Biplane fighter aces


Százados Aladár ‘Ali’ (Negró) Szobránczy

Föhadnagy (Lieutenant) Aladár Negró served in the 1/1. "Íjász" vadászszázad (Fighter Squadron) operating Fiat CR.32s from Ungvar airfield during the border skirmishes against the Slovaks in the spring of 1939. At the time he was commander of the 2nd Section of the squadron.

On the morning of 24 March 1939, föhadnagy (Lieutenant) Negró’s 2. Section of the 1/1. vadászszázad was patrolling the area over Szobránc. The section consisted of him, örmester (Sergeant) Sandor 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; föhadnagy Béla Csekme leading with hadnagy (2nd Lieutenant) V. Gemeinhardt and örmester M. Tarr as wingmen. Negró’s trio flew on the starboard side and on the port side flew föhadnagy László Palkó’s 3. Section, with wingmen föhadnagy 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 Magyar Érdemrend Tisztikeresztje hadidíszítménnyel és kardokkal (approximately the Hungarian Cross of Merit for officers) for his performance in this conflict.

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

He served as a százados (Captain) and commander of the 2/3. “Ricsi” vadászszázad (Fighter Squadron) operating Fiat CR.42s in the summer and autumn of 1941 during the units operations against the Soviet Union. The unit received its name and insignia from his dog, a Great Dane called ‘Ricsi’.

At around 08:00 on 27 June, the MKHL made its first air attack against Soviet targets, when around 30 bombers comprising Junkers Ju 86s of 4/3. and 4/4. bombázószázad (Bomber Squadron) and one squadron of Caproni Ca.135s of 3/5. bombázószázad attacked targets in Stanislav (now Ivano-Frankovsk). They were escorted by 9 CR 42s of the 2/3. ‘Ricsi’ vadászszázad of the 2./II osztály led by százados vitéz Szobránczy. After the bombers had done their work, the escorting fighters strafed targets of opportunity in the area. Őrmester (Sergeant) Arpád Kertész was lost in dense clouds and when he finally broke through, he sighted a reconnaissance machine. When he flew towards it, it opened fire so he identified it as a Russian reconnaissance aircraft (probably a Polikarpov R-5). After a short exchange of fire, the reconnaissance aircraft burst into flames. He turned back towards his base flying on his instruments but after a while, his fuel ran low and he decided to land. Fortunately, when he landed he found himself among Rumanians. However, it took him more than a week to squeeze some petrol out of them. At last, they gave him some but it was still so little that he had to return to his unit via his pre-war base in Hungary.
During the same mission, the fighter squadron lost CR 42 V.217, when zászlós László Kázár was shot down by antiaircraft fire. He made a forced landing and after setting fire to his personal mount for two years, he managed to return after 16 days spent hiding behind enemy lines, with the help of local Ukrainian anti-Communist guerrillas.

On 12 July, alezredes (Lieutenant Colonel) Béla Orosz, commander of the air contingent attached to the Fast corps, ordered százados Szobránczy, commander of 2/3. vadászszázad, to provide escort for two short-range reconnaissance squadrons, which were to bomb an enemy transport assembly point west of Zwanczyk. Szobránczy, főhadnagy László Pottyondy, hadnagy Gyözö Vámos (CR.42 V.265), szakaszvezetö Péter Soós and szakaszvezetö János Balogh took off at 10:00 and soon joined the formation of WM 21 Sólyom aircraft of the VIIth and Xth közelfelderítö-század. On the way to the target, Szobránczy caught sight of three twin-engined Soviet bombers. As the Fiats dived on them, seven Soviet I-16s appeared suddenly and engaged the Hungarian biplanes. Szobránczy selected a Soviet fighter and soon saw his tracers penetrating the cockpit. The machine began to trail thick smoke and hit the ground west of Zvanchyk. Pottyondy also attacked an I-16 but, at the same time, he was jumped by another I-16. He noticed with satisfaction that Soós took over his victim-to-be and he was able to concentrate on his attacker. Despite the Soviet machine’s advantage of altitude, thanks to the superb manoeuvrability of the CR.42, Pottyondy managed to get behind the Russian and his bullets tore pieces of the fuselage. The Russian pilot steadied his plane only to fly into the machine gun fire of the oncoming Vámos. The two machines raced towards each other and in the next second, they collided head-on. Pottyondy saw two parachutes floating downward but he was immediately attacked by another I-16. It took some time to get behind this opponent, but he finally did it. The bullets hit the tail and then moved forward on to the section between the engine and the cockpit. Pottyondy knew that he finally had got his first victory out of three chances since smoke poured out from the I-16s engine as the Fiat’s machine guns kept pounding the fuselage. Finally, it spun towards the earth near Dunayevtsy, out of control. Meanwhile the WM 21 Sólyoms had completed their task and turned for home. Despite being fired upon by effective ground fire, all but one Sólyoms returned.
Pottyondy and Balogh, who also had shot down an I-16, were the last to leave the area yet they were the first back in Kolomea. Soon Soós arrived and also reported an air victory. On the return, he had got low on fuel and had to land to refuel at another airfield. However Vámos, who they know had bailed out after the collision, and Szobránczy were still missing. After shooting down his opponent and watching Vámos’ collision, Szobránczy had decided to try to find him. Circling around the parachute, he noticed that Vámos hung motionless. When his body hit the top of threes, a Russian patrol appeared at the edge of the wood. Szobránczy sent the Russians running with a few well-aimed bursts. Looking around he saw a meadow along the south-east edge of the forest and put the Fiat down. The machine came to a halt after about 250 feet and the undercarriage sank into the soft ground. A group of horsemen appeared galloping towards him and Szobránczy draw his pistol but, to his great relief, it was not needed for they were Hungarian hussars who had watched his landing. Szobránczy detailed a hussar to guard the plane, mounted the hussar’s horse and began to search for Vámos. They found the parachute quickly, but it took ninety minutes to find the pilot, who they found sleeping in an abandoned forester hut! The happy Vámos explained that he lost consciousness upon the impact and did not remember pulling the ripcord. He came to when he hit the foliage. At the edge of the forest, he was fired on, so he went farther into the woods until he saw the hut where, exhausted, he fell into a deep sleep. In the meantime, a Hungarian armoured unit reached the scene and then towed the Fiat on to solid ground. Szobránczy landed back at Kolomea at 19:00 and the unit could claim five victories during the day with no losses of pilots.
According to some sources was the I-16, which collided with Vámos credited as an unconfirmed to Pottyondy, who fired at this aircraft before the collision.
It seems that they had been in combat with SBs from 132 SBAP and I-16s from 168 IAP. 132 SBAP reported that at noon six SBs bombed tanks at Dunayevtsy while three SBs attacked more tanks at Shatava:

“Near Shatava, six enemy sesquiplane fighters [most probably Hungarian Fiat CR.42s] attempted to attack our bombers, but were driven away by our fighters, which arrived just in time. During the hurried withdrawal, two enemy aircraft collided and crashed to the ground in flames.”
While returning from the target, the Soviet bombers were attacked by six Bf 109s north of Dunayevtsy. The I-16 zveno from 168 IAP tasked with escort barred the enemy’s way towards the bombers and forced them into dogfight. The combat lasted for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, the bombers had carried out their task and left. Three fighters, flown by Kapitan Konstantin A. Pilshikov, Starshii Leitenant Peter Shurmin and Leitenant Klimenko, didn’t return. A single parachute was observed, without the pilot’s identity being established. Next morning, a message arrived from Kapitan Pilshikov. He informed his headquarters that his zveno clashed with three ‘Fiat’ aircraft in the Dunayevtsy and Solobkovtsy area. The ‘Fiats’ were followed by four more, which also joined the fight. Pilshikov shot down one of them during the first attack. However, a second came at him in a frontal attack, damaging the engine of his I-16. He had to disengage from combat and reached friendly territory, where he landed, close to Bar. The fighter burned out and the pilot rejoined his unit days later. A couple of hours after being posted missing, Leitenant Klimenko returned to base. He reported that he had entered into combat and fought until his I-16 had run out of fuel. In the end, he landed successfully 10km south of Dorozhnya. However, he had to burn his aircraft, as the area was already abandoned by Soviet troops. He also reported that besides the ‘Fiat’ shot down by Pilshikov, he saw a second one also falling while burning. He assumed that it was brought down by Starshii Leitenant Shurmin. It is believed that he rammed a Hungarian Fiat CR.42 close to Strybiz and was killed in the process. Totally, the 168 IAP lost six I-16s and four pilots during the day.

After the combat on 12 July, Szobránczy and Gyözö Vámos were decorated with the bronze Signum Laudis while László Pottyondy received the silver Signum Laudis.

A few days later the “Ricsi” vadászszázad was pulled back to Hungary.

Szobránczy ended the war with 3 biplane victories.

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   W Sobrance 1/1. vadászszázad
2 24/03/39 15:00- 1 Avia B-534 (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   SE Bánovce nad Ondavou 1/1. vadászszázad
3 12/07/41 10:00- 1 I-16 (c) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   W Zwanczyk 2/3. vadászszázad

Biplane victories: 3 destroyed.
TOTAL: 3 destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with 49th letka. Commanding officer porucík (Lieutenant) Ján Prhácek killed.
(b) Claimed in combat with 45th letka. Rotmajster Ján Hergott shot down.
(c) Claimed in combat with I-16s from 168 IAP, which claimed two CR.42s while losing three I-16. 2/3. vadászszázad claimed five I-16s while losing one CR.42.

Csaba Becze: A magyar királyi 1. honvéd éjjeli vadász repülöszázad 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
Elfelejtett Hősök - Csaba Becze, 2006 Puedlo Kiadó, ISBN 963-9673-064
From Barbarossa to Odessa: Volume 1 – Dénes Bernád, Dmitriy Karlenko and Jean-Louis Roba, 2007 Ian Allan Publishing Ltd, ISBN 978-85780-273-3
Harcok az orosz égen Budapest - László Tomor, 1942 kindly provided by Csaba Becze
Krst ohnom (Plastic Kits Revue) - Juraj Rajninec, 1991 (kindly provided by Ondrej Repka)
“Kőr ász” Egy vadászrepülő század története 1936-1941 - Csaba Becze, 2007 Puedlo Kiadó, ISBN 978-9639673854
One day Air War (Air Combat magazine September/1977) - Julius R.Gaal, 1977 (kindly provided by Santiago Flores)
Slovensti letci/Slovak Airmen 1939-1945 - Jiri Rajlich and Jiri Sehnal, 1991 (kindly provided by Ondrej Repka)
Slovenske letectvo 1939-1944 - Juraj Rajninec, 1997 (kindly provided by Ondrej Repka)
Tûzkeresztség - Csaba Becze
Additional information kindly provided by Csaba Stenge

Last modified 28 August 2019