Biplane fighter aces


Maresciallo Felice Longhi

4 September 1912 – 12 October 1992

Date Decoration Note
??/??/38 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (1st) O.M.S.
??/??/42 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (2nd) 1940-43
??/??/49 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (3rd) 1940-43
??/??/40 Croce di guerra al valor militare 1940-43
??/??/?? Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse 1940-43

Felice Longhi was from Airuno (Como) and was born on 4 September 1912.

Longhi served as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, arriving there in October 1936. In Spain, he used the nom de guerre ”Luigioni”.
Initially, he served in the 3a Escuadrilla Caccia del Tercio.

During the Spanish Civil War, he claimed two destroyed and four shared.

Longhi was promoted to Maresciallo on 20 December 1939.

When the Second World War broke out Maresciallo Longhi served in 95a Squadriglia, 18o Gruppo C.T. This unit was at the time equipped with the Fiat CR.42.

On 15 June 1940, the Italian Headquarters ordered the 150o, 18o and 23o Gruppi C.T. to attack the French airfields in Le Cannet des Maures (2km south-east of Le Luc) and Cuers Pierrefeu (close to the naval base of Toulon), in Provence, with the purpose of destroying and disrupting the French fighter force on the ground.
Le Cannet des Maures was the base of the GC III/6, which had arrived there on 3 June with its Morane Saulnier MS.406 fighters and was in the midst of converting from that type to the new Dewoitine D.520 (on 15 June 1940 the groupe had at least 13 D.520s on hand). The airfield of Cuers Pierrefeu was the base of the escadrille de chasse AC 3 of the Aéronautique Navale, equipped with eleven Bloch 151 fighters, and the escadrille de bombardement en piquè AB 3 of the Aéronautique Navale, equipped with eleven Vought 156 dive-bombers.
At noon 25 CR.42s from the 23o Gruppo departed from Cervere (a small town in Piedmont near the French border) to attack Le Cannet Des Maures airfield. The first group, under the command of Maggiore Tito Falconi (CO of the 23o Gruppo in a CR.42 from the 70a Squadriglia) was to make the strafing attack. The group was composed of Capitano Luigi Filippi (CO of the 75a Squadriglia), Tenente Mario Rigatti, Tenente Calogero Mazza, Sottotenente Malvezzi, Maresciallo Luigi Pasquetti, Sergente Maggiore Renzo Borro, Sergente Maggiore Davini, Sergente Maggiore Germano Gasperoni (all from the 75a Squadriglia), Capitano Guido Bobba (CO of the 74a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Arnaldo Sala and Sottotenente Domenico Tessera (all from the 74a Squadriglia). The rest of the formation, with fighters from all three Squadriglie, was to act as top cover. This formation was composed of Capitano Ottorino Fargnoli (CO of the 70a Squadriglia), Tenente Claudio Solaro (70a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Oscar Abello (70a Squadriglia), Tenente Ezio Monti (75a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Balilla Albani (70a Squadriglia), Sergente Carlo Scarselli (70a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella (70a Squadriglia), Tenente Lorenzo Viale (74a Squadriglia), Tenente Mario Benedetti (74a Squadriglia), Tenente Mario Pinna (74a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Renzo Bocconi (74a Squadriglia), Sergente Raffaele Marzocca (74a Squadriglia) and Sergente Emilio Stefani (74a Squadriglia).
They arrived over the target at 13:00 and attacked under heavy AA-fire. They claimed to have hit fifteen “Curtis” fighters and four old bombers that lay on the sides of the airstrip, in particular Capitano Bobba claimed hits on three aircraft as did Sottotenente Tessera while Sergente Sala claimed to have hit two aircraft on the ground (it seems that at least three D.520s were destroyed when Dewoitine D.520 nos. 257, 294 and 304 of GC III/6 went up in flames).
During the strafing a number of French fighters identified as “four or five Morrane” or alternatively “Dewoitine” engaged the strafing Fiats. Capitano Filippi (MM4361), was shot down by Adjutant Pierre Le Gloan of GC III/6. Filippi baled out and was captured. Maresciallo Pasquetti claimed a “Morane” but was also hit, wounded (reportedly by AA fire but possibly by Le Gloan) and returned to Cervere despite large problems. He was later decorated with the Medaglia d’argento al valor militare in the field for this mission. Tenente Rigatti’s and Sottotenente Malvezzi’s fighters were also damaged (reportedly by AA). Among the pilots of the covering patrol, Sergente Stefani claimed a “Morrane”, Tenente Benedetti a probable “Morrane” and Sergente Marzocca a damaged “Morrane”. The pilots of the 70a Squadriglia reported an indecisive engagement with no losses caused or suffered and finally Tenente Viale had his fighter seriously damaged by an explosive bullet that hit the junction between the lower wing and the fuselage. Back at base the plane was declared RD (Riparabile in Ditta - Repairable but only in the manufacturer’s workshop) and sent to the Aeritalia-Fiat workshops in Turin.
The pilots of the 23o Gruppo observed that despite hits on aircraft on the ground they hadn’t burnt. This was found to have been caused by a defective batch of incendiary ammunition.
The formation from the 150o Gruppo departed from Villanova D’Albenga (in Liguria near the sea) at 12:00 and was composed of 27 Fiat CR.42s divided in three groups. Their target was the airfield of Cuers Pierrefeu and they arrived there at 13:00. A first group of eight aircraft commanded by Capitano Giorgio Graffer (CO of the 365a Squadriglia) and composed of Tenente Franco Gatti, Sottotenente Lorenzo Clerici, Maresciallo Felice Sozzi, Maresciallo Virginio Bodini, Sergente Maggiore Guido Fibbia, Sergente Maggiore Felice Squassoni and Sergente Bruno Zotti (all from the 365a Squadriglia) attacked the airfield of Cuers itself. A second group of nine fighters from the 363a Squadriglia led by the Gruppo CO Tenente Colonnello Rolando Pratelli (Capitano Luigi Mariotti (Squadriglia CO), Tenente Pietro Garfagnoli, Sottotenente Mario Daverio, Maresciallo Giuseppe Salvadori, Sergente Maggiore Natale Viola, Sergente Maggiore Bruno Benassi, Sergente Paolo Rossi, Sergente Antonio Lazzari) and a third group of eight aircraft from the 364a Squadriglia under command of the 53o Stormo commander Colonnello Arrigo Tessari (Capitano Nicola Magaldi (Squadriglia CO), Capitano Nino Caselli, Tenente Giuseppe Enrico Zuffi, Tenente Alberto Spigaglia, Maresciallo Delfino Fratini, Maresciallo Ugo Guidi, Sergente Maggiore Virgilio Pongiluppi, Sergente Giovanni Negri and Sergente Achille Pacini) covered Graffer and his men during the strafing attack.
The covering group led by Colonnello Tessari engaged six French fighters, while Graffer’s group, after four or five strafing passes enter combat against “Morane fighters” while regaining height. All in all four Morane were claimed shot down (all Bloch 151s from AC 3 and confirmed with French records) and 15 Moranes were claimed on ground (in fact at least six Vought 156s of AB 3 were destroyed). The victories were credited as “shared” to all the pilots of the Gruppo.
The aircraft of Capitano Nino Caselli (MM5579) and Tenente Zuffi of the 364a Squadriglia (MM5590) were lost. Caselli’s Fiat was shot down by French fighters and he was killed, while Zuffi landed on Cuers Pierrefeu undamaged due to a breakdown of the throttle. Zuffi was taken prisoner and his undamaged fighter was taken by the French (the only aircraft captured by the Aéronautique Navale), which in the following days painted it with French colours and duly photographed this trophy with pilots posing near it. After the war the Italians had to do great efforts with the Vichy Authorities to finally have back the fighter in August. Additionally the Fiats of Graffer and Clerici were damaged by French fighters during the dogfight.
Finally, 15 Fiat CR.42s the 18o Gruppo took off from Villanova D’Albenga immediately after the 150o Gruppo. They patrolled along the direction of Cuers Pierrefeu - Cannet des Maures - Hyères (the latter an airfield 13 km east of Toulon) to prevent any interference from the French fighter force. Led by the 18o Gruppo’s CO Maggiore Ferruccio Vosilla the formation was composed by Capitano Giulio Anelli (CO of the 85a Squadriglia), Tenente Giulio Cesare Giuntella and Sergente Maggiore Giuseppe Ruzzin of the 85a Squadriglia, Capitano Gino Lodi (CO of 95a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Eugenio Salvi, Maresciallo Longhi, Maresciallo Giovanni Ferrari and Sergente Maggiore Giacomo Grillo of the 95a Squadriglia (Vosilla flew with Salvi and Longhi as wingmen) and finally the 3o Stormo Commander Colonnello Fortunato Rolando in a 83a Squadriglia fighter with Maresciallo Francesco Colombo and Sergente Maggiore Evdo Formentini as wingmen together with Capitano Edoardo Molinari (CO of 83a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Carlo Lolli and Maresciallo Gaetano Bortolini.
At a height of 5500 meters over Beau Champ they were intercepted by enemy fighters, which suddenly appeared from a cloud bank. They were identified as “Morane 406 plus another type not sure” and in the ensuing combat three of them were claimed shot down plus four others hit without being able of ascertain the damage inflicted (these claims can’t be verified with French sources). It seems that no individual credit was given for these victories that went as shared to all the fifteen pilots participating in the mission. During the combat, two aircraft of the 83a Squadriglia were lost when Sergente Maggiore Formentini (MM4449) and Maresciallo Colombo (MM4366) both were shot down and killed (both were probably shot down by Le Gloan and Assolant of GC III/6, which had attacked the “vic” of the Stormo commander). All the fighters of the 85a Squadriglia suffered gun-jams and were forced to flee, Capitano Anelli, in particular, had to escaped into clouds to get away from enemy fighters, got lost and was obliged to force-land at Dorniella near Grosseto in Tuscany where his plane (MM4372) broke the landing gear and was heavily damaged (RD). Finally Maresciallo Gaetano Bortolini’s Fiat was hit by a cannon shell that opened a hole of 60 centimetres in the upper wing. Later during the day two more fighters were heavily damaged (RD) on landing back in Villanova D’Albenga returning from scrambles because of the bad conditions of the ground flooded by heavy rain but this was not connected with the above described combat.
The French reported that in the early hours of 15 June bad wheatear halted flight activities, then, at mid morning, it cleared up. At 10:00, a patrouille composed by Adjutant Diaz, Sergent Pimont and Sous-Lieutenant Stage took-off to cover the reconnaissance mission of a Potez 63. The mission was completed successfully.
At 11:40, the fighter control centre of Toulon signalled big formations of heavy fighters and bombers passing the border and heading south-west. Five minutes later a patrouille simple (three planes group) of Dewoitine D.520s (Adjutant Pierre Le Gloan, Capitaine Jacobi and Capitaine Assolant) of the 5th escadrille of groupe de chasse III/6 (GC III/6) took-off.
The patrouille made for Saint Raphael (on the coast, near the Italian border), where a group of fifteen enemy planes was signalled. Four minutes later (11:49), a second patrouille simple (Capitaine Guerrier, Adjutant Japiot, Sous-Lietuenant Capdeviolle), this time of the 6th escadrille, took off to help the first. However, it took off to late and didn’t participate in the combat.
After arriving over Saint Raphael, the patrouille of Le Gloan received by radio the order of going over Saint Tropez (around 30km south-west). At the same time, Capitaine Jacobi was forced to turn back with engine problems.
Le Gloan saw a formation of twelve Fiat CR.42s in the direction of Saint Tropez heading south-west. He reached them rapidly and attacked at 12:00. In a brief combat, Le Gloan and Assolant claimed two shared aircraft shot down. These were the last two aircraft of the Italian formation and one of the Italian fighters (Maresciallo Colombo of the 83a Squadriglia) was seen to go down in flames near Beauvallon (4km south of Grimaud) while the other went down in flames near Ramatuelle; the pilot was seen to bale out (probably Sergente Maggiore Evdo Formentini of the 83a Squadriglia).
At this moment the two pilots of the patrouille was split up. Le Gloan turned over Saint-Tropez and lost contact with the enemy while Capitaine Assolant attacked a third Italian fighter (perhaps Maresciallo Bortolini of the 83a Squadriglia), but his guns ceased to fire and he had to disengage coming back to Le Cannet des Maures.
Adjutant Le Gloan in the meantime, saw anti-aircraft fire in the direction of Hyères airfield (being over Saint Tropez this direction is quite close to the direction of Toulon-Cuers Pierrefeu that was under attack at that moment). Le Gloan flew in that direction and discovered a group of three Fiat CR.42s heading east. He attacked the right hand Fiat of the group and saw that after the first burst of fire it went down near Saint-Amèe, in the bay of Pampalonne. This claim is not confirmed with Italian records but perhaps claimed in combat with an aircraft from 150o Gruppo returning from the attack on Cuers or alternatively against stragglers of the 18o Gruppo formation. He was then attacked by eight Italian fighters and he disengaged by diving away.
At the same time (around 12:15), he received by radio the order of coming back to Le Cannet des Maures which was under attack. He obeyed immediately, arriving over his airfield while the Italians were strafing it. He dived on a couple of fighters and with a single burst of cannon fire he shot down one of them (Capitano Filippi). This plane went down near the farm of the Thermes, just 1km from the airfield of Le Cannet. Continuing his patrol Le Gloan saw a Fiat BR.20 bomber flying a reconnaissance mission over Le Cannet des Maures, probably with the aim of checking the damage inflicted to the airfield. Le Gloan attacked it and, even with no more cannon ammunitions left, shot it down with five passes of his remaining four guns. The bomber fell down near the farm of the Moulin Rouge. This was Fiat BR.20 MM21873 of the 172a Squadriglia Ricognizione Strategica, which in fact went down over Le Luc. Two of the crew were killed; Aviere scelto motorista Giovanni Bonanno and Aviere scelto fotografo Egisto Di Croce. The rest of the crew were taken POWs; Maggiore Mario Salvadori (an intelligence Officer from the Air force HQ aboard as a passenger), Capitano Giorgio Parodi (the Squadriglia’s CO) and Aviere scelto armiere Attilio Imparato. Bonanno was posthumously decorated with the Medaglia d’Oro al valor militare for this action because he helped his commander, who was wounded, to jump out of the falling plane, but after that he was unable to jump himself and died in the subsequent crash.
At Cuers Pierrefeu (attacked by the 150o Gruppo), the French reported that the Italian fighters attacked the parked Voughts of AB 3 and destroyed six of them. A section of three fighters of AC 3 had taken took off just minutes before the Italian attack. It was commanded by the Enseigne de Vaisseau Carmeille and included Second-Maitres Saint Vanne and Heff. The section had to patrol between Le Luc en Provence and St Raphael. Near the first locality it became involved in combat with 15 Italian fighters (possibly the 18o Gruppo). The section didn’t claim anything and didn’t suffer any losses even if, later, it was credited with two shared Italian fighters shot down. After this combat, the three pilots went on patrolling over Toulon.
Two other sections of AC 3 took off while the Italians arrived over Cuers. The section commanded by the Lieutenant de Vaisseau Ziegler (CO AC 3) was composed by the Second-Maitres Miramont and Briet. Gaining altitude over Cuers the section was attacked by the Italian fighters. Ziegler had his Bloch 151 (numbered AC3.1, serial number 77) seriously damaged and wounded, he was forced to crash-land at base with his left landing gear cut in half. Briet was rapidly in difficulties under the attack of the numerically superior Italians, with the ailerons damaged and the reservoir holed he disengaged, rejoining the first section over Toulon. Miramont engaged combat north-east of the airfield, over the hills of Hyères. His Bloch 151 (numbered AC3.3, serial number 69) was seriously damaged, but in the heat of the fight, he found himself 50 meters behind a Fiat CR.42 (Capitano Nino Caselli) and with a single burst of his four MAC guns he shot it down. Miramont was not able to continue the fight after this and had to land at Hyères.
The third section of AC 3 suffered worst. It was commanded by the Adjutant Chef Hourcade (a pilot of the Armée de l’Air attached to the Aéronautique Navale since 1939) (Bloch 151 AC3.15 serial 51) and included Soulimont (Bloch 151 AC3.8 serial 348) and Second-Maitre Le Bihan (Bloch 151 AC3.9 serial 37). A few second after the take-off, Hourcade was shot down and killed by the marauding Fiats; Soulimont engaged the Italians but was immediately put out of action and obliged to force-land with his aircraft riddled with bullets. Le Bihan received a burst of fire in the engine and five minutes after took-off had to land in the narrow of Rocbaron. Unfortunately, his plane hit a tree and burst into flames hitting the ground. He succeeded in extricate himself from the burning wreck, but died five hours later at the hospital. Some time later Le Bihan was credited with an aerial victory obtained by collision, but looking in the initial reports of this combat there is no trace of this victory.
It is interesting to note that all of Le Gloan’s claims were homologated by the CO of the Zone D’Opérations Aériennes Alpes (ZOAA). (“L’homologation” was the definitive confirmation of an aerial victory corroborated by evidences, was a recognition quite difficult to obtain in the French Air Force). The victories were credited as follows:
Fiat CR.42 individual, Ramatuelle.
Fiat CR.42 shared with Assolant, Saint-Amé bay of Pampelonne.
Fiat CR.42 individual, Beauvallon.
Fiat CR.42 individual , ferme des Termes near Le Luc.
Fiat BR.20, ferme du Moulin-Rouge near Vidauban.
That is not in complete accordance with the reconstruction above. It is also interesting to note that the victories claimed by AC 3 were apparently not homologated.

He was with the unit during its operations in the Battle of Britain as a part of C.A.I. when 18o Gruppo was temporarily assigned to the 56o Stormo. They were based at the Saturn base (Ursel).

In January 1941, the unit was re-located to Libya.

On 10 March 1941, Sottotenente Franco Bordoni-Bisleri of the 95a Squadriglia scrambled together with his wingman Maresciallo Longhi from Uadi Tamet airfield. After a chase of more than 100 km during which they climbed to 7000 metres Bordoni-Bisleri claimed a Blenheim shot down 100 kilometres east of Benghazi with Longhi delivering the ‘coup de grace’.
This claim can’t be verified with Commonwealth records.
Some sources claims that this claim was credited to Bordoni-Bisleri (as his first victory) while others claims that it was shared with Longhi while further sources claims that the victory was credited to Longhi.

In August 1941 18o Gruppo returned to Italy and re-equipped with Macchi MC.200s.
With these aircraft they took part in the defence of Greece during the winter of 1941-42 before going back with 18o Gruppo to Libya in May 1942.
During the autumn of 1942 the unit started to receive MC.202s as replacements for lost MC.200s.

On 7 November 1942, Tenente Franco Bordoni-Bisleri and Maresciallo Longhi (both 95a Squadriglia) took off from Bu Amud, where they had arrived during the previous day. They flew towards Sidi Barrani where they were to re-fuel their aircraft for a reconnaissance mission over Fuka but at 13:30 spotted three burning Ju 52/3ms, following which they spotted eight Kittyhawks at low level. They dived down to attack them but during the dive, Tenente Bordoni-Bisleri lost the cockpit canopy from his aircraft. Nonetheless, he managed to shoot down one fighter which was confirmed by an army unit which saw it going down, shedding pieces. Maresciallo Longhi claimed additional hits on three more enemy aircraft in this dogfight and it seems that he subsequently was credited with one destroyed.
This combat was against 250 Squadron, from which twelve Kittyhawk IIIs had taken off at 15:00. They were out to strafe the Sidi Barrani – Sollum road but encountered four Ju 52/3ms at low level in the process of flying fuel from Crete. Three of these transports were claimed shot down in flames and the fourth crash-landed over Sollum at 16:00. During the flight back to base the unit met some Ju 87s and their escort east of Sollum at 16:15, attacking these and claiming a Bf 109 probable and two MC.202s damaged. However, one Kittyhawk was shot down in flames and a second failed to return.
The Ju 52/3ms were claimed by Flight Sergeant Norman Richard Chap (Kittyhawk III FR268/LD-M), Pilot Officer G. W. Troke (FR275/LD-E) and Sergenat A. F. Nitz (FR253/LD-C), who claimed two destroyed. Pilot Officer Troke claimed one additional probable Bf 109, while the damaged MC.202 were claimed by Flight Sergeant H. K. O’Brien (FR307) and Pilot Officer N. G. Russell (FR243/LD-R), which claimed one each.
The Canadian Norman Richard Chap (RCAF No. J/16637) and Flying Officer H. Calver (AL177) where both shot down and killed.
It’s possible that Bf 109s from III./JG 77 also was involved in this combat since Hauptmann Kurt Ubben, Stab III/JG 77, claimed a P-40 at 16:20.
This was Tenente Bordoni-Bisleri last victory in North Africa.

At 15:45 on 11 January, eight Spitfires from 601 Squadron scrambled, and at 4,300 meters three Bf 109s were seen and chased. Reforming, the squadron then spotted Axis aircraft over the sea near Tamet, coming in to attack Buerat from about 3,600 meters; these intruders were identified as twelve Bf 109s and twelve MC.202s. Several Spitfire pilots saw strikes on aircraft, and one parachute was spotted, but the only claim was made by Flying Officer I. F. Gilbert (Spitfire Vc BR134) for a Bf 109 probably destroyed over Hamraiet.
Twelve P-40Ks of the 64th FS and twelve P-40Fs of the 65th FS had also taken off at 15:25 for a fighter sweep over the lines, the pilots of these sighting Axis aircraft south-west of Buerat at 15:45. 2nd Lieutenant R. J. Byrne (#10) from 64th FS was twice attacked but managed to get a good burst into one of his assailants, being credited with one MC.202 damaged 16km west of Hamraiet, but he was hit (reportedly by a Bf 109 10km west of Hamraiet) and wounded, returning to base with 23 bullet holes in his aircraft. As aircraft returned to land, six pilots were ordered to scramble over base at 2,400 meters. They were then directed to Tamet at 3,600 meters where they attacked four MC.202s over Tamet. One of these was claimed by lst Lieutenant William Beck from 64th FS (#13) when it rolled onto its back and crashed into the sea, while other pilots claimed two more damaged; one each by 1st Lieutenant William Mount (#32) and 1st Lieutenant Thomas Tilley (#11). 1st Lieutenant Gerald A. Brandon's P-40K #26 was hit in the coolant system by one bullet from a MC.202 over Tamet, obliging him to force-land 16km from base; he walked back safely that evening.
Meanwhile the 65th FS P-40Fs also became engaged with enemy fighters between Buerat and Gheddahia at 15:40, 1st Lieutenant Roy Whittaker (#45) claiming one Messerschmitt shot down and 2nd Lieutenant Charles Costanzo (#60) another just as it was lining up on a Warhawk. Two more Bf 109s were claimed damaged, one each by Lieutenant Lee Gossick (87th FS in #41) and Lieutenant Jessie Jory (87th FS in #44). However, Lieutenant Edwin R. Weaver’s (from 64th FS) Warhawk (#40) was hit by two cannon shells, and he crash-landed at base.
Around this time II./JG 77 pilots made claims for no less than ten P-40s and one Spitfire over the Buerat area. At 14:44, Oberleutnant Heinrich Osswald (4./JG/77) claimed a Kittyhawk 20 km north-east of Zidjen at 4,500 meters. At 14:55 (14:35?) Feldwebel Ernst-Wilhelm Reinert (4./JG77) claimed a Kittyhawk 38km east of Zidjen at 5,200 meters and at 14:56, he claimed a second 26 km east-north-east of Zidjen at 3,400 meters (he had claimed two Spitfires during the morning). At 15:00 Unteroffizier Bruno Weidlich (4./JG 77) claimed a Kittyhawk 15km north-east of Zidjen at 3,500 meters and at the same time did Unteroffizier Franz Nägele (6./JG 77) claim a Spitfire (unknown place). At unknown time during the afternoon, two P-40s were claimed by Hauptmann Anton Hackl from 5./JG 77 (he had already claimed two in the morning) while Leutnant Erwin Müller (4./JG 77) claimed a Kittyhawk and Leutnant Johann Badum (6./JG 77) claimed a P-40. Two unknown pilots from II./JG 77 also did claim two P-40s during the afternoon.
The only known loss for German fighters during the day was Bf 109 G-1 WNr 13892 from 6./JG 77, which suffered 10% damage during combat north-west of Zliten.
At 15:40, a big Italian formation approached Tamet, comprising 17 MC.200s and MC.202s of the 13o Gruppo, led by Maggiore Lorenzo Viale out to attack British airfields in the Uadi Tamet area. These fighter-bombers were escorted by 22 MC.202s of the 18o and 23o Gruppi, led by Tenente Colonnello Tito Falconi with the 18o Gruppo’s new commanding officer, Maggiore Gustavo Garretto (later to become a Generale in the post-war Italian air force) (take-off at 14:55) and the 23o Gruppos’s commander, Maggiore Luigi Filippi. Acting as close escort on this mission were four aircraft from the 95a Squadriglia (18o Gruppo) under the command of Tenente Giorgio Solaroli. A little bit higher up were Maggiore Gustavo Garetto with six aircraft. As top cover at 6,000 to 7,000 metres were six MC.202s from the 23o Gruppo under the command of Capitano Mario Rigatti and above these were six more under the command of Tenente Colonnello Falconi.
The Italian aircraft were attacked by enemy fighters and the escort managed wth difficulties to defend the fighter-bombers. The pilots of the MC.202s claimed to have shot down five Spitfires and one probable, plus nine more damaged during this combat which they reported involved 25-30 Spitfires. From the 85a Squadriglia Sergente Luigi Gorrini claimed one destroyed and one damaged north-north-west of Tamet and Tenente Mario Melis claimed one destroyed over Tamet. From the 95a Squadriglia Maresciallo Longhi claimed one destroyed north-north-west of Tamet, Tenente Giorgio Solaroli claimed one destroyed north-north-west of Tamet, Tenente Pietro Salvatico claimed one destroyed over Tamet and Tenente Roberto Caetani claimed one probably destroyed over Tamet.
The 13o Gruppo strafed Tamet landing ground with some success, four aircraft being claimed burnt and nine damaged. At Tamet, three Baltimores of 1437 Strategic Reconnaissance Flight were badly damaged, one Hurricane of 73 Squadron, which had just arrived, was burnt out, and a Lysander was destroyed. 2 PRU arrived later in the day, fortuitously missing this attack.
Maresciallo Longhi’s MC.202 (MM7894) was damaged in combat but Longhi managed to return to base. However, two MC.202 and one MC.200 were shot down. Sottotenente Ferruccio Telleschi from 95a Squadriglia (MM7908) and Maggiore Garetto were shot down together with Sergente Giuseppe Torre from 78a Squadriglia, 13o Gruppo, (MC.200 MM8324). All three pilots managed to escape by parachute. Sergente Torre was apparently hit by AA and wounded; he force-landed his MC.200 some distance away and was able to reach Axis lines two days later with the help of some Arabs. The other two pilots were captured and became PoWs.
Nine Spitfires of 92 Squadron were scrambled at 15:30 to intercept, led by Flying Officer Neville Duke (whose birthday it was) in Spitfire Vb EP338/QJ-S. Climbing to 4,000 meters over Tamet, the Spitfire pilots then spotted five MC.202s and dived on them. Four of the Italians dived and one climbed, Duke giving chase to the latter; after a burst struck the aircraft behind the cockpit, it rolled over and the pilot (most probably Sottotenente Telleschi), baled out north-north-west of Tamet. Flying Officer Duke and Sergeant McMahon then flew about for a few minutes before seeing another Macchi below west-south-west of Buerat, on which they dived out of the sun. Duke followed it and fired until it crash-landed; this aircraft was probably flown by Maggiore Garretto (the next day, Maggiore Domenico Camarda took over command of the 18o Gruppo). Duke’s claims were reported at 16:30-17:15.

14 January was a hectic day in the air with many air combats. During this day, Tenente Giorgio Solaroli claimed a probable Spitfire and Maresciallo Longhi claimed a damaged Spitfire. Both claims were made 10 kilometres south of Bir Dufan.
No Allied losses were reported in the area during the day.

Allied aircraft from Algeria crossed into the southern area during the afternoon on 18 January, 13 B- 17s of the 97th BG escorted by 33 P-38s of the 1st FG, flying down to attack the tempting concentrations of aircraft on the ground at Castel Benito. Between 15-20 Bf 109s and MC.202s intercepted over the target and as the formation made for home. First contact was made at 14:10 over Castle Benito airfield by 71st FS where Captain Francis H. Harris claimed one probable Bf 109, 1st Lieutenant Peyton S. Mathis Jr. claimed one damaged Bf 109 and Major Raymond F. Rudell claimed one probable Bf 109 F. The 27th FS (P-38Fs) also turned into the attackers and at 14:15 and 50km west of Tripoli airfield Captain Robert L. Stevens claimed one Bf 109 destroyed and 2nd Lieutenant Marcus C. Linn claimed one damaged Bf 109. At the same time, 1st Lieutenant John A. Sullivan claimed one Bf 109 over Tripoli airfield. Captain Darrell G. Welch claimed one MS.202 and one damaged Bf 109 50-65km west of Tripoli airfield at 14:20 and 1st Lieutenant James E. Pate claimed a damaged Bf 109 80km west of Tripoli airfield at the same time. Finally, at 14:30, 1st Lieutenant Elza E. Shahan claimed two damaged Bf 109s 32km south-west of Tripoli airfield while 1st Lieutenant Marvis C. Morrison claimed one damaged Bf 109 80km west of Tripoli airfield. Totally, the 1st FG claimed three destroyed, two probables and seven damaged. However, 1st Lieutenant Burton L. Weil from 27th FS was shot down at 15:17 and became a PoW.
Nine MC.202s of the 3o Stormo, flying aircraft handed over by 4o Stormo, made a head-on attack on the left-hand aircraft of the leading vic of B-17s 60km south of Zuara. Tenente Guglielmo Specker (83a Squadriglia), pulled up high after this initial attack and saw the bomber begin to fall behind, dropping from 6,100 meters to 3,000 meters. As it was going down, he attacked twice more, firing 370 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition into the stricken aircraft, from which the crew began to bale out. Tenente Specker followed it down as it completed a full 360 degree turn before reaching the ground; the wing struck first, folding up to the first engine, at which point the bomber blew up. Specker landed to find that only three of the original nine MC.202s were still serviceable. Capitano Giulio Cesare Giuntella (85a Squadriglia), Maresciallo Longhi (95a Squadriglia) and Sergente Domenico Balduzzo (85a Squadriglia) also claimed a B-17 shared between them, but these may all have attacked the same bomber as Specker; nine crew members were captured next day.
The Bf 109 G-2s from II. And III./JG 77 took part in this interception. Three P-38s were claimed destroyed when Feldwebel Ernst-Wilhelm Reinert (4./JG 77) claimed one at 7,300meters 28km south-south-west of Azizia at 14:17, Oberfeldwebel Heinrich Hackler (8./JG 77) claimed one south-west of Tripoli at 14:22 and Unteroffizier Bruno Weidlich (4./JG 77) claimed one at 5000 meters 15km south-west of Gar el Haq at 14:27. Oberfeldwebel Johann Pichler (7./JG 77) claimed one B-17 at 1,200 meters altitude south-west of Tripoli at 14:20.
B-17 41-24385 from 340th BS, 97th BG, was lost to fighters in the Tripoli area with 1st Lieutenant Russel S. Wilkin and eight crew becoming PoWs. During the fight the gunners of the 97th BG had put in a modest claim for one Bf 109 destroyed. However, no Axis fighters were shot down during this engagement.

The 3o Stormo withdrew to Medenine, Tunisia, where its aircraft were heavily bombed by Allied bombers.

95a Squadriglia moved to Gabes and then to El Hamma following the retreat of the Italian troops.

Two MC.202 of the 18o Gruppo, flown by Tenente Giorgio Solaroli and Maresciallo Longhi (both 95a Squadriglia), were scrambled at 14:15 on 4 February 1943 to intercept a formation heading for Gabes airfield. Maresciallo Longhi’s aircraft failed to start, so Tenente Solaroli took off alone. He encountered an isolated twin-engined bomber, identified as a Marauder, and attacked repeatedly, claiming to have shot it down west of El Hamma.
This seems to have been B-26B-2-MA 41-17878/’Bat Outa Hell’ from 432nd BS, 17th BG, which failed to return after spun in near Djebel Daouaia with the loss of 1st Lieutenant Jack S. Collins and four crew.

During the battle for the Mareth Line in Tunisia, 15 MC.202s from the 3o Stormo escorted a Ju 88 on reconnaissance over the New Zealander’s vehicles between 12:40-14:00 on 20 March. They reported being engaged by about 25 Spitfires, one being claimed shot down by Maresciallo Longhi plus a probable, for the loss of the MC.202 flown by Sergente Alberto Amici-Grossi.(70a Squadriglia), who was KiA.

By the end of March, the exhausted unit was repatriated.

Left without aircraft, the 3o Stormo, first re-equipped at Caselle Torinese, before being deployed to Cerveteri in the defence of Rome.

He was credited with a P-38 off Fregene on 28 August 1938.

Longhi ended the war with 3 biplane victories and a total of 7.

Longhi died on 12 October 1992.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 19/11/36 afternoon 1 I-15 Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Madrid area 3a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
2 19/01/37   1 I-15 Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Madrid area 3a Squadriglia
  ??/??/3?   1/? Enemy aircraft Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Spain  
  ??/??/3?   1/? Enemy aircraft Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Spain  
  ??/??/3?   1/? Enemy aircraft Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Spain  
  ??/??/3?   1/? Enemy aircraft Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Spain  
  15/06/40 12:00- 1/? ”Morane 406” (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 95a Squadriglia
  15/06/40 12:00- 1/? ”Morane 406” (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 95a Squadriglia
  15/06/40 12:00- 1/? ”Morane 406” (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 95a Squadriglia
  15/06/40 12:00- 1/? ”Morane 406” (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 95a Squadriglia
  15/06/40 12:00- 1/? ”Morane 406” (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 95a Squadriglia
  15/06/40 12:00- 1/? ”Morane 406” (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 95a Squadriglia
  15/06/40 12:00- 1/? ”Morane 406” (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 95a Squadriglia
3 10/03/41   1 Blenheim (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   100 km E Benghazi 95a Squadriglia
4 07/11/42 13:30 ca 1 P-40 (c) Destroyed MC.202   Bu Amud - Sidi Barrani 95a Squadriglia
5 11/01/43 14:55- 1 Spitfire (d) Destroyed MC.202 MM7894 NNW Tamet 95a Squadriglia
  14/01/43   1 Spitfire Damaged MC.202   10km S Bir Dufan 95a Squadriglia
  18/01/43 14:00 ca 1/3 B-17 (e) Shared destroyed MC.202   60km S Zuara 95a Squadriglia
6 20/03/43 12:40-14:00 1 Spitfire (f) Destroyed MC.202   Ksar Rhilane 95a Squadriglia
  20/03/43 12:40-14:00 1 Spitfire (f) Probably destroyed MC.202   Ksar Rhilane 95a Squadriglia
7 28/08/43 12:30 ca 1 P-38 Destroyed MC.202   off Fregene 95a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 3 and 7 shared destroyed, 4 shared damaged.
TOTAL: 7 and 8 shared destroyed, 1 probably destroyed, 1 and 4 shared damaged.
(a) Probably claimed in combat with Dewoitine D.520s from the GC III/6, which didn’t suffer any losses.
(b) This claim is most probably a shared between Franco Bordoni-Bisleri and Longhi who both in different sources are credited with this victory. The claim can’t be verified with Commonwealth records.
(c) Claimed in combat with Kittyhawk IIIs from 250 Squadron, which lost 2 Kittyhawks (pilots KIA) while claiming 1 probable Bf 109 and 2 damaged MC.202s. 95a Squadriglia and III/JG 77 claimed 3 destroyed P-40s.
(d) Claimed in combat with Spitfire Vs from 92 and 601 Squadrons and P-40s from 57th FG, which claimed 2 destroyed Bf 109s and 3 destroyed MC.202s, 1 probable Bf 109, 2 damaged Bf 109s and 3 damaged MC.202s while losing 2 P-40s and getting 1 P-40 damaged. II./JG 77, 18o and 23o Gruppi claimed 10 destroyed P-40s, 6 Spitfires destroyed, 1 probable Spitfire and 9 damaged Spitfires while losing 2 MC.202s (2 pilots PoW) and 1 MC.200, 1 damaged MC.202 and possibly 1 damaged Bf 109.
(e) Claimed in combat with B-17s from the 97th BG, which lost 1 B-17 (crew PoW). The 18o Gruppo and III./JG 77 claimed 3 B-17s shot down.
(f) Can’t be verified with any Allied losses.

3o Stormo, storia fotografica - Dai biplani agli aviogetti - Carlo Lucchini and Leproni Enrico, 1990 Gino Rossato Editore
Aces High - Christopher Shores and Clive Williams, 1994 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-00-0
Aces High Volume 2 - Christopher Shores, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-03-9
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
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume Two – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, Frank Olynyk & Winfried Bock, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN-13: 9781909166127
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume Three – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, Frank Olynyk & Winfried Bock, 2016 Grub Street, London, ISBN-13: 9781910690000
Assi Italiani Della Caccia 1936-1945 - 1999 Aerofan no. 69 apr.-giu. 1999 kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala
Elenco Nominativo dei Militari dell’ A. M. Decorati al V. M. Durante it Periodo 1929 - 1945 1 Volume A - L
Gli Assi Italiani Della Regia Aeronautica - Givanni Massimello, 2023 Difesa Servizi SpA Edizioni Rivista Aeronautica, ISBN 9788888180779
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
In cielo e in terra - Franco Pagliano, Longanesi & Co., Milano, 1969 kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso
Italian Aces of World War 2 - Giovanni Massimello and Giorgio Apostolo, 2000 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-078-1
L’Aéronautique navale francaise de septembre 1939 à juin 1940 (Hors série Avions nr.1) - Lucien Morareau, January 1994 Le La Presse, Boulogne sur Mer, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
La campagne de France, les combars franco-italiens 10 juin-25 juin (Batailles Aeriennes nr. 11) - Matthieu Comas, January 2000 Le La Presse, Boulogne sur Mer, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Additional information kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo

Last modified 30 November 2023