Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Sottotenente Armando Marini

Decorations
Date Decoration Note
??/??/43 Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare 1940-43

Armando Marini was from Bologna.

In May 1942, Marini belonged to 391a Squadriglia of 159o Gruppo, 50o Stormo Assalto, which was equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

On 20 May, the unit transferred from Aviano to Ciampino Sud. While landing here Marini damaged CR.42 MM8860 and had to remain there until two days later when he on 22 May made a fifteen minutes long test flight to 1000 meters altitude with CR.42 MM8891.

The unit reached North Africa in the end of May 1942.

On 14 June four CR.42s (Tenente Vodret, Maresciallo Scarpa, Sergente Maggiore Della Valle, Sottotenente Marini) attacks motor vehicles in the Acroma - El Gazala area meeting weak light anti-aircraft fire. Marini’s aircraft is however hit and damaged but he manages to return to base.

At 10:10 on 5 July five CR.42s from the unit attacks motor vehicles in the Gebel Kalakh area.
Marini in MM8891 became lost and was forced to make an emergency landing with a damaged engine. Fortunately this one was made behind Italian lines and he returned on foot.

On 10 July, the 9th Australian Division launched an attack in the northern sector of the El Alamein line. This was backed by all the Commonwealth Wings that targeted ground targets and the airfields of LG 20, LG 21 and LG 102, which resulted in heavy aerial fighting.
Between 11:05-12:40, twelve MC.202s from the 9o Gruppo led by Maggiore Roberto Fassi escorted five CR.42s from the 50o Stormo out to attack enemy troops in the El Alamein area and 30km south of El Daba. The fighters were two from the 73a Squadriglia, four from the 96a Squadriglia and six from the 97a Squadriglia. In the target area, they spotted three stepped up enemy formations with eight P-40s at 2,000 meters altitude protected by 10 Hurricanes and 6 Spitfires at 5,000 meters.
Capitano Luigi Mariotti (96a Squadriglia) attacked and claimed one P-40 while Tenente Alvaro Querci and Maresciallo Rodolfo Stoppani (both from the 73a Squadriglia) claimed three shared damaged P-40s. The last duo couldn’t finish the attacks since they were attacked by more enemy fighters. The combat last for 20 minutes and the pilots from the 9o Gruppo returned claiming six enemy aircraft; four P-40s and two Hurricanes. The claims were made by Luigi Mariotti, two P-40s by Capitano Fernando Malvezzi (97a Squadriglia), one P-40 by Sergente Teresio Martinoli (73a Squadriglia), one Hurricane by Sergente Bruno Biagini (96a Squadriglia) and one Hurricane by Tenente Antonio Canfora (97a Squadriglia). One Hurricane and one P-40 were claimed as probables by unknown pilots. Five MC.202s were damaged but not seriously.
The five CR 42s of 50o Stormo had taken off from Abar Nimeir at 11.00 to attack Commonwealth troops between the coast road and El Alamein with 50T bombs. The 391a Squadriglia was down to one operational CR.42 (MM5046) and two more were borrowed from the 389a and 390a Squadriglie for the sortie, which was flown by Sottotenete Marini (MM5046), Sottotenente Francesco Jadanza and Sergente Pasquale Rivolta (MM8847) and the target was motor vehicles east of El Alamein.
After the bomb release the Italian pilots reported being attacked by twenty enemy fighters over the railway station of Alamein and Sergente Rivolta was shot down and killed. In the combat Jadanza claimed one P-40, one probable and one shared damaged with Marini, who also claimed a probable. Another probable was claimed by Tenente Mariano Monaldi (390a Squadriglia). The four surviving fighter-bombers landed at 12:20.
At 11:55 eleven Hurricane IIcs from 73 Squadron had taken off for a free sweep over the front. The British fighters met five CR.42s at very low height (100 m) and Flight Sergeant Ernest Joyce (BP167/QO-L) and Flight Sergeant H. W. E. Packham (BN415) claimed one CR 42 each while Flying Officer John Pain (BN566) claimed to have damaged one more. It seems that, at 12:10, 73 Squadron in fact lost Hurricane BN557 piloted by the ace Flight Lieutenant John Selby, who was obliged to force land (CAT II), after having been hit by the CR.42s (it was reported that he had been shot down by some Bf 109s but there are no German claims of this).
It seems that the MC.202s from the 9o Gruppo had met six Kittyhawk Ias of 250 Squadron that had taken off at 12:20 to bomb an area north of the Gazala railway station. They reported being attacked two times by Macchi fighters at 12:20 and losing Sergeant Walter John Mortimer (AK962/E) and Sergeant John Alastair Seabrook (AK657/V), both KIA.

Seven MC.202s of the 23o Gruppo, led by Capitano Mario Pinna (CO 75a Squadriglia), took off at 14:35 on 27 October to escort 17 Ju 87s and 42 CR.42s of the 50o and the 5o Stormi. Near Daba a formation of P-40s was intercepted and engaged, two P-40s being claimed; one of them was claimed by Sergente William Dusi (70a Squadriglia) while the second was shared by Tenente Giorgio Solaroli di Briona (74a Squadriglia), Sergente Maurizio Mandolesi (75a Squadriglia) and Capitano Pinna. The fighters from the 23o Gruppo landed again at 16:00.
At 15:10 four Spitfires of 601 Squadron escorted Kittybombers over Daba, but their pilots then spotted at least 30 fighters which were escorting 30 CR.42s of the 50o Stormo to strafe positions at E1 Alamein, attacking many vehicles and armoured cars by dive-bombing. Just after these biplanes had completed their dives, they were attacked by a formation of fighters and combat commenced. Following several earlier missions, in the air at this time were eight bomb-carrying P-40Fs of the US 65th FS (15:10-16:35), escorted by eight more of the 64th FS.
According to the Luftwaffe, the Axis formation included Ju 87s, and also placed the number of CR.42s involved at 43 (the Allied units involved put the size of the biplane formation at 20-24!). Apart from the MC.202s, ten Bf 109s of II./JG 27 and eight of III./JG 27 had also taken off at 15:40 to take part in the escort. To add to the confusion, the Hurricanes of 33 Squadron were scrambled at 15:45 to intercept the raid, covered by 213 Squadron. These pilots reported that the biplanes were flying in four vics each of six aircraft, the vics following each other in line astern, and that they were just entering their dives at this point. The Germans reported that as the formation was assembling (or re-assembling) aircraft identified as ’Curtiss, Airacobras and four Spitfìres’ attacked; once more the reference to Airacobras seems to have been a give-away that US P-40Fs were involved. Oberleutnant Ernst Börngen (5./JG 27) claimed one Spitfire V north of Turbiya at 15:03 and a Hurricane II north-west of El Alamein at 15:32. Hauptmann Gustav Rödel (Stab II./JG 27) claimed one ’Airacobra/P-39’ at 15:05 north of El Daba. Hauptmann Gerhard Homuth (Stab I./JG 27) claimed a Spitfire V south of Bir Mumin Busak at 15:15. Leutnant Werner Schroer (8./JG 27) meanwhile, claimed three P-40s north-east of El Daba, north-east of Quotaifiya and north-west of Quotaifiya, all of which he reported crash-landed. Losses during this very busy combat included two Bf 109s, one flown by Oberfeldwebel Fritz Lüer of 6./JG 27 (Bf 109 F-4 WNr. 7151 Yellow 10), which crashed into the sea 15km north-east of El Daba with the pilot being KIA II.Gruppe and one of 8./JG 27 (Bf 109 F-4 WNr. 7489), which force-landed at Daba with 80 % damaged (pilot safe).
Meantime, the American pilots were enjoying a very successful engagement. The pilots of the 65th FS released their bombs on LG.20, having spotted about six Bf 109s. They then saw more than 20 CR.42s coming in from out to sea, heading south-west. These were intercepted and following a confused engagement claims were made for three shot down, three probables and three damaged. Captain Thomas Clark (P-40F #41) claimed one damaged, Lieutenant Harry Stanford (#43) claimed one probable, 1st Lieutenant Roy Whittaker (#54) claimed one destroyed, one probable and one damaged while 1st Lieutenant Gilbert Wymond (#48) claimed two destroyed, one probable and one damaged. During the fight Captain Marshall Sneed’s aircraft was attacked by a Bf 109 and was quite badly damaged, although he managed to return safely.
Meanwhile, six more P-40s, this time from the 66th FS (15:00-17:15), had been sent out to strafe MT on the coast road west of Mersa Matruh which their pilots had been unable to locate. Flying at 3 meters altitude, they spotted a lone CR.42 at about the same height which had apparently just taken off. Pulling up together, four of the pilots opened fire simultaneously at which the biplane turned sharply and landed, then being destroyed by a further burst. The pilot was seen to leap out but was fired on by 1st Lieutenant William Taylor (#74) and fell to the ground. The four pilots credited with this victory were 1st Lieutenant William Campbell (#77), 1st Lieutenant Taylor, 1st Lieutenant Thomas Tilley (#75) and Captain William Yates (#70).
At the same time the pilots of the 64th FS who were providing escort for the 65th FS fighter-bombers, observed a reported 20 Ju 87s approaching from the west without close escorts. Nonetheless, four Messerschmitts then appeared from the east and six more from out to sea. Some of these were engaged at 15:50 and Lieutenant Lyman Middleditch (#13) became the star of the day after claiming three Bf 109s:

“got in bursts on one Me, saw smoke come out, dove down on another e/a, missed this one, stayed near the deck trying to control the plane and saw the first e/a hit the deck. Was attacked by three e/a. Turned into them, one by one, and let them have good bursts. Hit first one and saw it hit the sea. Other two kept attacking. Got close bursts on second e/a in mid-section. E/a half rolled and went into sea. Last one kept attacking.”
By now Middleditch had only two guns firing, so continued to turn into ”e/a until it ‘pooped off'”. The last two aircraft were confirmed to have been shot down by Captain Burman. By then out of ammunition, he returned safely.
However, the Hurricane IIcs had also entered the fray, pilots of 213 Squadron (15:45-16:40) claiming one more CR.42, plus two probables and two damaged west of El Alamein, although one British aircraft was lost. The claims were made by Pilot Officer C. Luxton (Hurricane IIc HL613) who claimed one damaged, Sergeant D. J. McKay (BM354) who claimed one damaged east of LG.105, Pilot Officer G. R. S. McKay (BP507) who claimed one destroyed, Pilot Officer C. D. A. Smith (BP237) who claimed one probable and Sergeant W. G. Sweney (HL680) who claimed one probable. The lost Hurricane IIc (HL987) was reportedly shot down by MC.202s or CR.42 near El Alamein with the pilot, Flight Sergeant S. G. Brookes becoming PoW. It was probably against the Hurricanes that Leutnant Schroer gained his own big success (claimed as P-40s), for apart from the 127 Squadron aircraft, Squadron Leader R. M. Lloyd, the 243 Wing sweep leader and Pilot Officer Gardner (HV398) from 33 Squadron’s top flight were both shot down (Gardner KiA) and two more Hurricanes in the lower flight were damaged (both Sergeant F. J. Bateson and Sergeant M. D. Marcus safe). By this time the other 33 Squadron (15:40-16:35) pilots had spotted 40 or more Stukas west of El Alamein, claiming one shot down, one probable and one damaged before they were driven off. These claims were made by Flight Sergeant J. W. E. Belec (HL626/L) who claimed one probable, Flight Lieutenant O. C. ‘Sandy’ Kallio (HL654/Q) who claimed one destroyed and one damaged and Pilot Officer L. H. Peterson (BP130/R) who claimed one damaged. These dive-bombers had taken off at 15:55, escorted by 22 Bf 109s of the just-returned I./JG 27. The pilots of the latter reported combat with nine Spitfires, Hauptmann Homuth claiming one shot down (possibly one of the Hurricanes). It seems that only one Ju 87 suffered combat damage during the day when Ju 87 D-3 (WNr. 2387) was shot up by AA, suffering 30 % damage and crash-landing at El Daba with the pilot Unteroffizier Adolf Ebner KIA and the gunner safe.
According to Italian records, 30 CR.42s led by Tenente Colonnello Ferruccio Vosilla, the 50o Stormo commander, strafed enemy positions at El Alamein from 14:10-16:00. They were joined in this operation by 12 CR.42s of the 5o Stormo, led by Maggiore Carlo Alberto Rizzi (238a Squadriglia). Many vehicles and armoured cars were dive-bombed. Just after the dive, despite the intervention of the MC.202s of the 23o Gruppo, they were jumped by a formation of P-40s and a long fight ensued, where the biplanes apparently achieved some success. The 39la Squadriglia reported that they flew a mission between 14.10 and 15.05 with a formation of five CR.42s from the Squadriglia (equipped with three aircraft of their own and two borrowed from 389a and 390a Squadriglie) to attack armoured vehicles in the Tell el Tisa area. In this area the 9th Australian Division with support from 51st British Division and 1st British Armoured Division was attacked by the 164th German division at the Kidney Ridge. The 15th Panzer Division and the Littorio Division supported the German division. The Squadriglia became heavily engaged by enemy fighters and in the ensuing combat one P-40 was claimed by Tenente Pietro Vodret who also claimed a second as a damaged. His aircraft was then hit in the oil cooler and he is forced to make an emergency landing at El Ostegia. Tenente Francesco Jadanza claimed a P-40 and a second as a damaged while Sottotenente Marini claimed a damaged. Also, Maggiore Rizzi, Capitano Edmondo Massi (238a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Stelio Zaganelli (238a Squadriglia) scored some hits on the attacking fighters, while Maresciallo Urbano Suzzi (MM8936) of the 238a Squadriglia was shot down and crashed into the sea in flames (pilot MiA). Three CR.42s were forced to crash-land in Axis controlled territory, and eight returned damaged. The lost CR.42s were MM8856 from the 389a Squadriglia which force-landed but was later recovered (Tenente Mario Aimi safe), MM8851 from the 389a Squadriglia, force-landed near El Daba and later recovered (Sergente Maggiore Costante Cipitelli safe) and MM8491 from the 387a Squadriglia, which caught fire and crash-landed 60km south-east of El Daba; Capitano Bruno Rossoni was WiAand rescued the next day by a Fi 156 flown by Maggiore Simeone Marsan from the 4o Stormo.

This was the last successful combat of the Squadriglia, which was withdrawn to Italy on 15 January 1943 to be re-equipped with Fiat G.50bis

Marini ended the war with 1 probable biplane victory.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1942                
  10/07/42 11:00-12:20 1 P-40 (a) Probable Fiat CR.42 MM5046 E El Alamein 391a Squadriglia
  10/07/42 11:00-12:20 1/2 P-40 (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42 MM5046 E El Alamein 391a Squadriglia
  27/10/42 14:10-15:05 1 P-40 Damaged Fiat CR.42   Tell el Tisa area 391a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 probable, 1 and 1 shared damaged.
TOTAL: 1 probable, 1 and 1 shared damaged.
(a) Probably claimed in combat with Hurricane IIcs from 73 Squadron, which claimed 2 CR.42s and 1 damaged while losing 1 Hurricane (pilot safe). The 159o Gruppo claimed 1 P-40, 2 probables and 1 damaged while losing 1 CR.42 (pilot KIA).

Sources:
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
Ali d’Africa - Michele Palermo and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 IBN Editore, ISBN 88-7565-060-8
Elenco Nominativo dei Militari dell’ A. M. Decorati al V. M. Durante it Periodo 1929 - 1945 2 Volume M - Z
La 391a Squadriglia Assalto da Bir Hacheim ad Augusta (1942-1943) - Ferdinando Pedriali, 1980 Aerofan Lug./Set. 1980.
Additional information kindly provided by Giovanni Massimello.




Last modified 22 December 2022