Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Capitano Giuseppe Majone

– 18 April 1939

Capitano Giuseppe Majone took part in the Spanish Civil War using the nom de guerre ’Magone’.

Capitano Majone took command of the 24a Squadriglia, XVI Gruppo, on 7 July 1938.

On 31 August, CR.32s from the XVI Gruppo was indirectly escorting S.79 and BR.20 bombers to the front of Gandesa. At the end of the bombing, the fighters stayed in the area for interdiction. As in the previous week, the 25a Squadriglia had the duty to cover at 7,000m while the fighters from 26a and 24a Squadriglie flew at 5,500m.
The XVI Gruppo had taken off from Caspe at 16:30 and the eight CR.32s from the 25a Squadriglia flew in four sections of two aircraft:
1st section – Capitano Roberto Fassi (CO) and Tenente Raimondi
2nd section – Sottotenente Mario Visintini and Sergente Giuseppe Marini
3rd section – Sottotenente Bongiovanni and Sottotenente Mario Pinna
4th section – Sottotenente Emilio Marchi and Maresciallo Acerbi
Around 18:00, Capitano Majone (CO 24a Squadriglia) spotted six SBs in two formations of three each heading from the Segre river towards Villalba.
They were soon attacked by the Italian fighters. Suddenly, a dozen of escorting I-16s dived on the CR.32s of the 24a Squadriglia, but they were in turn jumped by the 25a Squadriglia, which soon was joined by all the Fiats. In the ensuing dogfight Italians claimed two Ratas destroyed and one probable, that were officially shared among the three Squadriglie, though one of the kills was unofficially credited to Capitano Fassi. Sottotenente Visintini (25a Squadriglia) shot at four I-16s, one of which “effectively and by short distance” and saw a Rata falling in flames, which considering the place and the time should be the one shot down by Capitano Fassi. Visintini’s Fiat was however damaged in the action.
As a result, the commander of the XVI Gruppo, Tenente Colonnello Arrigo Tessari, proposed that each Squadriglia should be creited with one shared destroyed I-16.

In the morning on 5 September, CR.32s from both Aviazione Legionaria gruppi, as well as the Comando di Stormo, escorted S.81 bombers sent to attack Republican targets on the Gandesa front. XXIII Gruppo, in particular, stuck closely to the three flights of Italian tri-motors, thus deterring formations of I-15s and I-16s from attacking the S.81s. Some 50 Polikarpov fighters in two formations circling above were then spotted below the CR.32s by pilots from XVI Gruppo (which had taken off from Caspe at 09:00), which was indirectly supporting the operation. A large scale engagement involving more than 100 fighters then broke out, lasting over 30 minutes, this swirling mass of aircraft drifting east over Republican territory beyond Falset.
Pilots of XVl Gruppo were subsequently credited with shooting down four “Curtiss fighters” and four Ratas, while six other fighters were classified as probably destroyed. Individual victories were awarded to 24a and 25a Squadriglie commanders, Capitani Majone and Roberto Fassi. Sottotenente Mario Visintini (25a Squadriglia), whose aircraft was again hit, was credited with a I-15 destroyed, which fell in the Sierra de los Caballos, and three more I-15s and an I-16 as damaged.
It seems that the XXIII Gruppo claimed five “Curtiss fighters” and two Ratas.
The Republicans lost five I-15s and four I-16s, including a Type 10 from 2a Escuadrilla. Three more Type 10s returned to base with varying degrees of battle damage, the Spanish pilot of a 3a Escuadrilla machine making a wheels-up landing at Pla de Cabra airfield when wounds to his arm prevented him from manually lowering the fighter’s undercarriage. It is possible that one of the I-16 was flown by Ivan Galaktionovic Saulo who was killed on 5 or 6 September (Saulo had flown 13 missions and taken part in 6 combats at the time of his death).
Other known Republican fighter pilots killed in the Ebro area during the day were Manuel Araza Sabaté (killed in combat), José Correa Antón and Antonio Pascual Gaset (disappeared).
No losses were suffered by the CR.32s, although several pilots from XVI Gruppo returned with bullet holes in their aircraft.

To support the campaign to capture Barcelona in December 1938, virtually all the CR.32 units in Spain were committed. This included the 7a Escuadra de Caza, commanded by comandante Joaquín García Morato and comprising Grupos 2-G-3 and 3-G-3, based at Escatron. The 3o Stormo Caccia of the Aviazione Legionaria, led by Colonnello Venceslao D’Aurelio, was transferred from Caspe to Sariñena at the beginning of the offensive. XVI Gruppo, led by Arrigo Tessari, and including 24a, 25a and 26a Squadriglie led by Capitani Majone, Meille and Travaglini, respectively, remained at Caspe, however. XXIII Gruppo, commanded by Maggiore Aldo Remondino, and including 18a, 19a and 20a Squadriglie led by Capitani Mario Bonzano, Giulio Crosara and Andrea Favini, respectively, was also based at Sariñena. Finally, the Squadriglia Autonoma Caccia Mitragliamento, led by Capitano Giorgio Iannicelli, flew from Caspe too.

During the morning on 24 December, 22 CR.32s from XVI Gruppo clashed over the Lérida front with 26 I-15s and eight I-16s. Capitani Majone and Travaglini, leading 24a and 26a Squadriglie, dived headlong at the I-15s, which in turn fled towards the northern bank of the River Segre. The aerial battle continued between Serós and Castelldáns following the intervention of eight CR.32s from Capitano Meille’s 25a Squadriglia just as three I-15s that were hit as the combat commenced abandoned the fight. The I-16s also fled at this time, leaving close to 40 biplane fighters locked in a series of bitter duels from a height of 3500 ft all the way down to the ground between Castelldáns and Borjas Blancas.
The battle lasted more than 30 minutes, and upon returning to base the Italians claimed 14 ‘Curtiss fighters’ destroyed and four more as probables - two victories were awarded to Capitano Majone.
In reality, just five I-15s had actually been shot down by the CR.32s, including the fighter flown by the veteran commander of Grupo No 26, capitán Miguel Zambudio Martínez, who had been leading the Grupo No 26 on a sortie over the Serós bridgehead. Despite having suffered a serious bullet wound to his right leg including damage to the sciatic nerve, he managed to force land his aircraft in Republican territory and admitted to hospital in Barcelona. The remaining aircraft destroyed came from 1a and 4a Escuadrillas, and four more I-15s returned to base with battle damage.
In return, two CR.32s from 25a Squadriglia were shot down by I-15s between Castelldáns and Borjas Blancas. Sergente Giuseppe Marini was killed, while Sergente Giovanni Accorsi crash-landed in Nationalist territory and emerged from the wreckage of his CR.32 with only a slight wound following the explosion of his fighter’s fuel tank.

On 30 December, Capitano Majone claimed two I-15s near Montblanch, Catalonia.

Capitano Majone left the command of the 24a Squadriglia, XVI Gruppo, on 8 January 1939.
During his time as CO, the unit had fought over Levante, Ebro and Catalonia.

Capitano Majone was credited with seven individual victories (three I-16s and four I-15s) in Spain. As well as these individual kills, Majone also claimed 24 shared confirmed and 11 probable victories while leading 24a Squadriglia Caccia during the large-scale aerial combats that took place over the Ebro front and in Catalonia. No Italian pilot claimed more shared victories in Spain.

Capitano Majone perished in a flying accident in Italy on 18 April 1939 when his CR.32 collided with a similar machine flown by Capitano Alfiero Mezzetti, who also died in the accident.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1938                
  31/08/38 18:00- 1/? I-16 Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Gandesa 24a Squadriglia
1 05/09/38 09:30 ca 1 I-16 (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Gandesa area 24a Squadriglia
2 ??/??/38   1 I-16 Destroyed Fiat CR.32     24a Squadriglia
3 ??/??/38   1 I-16 Destroyed Fiat CR.32     24a Squadriglia
4 24/12/38 morning 1 I-15 (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   near Castelldáns 24a Squadriglia
5 24/12/38 morning 1 I-15 (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   near Castelldáns 24a Squadriglia
6 30/12/38   1 I-15 Destroyed Fiat CR.32   near Montblanch 24a Squadriglia
7 30/12/38   1 I-15 Destroyed Fiat CR.32   near Montblanch 24a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 7 and 24 shared destroyed, 11 probably destroyed.
TOTAL: 7 and 24 shared destroyed, 11 probably destroyed.
(a) XVI Gruppo claimed 4 I-15s and 4 I-16s and 6 others as probable without losses. XXIII Gruppo claimed 5 I-15 and 2 I-16 without losses. The Republicans lost 5 I-15s and 4 I-16s and 3 damaged I-16s.
(b) XVI Gruppo claimed 14 I-15s while losing 2 CR.32. The Republicans lost 5 I-15s and got four damaged.

Sources:
Courage Alone - Chris Dunning, 1998 Hikoki Publications, Aldershot, ISBN 1-902109-02-3
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
Regia Aeronautica: The Italian Air Force 1923-1945 - An Operational History - Chris Dunning, 2009 Ian Allan Publishing, Hersham, Surrey, ISBN 978-1-906537-02-9




Last modified 10 May 2017