Capitano Mario Pinna
|??/??/40||Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (1st)||O.M.S.|
|??/??/42||Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (2nd)||1940-43|
|??/??/40||Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare||1940-43|
|??/??/??||Croce al merito di guerra||1940-43|
|??/??/??||Medaglia commemorativa della campagna di Libia||Libia|
|??/??/??||Medaglia commemorativa della campagna di Spagna (1936-1939)||O.M.S.|
|??/??/??||Medaglia di benemerenza per i volontari della guerra Spagna||O.M.S.|
Mario Pinna was born on 6 June 1909 and was from Sassari.
He served as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War.
On 31 August 1938, 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 Pietro Raimondi
2nd section – Sottotenente Mario Visintini and Sergente Giuseppe Marini
3rd section – Sottotenente Bongiovanni and Sottotenente Pinna
4th section – Sottotenente Emilio Marchi and Maresciallo Luigi Acerbi
Around 18:00, Capitano Giuseppe 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.
On 30 December 1938, he was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo).
Mario Pinna served in the 23o Gruppo during the whole Second World War but he also served in the Gruppo's three Squadriglias respectively, the 70a, 75a and 74a.
In June 1940 he served in the 74a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo, 3o Stormo. This unit was equipped with Fiat CR.42s.
When the war started on 10 June 1940 the 3o Stormo was sent to the French border to take part in the attacks on southern France.
Pinna took part in the big attack on French airfields on 15 June.
In July 1940 the 23o Gruppo moved to Sicily and took part in the attacks on Malta.
On 9 July the 23o Gruppo became Autonomo and the first escort missions over Malta was flown on 12 July. At this time Pinna served in the 70a Squadriglia, which was based at Pantelleria.
Shortly after 09:00 on 16 July, a dozen CR.42s of 23o Gruppo appeared over Malta on a reconnaissance mission. Flight Lieutenant Peter Gardner Keeble in a Hurricane Mk.I (P2623) and Flight Lieutenant George Burges in a Gladiator had been scrambled, and dived on this formation. Keeble attacking one CR.42, but being attacked himself by two more flown by Tenente Pinna and Sottotenente Oscar Abello (both from 70a Squadriglia). After a long chase Keeble was hit and his aircraft dived out of control towards the south-east of the Island where it hit the ground near Wied il-Ghajn and blew up. It was immediately followed by a CR.42 flown by 24-year-old Tenente Mario Benedetti (MM4368) of the 74a Squadriglia, which crashed within 100 yards of the Hurricane. Keeble was killed outright but Benedetti survived the initial impact of his crash, but died soon afterwards at the civilian hospital at Vincenzo Bugeja without regaining conscious.
Burges made no claim on this occasion, and subsequently it was claimed that Benedetti’s aircraft was brought down with LMG fire by C Company headquarters, 1st Battalion The Dorsetshire Regiment. It is also possible Benedetti’s aircraft was the one attacked by Keeble.
Sergente Maggiore Renzo Bocconi claimed a second Hurricane, but this was not allowed by the 2a Squadra intelligence staff.
Keeble was the first of Malta's fighter pilots to lose his life in the defence of the island.
On 16 December 1940, the 23o Gruppo (previously part of 3o Stormo but now Autonomo) with 20 Fiat CR.42s (70a, 74a and 75a Squadriglie) and three hack Caproni Ca.133s arrived in Tripoli to help trying steam Operation Compass, which was mauling the Italian forces. The Gruppo had experienced brief (and quite unlucky) action at the beginning of the war against France, and then it had moved to Sicily where they had seen extensive action against Malta.
They were led by their CO, Maggiore Tito Falconi (a famous aerobatic pilot that had held the world record in inverted flight going in a Caproni 113 biplane racer from St. Louis to Chicago in 1933 and a veteran of the Abyssinian Campaign where he had gained some ground victories and of the Spanish Civil War where he had claimed many (mostly shared) aerial victories) in a 70a Squadriglia fighter.
Pilots in the 70a Squadriglia were Tenente Claudio Solaro (acting CO), Tenente Gino Battaggion, Sottotenente Oscar Abello, Sergente Ubaldo Marziali, Sergente Balilla Albani, Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella and Sergente Cesare Sironi.
Pilots in the 74a Squadriglia were Capitano Guido Bobba (CO and already credited with one over Spain and three individual and a probable Hurricanes over Malta, which made him one of the top scoring Italian pilots up to that moment), Tenente Pinna, Sottotenente Sante Schiroli, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Marzocca, Sergente Emilio Stefani, Sergente Giuseppe Sanguettoli and Sergente Manlio Tarantino.
Pilots in the 75a Squadriglia were Tenente Pietro Calistri (CO), Tenente Ezio Maria Monti, Sottotenente Giuseppe De Angelis, Sottotenente Renato Villa, Maresciallo Giovanni Carmello and Maresciallo Carlo Dentis.
The pilots in the Ca.133s were Tenente Marino Commissoli, Sergente Pardino Pardini (70a Squadriglia), Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni (74a Squadriglia), Tenente Milano Pausi, Sottotenente Leopoldo Marangoni (brother in law of Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli) and Sergente Leo Mannucci (75a Squadriglia)).
The Gruppo landed at Tripoli-Castel Benito at 17:15. Celso Zemella’s fighter was left behind at Pantelleria after an engine breakdown.
On 19 December, the 23o Gruppo moved to Z1 landing ground at Ain el Gazala.
Capitano Guido Bobba was killed in action on 26 December. He was replaced as CO of the 74a Squadriglia by Tenente Pinna.
Pinna was also promoted to Capitano during this period.
The last Italian bombing mission of the day on 27 December 1940 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 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 Orlando 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.
On 2 January 1941, the 23o Gruppo recorded an escort mission to SM 79s bombing Sollum Harbour. The fighters took off at 14:45 and the participating pilots were Maggiore Tito Falconi, Tenente Claudio Solaro, Tenente Gino Battaggion, Tenente Marino Commissoli, Sergente Maggiore Balilla Albani and Sergente Ubaldo Marziali of the 70a Squadriglia, Tenente Pinna, Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Sante Schiroli, Sottotenente Milano Pausi, Sergente Manlio Tarantino and Sergente Giuseppe Sanguettoli of the 74a Squadriglia and Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Ezio Maria Monti, Sottotenente Renato Villa, Maresciallo Giovanni Carmello, Maresciallo Luigi Pasquetti and Sergente Leo Mannucci of 75a Squadriglia. Together with them were some CR.42s from the 10o Gruppo flown by Capitano Luigi Monti, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Piero Buttazzi, Sergente Corrado Patrizi and Sergente Mario Veronesi of the 84a Squadriglia, Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Luigi Contarini and Sergente Alfredo Sclavo of the 90a Squadriglia and finally Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni and Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato of the 91a Squadriglia.
While coming back from the action Maggiore Falconi led his men in a strafing attack in the Capuzzo area, Tenente Pinna’s pilots claiming three armoured cars destroyed. Falconi’s CR.42 returned hit in many places by the AA reaction. All the fighters were back at 17:20.
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 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 Orlando 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.
At 11:00 on 5 January 1941, 202 Group HQ signalled to 274 Squadron to continue the patrols. In the meantime had Flight Lieutenant Peter Wykeham-Barnes (V7558) and Pilot Officer Wilson (N2624) already taken off at 10:30 and 10:45 respectively. They were followed by Flying Officer Arthur Weller (P2544), Flying Officer Ernest Mason (P3722), Second Lieutenant Robert Talbot (P3721) and Squadron Leader Patrick Dunn (P3723), taking off between 11:00 and 11:30. This group of pilots would experience a lot of action.
At 12:20 alternatively 12:30, Flying Officer Mason and Second Lieutenant Talbot arrived independently but keeping visual touch over Ain el Gazala. Mason, who was flying at 3500 feet, saw two CR.42s in a vic, 2000 feet below him and approached the leader unobserved. He hit him with a burst, seeing him stalling and diving vertically into the ground and bursting out in flames. The no. 2 in the meantime turned away and attempted to make a head on attack. A burst from the eight guns of Mason made him turn over and dive into the deck where the CR.42 burst into flames too. In the meantime, Talbot stayed higher and saw five CR.42s in a scattered formation, which looked as if they were diving on Mason. Unobserved he performed a stern attack on the leader who stalled and dived into the ground. When the two 274 Squadron pilots left the scene, three CR.42s were seen burning on the ground. Mason reported:
”in the afternoon we went there [Gazala airfield] again and circled over the aerodrome. Suddenly I saw two CR42s approaching to land. I dived down and came up behind. I gave the leader a burst and as I shot past him he turned slowly and dived straight in the middle of the aerodrome and exploded. In the meantime the other chap had turned and came for me head on. I gave him a short burst and he did the same thing. This time on the edge of the aerodrome. By then five more, also returning home, had seen me and were diving on me so Bob shot down the leader and they dispersed.”Mason had shot down Sottotenente Oscar Abello and Sergente Pardino Pardini of the 70a Squadriglia, who were landing on Z1 coming from Benghazi at 11:20 (Italian time). The identity of the fighters attacked by Talbot remains unknown. Sottotenente Abello was a highly respected pilot, already credited with three victories (two of them Hurricanes over Malta). As recognition of his previous activity, he received a posthumous Medaglia d’oro al valor militare.
“(…) targets that day were enemy troops close to Bardia. We were seventeen fighters and we escorted five bombers that had to attack the enemy positions. Enemy reaction was very strong and we had to stand three consecutive fights. It was during the second attack, just after leaving the target area over the desert west of Bardia that Leopoldo was surprised by a Hurricane and with him also his wingman. Both left formation. The attack was lightning-swift and they were unable to avoid it, as we were unable to help them or to follow their fate because the enemy’s precision was too high and we had to guard against new attacks. Back at base we hoped that someone of the missing pilots came back, perhaps landing in some advanced landing grounds. Two in fact came back later but we received no news of Leopoldo and his wingman (…) Only later, just before leaving Tripoli we knew his fate (…)”.
He was promoted to Capitano on 6 February 1941.
At the beginning of 1942, the 23o Gruppo joined the 18o Gruppo to establish the 3o Stormo again. The units reassembled at Mirafori to be re-equipped with Macchi MC.202s.
The unit returned to North Africa and took part of the Axis offensive into Egypt during the summer and fall of 1942.
At 06:10 on 1 September, two formations of the 23o Gruppo Macchis, the first of eight led by Maggiore Luigi Filippi, and the second of ten led by Capitano Claudio Solaro, took off to provide cover for the ground troops south-east of El Adem.
At 07:15, Maggiore Filippi and his pilots spotted 24 Bostons south-east of El Alamein and attacked their escorts, claiming two P-40s shot down. These being claimed by Filippi and Capitano Pinna (CO 75a Squadriglia).
Almost at the same time Capitano Solaro’s pilots joined the attack, claiming two fighters; Maresciallo Balilla Albani (70a Squadriglia) claiming a P-40 and Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella (70a Squadriglia) claiming a Spitfire. Tenente Marco Marinone (70a Squadriglia) claimed a probable P-40 but was then hit and he force-landed near El Alamein, within Axis line, badly damaging MC.202 MM9060/70-11 but escaping unhurt himself. The Italian fighters landed again at 07:40.
Twelve MC.202s from 23o Gruppo scrambled at 14:45 on 20 October, led by Capitano Giorgio Tugnoli (74a Squadriglia). They engaged a large formation of fighters and bombers over El Alamein. When they landed again at 16:20 they claimed seven enemy aircraft destroyed: Capitano Tugnoli one P-40, Sergente Mario Mandolesi (75a Squadriglia) one P-40, Sergente Luigi Bozzolan (75a Squadriglia) one Boston, Sergente Aldo Orsucci (75a Squadriglia) one P-40, Capitano Pinna (CO 75a Squadriglia) two P-40s and Tenente Franco Bordoni-Bisleri (95a Squadriglia) one Boston.
Sergente Luigi Bozzolan (75a Squadriglia) returned with a damaged MC.202 (MM8373/75-12) while Tenente Milano Pausi (MM8370) from the same Squadriglia failed to return and was posted as MIA.
At 09:35 on 26 October, seven MC.202s of the 9o and 10o Gruppi (Tenente Giulio Reiner (leader), Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Giorgio Bertolaso (91a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Alessandro Bladelli (91a Squadriglia), Sergente Ferruccio Terrabuio (91a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Vittorino Daffara (91a Squadriglia) and Sergente Amleto Monterumici (90a Squadriglia)) took off to intercept a reportedly 18 Bostons, escorted by 30 P-40s and ten Spitfires, heading to bomb Fuka.
A little earlier, at 08:50, twelve MC.202s of the 23o Gruppo, 3o Stormo, (four from the 70a Squadriglia, three of the 74a Squadriglia and five of the 75a Squadriglia) led by Capitano Pinna (CO of the 75a Squadriglia) had taken off from Abu Aggag for a patrol mission (one of the aircraft was flown by Sottotenente Franco Bordoni-Bisleri of the 83a Squadriglia, 18o Gruppo).
At 4500 meters altitude, both Italian formations spotted the enemy bombers at the same time and the attack of the 4o Stormo and the 23o Gruppo made the bombers aiming inaccurate, so most of the bombs fell out of the target. Daffara claimed the left wingman of the head formation of Bostons, and damaged two more. Reiner strafed the bomber leader, which began to slip out of formation sideways. He then climbed and found a Spitfire in front of him, fired and hitting it. The Spitfire exploded when hitting the ground 20 kilometers south-east Fuka. Another Spitfire was claimed as a probable by Bertolaso, who also damaged two Bostons. Squarcia, after having damaged several Bostons and a P-40, pursued another Curtiss together with pilots of the 23o Gruppo, and forced it to make a wheels-up landing south of Daba (the pilot, Sergeant J. G. Meredith (Kittyhawk IIa), was subsequently rescued by the same Squarcia together with Tenente Colonnello Armando François in the Stormo's Fiesler Storch). Bladelli (MC.202 MM7805/84-2) damaged four Bostons and a P-40, but was hit and had to made an emergency landing at Fuka. Another P-40, shared by many, was seen to explode when hitting the ground. Sergente Monterumici (MM7933/84-10), after having fired at the bombers, was hit by three rounds from a P-40; one stopped against the head armour, one hit the armoured windshield and one destroyed the instrument panel. Monterumici recalled:
“On that day I scrambled to intercept 18 Bostons, escorted by approximately 30 Curtiss P-40s and about ten Spitfires, heading to our airfield. I attacked the bombers before they could deliver their charge on our aircraft on the ground, while the escorting fighters were still far enough off, giving me a chance to disengage. In reality, on that occasion our adversaries employed larger calibre guns, still unknown to us, and opened fire unexpectedly at a 500 meters range. A burst hit my cockpit, shattering the canopy and blistering my face with glass chips. I quickly rolled away to evade this difficult situation but as soon as I gained speed the windscreen smashed, hurting my forehead. I was left with no protection in the violent airflow and I felt like my head was coming off. I reduced speed but the enemy fighter was again getting on my tail. I had no more altitude to lose and, trying to dodge a burst, I touched the ground with the propeller, crash-landing at excessive speed. In the sandy desert plain, my plane kept on dragging, engaged in a never-ending run, while in those seemingly endless moments I was saying: Tm still alive, I'm still alive, I'm still alive...Monterumici was taken to a field hospital and later repatriated.
When at last the plane carne to rest, I climbed out of my cockpit, bleeding; then, fearful that the damaged aircraft could catch fire, I went further away, and made my way northbound, with the help of a small compass that I carried with me. After a few hours walk, the real troubles started: large minefield, marked with many pegs, was just in front of me, apparently endless. I made a detour, because I couldn't stop: I had just a half-filled water-bottle and the flies, attracted by the blood that was still dripping from the wounds on my face, kept on annoying me. After some time, I heard an aircraft engine noise far away: it was a Storch, piloted (as I was told afterwards) by my Stormo CO T.Col Armando François and by Ten Vittorino Daffara. Unfortunately they didn't notice me, although I waved my life-vest for a long time, trying to draw their attention.
I carefully resumed my march among the mines, hoping to meet with someone or something. Some time later, I carne across the wreck of a shot-down aircraft. I approached to see what type it was: it was a P-40 whose pilot was lying on a wing with his head on his hands and a parachute not so far way. The body was intact but sort of mummified. Not very far away there was another aircraft, this time a Spitfire, whose pilot was sitting still on his 'chute near to the tailwheel, with to back leaning against the fuselage, holding his knees with his arms. He looked as if he was sleeping, but he too had been already transformed into a statue. I gently knocked my knuckles against his cheek-bone and a sort of dried wood sound replied. I then thought to myself: 'This will be also my destiny, but... never mind, let's continue until there’s energy to do so...
After many more hours of walking, I noticed what I hoped so much to see: a thin dust cloud moving towards me. I started again to wave my life-vest, but I wasn't able to make clear what it really was: was it just the wind raising some sand or something moving in my direction? As a matter of fact, my eyes were filled with clotted blood, while the right part of my face, from the nose to the cheek, was a just a congealed wound. It was 7 o’clock p.m. already, the sunset was soon to come and by then I’d been walking for ten hours. The dust cloud kept on getting closer and at last I managed to recognise a motorbike. The driver was Ten Carlo Tommasi, of 3o Stormo, wandering around in the desert looking for souvenirs to be brought back to his villa in Naples...”
Seven MC.202s of the 23o Gruppo, led by Capitano 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 Armando 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 WiA and rescued the next day by a Fi 156 flown by Maggiore Simeone Marsan from the 4o Stormo.
At 06.00 on 4 November two MC.202s flown by Capitano Pinna of the 74a Squadriglia and Sergente Maggiore Francesco Cuscuna of 75a Squadriglia were scrambled from Abu Smeit after Bostons and Curtiss fighters. A little later a third MC.202 took off, flown by Tenente Franco Bordoni-Bisleri of the 95a Squadriglia (06:35-07:30).
In 1943, he still served in the 3o Stormo.
Pinna ended the war with 1 biplane victory and a total of 5 destroyed.
They reportedly intercepted three P-40 Kittyhawks and Bordoni-Bisleri shot down one of them near the airfield. This P-40 had moments before shot down Pinna, who was forced to leave his burning aircraft (MC.202 MM8081/75-1) with parachute after having collided with a Kittyhawk.
Pinna was badly wounded in his face and on his hands and was picked up by soldiers from the Folgore Division and later collected by a Fiesler Storch. A Ca.133 Sanitario then picked him up and transported him to Marsa Matruh for treatment and recovery.
Cuscuna returned from this combat with a damaged aircraft at 07:15 after having claimed two damaged P-40s.
It seems that twelve 260 Squadron Kittyhawk IIas provided escort for bombers between 08:10-09:40. They encountered reportedly four Bf 109s with one of which Flying Officer N. E. Gilboe (Kittyhawk IIa FL351/C) collided over Ras el Abd (Pinna), both aircraft crashing. Flying Officer Gilboe became a PoW.
In 1943, he still served in the 3o Stormo.
Pinna ended the war with 1 biplane victory and a total of 5 destroyed.
|Kill no.||Date||Time||Number||Type||Result||Plane type||Serial no.||Locality||Unit|
|31/08/38||18:00-||1/8||I-16||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.32||Gandesa||25a Squadriglia|
|16/07/40||1/2||Hurricane (a)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||over Malta||70a Squadriglia|
|27/12/40||14:30-||1/3||Hurricane (b)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Sollum area||74a Squadriglia|
|02/01/41||14:45-17:20||1/6||Armoured car||Shared destroyed on the ground||Fiat CR.42||Capuzzo area||74a Squadriglia|
|02/01/41||14:45-17:20||1/6||Armoured car||Shared destroyed on the ground||Fiat CR.42||Capuzzo area||74a Squadriglia|
|02/01/41||14:45-17:20||1/6||Armoured car||Shared destroyed on the ground||Fiat CR.42||Capuzzo area||74a Squadriglia|
|1||05/01/41||11:15-13:35||1||Hurricane (c)||Destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Gambut area||74a Squadriglia|
|2||01/09/42||07:15||1||P-40||Destroyed||MC.202||SE El Alamein||75a Squadriglia|
|3||20/10/42||14:45-16:20||1||P-40||Destroyed||MC.202||El Alamein||75a Squadriglia|
|4||20/10/42||14:45-16:20||1||P-40||Destroyed||MC.202||El Alamein||75a Squadriglia|
|26/10/42||08:50-10:30||1||Boston (d)||Probable||MC.202||S El Alamein||75a Squadriglia|
|26/10/42||08:50-10:30||1||P-40 (d)||Damaged||MC.202||Fuka area||75a Squadriglia|
|27/10/42||14:35-16:00||1/3||P-40||Shared destroyed||MC.202||near El Daba||75a Squadriglia|
Biplane victories: 1 and 3 shared destroyed, 3 armoured cars shared destroyed on the ground.
TOTAL: 5 and 4 shared destroyed, 1 probably destroyed, 1 damaged, 3 armoured cars shared destroyed on the ground.
(a) Flight Lieutenant Peter Gardner Kebble of Hal Far Fighter Flight, flying in Hurricane (P2623); shot down and killed.
(b) 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.
(c) Claimed in combat with either 274 Squadron or 73 Squadron, which didn’t suffer any losses.
(d) RAF, SAAF and RAAF claimed 4 Bf 109s destroyed, 1 probable and 1 damaged and 4 MC.202s destroyed, 2 probables and 2 damaged while losing 1 Hurricane, 4 Kittyhawks and getting 2 Kittyhawk badly damaged. No bombers were lost. The 9o, 10o and 23o Gruppi together with III./JG 27 and III./JG 27 claimed 1 Boston, 1 probable, and 9 damaged, 4 P-40s destroyed, 1 probable and 4 damaged, 1 Spitfire destroyed and 1 probable while losing 3 Bf 109s and 2 MC.202s with 1 more damaged.
3o Stormo, storia fotografica - Dai biplani agli aviogetti - C. Lucchini and E. Leproni, 1990 Gino Rossato Editore kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala with translations kindly provided by Birgitta Hallberg-Lombardi
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 - 1999 Aerofan no. 69 apr.-giu. 1999, kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala
Battle over Malta - Anthony Rogers, 2000 Sutton Publishing Limited, Gloucestershire, ISBN 0-7509-2392-X
Courage Alone - Chris Dunning, 1998 Hikoki Publications, Aldershot, ISBN 1-902109-02-3
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
Elenco Nominativo dei Militari dell’ A. M. Decorati al V. M. Durante it Periodo 1929 - 1945 2 Volume M - Z
Hurricanes over Malta - Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, 2001 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-91-8
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
In cielo e in terra - Franco Pagliano, Longanesi & Co., Milano, 1969 kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso
Italian Aces of World War 2 - Giovanni Massimello and Giorgio Apostolo, 2000 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-078-1
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo.