Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Tenente Renato Baroni

In November 1941, Sottotenente Renato Baroni served in the 393a Squadriglia, 160o Gruppo CT. This unit was at the time equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

On 5 November 1941, three CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo piloted by Tenente Giuliano Fissore (393a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Carlo Piccone (394a Squadriglia), and Sottotenente Baroni (393a Squadriglia), together with a G.50 from the 360a Squadriglia piloted by Sottotenente Calzoni were on a defence patrol above K2 (Benghazi). At 14:10, they were warned via radio of the presence of an enemy formation. At the same time Maresciallo Giuseppe Desideri (375a Squadriglia), who was also at the controls of a G.50 of the 360a Squadriglia, scrambled. There were six enemy bombers identified as Blenheims, which having attacked K2 from an altitude of 4,500 m then went on to K1. Therefore they continued over Benina, Regima and the El Abiar area before changing route to go south-southeast.
The CR.42s fired 710 rounds from 7.7 mm machine guns and 1440 from 12.7 mm ones.
Baroni made a frontal attack on the first patrol, and then all four fighters attacked from stern all the formation and in particular the 2nd flight. After a series of attacks carried out one after the other by the four fighters, two bombers were claimed shot down in flames. They crashed into the ground south-east of El Abiar - Regina (confirmed by the DICAT - anti aircraft defences). Calzoni had to make an emergency landing near El Abiar because of the total loss of oil. The aircraft was damaged and the pilot injured.
In his turn, Desideri managed to reach the enemy aircraft after a chase of 45 minutes, which was favoured by moving nearer to the enemy formation and the reduction of altitude. He shot down a third plane, presumably the one already damaged in the previous action (400 rounds fired). This aircraft was shot down east of Antelat. All five pilots were credited with the victories.
It seems that American bombers were mistaken for Blenheims, in fact they were six Maryland IIs of 21 SAAF Squadron, which had taken off at 11:40 (from LG 75 near the front for refuelling) to attack the depots at Berka airport. They had to lower altitude to 15,000 feet to carry out the bombing because of clouds. Notwithstanding the heavy flak and the presence of enemy fighters the approach was perfect and all the bombs fell on the target. Photos confirm the good results.
Immediately on leaving the target, reportedly two CR.42s attacked the formation. These two fighters flying wide of the formation had been in attendance since the Marylands first crossed the sea, A running fight ensued, for about 15 miles, the enemy being reinforced by another CR.42 and three Bf 109s (in fact G.50s).

”Various types of attack were delivered but the favourite was from the beam and dead astern. The tactics appeared to be for one or two 42s to draw fire from the rear gunners and then for a 109 to make a quick beam or quarter attack. Repeated attacks were made over a period of some 6 or 7 minutes. The gunners all gave a very good account of them-selves and all 3 42s were seen to be hit repeatedly. One, which presented a non-deflection shot, was undoubtedly shot down and last seen spinning near the ground. It is highly probable that another was sent down.”
One gunner reported seeing a blazing aircraft on the ground when some distance away. Air Sergeant gunner Stewart who was responsible for shooting down the first CR.42, described the combat:
”We were attacked by 2 42s from the stern. The method of their attack was for one of the aircraft to overshoot the other at about 30 seconds' interval. In this manner they closed in on us and then the lower of the two darted forward until about 100 or 150 yards away from us. Here I began to open fire on him with short accurate bursts. I saw my tracers hit him head-on. All of a sudden his tail shot up and he went headlong towards earth. I shouted: ”I got him”. Then he went into a violent spin out of control”.
Air Sergeant gunner Tucker who was responsible for hitting the second CR.42 said he had observed that it had taken up a position on the starboard side of the Maryland and below the tail wheel at a distance of about 200 yards.
”I immediately opened up with both my guns and emptied the two pans with four or five long bursts. My bullets streamed toward him and I must have hit him, but he continued to fire and I could plainly see his twin-guns flashing. Just as I had ceased firing and removed my spent pans, I saw my adversary turn steeply to my left and dive down towards the earth.”
At 14:10 while it was near the target and following the interception of enemy fighters, Maryland II AH392/K, piloted by Second Lieutenant N. C. Blake (SAAF no. 103446V), came down with its left engine and rear gunner's cockpit in flames. There were no survivors among the crew, which also included Air Sergeant L. R. G. Brand (SAAF no. 102128), Air Sergeant P. H. Clarence (SAAF no. 102420) and Second Lieutenant F. R. Meintjes (SAAF no. 102097).
The other five were all damaged by hits received from anti-aircraft artillery and fighters. The most badly hit had to land at LG 70. The others returned at 16:40. They claimed to have shot down an enemy fighter and probably a second.

On 16 July 1942, Capitano Franco Lucchini led MC.202s of the 84a Squadriglia (Sottotenente Luigi Giannella, Sottotenente Paolo Berti, Sergente Maggiore Mario Veronesi, Maresciallo Luigi Bignami and Sergente Corrado Patrizi), of the 90a Squadriglia (Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini, Sottotenente Baroni, Sottotenente Sforza Libera, Sergente Maggiore Amleto Monterumici and Sergente Sergente Giambattista Ceoletta) and of the 91a Squadriglia (Tenente Paolo Benedicti) to escort CR.42s. Over Deir el Qattara they intercepted ten Hurribombers flying at 500 m, escorted by ten P-40s at 2000 m, with fifteen of the same type at 5000 m and six Spitfires at 6000 m. The returning Italians claimed four P-40s; Berti and Veronesi one each, one shared by Lucchini, Giannella, Berti and Benedicti while the fourth also was claimed as a shared by Bignami, Veronesi, Piccolomini, Baroni and Monterumici. Many others were damaged. Baroni was wounded in the combat and with his MC.202 damaged, made an emergency landing at El Daba. Bignami was hit in the wings and on the windscreen. Berti was attacked by P-40s while returning home, but escaped. Lucchini’s aircraft was hit by five bullets, one of them piercing a fuel tank in left wing root but he was able to land at El Quteifiya, although stunned by fuel vapour.

After a period of rest, on 24 February 1943, pilots of the 10o Gruppo rejoined to reorganize the unit at Bresso airfield, under the command of Maggiore Giuseppe D’Agostinis.
Pilots in the 84a Squadriglia were Capitano Franco Lucchini (CO) (hospitalized), Tenente Luigi Giannella, Tenente Alessandro Mettimano, Sottotenente Francesco De Seta, Sottotenente Ugo Picchiottini, Maresciallo Luigi Bignami, Sergente Maggiore Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Maggiore Corrado Patrizi, Sergente Maggiore Piero Buttazzi, Sergente Maggiore Luciano Perdoni and Sergente Livio Barbera.
Pilots in the 90a Squadriglia were Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini (CO), Sottotenente Sforza Libera, Sottotenente Baroni, Sottotenente Luigi Cima, Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore, Sergente Maggiore Bruno Bortoletti, Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Battista Ceoletta, Sergente Maggiore Amleto Monterumici and Sergente Maggiore Natale Molteni.
Pilots in the 91a Squadriglia were Capitano Luigi Mariotti (CO), Tenente Giuseppe Ferazzani, Tenente Alvaro Bondi, Sottotenente Leonardo Ferrulli, Sottotenente Elio Miotto, Sottotenente Guerriero Silvestri, Sottotenente Vittorino Daffara, Maresciallo Alessandro Bladelli, Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli, Sergente Maggiore Ferruccio Terrabujo, Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi and Sergente Giulio Fornalé.
On 20 April, the Gruppo transferred to Ciampino Sud for the defence of Rome.

On 4 July sixty USAAF bombers, escorted by thirty-six P-38s and Spitfires, attacked the airfield of Gerbini Sud and the railway stations of Catania and Misterbianco.
Twenty-one MC.202s and MC.205s were scrambled and intercepted the bombers and their escort between Catania, Syracuse and Cape Passero. Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini and Sottotenente Baroni (90 a Squadriglia) claimed a shared P-38 in this combat while Sergente Maggiore Mario Veronesi, Sottotenente Mario Squarcina (90 a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Leonardo Ferrulli claimed a P-38 each. Many other Allied aircraft were claimed damaged. No losses were suffered by the Italian fighters.

The 5 July 1943 was to become a tough day for the Macchis of 9o and 10o Gruppi with heavy combat and serious losses.
From 07:15 to 09:25 Tenente Giorgio Bertolaso and Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi of the 91a Squadriglia flew a reconnaissance mission from Sigonella over the sea, searching enemy shipping or signs of sunken ships.
At 10:25, 27 MC.202s and MC.205s of the 4o Stormo scrambled to intercept 52 bombers escorted by about 20 Spitfires, that were heading to bomb the airfields around Catania. The 9o Gruppo was led by Capitano Giulio Reiner, while Capitano Franco Lucchini was leading the 10o Gruppo. The 10o Gruppo consisted of the 84a Squadriglia (Lucchini, Sottotenente Francesco Palma, Sottotenente Enzo Dall'Asta and Capitano Luigi Giannella (CO of the 84a Squadriglia) flying MC.202s and Tenente Alessandro Mettimano, Sergente Maggiore Piero Buttazzi and Sergente Livio Barbera flying MC.205s), the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Luigi Cima, Maresciallo Massimo Salvatore and Sergente Maggiore Giambattista Ceoletta flying MC.202s) and 91a Squadriglia (Tenente Mario Mecatti (CO), Sottotenente Giovanni Silvestri and Sottotenente Elio Miotto).
Giannella and Palma was a few minutes late to take-off because the ground crew were checking their weapons.
The Italian fighters made a frontal attack over Gerbini ignoring the escorting Spitfires. Two B-17s were claimed by Salvatore and Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) together with some Bf 109s. Lucchini claimed a Spitfire while Reiner, Salvatore and Mecatti claimed a probable bomber each. Three bombers were claimed damaged by Lucchini, Giannella, Mettimano, Dall’Asta and Buttazzi. Additional damaged bombers were claimed by Reiner, Salvatore, Mecatti (who also claimed a damaged Spitfire), Sergente Ettore Chimeri (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Bruno Biagini (96a Squadriglia), Cima and Ceoletta.
When the Italian fighters landed again at 11:55, Lucchini was missing. He had been seen by Dall’Asta attacking the bombers against heavy defensive fire and then diving into the ground east of Catania. During the alarm, some of the ground crew also reported to have seen a MC.202 falling with the canopy closed, some kilometres east of the airfield. A car from the unit tried to reach the place, but it couldn't go on due to the bombing of the area. Lucchini’s body wasn’t found until two days later.
Taking part in this interception were also more than 100 Bf 109Gs from I, II and III/JG 53 and I and II/JG 77. They claimed twelve bombers for the loss of four Bf 109s including Major Johannes Steinhoff, Kommodore of JG 77, who force-landed his stricken aircraft.
It seems that the Italian fighters had been in combat with USAAF B-17s from 99th Bomber Group, which were out to attack Gerbini. They were intercepted near Ragusa at 23,000 feet but the escorting Spitfires from 72 and 243 Squadrons intervened. The Spitfires claimed one and one damaged Bf 109 while the bombers gunner claimed 45 enemy fighters shot down! According to American records, three B-17s from the 99th BG (42-29486 and 42-29483 of the 348th BS and 42-29492) were lost during the day.
After this combat, an American pilot of a shot down bomber was brought to San Salvatore airfield.
At 11:55, four aircraft from the 91a Squadriglia scrambled. Tenente Vittorino Daffara damaged two four-engined bombers, claimed a P-38 shot down and hits on two Spitfires. Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli damaged two four-engined bombers while Tenente Giuseppe Ferazzani damaged a P-38.
At 13:00, Tenente Baroni of the 90a Squadriglia scrambled from San Salvatore and had an in-conclusive contact with enemy fighters, returning to land at 15:00.
At 13:25 there was a new alarm and three MC.202s and two MC.205s of the 84a Squadriglia took off flown by Capitano Luigi Giannella, Sergente Maggiore Corrado Patrizi, Segente Maggiore Mario Veronesi, Tenente Alessandro Mettimano and Sergente Maggiore Buttazzi. At least three additional Macchis flown by Sottotenente Sforza Libera (90 a Squadriglia), Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) and Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli (91a Squadriglia) also scrambles.
During the alarm an enemy formation released bombs on San Salvatore airfield; luckily, only a few bombs hit the strip but many others exploded around it and the tent of the 90a Squadriglia became surrounded by large craters. The American pilot quivered during the bombing and showed a little fear; to excuse himself, he stated that he was unaccustomed to be at the receiving end of bombers. More huge formations passed over the heads and bombed the other airfields.
The eight Macchis intercepted a reported 70 four-engined bombers escorted by 30 P-38s in the area between Gela, Enna and Caltagirone. The Allied aircraft were returning from a bombing mission over Catania.
Sottotenente Giannella, Sergente Maggiore Veronesi, Sottotenente Libera and Tenente Mettimano each claimed a P-38 in this in combat. Two probables were claimed by Mettimano and Sergente Patrizi. Mettimano, Patrizi, Squarcia and Martelli damaged several bombers. Libera was subsequently shot down and killed in this combat while Veronesi, after receiving hits in the engine and in the water cooler, made a gear-up emergency landing near Comiso.
The Italian fighters landed back at 13:55.
It is possible that they had been involved in combat with P-38Gs from 96th and 97th Fighter Squadrons, which returned claiming five enemy fighters at 13:30. First Lieutenant Gerald Lynn Rounds and Second Lieutenant Russell C. Williams from 97th FS claimed one Bf 109 each. First Lieutenant William Judson Sloan of 96th FS claimed one Bf 109 and one Re.2001 while Second Lieutenant James V. O’Brien from the same unit claimed a second Re.2001.
While the aircraft were refurbished with fuel and ammunition, a MC.202 flown by Sergente Maggiore Patrizi, scrambled. He took off at 14:15 and didn’t return.
At 14:20, three MC.202s from 91a Squadriglia flown by Tenente Bertolaso, Sottotenente Leonardo Ferrulli and Sergente Giulio Fornalé took off for another scramble. It seems that they became involved in combat with B-17s, which were out to bomb Gebrini in the afternoon with a close escort of P-38s while 20 Spitfires from 126 and 1435 Squadrons provided top cover. Bf 109s and Macchis tried to intercept over Gerbini. A Bf 109 was claimed damaged by Flight Sergeant F. K. Halcombe (JK368/V-J) of 1435 Squadron, Pilot Officer Chandler (JK139/V-X) similarly claimed a Macchi damaged, while Flying Officer Geoff White (JK611/MK-M) of 126 Squadron shot down a Macchi. His victim was possibly Sergente Patrizi of the 84a Squadriglia who baled out of his disabled MC.205V near Gibrini. In the combat Leonardo Ferrulli was seen to shoot one of the bombers down, from which three men baled out, along with an escorting P-38 before he was in turn jumped by a flight of Spitfires that had been patrolling over the B-17s. Ferrulli baled out of his damaged MC.202 but was to low, his parachute failing to deploy before he hit the ground near Scordia, killing him. Tenente Bertolaso returned claiming damage to four four-engined bombers while Sergente Fornalé claimed hit on a bomber.
At 15:35 there was a new scramble with Capitano Giannella in a MC.202 and Sergente Maggiore Buttazzi in a MC.205. They returned after 30 minutes with no news.
At 17:35, there was again a new scramble by a MC.202 (pilot unknown) and Sottotenente Ugo Picchiottini in a MC.205. These two fighters returned at 18:00.
In the late afternoon, a German car arrived at San Salvatore airfield, and Sergente Maggiore Patrizi got out of it, aching all over and with scratches on many parts of his body; the pilot was welcomed with happiness by the personnel that crowded round him to listen to his adventure. He told that he chased a formation of Spitfires; while he was shooting at one of them, another one attacked him at six-o'-clock, and did not let him go, forcing him to jump from his burning aircraft and parachute. He touched down near Gerbini and was picked up by the Germans.
Towards the evening an aircraft from Comiso landed, carrying Sergente Maggiore Veronesi.
From 17:30 to 17:55, Tenente Fabio Clauser of the 90a Squadriglia flew a sortie together with Marescialo Salvatore but they didn’t encounter any enemy aircraft.
Tenente Clauser flew another sortie from 20:00 to 20:15 over San Salvatore.

At 15:00 on 14 August 1943, Squadron Leader Duke Arthur (MA295) took off with three other Spitfires from 232 Squadron to escort 3 RAAF Squadron Kittyhawks in an anti-shipping mission to the Milazzo area. Just north-west of the target an estimated 25 Macchis appeared. These were in fact 16 MC.205Vs of 4o Stormo led by Capitano Luigi Mariotti, in two flights of eight, escorting Re.2002s, which were attacking M/T on the road leading to Randazzo near Catania. The Italian pilots reported meeting 20 Spitfires at about 14,000 feet, which were engaged by one formation of Macchis. Five Spitfires were claimed shot down by Capitano Mariotti, Tenente Paolo Voltan, Tenente Giuseppe Ferrazzani, Sottotenente Baroni and Sergente Maggiore Giulio Fornalé. Three more were claimed as probables by Sottotenente Enrico Dallari, Sergente Maggiore Fornalé and Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore. Tenente Voltan returned with his aircraft damaged, presumably as a result of combat with Squadron Leader Arthur and his wingman, Sergeant S. J. Davison (JK656), who jointly claimed a Macchi damaged when canon strikes were observed on its fuselage and wing root. Another Macchi came back with its wings having suffered severe distortion during its dive to escape the attention of a Spitfire. Two of the Kittyhawk pilots also reported successes against the Macchis, Flight Lieutenant Ron Susans claiming one destroyed, and Squadron Leader Brian Eaton two damaged.

At 17:50 on 16 August, four Spitfires from 92 Squadron led by Flying Officer Brendan Baker (EN449) set off to escort to US Warhawks of the 65th FS on an armed reconnaissance north of Messina; two of the Spitfires returned early, one escorting the other which had developed engine problems.
Flying Officer Barker and his Canadian companion Flying Officer Gordon Wilson (JF354) remained with the Warhawks and, five miles south-west of Palmi, sighted five MC.202s or MC.205Vs, which attempted to attack the American fighter-bombers. Wilson diced with three for several minutes until they dived away and were lost in the haze. Meanwhile, Baker was fighting for his life:

"Almost immediately I saw a 205 dive to attack a Warhawk. I closed on this enemy aircraft and after a chase got in bursts which sent it into a spiral dive. It crashed about two miles inland near Rosarno. Three MC205s then made a determined attack on me, one staying 500 feet above all the time, so that I was prevented from climbing, whilst the other two made individual attacks from astern and full beam simultaneously. In one head-on attack my Spitfire was hit, whilst I was wounded in the right leg. I flicked onto the tail of a Macchi and gave it my remaining ammunition. The enemy aircraft burst into flames and disintegrated. During all this time the other two Macchis had clung to my tail, shooting away pieces from behind the cockpit and wings. The engine then threw out glycol and explosions started in the cockpit. I could do nothing but bale out. I was down to 1,000 feet and though my parachute did not open until I was at 300 feet, I landed safely in the sea, two miles off Gioia Tauro..."
Flying Officer Baker was subsequently captured and became a PoW.
Italian records reveal that a dozen MC.205Vs of the 4o Stormo from Castrovillari led by Capitano Mario Mecatti were involved in this action. At 18:30, the pilots reported meeting 15 Spitfires in two sections - obviously mistaking the Warhawks for Spitfires - strafing targets over the Gioia Tauro plain. Four Spitfires were claimed shot down by Capitano Mecatti, Sottotenente Baroni, Tenente Vittorino Daffara and one jointly by Sottotenente Fabio Clauser and Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore, the latter also claiming a probable. On returning to base, the nose of Clauser's aircraft was found to be covered in oil from his victim, which he reported crashed near the Stromboli volcano. No Macchi losses were recorded.

Baroni ended the war with 3 shared biplane victories and a total of 2.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1941                
  05/11/41 14:10 1/5 Blenheim (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   SE El Abiar-Regina 393a Squadriglia
  05/11/41 14:10 1/5 Blenheim (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   SE El Abiar-Regina 393a Squadriglia
  05/11/41 14:10 1/5 Blenheim (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   E Antelat 393a Squadriglia
  1942                
  16/07/42   1/5 P-40 Shared destroyed MC.202   Deir el Qattara area 90a Squadriglia
  1943                
  04/07/43   1/2 P-38 Shared destroyed Macchi   Catania - Syracuse - Cape Passero 90a Squadriglia
1 14/08/43 15:00- 1 Spitfire (b) Destroyed MC.205V   NW Milazzo 90a Squadriglia
2 16/08/43 18:30 1 Spitfire Destroyed MC.205   Gioia Tauro plain 90a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 3 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 and 5 shared destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with Marylands from 21 SAAF Squadron, which lost one and getting five damaged.
(b) Claimed in combat with 4 Spitfires from 232 Squadron and Kittyhawks from 3 RAAF Squadron. 4o Stormo claimed 5 and 3 probable Spitfires while getting 2 MC.205Vs damaged (1 in combat). 232 Squadron claimed 1 Macchi damaged and 3 RAAF Squadron claimed 1 destroyed and 2 damaged. No Allied aircraft were lost.

Sources:
La Battaglie Aeree In Africa Settentrionale: Novembre-Dicembre 1941 – Michele Palermo, IBN, ISBN 88-7565-102-7




Last modified 08 August 2014