Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Maresciallo Renato Mingozzi

On the last day of August 1940, the 151o Gruppo C.T. (366a, 367a and 368a Squadriglie) was ordered to move in Libya with 30 CR.42s as a reinforcement for the attack against Sidi Barrani.
The unit under the command of Maggiore Carlo Calosso was one of the first equipped with CR.42s in 1939 and was based in Caselle Torinese near Turin, with sections and Squadriglie detached in different airbases of North Italy for local defence duties.
They departed Caselle Torinese in the morning of 6 September and at 18:20 on 8 September, the whole Gruppo landed in Tripoli Castel Benito.
The 366a Squadriglia formation was composed of ten aircraft: Capitano Bernardino Serafini (CO), Tenente Mario Ferrero (the Gruppo Adjutant), Sottotenente Amedeo Guidi, Maresciallo Giulio Cesare, Sergente Maggiore Fiorenzo Milella, Sergente Maggiore Dino Carta, Sergente Maggiore Roberto Marchi, Sergente Maggiore Cesare Chiarmetta, Sergente Antonio Camerini, Sergente Eugenio Cicognani. Tenente Piero Veneziani and Maresciallo Giovanni Accorsi followed in the unit’s hack Caproni Ca.133 together with five ground personnel.
The formation of 367a Squadriglia comprised the Gruppo Commander Maggiore Carlo Calosso, the 368a Squadriglia’s pilot Sergente Piero Hosquet and nine other pilots for a total of eleven. Among them were Capitano Simeone Marsan (the CO), Tenente Irzio Bozzolan, Tenente Aldo Bonuti, Sergente Maggiore Gino Bogoni and Sergente Tolmino Zanarini. The Squadriglia’s other six pilots were Tenente Giuseppe Costantini, Maresciallo Bruno Castellani, Sergente Maggiore Rodolfo Benco, Sergente Maggiore Bruno Celotto, Sergente Renato Mingozzi and Sergente Maggiorino Soldati.
The 368a Squadriglia formation was composed of nine aircraft: Capitano Bruno Locatelli (CO), Tenente Giuseppe Zuffi, Sottotenente Furio Lauri, Sergente Maggiore Davide Colauzzi, Sergente Maggiore Annibale Ricotti, Sergente Maggiore Alvise Andrich, Sergente Stefano Fiore, Sergente Ottorino Ambrosi, Sergente Mario Turchi. Tenente Orfeo Paroli and Maresciallo Guido Paparatti followed in the Ca.133 of the Squadriglia (Paroli and Fiore were just transferred from 367a Squadriglia).
On 25 September, the 151o Gruppo transferred from Benghazi to El Adem where it replaced the 9o Gruppo C.T.

Starting from 09:00 on 19 December, nine Hurricanes from 274 Squadron took off with fifteen minutes intervals during the morning. Then at least seven others took off for a second mission, this time taking off with 25 minutes intervals. Although explicitly ordered to keep clear of fighters they engaged CR.42s on two separate occasions during the day.
Second Lieutenant Talbot (P3721) claimed a confirmed victory over a CR.42. He was flying at 17,000 feet, 30 miles west of Bardia (Great Gambut) when at 13:05 he discovered two formations of six CR.42s stepped up to right and flying one mile to starboard. He approached unobserved and attacked a straggler of the formation. He reported:

“attacked by remainder of formation. 1 CR 42 spiralled down after attack and was later seen burning on the ground by Flying Officer Greenhill. CR 42s where on offensive patrol not escorting bombers.”
Flying Officer Greenhill (P3822) reported the height of the Fiats (around 15,000 feet) and added:
“the CR 42s were 11 or 12 in a bunch (no formation). I delivered an attack from astern and the enemy immediately attacked, 1 CR 42 was badly damaged (probably shot down), 6 holes in own aircraft through main spar. Enemy a/c on offensive patrol showing determination. Holes in own aircraft about 303 size (1 e/a seen burning after engagement by 2nd Lieutenant Talbot).”
They had met a formation from the 151o Gruppo, back in action after many days, out for an armed reconnaissance and to strafe targets of opportunity. The formation included four fighters from the 366a Squadriglia (Tenente Guglielmo Chiarini, Sottotenente Amedeo Guidi, Maresciallo Giulio Cesare and Sergente Maggiore Roberto Marchi), four from the 367a Squadriglia (Capitano Simeone Marsan (leading the sortie),Capitano Giuseppe Costantini, Sergente Maggiore Mingozzi, and Sergente Tolmino Zanarini), three from the 368a Squadriglia (Capitano Bruno Locatelli, Sergente Maggiore Davide Colauzzi and Sergente Maggiore Annibale Ricotti) and a single fighter from the 70a Squadriglia (Tenente Gino Battaggion), which had taken off from N1 at 12:15. At 4,000 meters, south of Sidi Azeiz, six-seven British monoplanes (described as Spitfires and Hurricanes) attacked with height advantage. The Italian pilots reacted but many pilots (in particular those of the 366a Squadriglia) were unable to fire their guns because of stoppages caused by the insufficient maintenance of the previous days. Capitano Locatelli used 55 12,7mm and 90 7,7mm rounds of ammunition on two Hurricanes and in the end one fighter was claimed as probable and two-three shared damaged by the whole formation. The formation landed at Z1 at 14:15 and no losses were suffered but Fiat CR.42 MM4325 piloted by Sergente Maggiore Ricotti was damaged and landed unserviceable, having the tanks holed (in fact it was so badly damaged that it was written-off). Three more CR.42s were lightly damaged including Tenente Battaggion’s who claimed a damaged Hurricane in return. The 366a Squadriglia didn’t suffered combat damages but three out of four of its planes once on land were found u/s, two of them for excessive oil consumption and the other for the broken propeller speed regulator.

After the Italian surrender on 8 September 1943, Mingozzi joined the Italiana Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (A. N. R.) where he served in the 1a Squadriglia, IIo Gruppo, flying Bf 109Gs.

At noon on 16 November 1944, Capitano Ugo Drago led eight Bf 109Gs from the 1a Squadriglia off from Aviano. In the air, they noticed small groups of B-17s escorted by P-51s returning from a raid in Germany. Half an hour after take-off, at 24,000 feet, they intercepted a B-17 escorted by P-51s of the 332nd FG. The Italian fighters engaged the P-51s and Drago and Maresciallo Mingozzi each claimed a P-51s shot down. Sergente Maggiore Guido Minardi claimed a B-17. The combat lasted some 10 minutes and ended down on the deck.

Commanded by Capitano Bellagambi, 21 Bf 109s of IIo Gruppo scrambled at 10:45 on 10 December 1944 to intercept B-25s reported heading north from the Po Valley. The bombers were from the 319th BG, 18 of the meeting the Italians between Lakes Garda and d'Iseo at 11:00.
As usual, Italian and Allied reports of the combat differ markedly, with five B-25s claimed shot down on one side and four Messerschmitts on the other.
The reality was one loss each. Comparing combat reports, it is evident that Capitano Bellagambi was first to intercept and attack First Lieutenant Herbert Herman's B-25J (43-36216), leaving it separated from the others with its left engine on fire, the left undercarriage leg extended and men baling out. Three other Bf 109s then attacked this B-25 before it crashed, each of the fighters probably claiming a kill. According to a teletype report and German records they only claimed four victories but according to the IIo Gruppo's papers claims for five B-25s were credited to Capitano Bellagambi, Capitano Alberto Spigaglia, Tenente Giorio, Tenente De Masellis and Maresciallo Mingozzi.
On the other hand, of four Bf 109s claimed by USAAF gunners, only Tenente Valenzano's 'Black 15' was shot down. When dozens of bullets struck his aircraft, first hitting the engine and then almost severing the starboard wing, he had no choice but to bale out, injuring an arm in the process. He reached the ground safely in the Melga Plaz area (a mountain district northwest of Lake Garda), where he was rescued by a woodcutter, returning to his unit a couple of days later.

Mingozzi ended the war with 1 shared probable biplane victory and a total of 2.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
  19/12/40 12:15-14:15 1/11 Hurricane (a) Shared probably destroyed CR.42   S Sidi Azeiz 367a Squadriglia
  19/12/40 12:15-14:15 1/11 Hurricane (a) Shared damaged CR.42   S Sidi Azeiz 367a Squadriglia
  19/12/40 12:15-14:15 1/11 Hurricane (a) Shared damaged CR.42   S Sidi Azeiz 367a Squadriglia
  1944                
1 16/11/44 noon 1 P-51 (b) Destroyed Bf 109G   Aviano area 1a Squadriglia
2 10/12/44 11:00 1 B-25 (c) Destroyed Bf 109G   Lake Garda-Lake d’Iseo 1a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 shared probably destroyed, 2 shared damaged.
TOTAL: 2 destroyed, 1 shared probably destroyed, 2 shared damaged.
(a) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 274 Squadron, which claimed 1 and 1 probable CR.42 without losses. 151o Gruppo claimed 1 probable and 2 damaged Hurricanes while suffering 1 badly damaged CR.42 and 2 lightly damaged. The 70a Squadriglia claimed 1 damaged Hurricane while suffering 1 damaged CR.42.
(b) Claimed in combat with 332nd FG. This claim is not confirmed with USAAF sources.
(c) Claimed in combat with B-25s from 319th BG, which claimed four Bf 109s for the loss of one B-25. IIo Gruppo claimed five B-25s for the loss of one Bf 109.

Sources:
Air War Italy 1944-45 - Nick Beale, Ferdinando D'Amico and Gabriele Valentini, 1996 Airlife Publishing, Shrewbury, ISBN 1-85310-252-0
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




Last modified 31 May 2017