Biplane fighter aces


Törzsőrmester Sándor (Szojak) Szobránci

Sándor Szoják was born in Krassóvermes in 1908.

Őrmester Szojak served in the 1/1. "Íjász" vadászszázad’s (Fighter Squadron) 2. Section operating Fiat CR.32s from Ungvar airfield during the border skirmishes against the Slovaks in the spring of 1939.

On the morning of 24 March 1939, föhadnagy (Lieutenant) Aladár Negró’s 2. Section of the 1/1. vadászszázad was patrolling the area over Szobránc. The section consisted of him, örmester (Sergeant) Szojak and örmester Árpád Kertész. At 07:40 three Slovakian Avia B-534s from 49th letka suddenly appeared.
This was a patrol led by porucík (Lieutenant) Ján Prhácek (commanding officer of the 49th letka) and with desiatnik (Corporal) C. Martiš as no. 2 and LAC Michal Karas as no. 3. They were heading towards Vyšné Remety along the course of the Okna River southwards, where they were to support the attacking troops of the Stakcín group with their operations. The Slovak pilots reported being attacked by Hungarian fighters in the Nižná Rybnica area. Martiš described their surprise attack:

“As soon as I put the fighter to the climbing position shots started flying around me, hitting the aircraft. Turning against the line of fire, I found out that I was attacked by two enemy fighters from the back. I looked at the patrol commander and no. 3 immediately who were attacked by approximately 7-8 enemy fighters and in the east from them there was an enemy bombing aircraft of the type of Caproni in higher altitude. Seeing the situation, I sank to the ground and noticed that my oil tank was shot through and the oil started to leak. The aircraft became impossible. I started to retreat as my last option.”
His situation, however, became more serious:
“They followed me by firing and in that moment the rear tell-tale of my cockpit was hit, the shot was warded off but it got to the cockpit cover frame that was deformed.”
Martiš realised that he finished fighting with his aircraft and dropped the bombs on fields and locked for the most suitable place for an emergency landing. He picked a meadow in the south from Klokocov, where he landed. He could not find out from altitude that the meadow was soggy and not suitable for landing. This caused the B-534 to sink into mellow ground after 20 meters of landing run and turning over with the pilot sustaining minor injuries. Martiš had been shot down by örmester Szojak, who reported that his victim fell near Lúcky.
Porucík Prhácek’s B-534 was hit by föhadnagy Negró west of Sobrance. Seriously wounded Prhácek tried to carry out an emergency landing in the valley of the brook of Luhovce. Due to his injuries and the emergency, he didn’t drop his bombs, which exploded when he tried to land, killing him.
LAC Karas was claimed damaged by örmester Kertész in the area of Vyšné Remety. Karas, persecuted by enemy fighters, got to Uzhgorod and landed on the field near Humenné due to unfavourable weather and lack of fuel but without damage to his fighter.

Later the same day the whole squadron scrambled at 15:00 hours. They formed in three Vs in the air; főhadnagy Béla Csekme leading with hadnagy (2nd Lieutenant) V. Gemeinhardt and őrmester M. Tarr as wingmen. Negró’s trio flew on the starboard side and on the port side flew főhadnagy László Palkó’s 3. Section, with wingmen főhadnagy Antal Békássy and hadnagy Mátyás Pirity. The CR.32s reached the cloud-base at about 6200 feet and then flew into fog. Soon there was a hole in the clouds and at the same moment Palkó and Pirity noticed three Avia B-534s and three Letov Š.328s on the port side. The 1. Section did not appear to notice the enemy and they flew on and were soon swallowed by the fog. The Avias, which were from 45th letka, jumped Negró’s 2. Section but opened fire too soon, outside the range of their machine-guns. Negró, turned the table and shot down one Avia flown by rotmajster Ján Hergott southeast of Bánovce nad Ondavou. A second Avia, flown by František Hanovec, was shot down by Szojak near Senné.
The Letovs, which were from 12th letka on their way to bomb Hungarian troops at Sobrance, were deserted by their escort and offered a tempting target. They were 300 feet higher thus, in order to gain speed and altitude, Palkó threw his machine into a short dive and then climbed behind the Letovs. He dipped the nose of his CR.32 and sent a burst into the belly of the nearest one. The aircraft caught fire and crashed north of Pavlovce nad Uhom. The pilot slobodník Gustáv Pažický and the observer porucík Ferdinand Švento were both killed. A second Letov was claimed shot down by Pirity. This was a Letov flown by slobodník Jozef Drlicka and his observer podporucík L. Šronk and they made an emergency landing near Strazske.
Three more Avias were discovered and Palkó’s wingmen were now locked in combat with the enemy fighter. Békássy pursued one over the border and emptied a total of a thousand rounds from both machine guns into it before shooting it down. This aircraft was flown by desiatnik Martin Danihel from 45th letka and he made an emergency landing near Brezovice nad Torysa. After having expending all his ammunition Békássy returned to Hungary.
Looking around Pirity saw streams of tracers scorching the sky then noticed an Avia some 1500 feet below. Pirity dived on it but he had to pull out because another CR.32 crossed his path with guns blazing. The sky was now empty, Palkó, staying in the area for a minute or two, sighted Negró’s machine. One by one the other Fiats joined them. Békássy and Szojak had already landed at Ungvar.
The Hungarian pilots totally claimed five Avias and two Letovs in the air combat over Paloc. Negró, Békássy, Szojak, Béla Csekme (not confirmed) and Kertész (one not confirmed over Michalovce) reported the destruction of the Avias, while Palkó and Pirity claimed the Letovs. Gemeinhardt and Tarr had no chance to fire their guns in anger. The Slovakian forces lost three Avia B-534s and two Letovs. Slovakian pilots Hanovec and Danihel both claimed one Fiat but this was not confirmed with the Hungarians.
Porucík Ferdinand Švento, the observer of one of the Letovs, baled out and was wounded in the stomach while descending in his parachute. He fell near a group of Hungarian hussars. Upon impact he forced himself to sit up and reached inside his flying gear. The move was misunderstood and Švento was mortally shot. The hussars found his identification papers in his hand instead of a pistol. Švento was buried with full military honors.

He was decorated with the Arany Vitézségi Érem (Gold Medal for Bravery) for his performance in this conflict.

In 1940 Szojak changed his last name to Szobránci in honour to his claims during the conflict in the same way as Aladár Negró did.

Törzsőrmester (Staff Sergeant) Szobránci was attached to the 1/3. vadászszázad at the time of the assault on Soviet Union. The unit was equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

On 27 August főhadnagy Ujszászy’s section was first over Dniepropetrovsk. The CR.42s circled over the city, and then they began to extend their circles until the patrol covered the neighboring countryside. Suddenly the experienced eyes of Szobránci spotted a low flying modern Soviet fighter, which was about to land at a camouflaged airstrip. It was a large meadow edged by trees and under the trees were parked at least a squadron’s strength of I-17s. Szobránci warned his leader and dived on the unsuspecting Russian from the sun. He reached the ground sooner than he expected. A short burst and the Soviet fighter reared another burst and it crashed in the meadow. This started a feverish activity on the field. Some I-17s taxied to the take-off point, then raced along the grass. As the first machines rose in the air Ujszászy and Szobránci promptly shot down one each. In the meanwhile others managed to climb to the Hungarian fighters altitude and they headed for the intruders with marked determination. Ujszászy noticed a streak of tracers just missing his starboard wing. There was a Russian on his tail. He pulled the stick back, but his attacker must have expected this, for the bullets continued to pass by very close. Ujszászy threw his machine into a turn; glanced back and somewhat relieved saw his pursuer spiraling downward followed by thick smoke. The other member of the section, zászlós (Ensign) Szénási had arrived just in the right moment. Ammunition now ran low and the Hungarian fighters began to withdraw but Ujszászy managed to claim one last I-17 while his wingmen guarded his tail. This fighter crashed after he had sent a burst into the cockpit. The section claimed 5 victories in this combat and in the evening the German intelligence confirmed the destruction of at least 5, possibly 6 aircraft.

After his tour with the 1/3. "Kőr Ász" vadászszázad on the Eastern front he was decorated with the Nagy Ezüst Vitézségi Érem (Great Silver Medal For Bravery).

In the spring of 1945 he served in a Hungarian night fighter unit.

Szobránci ended the war with 4 victories, these claimed while flying Fiat biplanes.

Directly after the war he emigrated to Australia where he passed away in Melbourne on 23 September 1983.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 24/03/39 07:40 1 Avia B-534 (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   near Lúcky 1/1. vadászszázad
2 24/03/39 15:00- 1 Avia B-534 (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   near Senné 1/1. vadászszázad
3 27/08/41   1 I-17 Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Dniepropetrovsk area 1/3. vadászszázad
4 27/08/41   1 I-17 Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Dniepropetrovsk area 1/3. vadászszázad

Biplane victories: 4 destroyed.
TOTAL: 4 destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with 49th letka. Desiatnik (Corporal) C. Martis survived.
(b) Claimed in combat with 45th letka. František Hanovec shot down.

Becze Csaba: A magyar királyi 1. honvéd éjjeli vadász repülőszázad Magyar Repüléstörténeti Társaság Konferencia Közleményei 1999 kindly provided by Csaba Becze
Avia B-34, B-534 a Bk-534, slovenských pilotov 1939-1944 – Peter Šumichrast and Jozef And’al, HT model špeciál, ISSN 1335-3667
Biplane Against The Red Bear - Julius R. Gaal, 1974 Air Combat Spring/1974 kindly provided by Santiago Flores
Harcok az orosz égen Budapest - Tomor László, 1942 kindly provided by Csaba Becze
Slovenské Letectvo 1939-1944 - Juraj Rajninec, Bratislava, 1997
Tűzkeresztség - Csaba Becze
Additional information and image kindly provided by Csaba Becze

Last modified 22 November 2006