Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Capitano Mario Viola

Capitano Mario Viola took part in the Spanish Civil War using the nom de guerre ’Viotti’.

Aniene delivered 12 more CR.32s during a voyage from La Spezia that ended on 4 February 1937. With this shipment arrived squadriglia commander Capitano Viola (’Viotti’) and an additional 11 pilots – five Sottotenenti and six Sottufficiali.

With the arrival of these new fighters there were now sufficient aircraft in-theatre to organise the CR.32 stormo into two gruppi of three squadriglie each. These took the form of the already established I Gruppo (formerly Gruppo Caccia di Torrijos) (CO Maggiore Tarcisio Fagnani) and including the reformed:

1a Squadriglia (CO Tenente Enrico Degli Incerti from 15 January)
2a Squadriglia (CO Capitano Guido Nobili)
3a Squadriglia (CO Tenente Corrado Ricci (followed by Capitani Luigi Lodi and Viola)
The newly formed II Gruppo (CO Tenente Colonnello Alberto Canaveri) and including:
4a Squadriglia (CO Capitano Vincenzo Dequal)
5a Squadriglia (CO Capitano Armando François from 19 January)
6a Squadriglia (initially remained in reserve, although it was later commanded by Tenente Antonio Larsimont Pergameni)

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 Viola who led the 1st Flight of five aircraft (with reserve pilots) usually including Tenente Luigi 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, the Aviazione Legionaria CR.32 units were reorganised and increased in size. I and II Gruppi were disbanded, re-designated and replaced by two Gruppi that each controlled three Squadriglie as before. A third new gruppo the VI, was also formed.
The XVI Gruppo Caccia under the command of Maggiore Giuseppe Casero (’Casetti’) included:

24a Squadriglia (formerly 4a Squadriglia, CO Capitano Bruno Brambilla)
25a Squadriglia (formerly 5a Squadriglia, CO Capitano Armando François)
26a Squadriglia (formerly 3a Squadriglia, CO Capitano Viola)
The unit adopted the name Gruppo Cucaracha, which it inherited from the first Tercio CR.32 squadriglia in Spain. Its insignia was a winged Moroccan cockroach (synonymous with a popular song of the period), which was applied to the fuselage sides of the gruppo’s aircraft.
The XXIII Gruppo Caccia was formed on 22 April under the command of Maggiore Andrea Zotti (’Biondi’) and included:
18a Squadriglia (formerly 2a Squadriglia, CO Capitano Guido Nobili)
19a Squadriglia (formerly 1a Squadriglia, CO Tenente Enrico Degli Incerti)
20a Squadriglia (formerly 6a Squadriglia, CO Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni)
The gruppo was named Asso di Bastoni (ace of clubs) and its CR.32s were adorned with a marking adapted from Neapolitan playing cards showing a weapon used by the squadre d’azione fasciste (fascist action squads).

During the afternoon on 4 June 1937, ten CR.32s from 26a Squadriglia, led by Capitano Viola, clashed with 16 I-15s between the Republican Escuadrilla Baquedano’s two bases (San Juan de Somorrostro and Sondica). Italian pilots claimed to have shot down seven “Curtiss fighters” without loss, Capitano Viola being credited with two individual victories and Sergente Maggiore Guido Presel one.
Although both sides drastically overestimated their claims, Spanish I-15 pilot Marcelino Alonso Romero from from Escuadrilla Baquedano did indeed lose his life during this encounter.

When the Republican offensive towards Brunete started on 6 July 1937, the defence of the central front was supported by just the two CR.32 squadriglie present in this area at Torrijos-Barcience; the 19a and 20a Squadriglie from XXIII Gruppo, commanded by Maggiore Andrea Zotti, with squadriglia commanders Capitani Enrico Degli Incerti and Antonio Larsimont Pergameni.
Capitano Guido Nobili’s 18a Squadriglia was transferred in from Soria to reinforce these units, thus completing the makeup of the gruppo. The XXIII Gruppo now had 29 CR.32s available, but only 17 of these remained serviceable following a series of actions on 6-7 July.
Maggiore Giuseppe Casero’s XVI Gruppo (24a, 25a and 26a Squadriglie, led by Capitani Bruno Brambilla, Armando François and Viola, respectively, although the latter was recalled to Italy and replaced by Tenente Corrado Ricci on 11 July) arrived at Torrijos-Barcience from Ávila three days later, as did six CR.32s from capitan Morato’s Grupo 2-G-3.

After the end of the battle of Brunete on 26 July, the XXIII Gruppo Caccia was awarded the Medalla Militar Colectiva (Collective Military Medal) by general Franco following its performance during the first few days of the Republican offensive. Two pilots from the unit had lost their lives in combat and three had been wounded, yet the gruppo continued to engage a numerically superior enemy until reinforcements were brought in.

Viola claimed 2 biplane victories during the Spanish Civil War.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1937                
1 04/06/37 afternoon 1 I-15 (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   San Juan de Somorrostro-Sondica 26a Squadriglia
2 04/06/37 afternoon 1 I-15 (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   San Juan de Somorrostro-Sondica 26a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 2 destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 destroyed.
(a) 26a Squadriglia claimed to have shot down 7 I-15s without loss but only the loss of Marcelino Alonso Romero from Escuadrilla Baquedano is known.

Sources:
Courage Alone - Chris Dunning, 1998 Hikoki Publications, Aldershot, ISBN 1-902109-02-3
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
Regia Aeronautica: The Italian Air Force 1923-1945 - An Operational History - Chris Dunning, 2009 Ian Allan Publishing, Hersham, Surrey, ISBN 978-1-906537-02-9




Last modified 23 October 2012