Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Maggiore Guglielmo Arrabito

8 January 1916 – 20 July 1944

Image from Ali di Guerra 1941.

Guglielmo Arrabito was born on 8 January 1916.

On 11 April 1940, he was promoted to Capitano.

The 13o Gruppo (77a, 78a and 82a Squadriglie) was commanded by Maggiore Secondo Revetria and started the war based at Tripoli Castelbenito airfield with twenty-five CR.42s and eleven CR.32s on hand (the CR.32s, kept as a reserve, were later passed on to the 50o Stormo Assalto) to guard against a possible French attach from the west.
Pilots in the 82a Squadriglia were: Capitano Arrabito (CO), Tenente Guglielmo Chiarini (arrived from 53o Stormo on 9 June), Sottotenente Giuseppe Bottà, Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan, Sottotenente Giuseppe Timolina, Sottotenente Gilberto Cerofolini, Sergente Maggiore Dante Davico, Sergente Renato Giansante, Sergente Franco Porta, Sergente Francesco Nanin, Sergente Filippo Baldin, Sergente Riccardo Bonoli and Sergente Albino Falasco (arrived on 9 June).
Total strength of the Squadriglia was twelve CR.42s (three of them still under assembly), six CR.32quaters and one Breda Ba.25 for liaison. The CR.32s were used in patrol missions until 13 June.

On 26 June, four CR.42s from the 82a Squadriglia and one from the 78a Squadriglia took off at 08:45 to make a standing patrol over the 2nd Libyan Infantry division. The formation flew as far as Sollum but at 09:45 during the return flight, Sottotenente Italo Santavacca (78a Squadriglia) was forced to make an emergency landing at Sidi Azeiz due to the compete loss of engine oil. Tenente Guglielmo Chiarini landed near him but when returning to T2, he was obliged to force-land at Gambut for the same reason at 10:05. At 10:20, Sergente Filippo Baldin also had to perform the same for the same reason. Capitano Arrabito landed at Gambut to see what had happened to his pilots but when he took taking off again he had to force-land at Sidi Bu Amud before reaching Tobruk for the usual lack of oil at 10:40. There he found Sottotenente Gilberto Cerofolini who had already force-landed at 10:35. The formation completely failed to return! Adding insult to injury, the advancing enemy burned Santavacca’s CR.42 at Sidi Azeiz and the pilot was probably taken prisoner during the same raid.

At around 16:20 on 23 July, nine CR.42s from the 13o Gruppo (Maggiore Secondo Revetria (CO of the 13o Gruppo in a 77a Squadriglia CR.42), Tenente Giulio Torresi and Sergente Ernesto Paolini (77a Squadriglia), Capitano Arrabito, Tenente Guglielmo Chiarini and Sergente Franco Porta (82a Squadriglia), Capitano Giuseppe Dall’Aglio, Sergente Maggiore Salvatore Mechelli and Sergente Rovero Abbarchi (78a Squadriglia)) and nine from the 10o Gruppo (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Giuseppe Aurili and Tenente Vincenzo Vanni (84a Squadriglia), Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Bruno Bortoletti (90a Squadriglia),Tenente Enzo Martissa, Sergente Elio Miotto, Sergente Alessandro Bladelli (91a Squadriglia)) took off from El Adem to make a fighter sweep in the Bir El Gobi – Sollum – Bardia area.
At around 17:40, between Sidi Azeiz and Bardia, they intercepted a group of Blenheims escorted by Gladiators.
The 13o Gruppo attacked the Gladiators with height advantage and Tenente Chiarini and the other pilots of the 82a Squadriglia attacked a group of three Gladiators, which were flying in a wide formation. After ten minutes of combat Chiarini shot down one of these fighters. The enemy plane burned when crashing on the ground while the pilot parachuted near Sidi Azeiz and was seen to be rescued by British armoured cars. Tenente Torresi in the meantime claimed another Gladiator shot down using 150 rounds of ammunition. Post war Italian studies claimed that two additional bombers fell burning after the attack of other pilots from the 13o Gruppo, but the official records do not confirm this.
The 10o Gruppo formation in the meantime joined the combat. While Capitano Monti with five other pilots remained high to cover the other fighters (and estimating the enemy strength to only three fighters), Tenente Martissa, Sergente Miotto and Sergente Bladelli joined the combat and claimed a single Gloster shared with the 13o Gruppo pilots.
It looks as if this shared victory was one of the two previously claimed by Torresi and Chiarini because there are no shared victories claims in the records of 2o Stormo. An incongruity of this type, in the claims of Regia Aeronautica, during combined actions of different units is not unusual at all.
No Italian aircraft were lost but four CR.42s of the 13o Gruppo were damaged and especially Chiarini’s and Capitano Arrabito’s CR.42s were so damaged that they were not flyable when back at base at 18:20; Arrabito’s CR.42, in particular had suffered many hits in the wings and behind the pilot’s seat.
Presumably the Gladiator claims were made in combat with Gladiators from 33 Squadron. During the day Pilot Officer Preston (Gladiator N5774), flying one of three Gladiators of 33 Squadron, briefed to escort the bomb-carrying Lysander of Flight Lieutenant Legge, was shot down by three attacking CR.42s and forced to bale out south of Bardia. Preston suffered a slight concussion and once rescued he was sent to hospital in Alexandria. The 33 Squadron ORB is lacking the times of this combat but that of 208 Squadron recorded that Legge took off at 18:00 and landed at 19:40 and that one of the escorting fighters was shot down by CR.42s and the pilot escaped by parachute, so it seems highly likely that Preston’s Gladiator fell victim of Chiarini.
It seems that the British records are incomplete on this date since there are no claims for the damaged Italian fighters.

At the eve of Operation Compass on 9 December, the 13o Gruppo (CO Tenente Colonnnello Secondo Revetria) was based at Gambut G. The 82a Squadriglia (CO Capitano Arrabito) had seven combat ready CR.42s and two inefficient. Totally, the Gruppo had 20 combat ready CR.42s of a total strength of 29.

At around 08:55 on 9 December, six CR.42s from the 82a Squadriglia (Capitano Arrabito, Sottotenente Giuseppe Bottà, Sottotenente Giuseppe Timolina, Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan, Sergente Francesco Nanin and Sergente Filippo Baldin) took off from Gambut to escort six S.79s, which were out to attack the Bir Mella area (around Nibeiwa). Four CR.42s from the 77a Squadriglia (Tenente Colonnello Secondo Revetria, Sergente Vincenzo Campolo, Sottotenente Carmelo Catania and Sottotenente Mario Nicoloso) took off with them together with six CR.42s of the 78a Squadriglia (Sottotenente Natale Cima, Sottotenente Dario Magnabosco, Tenente Giovanni Beduz, Sergente Ernesto Taddia, Sergente Teresio Martinoli and Sottotenente Luigi Canneppele).
While the formation was gaining height, two Blenheims arrived over the airfield and released 20 bombs without causing damage. The Blenheims were then intercepted by Tenente Giulio Torresi of the 77a Squadriglia. He had taken off at 08:30 for a protective patrol and after 20 minutes of flight discovered the Blenheims heading towards the airfield. The British bombers tried to escape towards the sea but Torresi was able to claim the trailing one of them shot down “in flames” over the sea close to the shore. After a ten-minute chase, he closed in on the last one, hitting it many times and he witnessed it overturning while trying to ditch in open sea.
Torresi was back at base at 09:30 and he had only used 90 7,7mm rounds and 70 12,7 rounds.
Meanwhile over Bir Mella, while the S.79s were releasing their bombs, a single Hurricane attacked the CR.42s formation from the 82a Squadriglia that was covering the bombers at higher altitude. Sergente Nanin’s aircraft was hit and shot down with the loss of the pilot while the Hurricane, attacked by Arrabito, Bottà and Timolina succeeded in disengaging thanks to its superior speed. The surviving CR.42s were back at base at 10:55.
The 77a Squadriglia didn’t even notice any enemy aircraft during the mission while the 78a Squadriglia saw enemy aircraft heading towards their formation only to escape quickly when they tried to react.
The S.79s was a formation of the 62a Squadriglia, 29o Gruppo led by the Gruppo Commander Tenente Colonnello Guglielmo Grandjacquet. They reportedly released their bomb load at around 10:00 and all bombers returned to Gambut without suffering any losses. This was their first of a totally six missions by the 13a Divisione Aerea Pegaso flown during the day.

At 10:15 on 12 December, five CR.42s of the 82a Squadriglia (Capitano Arrabito, Sottotenente Gilberto Cerofolini, Sottotenente Giuseppe Timolina, Sergente Maggiore Dante Davico and Sergente Luigi Giannotti) took off from Gambut to escort a formation of seven SM 79s from the 9o Stormo led by Colonnello Mario Aramu, which were to attack enemy troops near Halfaya.
Capitano Arrabito formed his fighters on the left of the bombers and 2000 metres higher. When over Bu Giallach he discovered an enemy monoplane that looked as if was moving into position for an attack on the SM 79s and he immediately dived on it. He damaged it, forcing it to flee (possibly Flight Sergeant Morris from 274 Squadron). Then he identified a Bristol Blenheim that was ground strafing the already empty landing ground of A3 and claimed it shot down (individually) in flames. This was probably Blenheim Mk.I L8465 of 45 Squadron that was shot-down during a raid on Sollum, killing the crew; Pilot Officer Patrick Cullimore Traill-Smith (RAF no. 42451), Pilot Officer Vincent Dennis Fry (RAF no. 43055) and Sergeant Tom Osborn Liggins (RAF no. 630475).
After the attack, Arrabito tried to turn back to his escort duty but the engine of his CR.42 failed and he had to force-land among Italian troops near Mu Said. He was driven back to Tobruk in a car and during the return journey had to witness many nuisance attacks by the Hurricanes ground strafing the road.
Giannotti suffered almost the same fate after succeeding in landing at Amseat after engine troubles (his fighter was most probably lost here). Timolina and Davico discovered that their engines too were not working properly and immediately turn back to Gambut leaving the lone Cerofolini to escort the SM 79s. Cerofolini went with the Savoias as far as Buq-Buq. While doing this he was attacked twice by British monoplanes but each time he was able to evade and returned safely to T2.
The bombers returned to Gambut at 10:40 without losses.
274 Squadron reported that from 06:15 to 09:45, 15 Hurricanes took off individually. After refuelling at LG 70, they attacked transports and troops west of Sollum. The purpose of this operation was to turn the Italian retreat into a route and to demoralise the enemy communication during the retreat.
All aircraft were back safely except for Flight Sergeant Morris that force-landed Hurricane Mk.I P3723 30 miles west of Mersa Matruh. Returning to base the day after, he claimed the destruction of two SM 79s, in a position 2-3 miles SSE of Capuzzo and reported:

“At 9.30 hours 12.12.40 I took off from Sidi Heneish to carry out ground strafing WEST of SOLLUM. I landed at an advanced Landing Ground, refuelled and proceeded to target area. I passed just SOUTH of FORT CAPUZZO at 11,000 feet and selected vehicles on the CAPUZZO - BARDIA ROAD as my objective. When at 8,000 feet I saw below at 4,000 feet , and at 5 o’clock, 6 aircraft proceeding S.S.E. I dived to investigate and when behind at 2,000 feet above them I identified them as 3 SM 79s in close vic escorted by 3 CR 42s. The escort being 500 feet above and just to the left of the S79s. I selected the right hand SM 79 (No.2) as my first target. I closed to within 150 yards astern and slightly above it. I gave it a burst of about 50 rounds and it immediately did an half roll to the right and went down almost vertically. I watched it almost down to ground level which was obscured by dust. It did not drop its bombs on being attacked so that it must have been completely surprised. As the CR 42s still maintained their position I closed to about 100 yards behind and slightly above the leader (No.1). I gave this one a burst of 50 rounds and this also went down to the right in a terrific side-slip still maintaining its original course. I watched this one descend until it was close to the ground and then the remaining bomber did a medium turn to the left right underneath the fighter escort and did a shallow dive towards FORT CAPUZZO which was on the reciprocal course. I did not follow this bomber due to the reception I should receive from the Fort. I was now at 1,000 feet and turned back and saw the three C.R. 42s circling at about 5,000 feet above the scene of the original action. Apparently they were searching for the bombers, the split up of which must have been entirely unobserved by them. I then decided to attack them also, so I climbed in a large circle around them in order to get into the sun. When in position at 5,500 feet I dived on them hoping to cover all three machines by a long burst from the beam or quarter. When I was about 1000 yards from them my approach must have been observed as they made off at full speed to the west diving fairly steeply. As my advantage of surprise was lost and I could not follow them very far, I decide to carry on with my original intention of ground strafing. I was still in the vicinity of FORT CAPUZZO and again located my target. This time on my way down I see a landing ground about three miles NORTH of the Fort on the west side of the road. I circled the landing ground and reduced height to about 1000 feet and saw 10 aircraft dispersed on and around it, of these at least one was a Breda 65, others were CR 42s. Full identification was impossible owing to the dust storm in the vicinity. I attacked and in two dives covered two of the CR 42s with my fire; when breaking away I looked down into some slit trenches but could not see no personnel. As now I had just enough petrol to return to base I climbed out of the dust and when at about 1,300 feet I observed three CR 42s patrolling about 2,000 feet above me slightly to the EAST. My approach was observed and I had to turn NORTH towards BARDIA in order to avoid combat being at great disadvantage. The CR 42s remained to the EAST of me and flew on a parallel course still maintaining their advantage of height.
Just SOUTH of BARDIA I turned EAST went down to 50 feet into the dust and eluded my pursers. Owing to this last action I did not have enough petrol to return to base, so endeavoured to find L.G. 74. This landing ground was totally obscured by dust so I continued on my course to Base. Thirty miles WEST of MATRUH my fuel supply was very low so I forced landed successfully. Petrol was sent to me and I returned to base the following day, 13.12.40. At no time during the whole of this trip did I experience enemy fire.”

After the Italian surrender in September 1943, he joined the Italiana Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (ANR).

In June 1944 he replaced Maggiore Adriano Visconti as commanding officer of the Io Gruppo Caccia.
At this time, Arrabito held the rank of Maggiore.

At 13:05 on 20 July, the Io Gruppo Caccia scrambled from Vicenza and Thiene with ten MC.205s and 12 G.55s. They intercepted a formation of B-24s in the Udine area. These were escorted by P-51s of the 308th FS, 31st FG, and P-38s of the 48th FS, 14th FG, each unit covering a different height band, whose intervention wrecked the Italians’ attack. Two MC.205s and two G.55s were lost, Maggiore Arrabito was killed, as was Sergente MaggioreSgubbi of the 2a Squadriglia; Tenente Biron (3a Squadriglia) baled out of his G.55 (MM91101) near Ponte Di Piave (TV) and Tenente Beretta’s MC.205 (MM92271) crash-landed near Villaorba.
The Americans claimed 3 destroyed and 2 damaged, crediting the kills to Major Harry William Dorris and First Lieutenant Robert John Goebel (308th FS) and Second Lieutenant Michael Brezas (48th FS). The two damaged were claimed by Lieutenant Donald E. Wimmer and Lieutenant Nello L. Infanti, both from the 48th FS. All the claims were fore Bf 109s except Dorris, somewhat nearer the mark with his ‘MC.202’, which was claimed near Villaorba (probably Tenente Beretta).
The Italians thought they got a probable P-38, plus damage to two more and to three of the bombers.

At the time of his death, Arrabito was credited with 1 biplane victory.
During his career, he was decorated with two Medaglie d’argento al valor militare and the Medaglia commemorative della campagne di Libia.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
  12/12/40 10:15-10:40 1 Hurricane (a) Damaged Fiat CR.42   Bu Giallach area 82a Squadriglia
1 12/12/40 10:15-10:40 1 Blenheim (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 82a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed, 1 damaged.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed, 1 damaged.
(a) Possibly Flight Sergeant Morris of 274 Squadron, who force-landed Hurricane P3723.
(b) Probably Blenheim Mk.I L8465 of 45 Squadron that was shot-down during a raid on Sollum, killing the crew; Pilot Officer Patrick Cullimore Traill-Smith (RAF no. 42451), Pilot Officer Vincent Dennis Fry (RAF no. 43055) and Sergeant Tom Osborn Liggins (RAF no. 630475).

Sources:
Air War Italy 1944-45 - Nick Beale, Ferdinando D'Amico and Gabriele Valentini, 1996 Airlife Publishing, Shrewbury, ISBN 1-85310-252-0
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forze Armate Del Regno D’Italia Anno 1943. Part III Regia Aeronautica – 1943 Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Roma
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Desert Prelude: Operation Compass - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2011 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-61421-18-4
Diario Storico 82a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.
L'Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana - Nino Arena, 1996 Ermanno Albertelli Editore, Parma, 1996, ISBN 88-85909-49-3, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
The Bristol Blenheim: A complete history – Graham Warner, 2002 Crécy Publishing Limited, Manchester, ISBN 0-947554-92-0
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
USAAF (Mediterranean Theater) Credits For The Destruction Of Enemy Aircraft In Air-To-Air Combat World War 2 - Frank Olynyk, 1987 Victory List No.6
Additional information kindly provided by Ferdinando D’Amico, Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo.




Last modified 02 October 2011