Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Tenente Orlando Mandolini

24 October 1915 - June 1996

Orlando Mandolini was born on 24 October 1915.

On 7 July 1940, Sottotenente Orlando Mandolini was officially posted to the 93a Squadriglia, 8o Gruppo, 2o Stormo C.T., from the 52o Stormo. It seems however that he had arrived earlier since he flew a combat mission with the Squadriglia on 3 July.
The 93a Squadriglia was operating in North Africa and equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

On 3 July, three CR.42s from the 94a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Tadini, Sergente Maggiore Trento Cecchi and Sergente Maggiore Danilo Billi) and three from the 93a Squadriglia (Tenente Gioacchino Bissoli, Sottotenente Mandolini and Sergente Roberto Lendaro) scrambled from T2. They intercepted a Short Sunderland, which was heading for Tobruk. The three 93a Squadriglia pilots returned, claiming to have damaged the aircraft with the use of 650 rounds of ammo and that the same aircraft was immediately after attacked by one of the three planes of the other Squadriglia and shot down off Bardia. Tenente Tadini on the other hand claimed the destruction of this aircraft in collaboration with the 93a Squadriglia pilots.
It seems that they had intercepted Sunderland L5807/R from 228 Squadron piloted by Flight Lieutenant D. C. McKinley DFC and Pilot Officer J. C. J Lylian, which had taken off at 14:15 for an anti-submarine sortie around Tobruk. The flying-boat returned at 20:15, reporting being attacked by Italian aircraft, one of which was believed hit by return fire. The Sunderland reported no damage at all but the day after, back at Alexandria, it was taken up the slip for maintenance operations.

At 17:10 on 19 July, six CR.42s scrambled from T2. Three were from the 93a Squadriglia (Sottotenente Mandolini, Sergente Maggiore Italo Bertinelli and Sergente Maggiore Roberto Lendaro) and the other three were from the 78a Squadriglia (Tenente Ippolito Lalatta, Sottotenente Natale Cima and Sergente Maggiore Salvatore Mechelli). They intercepted a formation of four British Blenheims. The three CR.42s from the 78a Squadriglia claimed damage to one of the Blenheims with the use of 500 rounds of ammunition. The Blenheim was later assessed as shot down over the sea off Marsa Lugh by land observers. Sottotenente Mandolini claimed damage to a bomber with the use of 150 rounds but it is not clear if it was the same as claimed by Tenente Lalatta, Sottotenente Cima and Sergente Maggiore Mechelli.
It seems probable that they had intercepted four aircraft of 211 Squadron since Blenheims from 202 Group were mounting a series of raids aimed at sinking the Italian cruiser Giovanni Dalle Bande Nere, which was believed to be in Tobruk. 211 Squadron participated in the day’s actions with nine Blenheims that took off in independent flights without being able to discover the Italian cruiser and instead bombed Tobruk harbour from 18:13 to 18:30. After that the enemy AA fire had stopped firing on them, the last flight of four aircraft was attacked by three CR.42s, which were 1000 feet above them. Two of the Italian fighters dived at the British leader in wide vic formation out of the sun from port quarter and appeared to overshoot. They continued their dive and lost so much height that they could not catch up again. The Italian leader (possibly the Spanish Civil War veteran Lalatta) did a very pretty half roll and dived vertically to the attack. Interestingly, the returning British pilots reported that in their opinion, this half-roll had been not necessary to bring the CR.42 on his target. The Italian leader didn’t continue his downward dive but zoomed sharply to a position under the wing of the No.2 machine. The gunner of No.3 Blenheim reported that it would be impossible to shoot down this enemy aircraft without grave risk of shooting down No.2 aircraft, and despite all efforts to dislodge the CR.42, it succeeded in staying in this spot. The face of the Italian pilot could be seen quite plainly. His intention obviously was to tilt the nose of his machine up so as to give the leader of the formation a burst, but the high speed of the Blenheims made this impossible without falling off into the range of the rear gunners. Finally, when Bardia was passed, he disengaged.
Another unit participating in attacks over Tobruk at around this hour was 55 Squadron (with eight aircraft), which didn’t record losses nor interceptions (four or five enemy fighters were seen taking off). It could also be possible that Blenheims from 113 Squadron were present.

On 20 Decmber, Tenente Arnoldo Laurenzi, Tenente Camillo Luglio, Sottotenente Mandolini and Sottotenente Ennio Grifoni were assigned to the 91a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo.

On 25 December, Sottotenente Mandolini of the 91a Squadriglia carried out a strafing attack of British armoured cars, stopping four of them.

The last Italian bombing mission of the day on 27 December was again against Sollum. Four SM 79s from the 41o Stormo under Tenente Colonnello D’Ippolito and four bombers from the 216a Squadriglia, 34o Stormo, led by Tenente Romanini took off from Tmini at 14:30.
They were escorted by fighters from the 23o Gruppo and 10o Gruppi. Maggiore Tito Falconi was at the head of the formation of the first unit, which also included Tenente Claudio Solaro, Sottotenente Oscar Abello and Sergente Ubaldo Marziali from the 70a Squadriglia, Tenente Mario Pinna, Sottotenente Milano Pausi and Sergente Giuseppe Sanguettoli from the 74a Squadriglia and Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Ezio Maria Monti, Maresciallo Giovanni Carmello, Sergente Leo Mannucci and Sottotenente Leopoldo Marangoni from the 75a Squadriglia.
It seems that the bomber formation split and the 41o Stormo attacked British mechanized units in Halfaya and Gabr Bu Fares under heavy AA that damaged, although slightly, all the aircraft. The SM 79s of the 34o Stormo attacked ships in Sollum harbour and were intercepted by many Hurricanes. The SM 79s were totally unable to defend themselves because of icing on all the guns and one of them was shot down. This was Sottotenente Aldo Peterlini’s bomber and Peterlini was killed together with three of his crew (Sergente Maggiore Arturo Scagnetti (second pilot), Aviere Scelto Motorista Alcide Frizzera and Aviere Scelto Radiotelegrafista Gioacchino Scuderi). The other two members of the crew (Primo Aviere Armiere Ciancilla and Primo Aviere Montatore Fiore) where able to bale out. Tenente Pandolfi’s aircraft was riddled by enemy bullets (probably RD) while the other two SM 79s were less seriously damaged although suffering some wounded among their crews.
They had been intercepted by 33 Squadron which claimed three SM 79s and one probable and probably two CR.42s during offensive patrols performed by pairs of Hurricanes over Sollum. They also claimed one SM 79 and one CR.42 damaged. Vernon Woodward claimed one of the probable CR.42s and the damaged CR.42.
Falconi’s pilots recorded combat with many Hurricanes, one of which was claimed as probable by the 70a Squadriglia and six more were damaged. Tenente Solaro and Sottotenente Abello returned with damaged fighters. Solaro had been hit by AA fire and Sottotenente Abello by British fighters. Calistri and his men claimed a shared Hurricane and four more damaged. They landed back at 16:55. A shot down Hurricane was also recorded by the 74a Squadriglia, which also recorded a SM 79 shot down by AA fire.
The CR.42 escort from the 10o Gruppo was composed of seven fighters from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Franco Lucchini, Sottotenente Alessandro Rusconi, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Alfredo Sclavo, Sergente Bruno Bortoletti and Sergente Enrico Botti), six from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Maggiore Salvatore Mechelli, Sergente Domenico Santonocito and Sergente Piero Buttazzi) and six from the 91a Squadriglia (Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sottotenente Mandolini, Sottotenente Ennio Grifoni and Sergente Elio Miotto). Tenente Guiducci reported that the heavy AA immediately hit one of the SM 79s, which was shot down. Then five monoplanes (Hurricanes and Spitfires(!)) tried to attack but were immediately counterattacked and one of them was shot down. Later, another attempt by a lone British fighter failed after the intervention of the Italian escort. The 90a Squadriglia pilots expanded 320 rounds of ammunition and it seems that in the end the victory was assigned to the whole formation as a Gruppo victory. It seems that it was the same aircraft claimed independently by the two Squadriglie of the 23o Gruppo.

At around 16.00 on 28 December, three CR.42s of the 91a Squadriglia flown by Tenente Camillo Luglio, Sottotenente Mandolini and Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali carried out a strafing attack against British armoured vehicles in the Gasr El Arid area (between Tobruk and El Adem). Sottotenente Mandolini was the first to discover some camouflaged armoured vehicles and dived to attack. While coming back for a second pass he saw the plane of Sottotenente Caporali flying overturned very close to the ground, with the pilot struggling to recover a normal attitude of flight. Caporali didn’t succeed and his fighter crashed into the ground. Mandolini remained flying over the wreck to see if Caporali was able to come out of it and then, after a while, continued the strafing attack burning an armoured vehicle from which four soldiers were seen to escape.
Back at base Caporali was presumed hit by AA and KIA.
They had attacked 3Tp of “B” Sqn. 11th Hussars which lost Tpr. Sutton and had two men wounded claiming the shooting down of a fighter. Earlier an unidentified attack by three CR 42 had already destroyed the two armoured cars of 5 Tp.

At 07:00 on 29 December, Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Camillo Luglio and Sottotenente Mandolini of the 91a Squadriglia, performed an armed reconnaissance in the Gasr El Arid area discovering the remains of Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali’s CR.42. Such were its conditions that it was reputed impossible that Caporali had survived.
Near the wreck, there were still some armoured vehicles. Two of them were stopped by the CR.42s and a truck was burned (with the use of 1100 rounds). They were Tp.1 with a Ford utility that was damaged but not destroyed. At 08:20, the three pilots were back.
A rescue mission had been planned the day before by Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, who, flying a Ca.133, would have landed in the desert to save Caporali if the reconnaissance had been able to locate him. Following the report from Guiducci and Mandolini, the mission was cancelled.

At 15:00 on 3 January 1941, Maggiore Tito Falconi led four CR.42s of the 70a Squadriglia (Tenente Claudio Solaro, Tenente Gino Battaggion, Sergente Maggiore Balilla Albani and Sergente Cesare Sironi), five of the 74a Squadriglia (Tenente Mario Pinna, Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Sante Schiroli, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Marzocca and Sergente Giuseppe Sanguettoli) and seven of the 75a Squadriglia (Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Ezio Maria Monti, Sottotenente Giuseppe De Angelis, Sottotenente Renato Villa, Maresciallo Giovanni Carmello, Maresciallo Luigi Pasquetti and Sergente Leo Mannucci) in an escort mission for SM 79s attacking mechanized vehicles around Bardia. Fighters from the 10o Gruppo were also present including Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Mario Veronesi, Sergente Piero Buttazzi and Sergente Luciano Perdoni of the 84a Squadriglia and Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sottotenente Mandolini, Sergente Luigi Contarini and Sergente Alfredo Sclavo of the 90a Squadriglia. Hurricanes were intercepted and two of them were claimed damaged by the 70a Squadriglia’s pilots. During the return journey, the CR.42s went down to strafe, claiming three armoured vehicles.
They landed back at 17:20.

On 22 December 1941, Mandolini was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo) with the rank of Sottotenente.

On 15 May 1942, Tenente Mandolini took temporarily command of the 91a Squadriglia, after Capitano Alberto Argenton.

On 24 May 1942, the 54 MC.202s of the 4o Stormo C, which had been operating over Malta, arrived at Martuba, led by Tenente Colonnello Armando François.
They joined 1o Stormo (CO Colonnello Alfredo Reglieri), forming a force of more than 100 MC.202s, the largest concentration of these fighters ever to be achieved in Libya.
Next day a Comando Caccia (Fighter Command) was established at Martuba under the 1o Stormo commander, to co-ordinate the activities of the four MC.202-equipped units:
6o Gruppo (1o Stormo); CO Maggiore Mario Larcher
17o Gruppo (1o Stormo); CO Maggiore Domenico Sciaudone
9o Gruppo (4o Stormo); CO Maggiore Antonio Larsimont Pergameni
10o Gruppo (4o Stormo); CO Maggiore Paolo Maddalena
The three squadriglie of the newly arrived 9o Gruppo were led by Sottotenente Alvaro Querci (73a Squadriglia), Capitano Ezio Viglione Borghese (96a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio (97a Squadriglia), who would be replaced by Tenente Fernando Malvezzi on 1 June. The commanders of the three squadriglie of 10o Gruppo were Capitano Franco Lucchini (84a Squadriglia), Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini (90a Squadriglia) and Tenente Mandolini (91a Squadriglia).

On 15 June, Capitano Carlo Ruspoli replaced Tenente Mandolini as commander of the 91a Squadriglia.

In order to support Rommel’s last advance, at 05:25 on 31 August 1942, twenty MC.202s of the 10o Gruppo took off to strafe three enemy airfields in the Burg el Arab area, 60 km beyond the frontline. The plan was for eight pilots to strafe, while the others were to cover them. The eight pilots were Maggiore Giuseppe D’Agostinis with Capitano Franco Lucchini (CO), Tenente Luigi Giannella, Tenente Ezio Bevilacqua and Sergente Livio Barbera of the 84a Squadriglia, Capitano Carlo Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa (CO) and Tenente Mandolini of the 91a Squadriglia, and Sottotenente Vittorino Daffara of the 97a Squadriglia, 9o Gruppo.
During the approach, off El Alamein and at 4000 m over the sea, Giannella saw that Bevilacqua, Lucchini’s wingman, had a water leakage in his cooler. Giannella notified Bevilacqua this by gestures (the Italian Allocchio-Bacchini radios were unreliable) and Bevilacqua turned back. Giannella decided to lead him home, so he gestured to his own wingman, Barbera, to continue to follow the Gruppo. However, Barbera misunderstood this communication, and he too followed Giannella. The engine on Bevilacqua’s fighter sized after a couple of minutes and he and parachuted from 600 m into the sea; he swam westward for three hours and reached the shore seven kilometres inside friendly lines. Unaware of this, Giannella landed at Fuka with Barbera (perhaps mistaking him for Bevilacqua).
With the strafing force reduced to five, Maggiore D’Agostinis went inland well before the target. Sottotenente Paolo Berti (84a Squadriglia) spotted two Spitfires below them, but the enemy fighters didn’t attack. The Italians first strafed the southern airfield, finding only few aircraft but an intense ground fire. Subsequently they attacked the other two fields with three passes, each one from a different direction, managing to make the last pass in northern direction towards the sea, in order to minimize ground reaction. Five Lysanders, five P-40s, three Gladiators, an Albacore and an unidentified monoplane were severely damaged, and a lot of material and trucks was destroyed. British fighters scrambled from Alexandria airfields and tried uneventfully to reach the intruders.
On the return flight, the 10o Gruppo’s pilots met and attacked two P-40s, one of which was damaged.

On 11 September 1942 twelve Folgores from the 90a and the 91a Squadriglie, led respectively by Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini and Capitano Carlo Maurizio Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa, intercepted fifteen bomb-laden P-40s at 2000 m, covered by ten Spitfires at 4000 m over El Alamein-El Hammam. While the 91a Squadriglia attacked the P-40s (which jettisoned their bombs in the sea) and the 90a Squadriglia attacked the Spitfires, eight other Spitfires dived unseen on them from 6000 m. A hard fight began and lasted for over twenty minutes until 60 km east of El Alamein. Piccolomini, Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Silvestri (91a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Luciano Barsotti (91a Squadriglia) claimed a P-40 each, while Sottotenente Orlando Mandolini (91a Squadriglia) claimed a Spitfire. Another Spitfire was claimed as a shared probable by Tenente Luigi Padovani, Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini, Sottotenente Sforza Libera and Sergente Maggiore Bruno Bortoletti (all from the 90a Squadriglia). Many others were claimed damaged. Five Macchis were hit, but returned back to base; Savini’s, Libera’s and Sergente Maggiore Leonardo Ferrulli’s aircraft were damaged, as was Barsotti’s, who also was lightly wounded, as was Padovani, who received a bulled in his left leg. Bortoletti, with his Folgore riddled by a Spitfire, made an emergency landing near Hisiyet Busata.

In 1943, he served in the 4o Stormo.

Mandolini ended the war with 1 shared biplane victory and a total of 7.
During the war Mandolini was decorated with the Medaglia d’argento al valor militare, the Croce di Guerra al valor militare and the German Iron Cross 2nd Class.

Mandolini passed away in June 1996.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
  03/07/40 14:15-20:15 1/3 Sunderland (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Tobruk area 93a Squadriglia
  19/07/40 17:10- 1 Blenheim (b) Damaged Fiat CR.42   Tobruk area 93a Squadriglia
  27/12/40 14:30- 1/19 Hurricane (c) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 91a Squadriglia
  28/12/40 ~16:00 1 Armoured car (d) Destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Gasr El Arid area 91a Squadriglia
  1942                
? 11/09/42   1 Spitfire Destroyed MC.202   El Alamein – El Hammam 91a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 shared destroyed, 1 and 1 shared damaged, 1 armoured car destroyed on the ground.
TOTAL: 7 and 1 shared destroyed, 1 and 1 shared damaged, 1 armoured car destroyed on the ground.
(a) Possibly claimed in combat with Sunderland L5807/R from 228 Squadron, which returned safely to base.
(b) Probably claimed in combat with Blenheims from 211 Squadron, which didn’t suffer any losses.
(c) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, which claimed two probable CR.42s and one damaged without losses. The 10o and 23o Gruppi claimed 3 Hurricanes and 1 probably shot down with another 10 damaged while suffering 3 damaged CR.42s.
(d) Armoured car from 3Tp of “B” Sqn. 11th Hussars destroyed.

Sources:
2o Stormo - Note storiche dal 1925 al 1975 - Gino Strada, 1975 USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
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
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forze Armate Del Regno D’Italia Anno 1943. Part III Regia Aeronautica – 1943 Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Roma
Assi Italiani Della Caccia 1936-1945 - Giovanni Massimello, 1999 Aerofan no. 69 apr.-giu. 1999, Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milan
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
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo




Last modified 03 November 2016