Biplane fighter aces


Tenente Giampiero Del Prete

23 February 1914 -

Giampiero Del Prete was born on 23 February 1914.

Del Prete was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo) on 14 September 1936.

Giampiero Del Prete served as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, where he served in the XXIII Gruppo.

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.
During the day, the VI Gruppo lost a good part of numerical, considering that part of the 31a Squadriglia had previously been detached to Córdoba. Therefore, immediately the same morning, the Comando dell’Aviazione Legionaria ordered the XXIII Gruppo to transfer to Sanjurio (Zaragoza).
At 10.30, 29 CR.32s led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti, took off from Almaluèz and arrived over Sanjurio around noon. However, before landing, Maggiore Zotti decided to lead his pilots to explore the area between Villafranca and Fuentes del Ebro. Here they spotted four Polikarpov RZ “Natachas” escorted by nine I-16s “Ratas” (above them) and 15 I-15 “Curtiss” (below them). The Italian fighters attacked the Republican aircraft and at the end of the dogfight, that lasted about fifteen minutes, the Italians claimed seven (eleven according to other sources) fighters destroyed for no losses, although several CR.32s were hit and damaged. Combat was very hard for the Italians because their fighters were weighted by pilots’ personal luggage. Pilots that scored, either individually or jointly, were Sergente Giuseppe Mottet (20a Squadriglia) (1 I-16), Sottotenente Del Prete, Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni (CO of the 20a Squadriglia), Sergente Francesco Penna, Sottotenente Aldo Felici, Capitano Enrico Degli Incerti (CO of the 19a Squadriglia) (1 I-16), Sottotenente Pio Tomaselli (19a Squadriglia), Franco Lucchini (19a Squadriglia), Capitano Guido Nobili (CO of the 18a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Carmello (18a Squadriglia), Sergente Carlo Dentis, Sottotenente Giuseppe Enrico Zuffi, Sergente Federico Tassinari (19a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Alfonso Mattei and Sottotenente Bruno Trevisan. It seems that Lucchini’s, Tassinari’s and Mattei’s claims was a shared between these three pilots.

In 1940, he was part in the C.A.I. operations over Britain when 353a Squadriglia, 20o Gruppo was temporarily assigned to the 56o Stormo. They were based first at Ursel and then later at Maldegem and equipped with Fiat G.50bis.

He was promoted to Capitano on 19 May 1941.

At 10:00 (Axis time) on 3 September 1941, 23 G.50bis of 20o Gruppo took off, led by Tenente Colonnello Mario Bonzano, to make a strafing attack in the Sidi Barrani area. They arrived over LG 05 at 11:35 (GMT), strafing 1 SAAF Squadron’s Hurricanes and damaging three of these, also riddling every tent with machine-gun fire. The Italian pilots believed that they had destroyed eight aircraft and many vehicles on the ground here. As quickly as possible six Hurricanes took off but were too late to engage the raiders.
Ten miles away at LG 02, 2 SAAF Squadron had four aircraft on standing patrol and seven on immediate readiness. A telephone warning sent the latter Tomahawks into the air within 90 seconds, the last of these hardly being airborne before the raiders swept in, some of them as low as 150ft. The South African pilots identified the attackers as 27 in number, and at once attacked. Lieutenant Charles Whaites made the first claim for one G.50, which he saw spin into the ground two miles from the camp. The second claim was made by Lieutenant N. J. Cullum, who witnessed his target go into the ground at high speed, while a third was “shot to pieces” by fire from five Tomahawks before being given the ‘coup de grace’ by Lieutenant W. P. Stanford (Tomahawk AK442) and John Wells, who reported that it had crashed five miles west of Sidi Barrani. All these were seen by ground personnel on the airfields. Further claims were made by Lieutenants J. W. Sayers and Rolfe Gernecke who each claimed one shot down onto an escarpment to the west, while Lieutenant A. D. Farralls’s claimed victim reportedly fell into the sea. The only casualty to the squadron was Lieutenant L. A. Stones’ aircraft (Tomahawk AM376) which was hit by Bofors AA fire from the airfields, and was forced to crash-land.
The Italian pilots reported being engaged by Tomahawks and Hurricanes following completion of their strafing attack and became involved in a 25-minutes combat during which claims were made for 14 of the intercepting fighters shot down, plus three more probable and four damaged for the loss of four G.50bis. It seems that six more G.50bis suffered fairly severe damage during this engagement. Claiming pilot from 20o Gruppo was Tenente Colonnello Bonzano (1 Tomahawk and 1 and 1 probable Hurricane). Claiming pilots from 151a Squadriglia were Capitano Del Prete (1 and 1 shared Hurricane), Sergente Maggiore Gugliélmo Gorgone (1 Tomahawk), Sottotenente Pietro Menaldi (1 shared Hurricane), Sergente Maggiore Alberto Porcarelli (1 Tomahawk) and Maresciallo Federico Tassinari (1 Tomahawk). Claiming pilots from 352a Squadriglia were Sergente Maggiore Otello Bonelli (1 Hurricane), Capitano Luigi Borgogno (1 damaged Hurricane), Sergente Maggiore Renato De Silvestri (1 damaged Hurricane), Maresciallo Maurizio Iannucci (1 damaged Hurricane), Sergente Giuseppe Mirrione (1 Hurricane), Sottotenente Giorgio Oberwerger (1 damaged Hurricane), Sergente Maggiore Francesco Pecchiari (1 Hurricane) and Sergente Maggiore Francesco Visentin (1 probable Hurricane). Claiming pilots from 353a Squadriglia were Sergente Maggiore Ersio Caponigro (1 and 1 probable Hurricane), Sergente Maggiore Tullio Covre (1 Hurricane), Sergente Spiridione Guiducci (1 Hurricane), Sergente Alcide Leoni (1 shared Hurricane) and Capitano Riccardo Roveda (1 Hurricane). The four lost G.50bis was one from 353a Squadriglia (MM5939 shot down; Sergente Maggiore Bruno Baldacci KIA) and four from 352a Squadriglia (MM5933 shot down, crash-landed; Sottotenente Vittorio Muratori KIA) (MM5947 shot down, crash-landed; Sergente Giovanni Vescovi KIA) (G.50bis shot down, crash-landed; Sergente Maggiore Renato De Silvestri PoW).
In consequence of this action, Tenente Colonnello Bonzano received the immediate award of the Medaglia d’argento al valor militare.

Del Prete ended the war with 1 shared biplane victory and a total of 1.
During his career, he was decorated with two Medaglie di bronzo al valor militare, the Croce al merito di Guerra, the Medaglia commemorativa della campagna di Spagna and the Medaglia di benemerenza per i volontari della guerra Spagna.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  12/10/37 10:30- 1/? Enemy fighter Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Villafranca-Fuentes del Ebro XXIII Gruppo
1 03/09/41 11:35- 1 Hurricane (a) Destroyed Fiat G.50bis   Sidi Barrani area 151a Squadriglia
  03/09/41 11:35- 1/3 Hurricane (a) Shared destroyed Fiat G.50bis   Sidi Barrani area 151a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 and 2 shared destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with Tomahawks from 2 SAAF Squadron, which claimed 6 G.50bis for the loss of 1 Tomahawk. 20o Gruppo claimed 14 fighters (Tomahawks and Hurricanes), 3 probables and 4 damaged for the loss of 4 G.50bis (6 more severely damaged).

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
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
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forze Armate Del Regno D’Italia Anno 1943. Part III Regia Aeronautica – 1943 Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Roma
Aviatori Italiani - Franco Pagliano, 1964 Longanesi Milano, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Aviobrigada X - Alfredo Lagoluso, 2001 no. 97, 98 and 99 of Storia Militare (October-December 2001), kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
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
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo.

Last modified 21 October 2015