Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Maggiore Luigi Mariotti Medaglia d'oro al valor militare

21 May 1913 – 27 December 1944

Luigi Mariotti was born in Torino on 21 May 1913.

Mariotti joined the Regia Aeronautica and was posted as a Sergente pilota to the 4o Stormo in 1933.

He was discharged in 1934 but was recalled a year later.
On 26 September 1935, he was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo) and received the rank of Sottotenente. He was then posted to the 2o Stormo.

He served as a volunteer during the Spanish Civil War from October 1936.

When the Nationalist attack on the Basque Country began in the end of March 1937, I Gruppo was moved north and 3a Squadriglia was stationed at Vitoria.
The 3a Squadriglia was commanded by Capitano Mario Viola (”Viotti”) who led the 1st Flight of five aircraft (with reserve pilots) usually including Tenente Mariotti, Ottorinio Cappellini, Giannoti (”Vitullo”), Curilli, Sartori and Romagnoli.
The 2nd Flight was led by Tenente Corrado Ricci and usually included (with reserve pilots) Tenente Giuseppe Mollo, Sergente Maggiore Guido Presel, Sergente Maggiore Brunetto di Montegnacco, Eugenio Salvi, Galadini, Bernardino Serafini and Virgilio Pongiluppi.

In April 1937, XVI Gruppo ”Cucaracha” was formed and included 24a (formerly 1a), 25a (formerly 2a) and 26a (formerly 3a) Squadriglie.

He was captured after a crash-landing behind enemy lines but was repatriated in February 1939.

During his time in Spain, he was decorated with two Medaglie d'argento al valor militare.

He was posted to the 53o Stormo.

Tenente Franco Gatti left the command of the 363a Squadriglia, 150o Gruppo, in April 1939 when Mariotti took command of the unit.

On 11 April 1940, he was promoted to Capitano.

In June 1940, Capitano Mariotti still served as CO of the 363a Squadriglia, 150o Gruppo C.T. This unit was at the time equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

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 Maureswas 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 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 Felice 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.

On 23 October, the 150o Gruppo moved to Albania and became an Autonomo unit.

In the early afternoon on 2 November, ten Cant Z.1007bis, from the 50o Gruppo Autonomo B.T. approached Salonika. Six PZL P.24s from 22 Mira intercepted them, causing the bombers to jettison their bombs and turn for home. The Greek fighters claimed four bombers and two Italian bombers were lost and one was damaged. Two Greek fighters force-landed and a third flown by Sminagos John Kyriazes was hit and damaged during the engagement, or perhaps force-landed, the pilot being wounded.
Although not mentioned in the Greek account of this raid, escorting CR.42s were present over Salonika and twelve CR.42s from 363a led by Capitano Mariotti engaged eight PZLs. The Italian fighters reportedly intercepted “eight PZL 27” at around 14:30 and claimed four shot down jointly (two fighters were seen to fell in flames and two more were seen to fell as if they were out of control), while two CR.42s were damaged.
Maggiore Angelo Mastragostino of the 160o Gruppo claimed a PZL on this day, and may possibly have been flying with Mariotti’s unit on this occasion.
During the raids on Salonika on this day, the town suffered some 200 civilian casualties.

At 17:20 on 11 February, 17 CR.42s of the 150o Gruppo led by Capitano Mariotti (363a Squadriglia) took off to strafe Yanina's Katzika airfield. At 17:45 they attacked covered by 15 G50.bis of the 154o Gruppo.
Two Gladiators from 21 Mira flown by Anthiposminagos Anastasios Bardivilias and Episminias Nikolaos Kostorizos were scrambled but were quickly overwhelmed. Bardivilias’s Gladiator was shot down and the pilot killed while Kostorizos’ aircraft received many hits but the pilot managed to safely land at Yanina airfield.
The Italian pilots claimed two Gladiators shot down, one of them by Capitano Mariotti, who claimed one Gladiator as it was taking off. 364a Squadriglia pilots claimed three more biplanes slightly damaged on the ground. Three CR.42s of the 363a Squadriglia flown by Capitano Mariotti, Sottotenente Ugo Drago and Sergente Maggiore Bruno Benassi, made further strafing attacks, damaging another Gladiator. The three pilots then set fire to a lorry and damaged four others at Yanina. They also attacked a sailing ship spotted at Corfu. Totally three aircraft were claimed destroyed on the ground and 15 more damaged; three Gladiators were slightly damaged on the ground.
Ground AA fire claimed to have hit one of the CR.42s and it was believed to have crashed some miles to the south, but all in fact returned.

The British offensive Operation Crusader was launched in North Africa on 18 November 1941. Italian reinforcements were rushed to Libya including the 150o Gruppo, which arrived at Castelbenito on 14 December with their MC.200s and Capitano Mariotti as CO of the 363a Squadriglia.

On 14 February 1942, seven MC.202s of the 88a Squadriglia took off at 11:30, led by Maggiore Marco Larcher, to escort seven CR.42s of the 3o Gruppo and nine MC.200s of the 150o Gruppo (from the 364a and 365a Squadriglie) that were to attack enemy vehicles in the Bir Hacheim area. Six more MC.200s from the 363a Squadriglia, 150o Gruppo helped the Folgores in the escort duty. As usual, the Saettas were the close escort while the MC.202s were top cover.
Weather conditions gradually deteriorated so, over the target the couple of Macchis flying at superior height lost sight of the rest of the formation.
At 12:00, at the height of 2000 m., a formation of around 20 P-40s that was trying to attack the other Italian aircraft was intercepted. Three victories were claimed by the pilots of the 88a Squadriglia (one by Tenente Gino Ramarini and two by Maresciallo Natalino Stabile), plus one probable and ten damaged. Tenente Giannuzzi Savelli failed to return (KIA) while Sergente Maggiore Alfredo Bordin belly-landed reportedly with no fuel left. He was slightly wounded but the fighter was recovered, a third Macchi was slightly damaged. The 88a Squadriglia landed back at 13:05 and had expended 1610 round of ammunition.
In the meantime the six MC.200s of the close escort were having a very hard time. Sottotenente Maurizio Nicolis di Robilant and Sergente Bruno Dellai failed to return and two more pilots returned with the plane damaged. To balance these losses the 363a Squadriglia pilots could only claim to have damaged 15 Curtiss with the use of 2110 rounds.
The ground attack Macchis, which claimed to have hit 21 vehicles, leaving eight of them in flames, were reportedly not engaged by the enemy fighters but suffered many losses due to the AA fire. Tenente Armando Badessi parachuted, Sergente Maggiore Angeloni force-landed and later returned to base while a third Macchi was damaged. Additionally a CR.42 was obliged to force-land and was later recovered.
The Italian formation had been attacked by ten Kittyhawks from 112 Squadron and eight from 3 RAAF Squadron. 112 Squadron reported that they scrambled with ten Kittyhawks led by Pilot Officer John Bartle together with eight aircraft of 3 RAAF Squadron to meet an approaching enemy formation. After flying to Tobruk, the Kittyhawks turned west over the Perimeter defences and climbed steadily until, over Acroma, 3 RAAF were at 8,000 ft with 112 Squadron slightly ahead and above, just below the cloud base at the ideal height for the Kittyhawk. At that moment they spotted about a dozen MC.200s and MC.202s in a loose vic formation 2,000 ft below. Pilot Officer Bartle warned the Australians who, however, were more interested in a formation of enemy bombers with a close escort flying lower than 2,000 ft. 112 Squadron concentrated on the fighters who by now were climbing to meet the attack. The Kitthawks dived into them all of the pilots from 112 Squadron made claims. Sergeant Burney, having dived through the Italian fighters found himself amongst enemy bombers and claimed one shot down (claimed as a Ba.65). His victim tried to evade but hit the ground and Burney strafed it. By the time he regained height aircraft were milling around everywhere. Sergeant Cordwell, in his first action, shot away about shot away about three-quarters of the wing of a Bf 109 F, which spun out of control south-west of Acroma. Sergeant Drew claimed two MC.200s south-west of Acroma, one of which he saw hit the ground. "It was easy as breakfast in bed" he is quoted as saying. Pilot Officer Duke attacked a MC.200 south-west of Acoma, which was seen to spin and crash by Sergeant Evans. He also attacked a second MC.200 at ground level from dead astern and it flew into the ground and burst into flames 20m south-east of Gazala. This was shared with Sergeant Reid of 3 RAAF Squadron. The Italians defensive tactic when evading was to drop down to ground level in rolls and vertical dives. Sergeant Leu attacked a MC.200, which blew up and another which flew into the ground south-east of Gazala. Sergeant Simonsen certainly got a MC.200, which he saw spin down and he probably damaged another. Pilot Officer Dickinson made a stern attack on a MC.200, which was enveloped in a sheet of flames at 1,000 ft. Sergeant Christie claimed two MC.200 and one damaged south-west of Acroma when he dived and gave one Macchi a heavy burst so that the aircraft pulled up steeply and then spiralled and crashed, bursting into flames. He then dived on a second, which stalled, pouring out black smoke and going into a dive. He had a go at a third and probably damaged it but without any visible effect. Sergeant Evans also attacked a MC.200, which was seen to lose about two feet off its starboard wing. It dived away so steeply that it seemed doubtful whether the pilot could have pulled out. Pilot Officer Bartle gave a MC.200 a long burst, which sent it down out of control and damaged a Bf 109, which he chased all the way to Tmimi.
Claiming pilots from 112 Squadron were Pilot Officer Eric Dickinson (AK804) (1 MC.200 at 12:15 south-west of Acroma), Pilot Officer Neville Duke (AK578/GA-V) (1 and 1 shared MC.200), Pilot Officer Bartle (AK700/GA-B) (1 MC.200, 1 probable Bf 109 and 1 damaged Bf 109), Sergeant Rudolf Leu (AK781) (2 MC.200s), Sergeant Henry Burney (AK702) (1 Ba.65 south-west of Acroma), Sergeant Roy Drew (AK653) (2 MC.200s), Sergeant R. E. Simonsen (AK682/GA-U) (1 MC.200 and 1 probable MC.200), Sergeant Ron Christie (AK761) (2 MC.200s and 1 damaged MC.200), Sergeant W. E. G. Cordwell (AK630) (1 Bf 109 F) and Sergeant R. B. Evans (AK637) (1 probable MC 200).
3 RAAF Squadron reported that they scrambled at 11:45 and intercepted 32 enemy aircraft about 20 miles south-east of El Gazala. They tried to attack the bombers but they spotted about six Bf 109s lurking close by. They wheeled round in time and in the ensuing dog-fight four enemy aircraft were destroyed and another damaged. Then, at last, they were able to concentrate on the enemy bombers. All Australians had landed again at 13:20.
Claiming pilots from 3 RAAF Squadron were Sergeant Walter Mailey (AK644) (1 Bf 109s and 1 damaged MC.200), Sergeant Brian Thompson (AK691) (1 MC.202), Pilot Officer Pace (AK664) (1 shared MC.202), Sergeant Gordon White (AK605) (1 Bf 109 and 2 damaged Ju 87s), Flying Officer Peter Giddy (AK665) (2 MC.200s and 1 damaged MC.202), Sergeant F. B. Reid (AK689/CV-W) (1 and 1 shared MC.200 and 1 damaged MC.200), Flying Officer Lou Spence (AK612) (1 Bf 109) and Flying Officer Gray (AK621) (1 damaged Bf 109).
Back at base, the Allied fighters reported that they engaged 32 enemy aircraft and totally they claimed 20 destroyed, 3 probables and 8 damaged without losses. Other Axis units were possibly involved in this combat since the Allied fighters made claims against Ba.65s and Ju 87s. The claims against Bf 109s were probably due to misidentification since no German fighter losses or claims are known for this date. Even if there was some overclaiming it seems that it was really a successful day for the Kittyhawks, which later christened it the “St. Valentine’s day massacre”. The success was helped by the use of RDF in one of the first documented cases in that part of the front, which directed the P-40s to intercept their quarries with height advantage. The Macchis and Fiats were also surprised because of the poor visibility due to bad weather.
Sottotenente Ugo Drago took part in the clash as section leader in the close escort formation of the 363a Squadriglia. He was able to shoot a Kittyhawk off the tail of Capitano Mariotti's MC.200 and once back at base searched some sort of consolation claiming that the sacrifice of his Squadriglia avoided more losses to the ground attack units. In fact, this battle showed only as the old Saetta, notwithstanding the efforts of its pilots, at the beginning of 1942 was totally inadequate to tangle with its adversaries.

Capitano Mariotti left the command of the 363a Squadriglia, 150o Gruppo, in June 1942 when Tenente Ugo Drago took command of the unit.
Tenente Drago commanded the unit until the end of the war.

He was then posted to 160o Gruppo

Maggiore Antonio Larsimont Pergameni was killed over North Africa on 26 June 1942.
His command over the 9o Gruppo was taken by Capitano Mariotti from the 160o Gruppo.

On 4 July 1942, Maggiore Roberto Fassi took command over the 9o Gruppo after Capitano Mariotti.

On 6 July, Capitano Mariotti temporarily took command over the 73a Squadriglia after Tenente Alvaro Querci.

On 10 July, 12 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 Mariotti 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; three P-40s and three Hurricanes. The claims were made by Mariotti, two by Capitano Fernando Malvezzi (97a Squadriglia) and one by Sottotenente Antonio Canfora (97a Squadriglia). The last two were claimed as shared by all the present pilots. Two more were claimed as probables. Five MC.202s are damaged but not seriously.

After that Capitano Mariotti was wounded during a bombing attack on Fuka, on 20 July, Tenente Giulio Reiner was appointed CO of the 73a Squadriglia.

Later in the war, Mariotti served as CO of the 91a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo.

After a period of rest, on 24 February 1943, pilots of the 10o Gruppo rejoined to reorganize the unit at Bresso airfield, under the command of Maggiore Giuseppe D’Agostinis.
Pilots in the 84a Squadriglia were Capitano Franco Lucchini (CO) (hospitalized), Tenente Luigi Giannella, Tenente Alessandro Mettimano, Sottotenente Francesco De Seta, Sottotenente Ugo Picchiottini, Maresciallo Luigi Bignami, Sergente Maggiore Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Maggiore Corrado Patrizi, Sergente Maggiore Piero Buttazzi, Sergente Maggiore Luciano Perdoni and Sergente Livio Barbera.
Pilots in the 90a Squadriglia were Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini (CO), Sottotenente Sforza Libera, Sottotenente Renato Baroni, Sottotenente Luigi Cima, Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore, Sergente Maggiore Bruno Bortoletti, Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Battista Ceoletta, Sergente Maggiore Amleto Monterumici and Sergente Maggiore Natale Molteni.
Pilots in the 91a Squadriglia were Capitano Mariotti (CO), Tenente Giuseppe Ferazzani, Tenente Alvaro Bondi, Sottotenente Leonardo Ferrulli, Sottotenente Elio Miotto, Sottotenente Guerriero Silvestri, Sottotenente Vittorino Daffara, Maresciallo Alessandro Bladelli, Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli, Sergente Maggiore Ferruccio Terrabujo, Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi and Sergente Giulio Fornalé.
On 20 April, the Gruppo transferred to Ciampino Sud for the defence of Rome.

Maggiore Roberto Fassi left the command of the 9o Gruppo on 24 June 1943 to Capitano Mariotti. The day before, Mariotti had been replaced as CO of the 91a Squadrilgia by Tenente Mario Mecatti.

At 15:00 on 14 August 1943, Squadron Leader Duke Arthur (MA295) took off with three other Spitfires from 232 Squadron to escort 3 RAAF Squadron Kittyhawks in an anti-shipping mission to the Milazzo area. Just north-west of the target an estimated 25 Macchis appeared. These were in fact 16 MC.205Vs of 4o Stormo led by Capitano Mariotti, in two flights of eight, escorting Re.2002s, which were attacking M/T on the road leading to Randazzo near Catania. The Italian pilots reported meeting 20 Spitfires at about 14,000 feet, which were engaged by one formation of Macchis. Five Spitfires were claimed shot down by Capitano Mariotti, Tenente Paolo Voltan, Tenente Giuseppe Ferrazzani, Sottotenente Renato Baroni and Sergente Maggiore Giulio Fornalé. Three more were claimed as probables by Sottotenente Enrico Dallari, Sergente Maggiore Fornalé and Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore. Tenente Voltan returned with his aircraft damaged, presumably as a result of combat with Squadron Leader Arthur and his wingman, Sergeant S. J. Davison (JK656), who jointly claimed a Macchi damaged when canon strikes were observed on its fuselage and wing root. Another Macchi came back with its wings having suffered severe distortion during its dive to escape the attention of a Spitfire. Two of the Kittyhawk pilots also reported successes against the Macchis, Flight Lieutenant Ron Susans claiming one destroyed, and Squadron Leader Brian Eaton two damaged.

In the morning on 4 September 1943, Macchis of the 4o Stormo were escorting twelve Reggiane Re.2002 of the 101o Gruppo (Capitano Dino D'Ottaviano (CO), Tenente Carlo Graziani, Tenente Ugo Bassi and Sergente Walter Banfi of the 208a Squadriglia, Tenente Eolo Morichelli d'Altemps, Sottotenente Paolo Ruggiero, Tenente Felice Fox and Sottotenente Stelio Zaganelli of the 238a Squadriglia) and of the 102o Gruppo (Tenente Renato Moglia and Sergente Faliva of the 209a Squadriglia, Maresciallo Aldo Dagnino of the 239a Squadriglia), led by the 5o Stormo's CO Maggiore Giuseppe Cenni.
The Reggianes had taken off from Manduria at 11:25 and were going to bomb the area of Gallico, when they were intercepted by some Spitfire Mk.Vs and Mk.IXs of 111 and 243 RAF Squadrons. In the ensuing dogfight, two Spitfires were claimed; one by Capitano Mariotti (CO of the 9o Gruppo) and one shared by several pilots including Giulio Reiner. Three more Spitfires were claimed as damaged while Reiner returned with a damaged MC.205. Sottotenente Aldo Vitale was attacked by four Spitfires, shot down and killed.
In the meanwhile, the Reggiane fighter-bombers were releasing thirty 100 kg bombs and spending 6100 .50 cal and 3600 .303 cal rounds; four LCF were claimed sunk and many trucks and barracks were destroyed. At this point, four Spitfires of 111 Squadron flown by Flying Officer I. F. Kennedy, Sergeant R. Throwbridge, Sergeant R. Gray and Sergeant Eccleston, disengaged from the escorting fighters and attacked the Re.2002s in the Aspromonte mountain area. After a fierce chase, three Reggianes were shot down between Villa S. Giovanni and Reggio Calabria; Cenni ("239-4", possibly MM7340) and Moglia were shot down and killed while Banfi parachuted claiming two Spitfires destroyed (two more were claimed in this combat). Cenni was posthumously awarded with the Medaglia d'oro al valor militare.
RAF declared to have lost only a Spitfire Mk.IX of 111 Squadron when Sergeant M. S. Murray was shot down.

After the Armistice, Mariotti, as most pilots of the 4o Stormo, joined to Aeronautica Cobelligerante, or Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force (ICAF).
Mariotti continued to serve as CO of the 4o Stormo.

On 6 October 1943, Capitano Carlo Maurizio Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa (MC.205 serie III MM92214, later coded “21-5”) and Capitano Mariotti (MC.205 serie III MM 92176) flew a leaflet dropping sortie over Rome. Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini should also have taken part but his Macchi had a brake failure and did not take off.

Mariotti was killed over Mojkovac (Montenegro) on 27 December 1944 when his Bell P-39Q Airacobra was shot down by German flak.
He was decorated with a posthumous Medaglia d'Oro al valor militare.

At the time of his death, Mariotti was credited with 1 biplane victory and a total of 5.
During his career, Mariotti was also decorated with four Medaglie d'argento al valor militare, one Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare, one Croce al merito di guerra, one Medaglia commemorativa della campagna di Spagna and one Medaglia di benemerenza per i volontari della guerra Spagna.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
  15/06/40 13:00- 1 ”Morane” (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Cuers area 363a Squadriglia
  15/06/40 13:00- 1 ”Morane” (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Cuers area 363a Squadriglia
  15/06/40 13:00- 1 ”Morane” (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Cuers area 363a Squadriglia
  15/06/40 13:00- 1 ”Morane” (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Cuers area 363a Squadriglia
  02/11/40 14:30 1/12 PZL (b) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Salonika area 363a Squadriglia
  02/11/40 14:30 1/12 PZL (b) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Salonika area 363a Squadriglia
  02/11/40 14:30 1/12 PZL (b) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Salonika area 363a Squadriglia
  02/11/40 14:30 1/12 PZL (b) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Salonika area 363a Squadriglia
  1941                
1 11/02/41 07:45- 1 Gladiator (c) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Katzika airfield 363a Squadriglia
  11/02/41 07:45- 1/3 Gladiator Shared damaged on the ground Fiat CR.42   Katzika airfield 363a Squadriglia
  1942                
? 10/07/42   1 P-40 Destroyed MC.202   El Alamein area 9o Gruppo
  10/07/42   1 Enemy fighter Shared destroyed MC.202   El Alamein area 9o Gruppo
  10/07/42   1 Enemy fighter Shared destroyed MC.202   El Alamein area 9o Gruppo
  1943                
? 14/08/43 15:00- 1 Spitfire (d) Destroyed MC.205V   NW Milazzo 9o Gruppo
? 04/09/43 11:25- 1 Spitfire (e) Destroyed Macchi   Gallico area 9o Gruppo

Biplane victories: 1 and 8 shared destroyed, 1 shared damaged on the ground.
TOTAL: 5 and 10 shared destroyed, 1 shared damaged on the ground.
(a) Claimed in combat with Bloch 151s from AC 3, which lost four aircraft and got two damaged.
(b) Possibly claimed in combat with PZL P.24s from 22 Mira, which suffered 3 damaged fighters in combat with Z.1007bis from 50o Gruppo.
(c) Claimed in combat with Gladiators from 21 Mira, which lost 1 aircraft and got 1 damaged without claiming anything. The 150o Gruppo claimed 2 Gladiators shot down ithout losses.
(d) Claimed in combat with four Spitfires from 232 Squadron and Kittyhawks from 3 RAAF Squadron. 4o Stormo claimed five and three probable Spitfires while getting two MC.205Vs damaged (one in combat). 232 Squadron claimed one Macchi damaged and 3 RAAF Squadron claimed one destroyed and two damaged. No Allied aircraft were lost.
(e) Claimed in combat with Spitfires from 111 and 243 RAF Squadrons. The Italian fighters claimed 6 Spitfires while losing four fighters. RAF claimed at least four Italian fighters while losing one Spitfire from 111 Squadron.

Sources:
53o Stormo - Marco Mattioli, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-977-5
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
Air war for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete - Christopher Shores, Brian Cull and Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-07-0
Ali d'Africa - Michele Palermo and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 IBN Editore, ISBN 88-7565-060-8
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forrze 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
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5
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
Ministero della Difesa - Banca Dati sulle sepolture dei Caduti in Guerra
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, Stato Maggiore dell'Aeronautica Ufficio Storico, Roma
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro, Alfredo Logoluso and Ludovico Slongo.




Last modified 23 September 2014