Biplane fighter aces


Tenente Giuseppe Ruzzin

25 April 1916 – 6 February 2009

Giuseppe Ruzzin while serving with the C.A.I..
© Archive D'Amico-Valentini
Photo kindly via Ferdinando D'Amico.

Date Decoration Note
??/??/38 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (1st) O.M.S.
??/??/38 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (2nd) O.M.S.
??/??/38 Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare O.M.S.
??/??/40 Croce di guerra al valor militare 1940-43
??/??/?? Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse 1940-43

Giuseppe Ruzzin was born in Spresiano, in the province of Treviso, on 25 April 1916.

After the "rout of Caporetto" on 24 October 1917, his family fled to Genoa.

In September 1936 Sergente Ruzzin arrived in Spain as a volunteer with the nom-de-guerre ’Giacomo Grassi’. At this time, he had totally flown only 112 hours.
Initially he was assigned to the 1a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio.

During a test flight over Tablada on 30 October, Sergente Ruzzin of the 1a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio encountered two Martin Bombers (Tupolev SBs) and fired on them, but he only managed to damage them due to too great distance.

During a patrol at 3000 meters over Torrijos on 7 December, Sergente Ruzzin of the 1a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio together with Baccara spotted seven Papagajos flying at a low level. After a steep dive Baccara shot down one, while Sergente Ruzzin first damaged one and then shot down one.

The following day on 8 December six Ro.37bis flew an armed reconnaissance against enemy troops at Villaviciosa escorted by twelve CR.32s. On the way home they met two Chatos and in the following combat Ruzzin damaged one.

Pilots from the 1a Squadriglia of the Aviazione Legionaria, at Torrijos, Spain, January 1936.
From left: Sergente Sirio Salvadori (’Salvo’), Tenente Enrico Degli Incerti (’Tocci ’), Oreste Minuto (’Proietti ’), Sergente Ruzzin (’Grazzi ’)
Front row: Sergente Maggiore Silvio Costigliolo (’Castiglini ’) and Sergente Bruno Castellani (’Ribaudo ’).
Image kindly provided by Fulvio Chianese at GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO.

In February 1937, the 1a Squadriglia belonged to the II Gruppo.

On 13 February, 16 CR.32s escorted five Ju 52/3ms and three Ro.37bis on a bombing mission over Arganda de Duero and Morata del Tajuña. On way home, three Spanish pilots (Joaquín García Morato, Narciso Bermúdes de Castro and Miguel García Pardo) suddenly left the formation and made a tight 180-degree turn to face about 40 Republican fighters, which they had spotted, and which were following the Nationalist formation at six-o'-clock. Soon all the Fiats entered in the dogfight. Sergente Ruzzin of the 1a Squadriglia followed a ’Rata’ in a dive but his machine guns jammed. Meanwhile another ’Rata’ targeted him from behind. Trying to escape, he started to take violently evasive action. This probably un-jammed the four guns (he was flying a CR.32bis) because they went off by themselves just when another ’Rata’ passed in front of him. The ’Rata’ was hit in the fuel tank and exploded. Shortly after this Ruzzin’s aircraft was hit by many shots and with oil tank leaking, he made an emergency landing at Getafe. Ruzzin reported that 138 (alternatively 158) bullet holes were counted on his plane, the same number of the construction number on the tail fin.
Maggiore Tarcisio Fagnani and Sergente Maggiore Brunetto di Montegnacco were also credited with an I-16 apiece.
During the same aerial battle, an I-16 shot down the commander of the 3a Squadriglia, Capitano Luigi Lodi, who became a PoW. Flying his first operational mission, Lodi was at the controls of a CR.32bis four-gun fighter. As this loss clearly proved, the performance of the new variant was clearly not up to that achieved by the earlier twin-gun version. The main problem was that the weight associated with the two extra guns, and their ammunition, in the lower wings adversely affected the flight characteristics of the CR.32. They also weakened the overall wing structure. Such drawbacks had already been noticed during combat in Andalusia the previous month. Yet despite negative reports from other more seasoned Italian pilots on the Madrid front, Capitano Lodi had unwisely opted for a four-gun CR.32. Following his loss all CR.32bis in Spain had their wing armament removed.

Two days after later on 15 February he shot down a Rata in flames over Villaconejos and damaged a second.

During the battle of Teruel, Ruzzin performed several escort missions.

In July he belonged to the 19a Squadriglia, XXIII Gruppo "Asso di Bastoni" C.T.

In the early morning on 7 July, Kapitan Ivan Yeremenko was ordered to take off at 07:00 with his escuadrilla (1a/26) and fly towards Madrid to join with Lakeyev’s Escuadrilla (1a/21) in the air. Meanwhile the escuadrilla of Aleksandr Minayev (3a/21) was flying over the front line. The antiaircraft defence opened fire upon the Republican fighters over the Delicias railroad station. Fiat CR.32s appeared from the Princess Bridge side. Dogfights began over the Delicias railroad station, Andalusia Bridge, and Tobacco Manufacture. A group of Ju 52/3ms and Do 17s appeared from the western side and Minayev’s escuadrilla flew to intercept the bombers but Fiats attacked the I-15s and dispersed them.
Sargento José Redondo Martín, the Spanish pilot of one of the I-15s, was wounded and Leitenant Leonid Rybkin shielded him, but both were forced to fight nine Fiats. One Fiat collided with another and was set on fire; it was in fact credited to Rybkin. Rybkin and Redondo joined with M. Petrov and I. Karpov whom had flown to help. At that moment Leitenant Mikhail Yakushin, Kapitan Yeremenko, and Starshii Leitenant Anatoly Serov of the 1a Escuadrilla attacked the leading group of Fiats from above. One Fiat was shot down and the pilot bailed out (claimed as a shared between Yakushin, Yeremenko, and Serov). Pilots of I-15s and I-16s had seen four Bf 109s in the area, but they did not attack the Republican fighter.
The I-15 of the Austrian Walter Koraus was attacked by a Fiat and was shot down. Yakushin immediately attacked this Fiat and destroyed it in the air.
Starshii Leitenant Serov claimed two more CR.32 during this day while Bozidar Petrovich claimed a CR.32 in the Madrid-Brunete area.
It seems that three I-15s from the 1a/26 were lost, with Karpov killed, Shalhiganov wounded and Austrian Walter Koraus surviving unscathed. Flight leader Serov and his wingman Yakushin managed to nurse their badly damaged biplanes back to base. Nikolai Aleksandrovich D’yakonov, who was leading an I-16 flight, suffered serious wounds in combat possibly from Capitano Degli Incerti’s gunfire, and he died later that day after landing in Republican territory.
The Aviazione Legionaria reported that during the morning between Madrid and Brunete, 14 CR.32s of 19a and 20a Squadriglie, led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti (CO XXIII Gruppo), encountered nine I-15s and eight I-16s that were escorting nine R-Zs. The Republican aircraft were joined by other flights from a formation of 20 I-16s as they flew over Madrid. Italian pilots were credited with shooting down seven ‘Curtiss fighters’ during the clash, one of which was claimed by Maggiore Zotti. Three ’Ratas’ were also destroyed, one of which was credited to Capitano Enrico Degli Incerti (CO 19a Squadriglia), while Sergente Maggiore Alfonso Mattei downed an R-Z but was then forced to take to his parachute after his CR.32 was hit by return fire from the R-Z. He landed in Nationalist territory near Pozuelo de Alarcón.
After claiming his I-15, Zotti shared the destruction of a second I-15 with his two wingmen. Ten minutes later, however, his CR.32 was shot up by an I-16, the Italian being wounded in the thigh. His engine was also hit, and as it began to overheat Zotti was forced to land at nearby Griñon airfield. Sergente Maggiore Gino Passeri (19a Squadriglia) protected his CO until he was safely down, only to then be bounced by another I-16 upon re-joining the battle and killed. Sergente Ruzzin (19a Squadriglia) (CR.32 “3-12” no. 435) claimed an I-15 (”Curtiss”) but was then attacked by an I-16. He was saved by his leader Capitano Degli Incerti, who damaged the Rata, which quickly broke off. Sergente Giuseppe Mottet (20a Squadriglia) claimed an I-15.
Totally after this confusing and slightly contradicting battle it seems that the Republican pilots at least claimed six CR.32s while losing three I-15s and getting several damaged. The Aviazione Legionaria claimed seven I-15s, three I-16s and one R-Z for the loss of two CR.32s.
It seems that Republican I-16s also took part in this combat but no claims nor losses has been found.

Giuseppe Ruzzin’s Fiat CR.32 (3-12, no. 435) camouflaged on the ground, at Torrijos in summer 1937. Barely visible on the rudder are three small patches, covering the bullet holes caught in the combat on 7 July.

In the late afternoon on 25 August, 20 CR.32s from XXIII Gruppo escorted Ju 52/3ms, which were bombing enemy troops around Belchite. The fighter pilots suddenly spotted eleven Martin bombers flying bellow them at 500 meters above Fuente del Ebro. They attacked them and ten were claimed shot down. Two of them were claimed as shared between Sergente Ruzzin of the 19a Squadriglia and Maggiore Andrea Zotti.
It seems that they had attacked three SBs with Spanish crews of which two were lost when they were attacked by Fiats near Zaragosa.

On 29 August, Sergente Ruzzin attacked three Martin bombers over Zaragoza-Belchite-Zuera and claimed a shared together with another pilot.
This was an SB from 1/12, which was shot down over Villamayor with the crew being killed; Leitenant Aleksandr Mikhailovich Tikhomirov (pilot, born 1906), Stepan Petrovich Feoktistov (navigator, born 1913) and a Spanish gunner,
Feoktistov was awarded a posthumous Order of the Red Banner on 22 October 1937 while Leitenant Tikhomriov received the same order on 28 October 1937.

He claimed “several” damaged enemy aircraft on 12 October during combat with I-15s and I-16s over Belchite-Fuentes del Ebro.

In Spain he flew 313 hours in 14 months and took part in the battles of Madrid, Guadaljara, Belchite in Aragona and Avila. During this time he took part in 234 missions and 14 combats against I-15 “Chatos”, I-16 “Ratas”, Papagajos and Martin bombers (Tupolev SBs). He was credited with 4 and 4 shared victories (according to some sources he was credited with 4 and 6 shared destroyed).
According to Ruzzin the CR.32 was at the time the best fighter in the world and it was easy to fly and very manoeuvrable. He totally flew the CR.32 for 750 hours of which almost 450 were in combat.

When he returned to Italy he was assigned to the 85a Squadriglia, 18o Gruppo, 3o Stormo C.T. at Mondivis airfield (Cuneo).
Here he meet Luigi Gorrini who had recently arrived from the Flight School. Ruzzin was tasked with giving Gorrini more practice and training.

When the war started on 10 June 1940 3o Stormo was sent to the French border to take part in the attacks on southern France.

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 Maures was 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 Luigi 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 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.

He was then part in the C.A.I. operations over Britain when 18o Gruppo was temporarily assigned to the 56o Stormo. They were based at the Saturn base (Ursel).

On 11 November ten BR.20Ms from 99o Gruppo (242a and 243a Squadriglia) led by Maggiore B. Ciccu were out to attack targets in Britain. The BR.20Ms took off around midday, each of them loaded with three 250 kg bombs. They took the route Bruges-Ostend-Harwich and approached Harwich at 14.40 at 3.700 meters. The Italian bombers were escorted by 42 CR.42s, 46 G.50s and supporting Bf 109s. Bad weather, however, became an important factor, causing the G.50s and Bf 109s to abort shortly after take off and return to base, leaving only the CR.42s as escort.
When the Italian bombers approached the English coast they where spotted by British radar and Hurricanes from 17 and 257 Squadrons were scrambled shortly after 13.30, whilst Hurricanes from 46 Squadron, already airborne patrolling a convoy off Foulness, were also vectored to intercept Bandits over the Thames Estuary by Fighter Control. The latter formation was slightly delayed while the investigated a formation which proved to be friendly and were forced to made a wide circle before attacking. Elements 249 Squadron were also on a convoy patrol patrolling the same convoy off Foulness. Spitfires of 41 Squadron were also scrambled, but although they arrived too late to take part in the Hurricanes attack on the bombers, they were the first to sight the CR.42s. The Spitfire apparently delayed the Italian escort from interfering with the initial attack by 257 and 46 Squadrons. Late in the combat Hurricanes from 249 Squadron also interfered with the CR.42s and BR.20s.
In this combat Ruzzin fired on a climbing Hurricane. He reported that it was his and fell away with along trail of smoke and he was credited with a victory.
Totally in this combat RAF claimed nine BR.20s destroyed and one damaged, five CR.42s destroyed, four probably destroyed and three damaged. 41, 46, 249 and 257 Squadrons submitted the claims.
In return the Italian fighters claimed nine enemy fighters (according to other sources four destroyed and one probable). Defending gunners in the bombers also claimed one additional Hurricane. As usual with this kind of large air combats these claims are exaggerated for CAI lost three fighters and three bombers while RAF didn’t suffer any losses and only two Hurricanes were slightly damaged.

Another image of Giuseppe Ruzzin while serving with the C.A.I..
© Archive D'Amico-Valentini
Photo kindly via Ferdinando D'Amico.

On 18 November two CR.42s flown by Tenente Specker and Maresciallo Ruzzin were detached to Vlissingen on night fighter and reconnaissance duties.

When 18o Gruppo returned to Italy in January 1941 they were immediately sent to Africa.

Ruzzin left 18o Gruppo to attend the Accademia Aeronautica in Caserta and to be promoted to officer.

At this time he had flown the CR.42 for 150 hours of which 72 were in combat.
According to Ruzzin the CR.42 was like its predecessor the CR.32 a very good aircraft but it was slightly nose-heavy and lost some height during aerobatics. One big advantage compared with the CR.32 was the CR.42s adjustable propeller.

On 17 July 1942, he was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo) and promoted to Sottotenente.

In August 1942, Ruzzin joined 154a Squadriglia, 3o Gruppo, 6o Stormo C.T. equipped with Macchi MC.200s. Ruzzin also flew the MC.202 and MC.205 while serving with this unit.
This unit was based in Italy and was tasked with escorting convoys in the central Mediterranean. A task, which according to Ruzzin, was both boring and very exhausting.

For a period he also served with 153a Squadrigli before returning to 154a Squadrigli in November.

In November 1942 the unit moved to Chinisia on Sicily and in June 1943 they re-equipped with Bf 109G-6s of which 40 had arrived to replace losses sustained by Allied bombing in May.

Shortly before midday on 29 June Malta based Spitfires from 1435 Squadron (eight aircraft), 111 Squadron (eleven aircraft) and 243 Squadron (twelve aircraft) attacked Comiso aerodrome on Sicily. Italian Bf 109s intercepted the raiders and Sottotentente Ruzzin of 154a Squadriglia reported an engagement with a Spitfire. He related that after exhausting his ammunition he flew alongside the Spitfire, which was apparently similarly without means of continuing the fight, and that friendly waves were exchanged before he headed back to Comiso.
Just after 15.00 a second strike at Comiso followed when 11 Spitbombers from 154 Squadron attacked escorted by 322 Wing led by Group Captain Hugo. At least 20 Bf 109Gs from Stab and II/JG53, 1/JG77 and 3o Gruppo intercepted. In a series of running engagements The British aircraft claimed one and one probable shot down Bf 109s and one damaged while sustaining only one damaged Spitfire (reportedly from AA fire). The Germans claimed two Spitfires shot down by AA fire and three by the fighters while losing one Bf 109 from 1/JG77 when Unteroffizier Rolf Nolte-Ernsting was shot down over the sea in ‘White 6’ (Werk. Nr. 18370) and lost. Sottotentente Ruzzin claimed one Spitfire severely damaged in this combat.
Six Spitfires from Malta based 229 Squadron and six from 249 Squadron with a top cover from 185 Squadron again tried to attack Comiso in the evening. However, at 18.35, just before the start of the bombing run, and estimated 20-plus Bf 109s and MC.202s were seen near the aerodrome and the fighter-bombers were ordered to jettison their bombs, which apparently fell in the target area. In the ensuing combat Ruzzin claimed a Spitfire severely damaged but his companion, Tenente Nicola Massaro was shot down. The only damaged British aircraft was a Spitfire (JK122/X-B) flown by Flying Officer W. D. Idema of 229 Squadron, who managed to return to Malta and landed safely at Krendi.

On 5 July he scrambled together with two other Bf 109Gs to intercept a formation of bombers. During the interception all three pilots claimed a Boston damaged each.
According to some sources the Bostons were claimed as shared destroyed.

On 6 July he flew a reconnaissance sortie over Malta together with Sergente Maggiore Carlo Cavagliano (153a Squadriglia). The mission was to reconnoitre the harbours for shipping. Thick haze prevented any sightings, and they only narrowly avoided being intercepted by a flight of five Spitfires by diving at full speed for the sea in the Bf 109Gs. Recovering with some difficulty, the two pilots nonetheless successfully escaped their pursuers and reached Comiso safely.

He made his last flight during the Second World War on 7 July. After this date, the lack of aircraft and the Armistice prevented him to fly again.

Ruzzin ended the war with 5 biplane victories.

Ruzzin passed away in Genova on 6 February 2009.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  30/10/36   1 SB Damaged Fiat CR.32   Tablada area 1a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
  30/10/36   1 SB Damaged Fiat CR.32   Tablada area 1a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
  07/12/36   1 Papagajo Damaged Fiat CR.32   Torrijos area 1a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
1 07/12/36   1 Papagajo Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Torrijos area 1a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
  08/12/36   1 I-15 Damaged Fiat CR.32   Villaviciosa area 1a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
2 13/02/37   1 I-16 Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Argenda de Duero - Morata del Tajuña 1a Squadriglia
3 15/02/37   1 I-16 Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Villaconejos area 1a Squadriglia
  15/02/37   1 I-16 Damaged Fiat CR.32   Villaconejos area 1a Squadriglia
4 07/07/37 07:00- 1 I-15 (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.32 “3-12” #435 Brunete area 19a Squadriglia
  25/08/37 afternoon 1/2 Martin (b) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Fuente del Ebro 19a Squadriglia
  25/08/37 afternoon 1/2 Martin (b) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Fuente del Ebro 19a Squadriglia
  29/08/37   1/2 Martin (c) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Zaragoza-Belchite-Zuera 19a Squadriglia
  12/10/37   1 Enemy aircraft (d) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Belchite-Fuentes del Ebro 19a Squadriglia
  15/06/40 12:00- 1 ”Morane 406” (e) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 85a Squadriglia
  15/06/40 12:00- 1 ”Morane 406” (e) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 85a Squadriglia
  15/06/40 12:00- 1 ”Morane 406” (e) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 85a Squadriglia
  15/06/40 12:00- 1 ”Morane 406” (e) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 85a Squadriglia
  15/06/40 12:00- 1 ”Morane 406” (e) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 85a Squadriglia
  15/06/40 12:00- 1 ”Morane 406” (e) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 85a Squadriglia
  15/06/40 12:00- 1 ”Morane 406” (e) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 85a Squadriglia
5 11/11/40   1 Hurricane (f) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Harwich area 85a Squadriglia
  29/06/43   1 Spitfire (g) Damaged Bf 109G-6 Wkn. 18096 “154-4” Comiso airfield 154a Squadriglia
  29/06/43   1 Spitfire (h) Damaged Bf 109G   Comiso airfield 154a Squadriglia
  05/07/43   1 Boston (i) Damaged Bf 109G     154a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 5 and 6 shared destroyed, 5 and 4 shared damaged.
TOTAL: 5 and 6 shared destroyed, 8 and 4 shared damaged.
(a) In this confusing battle it seems that the Republican pilots at least claimed 6 CR.32s while losing 3 I-15s and getting several damaged. The Aviazione Legionaria claimed 7 I-15s, 3 I-16s and 1 R-Z for the loss of 2 CR.32s.
(b) Most probably Tupolev SB bombers with Spanish crews.
(c) SB from 1a/12 shot down with the crew KIA.
(d) “Several” claimed damaged during this combat.
(e) Probably claimed in combat with Dewoitine D.520s from the GC III/6, which didn’t suffer any losses.
(f) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 41, 46, 249 and 257 Squadrons. Italian fighters claimed nine enemy fighters (according to other sources four destroyed and one probable) and defending gunners in the bombers one while losing three CR.42s and three BR.20Ms. RAF claimed nine BR.20 destroyed and one damaged, five CR.42s destroyed, four probably destroyed and three damaged while getting two Hurricanes damaged.
(g) RAF claimed one and one probable shot down Bf 109s and one damaged while sustaining only one damaged Spitfire (reportedly from AA fire). The Germans claimed two Spitfires shot down by AA fire and three by the fighters while losing one Bf 109 from 1/JG77. 3o Gruppo claimed one Spitfire severely damaged.
(h) Claimed in combat with 229, 249 and 185 Squadrons who didn’t sustain any losses. One Spitfire (JK122/X-B) flown by Flying Officer W. D. Idema of 229 Squadron was damaged but he managed to return to Malta.
(i) According to some sources this Boston was claimed as a shared destroyed.

Personal letter from Giuseppe Ruzzin kindly translated by Martina Sandberg
3o Stormo, storia fotografica - Dai biplani agli aviogetti - Carlo Lucchini and Leproni Enrico, 1990 Gino Rossato Editore
Ali d'Aquila - Flaminio Pagani, 1999 Genoa kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
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
Courage Alone - Chris Dunning, 1998 Hikoki Publications, Aldershot, ISBN 1-902109-02-3
Elenco Nominativo dei Militari dell’ A. M. Decorati al V. M. Durante it Periodo 1929 - 1945 2 Volume M - Z
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
I caccia a motore radiale, vol. III: FIAT CR 42 - Nino Arena, 1979 STEM Mucchi, Modena kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il 23o Gruppo Caccia - Nicola Malizia, 1974 Bizzarri, Roma, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
L’aeronautica Italiana nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale - Giuseppe Santoro, 1957 Danesi, Roma, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
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
Regia Aeronautica e Armée de l'Aire - Giancarlo Garello, 1975 Ed. Bizzarri, Rome kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Regia Aeronautica periodo prebellico e fronti occidentali - Angelo Emiliani, Giuseppe Ghergo and Achille Vigna, 1975 Intergest, Milano, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Soviet airmen in the Spanish civil war 1936-1939 - Paul Whelan, 2014 Schiffer Publishing Ltd, ISBN 978-0-7643-0
Spanish Republican Aces – Rafael A. Permuy López, 2012 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-668-4
Spitfires over Sicily - Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia and Frederick Galea, 2000 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-32-2
The Messerschmitt 109 in Italian service 1943-1945 - Ferdinando D'Amico and Gabriele Valentini, 1989 Monogram Aviation Publication
Wings Over Spain - Emiliani Ghergo, 1997 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milano
Additional information kindly provided by Eugenio Costigliolo, Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo.

Last modified 29 February 2024