly damaged I-153 but died almost immediately after that to his wounds.

The air combat of 14.3.1941 over Chengdu ended in the crushing defeat for the Chinese Chaika´s.  The Chinese fighters trying to attack the strafing Zero´s below were massacred by top cover Zeros which used at the maximum their superior performance and altitude advantage attacking Chaikas from behind and from the side as they willed. Eight Chinese pilots and all three flight leaders were killed and 13 I-153´s were destroyed. Japanese losses of the day were nil.  The backbone of the fighter force of the Chinese Air Force was broken. It would take the withdrawal of Japanese Navy Air Force to Pacific war and the arrival of American Volunteer Group with more modern equipment to balance the books at the Chinese sky.

 

Chinese air commander general Chou Chi-Liu bursted in tears when he on 14.3.1941 heard from the deaths of Chinese pilots of whom he had known many personally.  Among the mourned pilots was Buffalo Wong Sun Tsui who was an ace with seven confirmed air victories and decorated with the high Six Stars Medal during the war. He shared the fate of many brave Chinese airmen who had to fight with inferior equipment against a far superior enemy and gave the ultimate sacrifice for defending China.  


For further reading:
Aces of the Republic of China Air Force by Raymond Cheung. Osprey 2015.
http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/china.htm


 

Edited by hanwind
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  • 3 weeks later...

the old george bush

 

as far as im aware he was one of the youngest aces of ww2

 

got five kills on his first engagement

 

 

as afr as im am told...havent checked any official stats

LOOOOL ace with five kills .. Allies  :facepalm:

medal medal medal medal

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Corrado Ricci

 

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Corrado Ricci was born in San Lorenzo, Italy in 1912. During his adolescence years the Italian aviation was living in its "golden age". The fascist regime had special endorsement for the aviation - such figures as D´Annunzio and Balboa were among the aviation heroes, the Benito Mussolini himself was a pilot and futuristic "aeropittura" flourished as a creative art form. Ricci was probably inspired by all this and by the age of 19 he had already a civil flying license. When it came to military service, Regia Aeronautica (Royal Italian Air Force) was obvious choice. In 1931 he entered to military flying academy at Caserta and two years later he joined the air force as a sublieutnant at regular service. He became a fighter pilot and learned to fly the Fiat CR fighters designed by Celestino Rosatelli.

When Spanish Civil broke out and Italy got involved, Italian military pilots were recruited by the governement to join the Italian air contingent (Aviación del Tercio Extranjero, later Aviazione Legionaria) fighting for the Spanish Nationalists. Ricci was one of the many military pilots who were recruited to fly Fiat CR 32 fighters in Spain. By the time when Ricci arrived to take part in combat missions the airwar in Spain had become to critical phase when Spanish Republican Air Force received reinforcement from Soviet Union in the form of Polikarpov I-15 and I-16 fighters and SB bombers. Up to then the Fiats had dominated the sky over Spain in rather onesided air combats, but with the arrival of Soviet planes, pilots and improved training program the Republican Air Force was able to challenge the Nationalists in air. On 13.11.1936 Ricci took part in the escort mission of bombers over Madrid when big formation of I-15 fighters attacked. In the confusing series of single air combats both sides claimed a victory and Ricci was credited with one I-15 shot down. However the claims of the day were different from the loss records of both sides - Italian Fiat pilots claiming nine enemy fighters and one SB bomber while the actual enemy losses were two I-15 and one SB. On the other hand Republicans claimed to have destroyed six Fiats while only one was actually shot down. 

Six days later it was another escort mission over Madrid when a large air combat erupted. In this combat Ricci seems to have shot down I-16 piloted by Soviet captain Dimitriy Zedanov although the claims and loss records of both sides were again contradictory - Nationalists claiming seven enemy fighters while the true enemy losses were two and Republicans claiming four enemy planes while the true losses were limited to one. The confirmation of individual air victories was rather difficult in whirling dogfights and thus most air victory claims of Corrado Ricci ended up to be counted as shared ones.

 

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Fiat CR 32 with Spanish Nationalist markings and typical camo of Spanish Civil War.

Ricci´s most memorable air combat in Spain was one in which he made not individual claims but in which his action played a decisive factor. By the February 1937 the fierce air combats against Polikarpov fighters had caused Italians more losses than their air command thought acceptable. The Polikarpov planes seemed to be tough opponents - the I-15 was more manouverable and the I-16 much faster than Fiat CR 32. Therefore Italian fighter commander Tarcisio Fragnani ordered his men to avoid air combats and engage only when they had numerical superiority compared to enemy. This reduced the combat efficiency of Fiat fighters and was not good for the fighting spirit. The Spanish Nationalist pilots and Spanish air commander Arturo Kindelán strongly disapproved on this cautios behaviour as it left the enemy to dominate the air. Although Spanish Fiat pilots were under the Italian command, the Spanish air commander Arturo Kindelán gave an order to the Spanish top ace pilot Joaquín García Morato to engage enemy even at unfavourable circumstances.  García Morato agreed - in his opinion fighter pilots should be as active as possible and attack even when outnumbered, otherwise initiative would be lost to enemy. It was perhaps hoped that the example of Spanish pilots would make also Italians more active in air. 

On 18.2.1937 Joaquín Garcia Morato together with two other Spanish Fiat pilots took part on bomber escort mission near Arganda together with Italians. The bombing mission was completed and Fiats were following the bombers to Nationalist lines when a big formation of I-15´s and I-16´s appeared. As these were more numerous than Fiats, Italians followed the orders and continued to fly toward Nationalist lines. However García Morato led his Spanish patrol of three planes against the enemy formation of 25 fighters. The bravery alone could not make it up to compensate the numbers and soon Morato and his patrol were struggling to survive. In this situation Corrado Ricci made a quick decision to go to aid García Morato and his flight of five Fiats joined the combat. Soon other Italians joined the combat and also more Republican fighters arrived to the scene. A big air combat resulted with 25 Fiats fighting against 40 I-15´s and I-16´s. Although the claims of both sides were again overoptimistic there was no doubt of the victory of Fiat pilots - they shot down at least six Polikarpov fighters with the price of having only two Fiats damaged. The air combat of 18.2.1937 was a great morale boost for Italians and Spanish Nationalists and a turning point after which cautious passivity was replaced by aggressive activity. After this Fiat pilots were more confident with their chances against Polikarpov fighters. Ricci´s action in this combat saved García Morato and his patrol from annihilation and later García Morato thanked Ricci personally for his quick intervention.

 

By June 1937 Ricci´s unit 26th Squadriglia was posted at the Northern Front where Nationalists had started a campaign to eliminate the Republicans completely in the northern provinces of Spain. On 5.6.1937 the 26th Squadriglia strafed the airfield of Somorrostro near Bilbao destroying and damaging several enemy planes on the ground. While Italians were concentrating on targets on the ground, a lone I-15 suddenly appeared and dived to attack Ricci who was flying at low speed at low level. Ricci was saved by his squadron mate Guido Presel who intervened although he was without ammo or with guns completely jammed. Presel diverted the I-15 from the tail but fell to the guns of I-15 and was killed his plane crashing to sea at nearby beach. The wreck and the body of Presel were rescued by Republicans. The victorious I-15 pilot Rafael Magriña took personally care of Presel´s burial arrangements at local cemetery. Magriña was killed in air combat just two weeks later.

Ricci ended his tour in Spain by late 1937 having three confirmed individual air victories at his tally and several shares. He returned to the service of Regia Aeronautica which posted him to Ethiopia (by that time Italian East Africa). When Italy joined the WW2 in June 1940, Ricci was still flying with Fiat CR 32 - by now a obsolete fighter, but which with its simple and robust structure adapted well to the rudimentery field conditions of East Africa. Ricci was able to show that the old Fiat CR 32 had still some teeth in air combat and on 1.8.1940 he shot down a British Blenheim bomber of which his account:

"I look around; nothing to see. But... something is coming from the sunshine... Here they are; six diving bombers. It seems to me they are heading towards our secret airfields. I hope they had been alerted! They are flying over Diredawa; I'll chase them out of the town border. They hadn't bombed the town, so they're really heading to the airfields. They are going to pass at my side, at my same level, fast as a bolide! I attack the front section of three from the side, the other section still being to the rear. While I'm firing, I find myself in their trail; I shoot at the leader, then at the right wingman; the two aircraft seem to leave tiny trails of smoke, but I'm not sure of it. One of my machine gun jams, but I don't recharge it because I don't want to lose aim. Tracer shells passed nearby my side, I hear shots behind me; I am attacked too. I evade with a large, barrel-shaped tonneau; while I'm upside down I can see the second section passing at my right side, slightly lower than me. At the end of the manoeuvre I'm at six of the left wingman, but in the meanwhile I recharged the jammed gun, so I shoot again, sharing my rounds to all three, while bombs are falling. First section is far ahead, the two aircraft I fired at are still smoking. [...] I concentrate on the aiming: it's the turn of the right wingman now. The gun jams again! I recharge it. All three aircraft leave a light trail of smoke, like the two of the first section. I shoot again... the aircraft I'm shooting at seems to slow down... is it an illusion? No, it is really slowing down: while the other two are going, it extracts the gun turret and begins to shoot at me. I fire again; the British pilot manoeuvres to prevent me to hide behind his tail. I discharge brief bursts... I must slow down to not collide with him. We are at ten meters from ground; the British extracts the flaps and lands on the sand in a cloud of dust."  

There was no any doubt on Ricci´s air victory: the crew of downed Blenheim was captured and British sources confirmed Ricci´s account. Seven days later Ricci participated in the succesfull raiding of enemy airfield and destroyed one Gladiator on the ground. He flew several combat missions but it took until 9.3.1941 when he was able to record a confirmed air victory which was again a Blenheim. This was his last air victory which made him finally an ace with five "kills". After this he fell ill of appendicitis and was evacuated from Ethiopia by a SM 82 transport plane which took him to Libya and from there to Italy. Ricci flew later several combat missions with Fiat CR 42 and from French captured Dewoitine 520 against Allied bombers.

When Mussolini was overthrown and the new Badoglio governement made an armistice with the Allied on 8th of September 1943, Italy was split in two halves: south was governed by the new pro-Allied governement while north and central Italy was controlled by Germans who did set up a puppet governement led by Mussolini in north. Ricci supported the pro-Allied governement and served in the Co-Belligerent Italian air force. After the war his service in Italian Air Force continued and he flew the new jet planes during the postwar decades. He retired as a general in 1972.
 

During his retirement years his life took a new turn when his children died in traffic accidents. He found consolation in the Catholic faith and became a missionary in Gabon where he founded also a company of carpet business. Corrado Ricci died in Gabon in 1995.

Further reading:
http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/italy_ricci.htm
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrado_Ricci_%28aviatore%29
Loguloso, Alfredo 2010: Fiat CR 32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Edited by hanwind
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