Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Capitano Paolo Arcangeletti

1 March 1912 – December 1996

Image kindly provided by Eugenio Costigliolo.

Paolo Arcangeletti was born on 1 March 1912.

He received his permanent commission on 5 October 1936.

He took command of the 84a Squadriglia of the 4o Stormo C.T. on 13 April 1937, when the previous commander Capitano Ernesto Botto went to Spain to take part in the Civil War.

On 1 May 1937, Tenente Roberto Fassi took command of the 84a Squadriglia, 4o Stormo, after Tenente Arcangeletti.

On 10 June 1937, Tenente Arcangeletti took command of the 96a Squadriglia after Capitano Marco Minio Paluello.

On 8 July 1937, Sottotenente Vittorio Pezzè took command of the 96a Squadriglia after Tenente Arcangeletti.

Arcangeletti volunteered for service in Spain in July 1937.

He served with the XXIII Gruppo and the 31a Squadriglia of the VI Gruppo. The 31a Squadriglia was commanded by Capitano Borgogno and the VI Gruppo was commanded by Maggiore Leotta.

At around noon on 20 August 1937, he claimed a ’Curtiss’ (I-15) over Selaya on the Santander front.

On 12 October, the Republican Air Force intervened heavily to support International battalions and tanks in an attempt to break through the enemy lines at Fuentes del Ebro.
At 07:30, nine CR.32s of the 31a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Borgogno) and nine of the 32a (Capitano Ernesto Botto), VI Gruppo, took off from Alfàmen to patrol the area over Fuentes del Ebro. Each Squadriglia was split in two, so the four patrols were led respectively by Borgogno, Tenente Alessio Neri (31a Squadriglia) at 3,500 meters while Botto (“white 3” NC 623) and Tenente Edoardo Molinari (32a Squadriglia) flew at 5,000 meters.
Over Mediana at 07:55, they spotted Republican fighters escorting R-Z light bombers that were seen to retire without bombing because of CR.32s presence. The Republican escort consisted of 13 I-15s from the 1a Escuadrilla of Grupo 26 (commanded by Kapitan Antonov) and 19 I-16s from 2a and 6a Escuadrillas of Grupo 21 (led by First Lieutenants Pleshchenko and Gusev). Borgogno waved the wings to warn his pilots and then climbed to 4,000 meters to gain an advantage. The Republicans were to pass unaware below them, but over Lerida, before Borgogno could order the attack, a pilot (Sergente Rigolli, "first wingman" of Neri's patrol) suddenly dived on them, followed by the three of his patrol. Soon the I-15s turned into them. Borgogno had no other choice than to intervene to help his pilots. In the fray, two CR.32s flown by Sottotenente Francis Leoncini (31a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Ugo Corsi (32a Squadriglia) collided, and both pilots parachuted. Sottotenente Roberto Boschetto (“Boscarelli”) was hit and made an emergency landing with his damaged fighter. A “Curtiss” was destroyed and another was damaged. Then, Tenente Neri also was shot down and parachuted.
Botto, meanwhile, kept cool enough to stay above and watch the “Ratas”. As the CR.32s were overwhelming the I-15s, the I-16s dived to intervene, but at this point Botto jumped them from 5,000 meters. Botto destroyed a “Rata” over Mediana and dispersed the others, before being hit at his right thighbone by an explosive bullet. He nevertheless managed to reach Saragossa-Sanjurjo and land but the limb had to be amputated. In the combat, Arcangeletti claimed two additional I-16s while Sergente Maggiore Giuseppe Rigolli was shot down and killed.
It seems that two I-16s of 6. Escuadrilla were lost, one was shot down with the loss of the pilot while the other crash-landed. Russian pilots piloted both I-16s. One I-15 of 1. Escuadrilla piloted by a Spanish pilot, crash-landed in friendly territory.
Boschetto, Leoncini and Corsi were captured and returned home after the war. Neri, who tried to defend himself by shooting at his captors with his handgun, was captured, prosecuted and executed on 16 October 1937. Botto, Neri and Rigolli were decorated with the Medaglia d'oro al valor militare (Italy's highest military award) after this combat, the last two of them posthumously.

During the winter of 1937-38 he served in 32a Squadriglia of the VI Gruppo.

Arcangeletti is also credited with a number of shared victories during the Spanish Civil War.

On 20 October 1939, he was promoted to Capitano.

During the Greek campaign he initially served as commander over 354a Squadriglia (equipped with Fiat G.50bis), before becoming commander over 395a Squadriglia (Fiat G.50bis) and then 393a Squadriglia of the 160o Gruppo (Fiat CR.42s)

On 19 November 1940, 'B' Flight of 80 Squadron, which recently had arrived to Greece to reinforce the Greek fighter forces, flew up to Trikkala during the morning. After refueling, nine Gladiators took off at 14:10, led by three Greek PZL P.24s (23 Mira), for an offensive patrol over the Koritza area. Squadron Leader William Hickey led the Gladiators.
When they neared the Italian airfield at Koritza the PZLs were obliged to turn back due to their short range. The Gladiators flew over Koritza were Italian anti-aircraft opened up. Flight Lieutenant 'Pat' Pattle, who were leading the second section, sighted four Fiat CR.42s climbing towards them from the starboard beam.
It had been arranged beforehand that the Gladiators would not use their radiotelephones unless it was absolutely essential, because they had discovered in the desert that the CR.42s used a similar wavelength; by listening in to the Gladiators, the Italians received prior information of an attack. Pattle warned Hickey of the presence of the CR.42s simply by diving past the Commanding Officer's section and pointing his Gladiator towards the Italian aircraft. Hickey acknowledged that he understood by waggling his wing and Pattle withdrew to his position at the head of his section.
As Hickey’s section dived towards the four CR.42s, Pattle noticed a second group of two more CR.42s and took his section, consisting of Pilot Officer 'Heimar' Stuckey and Sergeant Charles Casbolt, to engage these. Pattle went for the leading CR.42, which attempted to evade the attack by diving steeply and slipping from side to side. Pattle followed, closing in rapidly, but he didn't fire until the CR.42 straightened out and thereby offered a steadier target. From 100 yards astern, he lined up the CR.42 in his sight and opened fire. The CR.42 steepened its dive; the pilot had apparently been hit, because he fell forward over the control column. Pattle pulled away, as the CR.42 went straight down to crash about two miles west of Koritza, bursting into flames on striking the ground. Stuckey, following close behind Pattle's Gladiator, smiled and gave a thumbs-up signal to Pattle signifying confirmation of the victory.
The two Gladiators, now completely alone, climbed up to 15,000 feet immediately over the airfield, and saw a dogfight in progress a few miles to the north. Heading in that direction, they were soon engaged by five CR.42s and two G.50s. One of the G.50s came at Pattle in a head-on attack, but broke away much too early, the tracers passing yards below the Gladiator. A CR.42 had a go next, but Pattle quickly snap-rolled, up and over the Italian aircraft, and came down perfectly in position fifty yards behind the CR.42. A short burst and the cockpit of the CR.42 became a mass of flames and it fell away burning furiously. After this combat he noticed that his air pressure were so low that he couldn't fire his guns and he soon returned to base.
Totally in this combat the British pilots claimed nine and two probables shot down. Apart from Pattle's two CR.42s, Stuckey claimed one G.50, which crashed, and one CR.42, Flight Lieutenant Greg Graham claimed one G.50 and one CR.42, Pilot Officer Samuel Cooper claimed one shared CR.42 with Pilot Officer William Vale, who also claimed one additional CR.42, Sergeant Charles Casbolt claimed one G.50 and finally Flying Officer Sidney Linnard claimed two CR.42s as probables.
Pilot Officer Stuckey was hit in the combat by CR.42s and wounded in the right shoulder and leg. He was saved from being finished off by Squadron Leader Hickey, who managed to driving away the CR.42s and then escort him back to Trikkala from where he would be dispatched to the Greek Red Cross hospital in Athens.
Pilot Officer Vale reported:

"Nine Gladiators and three PZLs took off from Trikkala in four flights of three aircraft to carry out an offensive patrol over Koritza. I was flying in the second flight as No.2 to F/Lt Pattle. We arrived over the area at approximately 1440 hours and after patrolling for about five minutes two CR42s were seen approaching our formation at 14,000 feet from starboard ahead. The signal for line astern was given by the flight leader, who immediately attacked the enemy aircraft, which broke formation. F/Lt Pattle engaged one CR42 and after a shot dogfight shot it down out of control, with smoke coming from the engine.
The other CR42 was engage by No.1 Flight. I tried to regain my flight but finally attached myself to two Gladiators in formation, which I found out to be No.1 Flight led by S/Ldr Hickey. We carried on the patrol at about 10,000 feet over Koritza, where we met fairly accurate AA fire. ‘Tally-ho!’ was then given when three CR42s in formation were seen at about 6,000 feet. The formation split up and I dived on a CR42 which was attempting to escape to the north. I carried out a quarter attack and then slid in to an astern position, which I held while the enemy pilot did evasive tactics. He then carried out a manoeuvre which appeared to be a downward roll and I noticed that smoke was coming from his engine. I carried on firing in short bursts until he went between two hills through a small cloud. I followed over the cloud but no enemy aircraft appeared and so I went below into the valley and saw wreckage in a copse – at the same time getting fired at by enemy troops.
I climbed up immediately and at 6,000 feet saw a shiny monoplane with radial engine diving down. I gave chase but was out-distanced and so gave up after firing a short burst at about 400 yards. I gained altitude and observed a Gladiator and a CR42 in a dogfight very low down over the hill, and also noticed that the enemy pilot was attempting to lead the Gladiator over a group of enemy ground forces. I waited until the Gladiator pilot had manoeuvred into an astern attack and then carried out a quarter attack. I noticed that first white smoke and then black was coming from the engine of the e/a before I opened fire. I carried out quarter attacks until the other Gladiator pilot pulled away and then slid into an astern attack.
I remained in that position until very low over the main road and then the CR42 turned over and slid into the side of a hill. The aircraft did not burst into flames. While pulling up I fired at the enemy ground troops. I gained altitude and waggled my wings for the other Gladiator pilot to join me and then found the other pilot was P/O Cooper, who had apparently run out of ammunition. I then set course for home and finally landed at Eleusis, where I refuelled, before proceeding to the base aerodrome. I inspected my aeroplane and found that I had one bullet hole in my tail plane, which had done no damage. In each encounter with CR42s I found that both pilots used the downward roll manoeuvre at high speed for evasive action."
80 Squadron had been involved in combat with Fiat CR.42s of 160o Gruppo Autonomo C.T., which were patrolling over this area, and with G.50bis from 24o Gruppo Autonomo C.T., which were escorting bombers in the same area.
In fact, when the British aircraft arrived over the front there were four CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo led by Tenente Torquato Testerini (CO 393a Squadriglia) and two G.50bis of the 24o Gruppo led by Tenente Attilio Meneghel (355a Squadriglia) in the air. The Fiat of Sergente Maggiore Natale Viola (363a Squadriglia) was attacked by a reportedly “20 Glosters and three PZL” and shot down, the pilot being killed while Meneghel attacked six Glosters alone before being shot down himself and killed. It is possible that Sergente Maggiore Viola was shot down by Flight Lieutenant Pattle.
From Koritza airfield, the eight remaining combat ready CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo were scrambled at 15:25 to help their comrades. They were led by Capitano Arcangeletti but were taken at disadvantage while climbing by the aggressive Glosters losing two more of their numbers when Maresciallo Giuseppe Salvadori (363a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Arturo Bonato (393a Squadriglia) were killed. Sergente Maggiore Walter Ratticchieri was hit early in the fight and wounded in both legs being however able to return to base and land.
Totally three CR.42s (Viola, Salvadori and Bonato) and one G.50bis (Meneghel ) were lost and one CR.42 was damaged (Ratticchieri). Sergente Maggiore Luciano Tarantini claimed a Gladiator shot down, two more being claimed as probables, one by Capitano Arcangeletti, the other by a G.50bis pilot.

At 10.30 on 21 December 1940 80 Squadron took off from Yanina for the front in Greece. They were led by Squadron Leader William Hickey and flew in three sections. The first comprised four aircraft and was led by Hickey, the second of three was led by Flight Lieutenant "Pat" Pattle and the third trio was led by Flying Officer Sidney Linnard.
Near Argyrokastron three enemy trimotor bombers were seen. They were identified as S.79s, and then three more aircraft with twin tails were seen, recognised in this case as Fiat BR.20s. All six were in fact Cant Z.1007bis aircraft from the 47o Stormo B.T. from Grottaglie. The Italian bombers were attacked by the Gladiators and Pattle believed that he had hit one.
At this moment however 15 CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo appeared on the scene. Maggiore Oscar Molinari, the Gruppo commander, was leading these Italian aircraft on an offensive reconnaissance over Yanina, Paramythia and Zitsa. Seeing the bombers under attack by an estimated 20 Gladiators, the Italian attacked, joined by other aircraft from the 150o Gruppo so that 80 Squadron pilots assessed the number of their opponents at 54!
After 25 minutes the air battle broke up and eight of the British pilots returned to claim eight confirmed and three probables. Pilot Officer 'Bill' Vale claimed three, one of them in flames. Sergeant Charles Casbolt claimed one, which blew up and another, which spun down (later down-graded to a probable). Sergeant Donald Gregory claimed another two, again one in flames, but his own aircraft was badly shot up and he was wounded in the right eye. He however managed to return to Yanina. Pattle and Flight Sergeant S. A. Richens also claimed one CR.42 each, Pattle reporting that his victim fell in flames, whilst Flying Officers W. B. Price-Owen and F. W. Hosken both claimed probables. However Flying Officer A. D. Ripley in N5854 was seen to be shot down in flames and killed, while Squadron Leader Hickey was spotted bailing out of N5816; sadly his parachute caught fire, and he died from injuries soon after reaching the ground. Greek troops recovered the bodies of both pilots. Flying Officer Sidney Linnard's aircraft (N5834) was also badly hit and he was hit in the left calf by an explosive bullet and was taken to hospital after landing at Yanina.
In return the 160o Gruppo pilots claimed six Gladiators, two each by Maggiore Molinari and Tenente Edoardo Crainz (in CR.42 '394-7'), and one apiece by Tenente Eber Giudici and Capitano Arcangeletti. Probables were claimed by Tenente Torquato Testerini, Sergente Maggiore Francesco Penna and Sergente Maggiore Domenico Tufano. The 150o Gruppo pilots claimed two more Gladiators in collaboration, while 47o Stormo gunners claimed one more and a probable. As in the case of the British fighters, actual Italian losses totalled only two aircraft, Tenente Mario Gaetano Carancini and Tenente Mario Frascadore of the 160o Gruppo being lost, while Maggiore Molinari was wounded in the right foot and force-landed near Tepelene with a damaged engine.

In the beginning of November 1941 and at the eve of the British offensive Operation Crusader, Capitano Arcangeletti still served as CO of the 393a Squadriglia, 160o Gruppo C.T. This unit was still equipped with CR.42s and based at Benghazi K2.

Later in the war he served as commander of the 160a Squadriglia.

During the war, he was decorated with three Medaglie d'argento al valor militare, the Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare, Croce al merito di guerra (twice), Medaglia commemorativa della campagna di Spagna, Medaglia commemorativa della campagna di Albania and Medaglia di benemerenza per i volontari della guerra Spagna.

Archangeletti continued to serve in the Italian Air Force after the war.

Arcangeletti ended the war with at least 4 biplane victories and a total of 5.

He passed away in Rimini, Italy, in December 1996.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1937                
1 20/08/37 noon 1 I-15 Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Selaya 31a Squadriglia
2 12/10/37 07:55- 1 I-16 (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Mediana 31a Squadriglia
3 12/10/37 07:55- 1 I-16 (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Mediana 31a Squadriglia
  1940                
  19/11/40 15:25- 1 Gladiator (b) Probable Fiat CR.42   Koritza area 393a Squadriglia
? 21/12/40   1 Gladiator (c) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Argyrokastron area 393a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: At least 4 destroyed, 1 probable.
TOTAL: 5 destroyed, 1 probable.
(a) Claimed in combat with I-16s from 2. and 6. Escuadrillas, which lost two aircraft. VI Gruppo claimed three I-16s.
(b) Claimed in combat with 80 Squadron, which claimed 6 destroyed and 2 probables CR.42s and 3 G.50bis destroyed with 1 damaged Gladiator. The 160o Gruppo and the 24o Gruppo, lost 3 CR.42s and 1 G.50bis and 1 damaged CR.42 while claiming 1 and 2 probable Gladiators.
(c) In this combat 80 Squadron claimed 8 and 3 probables while the 160o Gruppo C.T. lost 2 aircraft and 1 one force-landed. Regia Aeronatica claimed 9 and 4 probables while 80 Squadron lost 2 aircraft and 2 damaged.

Sources:
Ace of Aces: M T StJ Pattle - E C R Baker, 1992 Crécy Books, Somerton, ISBN 0-947554-36-X
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume One – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN 978-1908117076
Air war for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete - Christopher Shores, Brian Cull and Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-07-0
Ali in Spagna - Giuseppe Federico Ghergo and Angelo Emiliani, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Ali nella tragedia - Giulio Lazzati, 1970 Mursia, Milan, ISBN 88-425-2132-9, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Assi Italiani Della Caccia 1936-1945 - 1999 Aerofan no. 69 apr.-giu. 1999
Aviatori Italiani - Franco Pagliano, 1964 Longanesi Milano, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Aviabrigada X - Alfredo Logoluso, 2001 no. 97, 98 and 99 of Storia Militare (October-December 2001), kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5
Gladiator Ace: Bill 'Cherry' Vale, the RAF's forgotten fighter ace - Brian Cull with Ludovico Slongo and Håkan Gustavsson, 2010 Haynes Publishing, ISBN 978-1-84425-657-0
Guerra di Spagna e Aviazione Italiana - Ferdinando Pedriali, 1992 USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il 23o Gruppo Caccia - Nicola Malizia, 1974 Bizzarri, Roma, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Le giovani aquile – Antonio Trizzino, 1972 Longanesi Milano, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Wings Over Spain - Emiliani Ghergo, 1997 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milano
Additional information kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso.




Last modified 29 August 2013