Air War in the Spanish Civil War 1936-39

1938

January 1938

Ground Operations

8 January 1938
Republican troops commanded by generals Hernández Sarabia and Leopoldo Menéndez took the city of Teruel, surrendered by coronel Rey d’Harcourt. The harsh winter conditions prevent the timely arrival of troops sent by Franco under the command of generals Varela and Aranda.

Fuerza Aérea de la República Española - Republican Air Force

On return from the Soviet Union, Juan Lario Sanchez was posted to the 4a/26 on 12 January 1938, flying I-15s.
A few days later, he was posted to the 2a/26, where he piloted Polikarpov I-15 no. CA-029.

On 21 January 1938, Kapitan Anatoly Serov left Spain.

The Grupo de Caza No 26 operated near Valencia.

By the end of 1937, Kapitan Ivan Yeremenko had claimed 9 victories, and in mid-January 1938 he returned to the Soviet Union.

In January, capitán Rafael Peña Dugo was appointed Jefe de Estado Mayor (Chief of Staff) of the Agrupación de Defensa de Costas.

Subsequently posted to the 3a Escuadrilla de Chatos as deputy CO, teniente Leopoldo Morquillas Rubio was given command of the 2a Escuadrilla of Grupo No 26, based at Villar airfield, in Valencia, on 11 January, replacing capitán Chindasvinto González García. There, he operated over the Teruel front and made a number of claims.

On 31 January, capitán Chindasvinto González García was ordered to accompany trainee pilots to Kirovabad in the USSR.

Luis de Frutos González of the 1a/21 (I-16) was killed in January during the unit's operations from Sarrión airfield.

Leitenant Platon Smolyakov took command of the 5a/21 (I-16) on 25 January.

Aviazione Legionaria

On 13 January 1938, the XXIII Gruppo transferred to Bello airfield.

On 17 January 1938, in a ceremony held at Saragossa-Sanjurjo airfield, command of XVI Gruppo Caccia passed from Maggiore Giuseppe Casero to the former leader of its 25a Squadriglia, newly promoted Maggiore Armando François.
Capitano Roberto Fassi became CO of the 25a Squadriglia after Maggiore François.

Legion Condor

On 25 January, Hauptmann Torsten Christ of the General Staff of the Legion Condor noted that it was ”only on account of the attacks by the Legion Condor, especially those by the He 51s, that the Red advance was brought to a stop.”

The personalities of Generalmajor Hellmuth Volkmann and Oberstleutnant Dr.-Ing. Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen had clashed following simmering tensions. On 11 January, von Richthofen noted, ”I request my release from business immediately, vacation here and then a return trip home. Volkmann beams with agreement.” Two days later, he wrote to his wife, ”Volkmann and I must part company at the soonest possible date.” By 30 January, he had gone, to be replaced by Major Hermann Plocher, an administrator from the Luftwaffe General Staff.

Operations

2 January 1938
CR.32 3-77 flown by José Careaga Urigüen of 2-E-3 was destroyed by small-arms fire in the Teruel area.

4 January 1938
Tenente Corrado Santoro of the 31a Squadriglia took part in a mission escorting bombers over Teruel.

XXIII Gruppo Caccia, based at Bello, went into action over Teruel during the early afternoon when 24 CR.32s of its three squadriglie, led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti, intercepted a formation of nine R-Zs from 2a Escuadrilla of Grupo No 30, and their escort of 13 I-15s and 15 I-16s.
The Italian pilots claimed four light bombers destroyed, two of the aircraft crashing in Republican territory and a third coming down in flames onto the beach at Malvarosa, close to Sagunto. Two more battle-damaged R-Zs landed back at their Liria base. The Italian pilots then turned their attention to the bombers’ fighter escort when a second R-Z escuadrilla aborted its attack so as to escape the marauding CR.32s.
During a frontal clash in broken cloud, Maggiore Zotti shot down the I-15 flown by patrol leader Leitenant Josef Jegorovich Kapustin of 1a/26. The latter managed to parachute into Republican territory. The Italian ace’s aircraft had in turn been hit by seven rounds fired by Kapustin as he flew headlong at the CR.32.

Sargento Antonio Arias Arias, deputy CO 4a/21 (I-16), claimed a shared Bf 109 on the Teruel front.
He also claimed a CR.32 on an unknown date in January.

5 January 1938
In the afternoon, Maggiore Andrea Zotti led 16 CR.32s from XXIII Gruppo on a surveillance patrol over Teruel. The aircraft intercepted a formation of R-Zs and claimed five shot down. One was credited to the gruppo’s second-in-command, Capitano Guido Nobili.

While flying from El Toro airfield, capitán Chindasvinto González García, CO 2a/26, claimed a Bf 109 destroyed as his final recorded aerial victory.
Emilio Ramírez Bravo from the same unit claimed a damaged CR.32 during the day.

Oberfeldwebel Ignaz Prestele of 1.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed one I-16.

6 January 1938
In the afternoon, teniente Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal and teniente Carlos Bayo Alessandri from 2-G-3 went to the defence of a unit of He 111s that was being attacked by enemy fighters. Vázquez attacked the lower group hitting a Chato, which fell in flames to the east of Teruel, while Bayo was successful in destroying a second Chato.

7 January 1938
At 08:30, 18 SBs attacked Calamocha and damaged five He 51s.

Franco Lucchini of the 19a Squadriglia claimed a shared R-Z.

8 January 1938
Capitán Chindasvinto González García’s (CO 2a/26) fighter (Chato ‘CA-002’) was hit by anti-aircraft fire while strafing la Muela de Teruel, damaging its fuel tanks and forcing González to crash land at Sarrión.

12 January 1938
2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed two SBs when Oberfeldwebel Reinhard Seiler and Unteroffizier Wilhelm Staege claimed one each over the Teruel front.

Republican fighter pilot Antonio Pérez García was shot down and killed in combat on the Teruel front.

16 January 1938
A patrulla of I-16s from 4a/21 claimed a SM.81 during the day.

17 January 1938
During the day, there were three clashes between Republic and Nationalist aircraft. In the last combat two groups of I-15s (32 fighters) were out to strafe in the Teruel area, escorted by eight I-16s. Over the target they clashed with a formation of 15 He 111s and 40 Fiat CR.32s. Two I-15s were quickly shot down when Leitenant Aleksandr Osipov (patrulla CO 1a/26 in I-15 CA 007) was shot down by fighters but managed to parachute and land in friendly territory. The second was Kapitan Yevgenii Stepanov of the Grupo No 26, who was shot down by AA fire over the town of Ojos Negros but managed to bale out. He was taken prisoner and spent the next six months in various prisons (Zaragoza, Salamanca and San Sebastian). One I-16 was shot down and the pilot killed. A third I-15 made a “taran” and the pilot, Romulo Negrin Mijoilar (the son of the prime minister of the Republic of Spain), who served in the 4a/26, was wounded. He had attacked some Fiats, which were attacking Stepanov hanging in his parachute, bringing one of the CR.32 down together with his own fighter; the Italian pilot was killed. Two more I-15s were damaged in forced landing due to lack of fuel and five more returned with battle damage.
Teniente Leopoldo Morquillas Rubio, CO 2a/26 claimed a CR.32 shot down during the day in the Teruel area as did J. Vela Díaz and C. Zuazo Garre from the same unit.
The Republican side claimed four Fiat CR.32s and one bomber. Two more CR.32s were claimed as damaged or probably destroyed.
The Italians from VI Gruppo claimed 11 ‘Curtiss fighters’ but lost two pilots when Maresciallo Bruno Cesna, (33a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Angelo Boetti (Staff of VI Gruppo) were killed while Sergente Benassi was wounded. One Spanish pilot was also shot down when Pedro Gil Escosin was shot down in his Fiat CR.32 and parachuted. In one of the He 111, one of the crew members, T. Martner, was so badly wounded that he died the next day in hospital.
While as prisoner Stepanov was taken out to be shot on three occasions. The Republican government eventually managed to exchange him via the International Red Cross for some German PoWs.

18 January 1938
Leutnant Gerhard Klein of 4.J/88 was killed when his He 51 (2-59) exploded in the air over Teruel when he was attacking enemy concentrations near Fraga.

Oberleutnant Wolfgang Schellmann of 1.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16 over Teruel while Leutnant Erich Woitke claimed another I-16.

Teniente Leopoldo Morquillas Rubio, CO 2a/26, claimed a Bf 109 shot down during the day in the Teruel area.

Pedro Gil Escoaín of 4-E-3 was killed in an accident at Aranda and his CR.32 (3-92) was destroyed.

Starshii Leitenant Bela Ignat’evich Arady crash-landed at Sarrión in I-15 CA-014.

19 January 1938
400 Nationalist aircraft flew sorties from dawn to dusk.

20 January 1938
XVI Gruppo went into action between Teruel and Aldehuela. Italian pilots were credited with shooting down five ‘Curtiss fighters’ and two Ratas. One of the I-15s were claimed by Sergente Ennio Tarantola. Sottotenente Renato Andreani of 25a Squadriglia lost his life and two CR.32s returned to base with severe battle damage.
Grupo No 26 lost three I-15s during this clash, one from the 3a Escuadrilla crashing near Torrente after its pilot, Puig Bastons, parachuted safely into Republican territory. A machine from 1a Escuadrilla broke up in the air after being hit, its Soviet pilot, Leitenant Ivan Aleksandrovich Gorshkov, being forced to bail out. Debris from Gorshkov’s I-15 in turn hit the Polikarpov of the 2a Escuadrilla commander teniente Leopoldo Morquillas Rubio, who also parachuted into Republican territory (Leopoldo Morquillas Rubio claimed a damaged CR.32 during the day – same combat?). No I-16s were lost, however.

Oberleutnant Wilhelm Balthasar of 1.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16 while Oberfeldwebel Kurt Rochel of 2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-15.

Teniente Juan Comas Borrás, CO of 3a/26, claimed a Bf 109 over the Teruel area.

Jaime Torn Roca of the 2a/26 claimed a Bf 109 in the Teruel area while M. Brufau Civit claimed a damaged CR.32.

The 4a/21 (I-16) claimed three Bf 109s during the day.

1a/21 (I-16) had a field day claiming eight victories when the escuadrilla claimed one He 111 and one Bf 109. Teniente Eduardo Claudín Moncada, CO 1a/21 (I-16 Type 10 ‘CM-157’), claimed a CR.32 destroyed while flying from a Liria, in Valencia while J. Solinas Figueras claimed a second CR.32. J. Fernández Alberdi from the same unit claimed two Bf 109 while a third Bf 109 was claimed by Enrique Vilatela Soria and a forth by a pilot namned Fernández.

22 January 1938
Teniente Manuel Zarauza Clavero, CO 4a/21 (I-16), claimed a Bf 109.

Sargento José María Bravo Fernández of 1a/21 claimed a Bf 109 over the Teruel front.

Oberfeldwebel Reinhard Seiler of 2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16 as his fifth victory in Spain.

24 January 1938
Leitenant Platon Smolyakov of the 6a/21 (I-16) claimed a Fiat over Campillo in the Teruel area.

28 January 1938
18 SBs attacked Salamanca. This striking force was made up of both Spanish and Soviet flown aircraft, the Soviets flying from their base at San Clemente.
While returning, the pilot Nikolai Gavrilovich Serebryakov with his navigator Nikolai Nikolaevich Abramov became very disoriented – possibly due to lack of oxygen. They apparently flew past their base and found themselves over the Bay of Valencia. They tried to find one of the airfields there, but ran out of fuel and had to ditch in the Mediterranean. The SB capsized and the crew was badly banged up and lucky to escape, especially Abramov who suffered a broken collar bone and a contusion on the right side of his body, which required 48 stitches (according to other sources they made a forced landing in Republican territory and Abramov was slightly injured).
Another SB was brought down by AA fire in an area north of the River Ebro and the crew were captured (including radio/gunner Serzhant Mikhail Ivanovich Smertin).
Smertin was later released in a prisoner swap and returned to the Soviet Union on 27 July 1938.

29 January 1938
At 08:00, Miguel García Pardo and teniente Carlos Bayo from 2-G-3 spotted Russian tanks moving to attack Nationalist positions at Cabezón, in the Singra sector. They attacked these at low level with machine-gun fire, and shortly after found eleven more tanks attacking to the east of Celadas. Returning to base with their ammunition exhausted, they located five tanks on the plain near Singra, with five more behind them.

Luis Herrero de Teresa of 1-E-3 was killed in combat in the Teruel area and his CR.32 (3-64) was destroyed.

February 1938

Ground Operations

7 February 1938
The Nationalists launched a counter-offensive to retake Teruel, the battle being fought mainly along the River Alfambra, north of the city.

20 February 1938
Republican troops are forced to abandon Teruel and follow the highway to Valencia, under pressure from Moroccan troops commanded by general Yagüe. This marks the end of the Battle of Teruel.

Fuerza Aérea de la República Española - Republican Air Force

Mayor Ramón Puparelli Francia handed over command of Escuadra No 11 to mayor Luis Alonso Vega, having been appointed CO of the 4a Región Aérea, with his headquarters in Valencia.

Mayor Luis Alonso Vega left the command of the Grupo de Natachas No 30 on 20 February when he was succeeded by mayor de Aviación Naval Valentin Pelayo Berra.
Mayor Alonso Vega was appointed CO of the Escuadra de Caza No 11 shortly thereafter, which he commanded during the retreat from Aragon and in the fighting in Levante.

On 9 February, at the height of the battle of Teruel, Juan José Armario Álvarez was promoted to mayor de Aviación Naval on the basis of his war record and confirmed as CO of the Grupo de Chatos No 26 on 25 February. Mayor Armario continued to command the unit through the various campaigns in Aragon, Levante and the Ebro, often leading his escuadrillas personally.

Vicente Castillo Monzó of the 2a/26 was promoted to teniente.

The 2a/26 moved to Requena airfield, Valencia, following the completion of operations over Teruel - it remained here until 30 June 1938.

Antonio Nieto Sandoval-Díaz of the 3a/26 was promoted to teniente. He was assigned Chato ‘CA-017’ at this time.

After taking the fighter pilots’ course at the Escuela at La Ribera and spending time in the replacement pool at Celrá, sargento José Sarrió Calatayud was posted to the 1a Escuadrilla of Grupo de Defensa de Costas No 71. There, he was assigned one of the two D.510s of the Reus patrulla, which had been established on 21 February 1938.

Leitenant Platon Smolyakov CO of the5a/21 (I-16) was wounded in late February and Starshii Leitenant Nikita Syusyukalov took command of the unit.

Fuerza Aérea Nacionales (Arma de Aviación) - Nationalist Air Force

Alférez Emelio O’Connor Valdivielso was posted to Escuadrilla 4-E-3 of Grupo 3-G-3 in February.

Aviazione Legionaria

Capitano Carlo Calosso took command of the 20a Squadriglia after Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni, who left in December 1937.

Operations

5 February 1938
Sargento Antonio Arias Arias, deputy CO 4a/21 (I-16), claimed a Bf 109.

Republican fighter pilot Francisco Chumillas disappeared in the Teruel area and was presumed KIA.
According to some sources he was killed on 7 February.

Unteroffizier Willi Lohrer of 2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16. This was his only victory in Spain.

6 February 1938
Unteroffizier Hermann Stange of 2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16.

The 1a/21 (I-16) claimed a Bf 109.

7 February 1938
A group of SBs bombed Calamocha railroad station, near Teruel. After dropping their bombs and leaving the anti-aircraft area the airplanes were attacked by a group of Bf 109s. Given no fighter escort, four SBs were shot down, while another four returned to base with serious damage.
The German pilots from 1. and 2.J/88 seems to have overclaimed heavily when they claimed 10 SBs and two I-16s (in another combat?) in a large air battle over the Alfambra. Identifying a weak stretch of the Republican line north of Teruel, Franco had launched a counter-offensive in this area - a flanking attack with a spectacular cavalry charge that helped turn the tide, and trap the Republicans in Teruel. Four of the SBs fell to the guns of Oberleutnant Wilhelm Balthasar (2.J/88) within six minutes. Other claimants were Leutnant Hans-Karl Meyer (1.J/88) who claimed one SB and one I-16, Oberfeldwebel Ignaz Prestele (1.J/88) who claimed one SB, Oberfeldwebel Reinhard Seiler (2.J/88) who claimed two SBs, Unteroffizier Ernst Quasinowski (1.J/88) who claimed one SB, Unteroffizier Ernst Terry (1.J/88) who claimed one SB and Staffelführer Oberleutnant Joachim Schlichting (2.J/88) who claimed one I-16. Hauptmann Gotthardt Handrick (CO of J/88) recalled:

“None of us would have had good memories of Calamocha had it not been for 7 February 1938. This was the date of a quite special triumph for my Gruppe, for we were successful in shooting down no fewer than 12 enemy aircraft - ten Martin bombers and two Ratas within five minutes. We had participated eagerly in the fighting over Teruel, and day-by-day we had carpeted the enemy positions with bombs.
On 7 February I was underway with two Staffeln providing cover for the bombers, which were scheduled to follow us. I flew with 1. Staffel, and far ahead of us was 2. Staffel. Hardly had we flown over the Front when we caught sight of a large number of aircraft in the east, which were flying exactly opposite to our course. Were these our own bombers which, having performed their task, were already on their way home?
Soon, however, we could make out from their blood-red emblems that these were enemy bombers. They were Martin aircraft, Soviet machines of American design, not dissimilar to our He 111s. 2. Staffel, flying ahead of us, immediately attacked the Reds. We also stepped on the gas and took out the aircraft that were there. My heart was beating with joy for up to now we had never seen so many Red bombers - there were 22 of them - and we got them under our guns. Not only that, but it appeared as if the bombers were not accompanied by any fighters at all.
When the Reds recognised us, they turned away, but it was too late. As they turned our 2. Staffel caught them, and two Red machines dived into the depths, leaving enormous trails of smoke behind them. Their crews saved themselves by parachute. The remaining 20 attempted to slip away, but they were already near enough to be held under our fire. In a wink of an eye, eight Reds began to burn and crashed like flaming torches. I myself had got to about 150 m behind one of the bombers.
I had the aircraft, as large as a barn door, in my sights. I pressed the trigger, but after 14 rounds both weapons jammed - the enemy machine just stayed there. I had to break off from my victim. I could clearly see how its machine-gunner was shooting at me like a savage.
Meanwhile, the enemy fighter cover also showed up on the scene. Three or four squadrons of Ratas suddenly came down on us like a warm rain, and there resulted a wild and lurching twisting and turning dogfight, which ended up with two enemy fighters sharing the same fate as the Martin bombers. For us, it was now high time to protect our own bombers from the fighters. The enemy had, however, obviously lost his appetite. He withdrew in the direction of Valencia and our Kampfgruppe was able to accomplish its task unmolested.
Upon landing, we learned that other than the 22 Martin bombers, 12 more enemy bombers, without fighter protection, had been attacked. It would have been a celebratory meal for us if we had been able to get these fat morsels in front of our machine guns as well, but as it was we could be content with the day’s successes. That 7th of February thoroughly reconciled us with the dreary Calamocha, in as much as that in recognition of our success we received crates of wine from some Spanish generals which we and our Spanish comrades used to forget the icy cold weather during our victory celebration.”
The four SBs lost were flown by two Soviet crews and two Spanish.
One SB was flown by Ivan Smirnov, which managed to bail out together with the gunner/radioman. Smirnov managed to get down alive but Leitenant Ivan Grigor’evich Boldyrev was killed when he was machine-gunned while hanging in his chute.
The second Soviet SB shot down was flown by Surzhin.

Sargento José María Bravo Fernández of 1a/21 (I-16) claimed a shared Bf 109.

Leitenant Platon Smolyakov CO of the 5a/SUP>/21 (I-16) claimed a shared Bf 109 over Calamocha.

Totally, Republican fighters claimed three Bf 109s during the day.

Progreso Núñez Martín (CR.32 3-99) of 4-E-3 was killed in a collision at Talavera with M. Varona Trigueros (3-93) from the same unit and both CR.32s were destroyed.

18 February 1938
During an assault mission in the Teruel area, Capitano Duilio Fanali's Breda Ba.65 "16-18" was hit by shrapnel. In spite of over a hundred holes on the airframe, Fanali managed to return and land safely.


Fanali inspecting combat damage on “16-18” after the mission on 18 February 1938.

19 February 1938
Unteroffizier Hermann Stange of 2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-15. This was his third and last victory.

20 February 1938
Teniente Ladislao Duarte Espés, CO 4a/26, claimed a Bf 109.

21 February 1938
During the day, all the serviceable Polikarpovs took off to try to oppose Nationalist bombers during the Battle of Alfambra.
At 10:20, Miguel García Pardo and Javier Allende Isasi of 2-G-3 took off on a routine reconnaissance flight over the Teruel front. There they discovered 20 I-15s and a similar number of I-16s in combat with a few Bf 109Bs. When García Pardo and Allende Isasi went to the assistance of the Messerschmitts, the German pilots failed to recognize them as allies and opened fire on them. They beat a hasty retreat, calling into battle another formation of Fiat CR.32s before continuing with their reconnaissance.
The new formation compromised 24 CR.32s of the XXIII Gruppo ”Asso di Bastoni” led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti. The pilots included the Spanish capitán Carlos Haya González who, after attending his mother’s funeral, arrived by car in Bilbao just as the group was about to take off. Despite Commander Zotti’s opposition, he insisted on taking his place in the formation.
At 11:04 over Teruel when they spotted about 40 Republican fighters split in three formations with I-15 “Chatos” at 3,500 and 4,000 meters, and I-16 “Moscas” at 5000 meters. The Republican fighters were already in combat with 17 Bf 109s. Zotti immediately chased them, and sent part of the Gruppo to attack the “Chatos”, which tried to evade as they were over Republican lines. At Puebla de Valverde, the “Moscas” intervened, but they were faced by the rest of the XXIII Gruppo, which at the end claimed two “Chatos” and a “Mosca” destroyed. One of the I-15s was claimed by Franco Lucchini of the 19a Squadriglia. In attempting to destroy an I-15 that was attacking another aircraft of his squadron, Carlos Haya González approached too close and collided with the I-15, falling to his death. It seems that this was sargento Francisco Viñals Guarro (I-15 CA-013) of the 2a/26, who managed to return despite the almost total destruction of the rudder (according the Republic bulletin, it was teniente Manuel Orozoco Ovira, of the 4a/26, who collided with Haya). Viñals’ I-15 was found to have a shattered aileron, badly damaged upper port wing and missing cockpit door and gunsight. Viñals’ promotion, recommended by the coronel Jefe de Fuerzas Aéreas and the Minister of National Defence, Indalecio Prieto, was effective from 22 February. The order was gazetted in the Diario Oficial issue No 47, which noted, ’For his heroic conduct in yesterday’s combats near Teruel, sargento del arma de aviación Francisco Viñals Guarro is promoted to teniente.’
Juan Lario Sanchez witnessed this combat. Haya fell near Puerto de Escadiòn, and was posthumously awarded with a Medaglia d’oro al valor militare.
The German pilots of J/88 claimed seven I-16s when 1 staffel claimed three near La Pueblé (Leutnants Fritz Awe, Hans-Karl Mayer and Erich Woitke) and 2 staffel claimed four near Sarrion and Teruel (Unteroffizier Herbert Ihlefeld, Leutnant Edgar Rempel, Unteroffizier Kurt Rochel and Staffelführer Oberleutnant Joachim Schlichting).
It seems that the Bf 109s had been in combat with twelve I-16s from 2a/21, which suffered three wounded pilots and one killed in combat with Messerschmitts and Fiats over Teruel in the morning while reporting 18 enemy aircraft downed (daily total?). Leitenant Aleksei Aleksandrovich Denisov (I-16 CM-034) claimed one Bf 109 before being shot down and had to bail out wounded. Leitenant Boris Adil’gireevich Takhtarov was wounded and badly burned when his aircraft (CM-123 or CM-239) caught fire after being hit by Bf 109s and he had to take to his parachute. When he jumped his parachute opened early, and on the way down the Germans tried to strafe him, but his comrades prevented them (he spent 35 days in the hospital and then returned home). The third wounded pilkots was Andrei Ivanovich Belov was wounded. Leitenant Viktor Sergeevich Troshkin was killed while flying CM-032.
General Rojo advised Prieto, the Minister of Defence, that the Air Force had carried out three operations during the day, and that during the last of these they had been involved in a large-scale combat with the Nationalist Air Force. He later advised Prieto that according to information from Jerica (the Air Force’s command centre) five German aircraft – later stated to be five Bf 109s, seven Fiats CR.32s and one twin-engined aircraft had been destroyed. This message included the information that the ace pilot, Carlos Haya, who was reputed to have carried out the night attack on the War Ministry in Madrid, had been killed in this engagement. Their own losses were quoted as two I-16, which failed to return to base and two others, which were damaged and whose pilots were injured. Sergeant Manuel Orozco Ovira, who managed to fly his aircraft back to base after its tail had been destroyed, was recommended an award for outstanding bravery and skill.
The I-15s from the 2a/26 claimed three and two probable CR.32; these were claimed by Teniente Leopoldo Morquillas Rubio (CO) (1 probable), J. Mora Fauria, sargento Francisco Viñals Guarro, Fernando Villins León (1 probable) and C. Zuazo Garre. Francisco Montagut Ferrer from the 3a/26 claimed a Bf 109 while an unknown pilot from the 4a/26 claimed a CR.32. An unknown I-16 pilot from 1a/21 claimed a CR.32.

22 February 1938
Oberfeldwebel Reinhard Seiler of 2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed two I-15s.

C. Zuazo Garre of the 2a/26 probably destroyed a Bf 109 over the Teruel front.

Teniente Miguel Zambudio Martínez of the 3a/26 probably destroyed a Bf 109 over the Teruel front.

23 February 1938
I-16 CM-025 was destroyed at Lérida.

24 February 1938
Sargento Antonio Arias Arias, deputy CO 4a/21 (I-16), crashed while taking off in Mosca ‘CM-025’. Seriously injured, Arias was admitted to hospital in El Vedat.

CR.32 3-95 flown by José Ibarra Montis of 4-E-3 was destroyed by Republican AA fire.

March 1938

Ground operations

9 March 1938
The Nationalists starts a massive offensive in Aragon.

Fuerza Aérea de la República Española - Republican Air Force

Capitán Andrés García La Calle returned to Spain from the Soviet Union on 3 March 1938. After a series of Nationalist raids on Barcelona, he was placed in charge of the air defences of both the city and nearby coastal region.

Capitán Rafael Peña Dugo became commander of Puigcerdá airfield.

On 2 March, Anatoly Serov was decorated with the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union and the Order of Lenin for his performances in Spain. By this time Serov already had left Spain.

Serzhant Vyacheslav Dmitrievich Popov of the 1a/26 left Spain on 24 March.

In March, 31 I-16s arrived in Spain.

A (final) shipment of 31 SBs arrived from the Soviet Union in March. These aircraft, fitted with more powerful M-100A engines. Thus, the total number of SBs that participated in the Spanish civil war were 92 airplanes .

On 30 March, Juan Lario Sanchez was promoted to teniente.

Juan Comas Borrás (CO of 3a/26) was promoted to capitán for his conduct during the battle of Teruel, as were other distinguished escuadrilla COs Ladislao Duarte Espés (CO 4a/26), Leopoldo Morquillas Rubio (CO 2a/26 and promoted on 7 March), Eduardo Claudín Moncada and Manuel Zarauza Clavero.

The 3a/26 and 4a/26 helped cover the retreat from Aragon, flying from Caspe and Bujaraloz.

Following a period at the newly established Grupo de Transición y Eventualidades (pilot’s pool) at Celrá, sargento Álvaro Muñoz López was posted on 8 March to the I-15-equipped 1a/26, the squadron being led by Soviet pilot Aleksandr Osipenko.

Eduardo Claudín Moncada, CO 1a/21 (I-16), was promoted to capitán for his leadership of the Escuadrilla during the Teruel campaign.
When the Aragon offensive started during the month, the 1a/21 quickly returned to its old airfield at Caspe, where it was greeted by He 111s of the Legion Condor - two I-15s were destroyed in the ensuing raid. During those days of hard fighting Claudín’s unit operated alternately from airfields at Almenar (Lérida), Bell-Puig and Reus.

José María Bravo Fernández and Francisco Meroño Pellicer, both of the 1a/21 (I-16), were both promoted to teniente.

José Falcó Sanmartín found himself a member of the short-lived 5a Escuadrilla de Chatos.

Fuerza Aérea Nacionales (Arma de Aviación) - Nationalist Air Force

The 2-G-3 took part in Aragón offensive during the month.

On 18 March, in a ceremony held at Castejón airfield, Navarra, Joaquín García Morato was presented with the Cruz Laureada de San Fernando by general Alfredo Kindelán Duany, commander of the Aviación Nacional. Morato’s exploits in air combat over the Jarama front in February 1937 drew particular praise from general Kindelán.

Luis Noguera (CR.32 3-59) of 4-E-3 defected in the Aragón area.

Aviazione Legionaria

Maggiore Armando François left the command of XVI Gruppo to Maggiore Ciro Aiello on 6 March.
However, Maggiore François was called back to the Gruppo after that Maggiore Aiello was shot down on 14 March just as he was about to return to Italy.
Maggiore François now led the Gruppo again from 16 March until 10 August 1938.
At this time, the XVI Gruppo was at Zaragoza.

Maggiore Eugenio Leotta left the command of the VI Gruppo on 16 March 1938.

In March, the Squadriglia COs of the XXIII Gruppo were Capitano Marco Larker (18a Squadriglia), Capitano Ettore Foschini (19a Squadriglia) and Capitano Carlo Calosso (20a Squadriglia). The new Gruppo CO was Maggiore Ciro Ajello.

Legion Condor

The Bf 109Bs of J/88 were moved to Estracón, from where they covered Aragon offensive.

Leutnant Fritz Losigkeit had joined 3.J/88 in Zaragoza on 25 March 1938 from JG 132.

Operations

5 March 1938
Sargento José Sarrió Calatayud of the 1a Escuadrilla of Grupo de Defensa de Costas No 71, Reus patrulla, flew D.510 ‘CW-001’ to La Cenia airfield before returning to Reus, where he was scrambled after enemy aircraft were sighted over Tarragona.

6 March 1938
On the night of 5-6 March, a Republican destroyer torpedoed and damaged the cruiser Baleares. On the morning of 6 March two SBs, flown by Soviet pilot major Stepan Ivanovich Berezhnoi and Spanish pilot Leocadio Mendiola, took off to find the damaged ship. They flew over the island of Mallorca, crossed the Mediterranean almost to Gibraltar, and spotted the Baleares being towed by the cruiser Canarias. Judging by their course, the ships were rushing to take cover in one of the North African ports.
When the reconnaissance aircraft returned to their base it was decided to bomb the damaged Baleares. To do this three groups of nine bombers each, led by Mendiola, Mitrofan Lisov, and Stechishin, were urgently prepared.
The attack of the first group, led by Lisov, was successful. The Baleares was hit and soon sank. The Canarias rationally cut the towing lines and sailed away. Despite fierce anti-aircraft fire all 27 SBs returned safely.

8 March 1938
Sargento José Sarrió Calatayud of the 1a Escuadrilla of Grupo de Defensa de Costas No 71, Reus patrulla, flew a night intercept mission in a D.510, but the ‘enemy’ aircraft turned out to be a Republican R-5 Rasante bomber.

1.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed two I-15s when Leutnant Fritz Awe and Oberleutnant Wolfgang Schellmann claimed one each.

A He 111 was claimed as probably destroyed by an unknown pilot from 1a/21 (I-16).
This claim can’t be verified by Nationalist records.

9 March 1938
Six Savoia bombers attacked Reus, and both D.510s of of the 1a Escuadrilla of Grupo de Defensa de Costas No 71, Reus patrulla, were scrambled. Neither fighter managed to catch the raiders, however.
Sorties were flown almost daily, but no combats were recorded until the night of 21 March.

10 March 1938
3a/26 (I-15) claimed one CR.32 and one Bf 109 during the day.

The pilots from 1a/21 (I-16) claimed a He 111, which force-landed and was set on fire by its crew prior to their capture.
It is possible that this He 111 was credited to sargento Francisco Meroño Pellicer (I-16 CM-061), who claimed one during the day, which was attacking Caspe airfield.
The 4a/21 (I-16) also claimed a Bf 109 during the day.

J/88 attacked Belchite and Jatiel, where three parked I-15s were strafed and set on fire. Oberfeldwebel Ignaz Prestele of 1.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-15 while Unteroffizier Kurt Rochel and Oberleutnant Joachim Schlichting, both of 2.J/88 (Bf 109), claimed an I-16 each.

K/88 made three missions during the day. During the first and taking off from Alfaro at 06:00, the four staffeln joined to attack Candasnos. At about the same time, the Do 17s of A/88 took off from Bunuel and all four staffeln of the Jagdgruppe took off from Sanjuro. At 07:00, the bombers of K/88 arrived over the Republican airfields at Caspe, Sarinena and Candasnos. Conditions were hazy. At Caspe five enemy aircraft were claimed destroyed on the ground. The airfield of Bujaraloz were bombed by the Do 17 Staffel and soon afterwards was forced to endure a low-level strafing attack by several He 111s. Returning from a high-level attack on Candasnos, the Heinkel bombers roared over Bujalaroz with all guns blazing. The He 111 unit set course for home leaving oneparked aircraft in flames. It seems that He 111 25-7 from 4.K/88 returned for a second attack when it was attacked from behind and below by an I-15 just as it had crossed the airfield and forced to land at Bujaraloz (20km from Candasnos). The crew of Feldwebel Willi Hesse (pilot), Unteroffizier Theo Kowollik (radio operator), Unteroffizier Karl Hoffmeister (engineer, who reported that he couldn’t fend of the attack due to a jamming gun), Leutnant Kurt Kettner (commander and observer) and Obergefreiter Heinz Clacery (observer and had been invited for the trip) all became PoWs (they were exchanged on 2 Janaury 1939). This was the only He 111 lost during the day.
Flying from Candasnos, the 4a/26 scrambled nine I-15s at 06:45 to intercept them and claimed two He 111s shot down over the airfield, one of which was credited to capitán Ladislao Duarte Espés (CO) for his last aerial success of the civil war. Romulo Negrin Mijoilar also took part in this intercept flying in CC-011.
I-16 CM-141 from 1a/21 was destroyed by fire at Caspe during the day.

A Spanish He 45 was shot down by Republican ground fire and the crew (Saracho and Laffite) were KIA.

I-16 CM-121 from 2a/21 was shot down at Alcañiz.

Sergente Aldo Buvoli (19a Squadriglia) claimed a shared I-16 during the day.

While flying to Caspe, two pilots from 1a/26, Leitenant Ivan Gorshkov and Leitenant Aleksandr Osipov (patrulla CO), became disoriented and landed their I-15s at Cennes-Monestié, France.
On 16 March, they were allowed to return to Spain.

12 March 1938
In the afternoon, 2-G-3 encountered enemy aircraft attempting to stop the sweeping advance in the Aragon offensive. During the afternoon 18 Fiats, led by capitán Ángel Salas (CO) and capitán Joaquín García Morato, escorted Ju 52/3ms on a raid, and having completed this task made a sweep of the front as far as Híjar, where they encountered 19 Chatos that were escorting 11 SBs. In the ensuing dogfights, capitán Salas claimed one probable I-15, capitán Morato claimed two I-15s while teniente Miguel García Pardo (2-E-3) destroyed one I-15, which fell near Híjar. Teniente Miguel Guerrero García (1-E-3) set fire to another I-15, whose pilot took to his parachute from a very low height. Teniente Julio Salvador (CO 1-E-3) attacked another machine, which began to trail smoke, but he was unable to continue his attack as his Fiat was almost out of fuel; unable to return to his base at Tauste, he had to land at Saragossa. Teniente Carlos Serra Pablo-Romero, teniente Carlos Bayo (2-E-3) and teniente de Hemricourt (2-E-3) each were successful in shooting down an I-15. Teniente Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal (1-E-3) attacked three SBs claiming on of them that crashed while attempting to land near Escatrón. No CR.32s were lost in this combat.
The I-15 shot down by teniente García Pardo was from 1a/26 and was flown by Soviet pilot Starshii Leitenant Bela Ignat’evich Arady, who bailed out badly burned and landed in Republican lines. The wreckage of this machine (I-15 CA-057) was recovered subsequently, and a piece of it was retained, on which ensuing victories of 2-G-3 were recorded, as well as the names of all those in the group who were killed.

Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed three CR.32s destroyed on the ground.

13 March 1938
Leutnant Arnim Ettling and Unteroffizier Herbert Ihlefeld, both from 2.J/88 (Bf 109), claimed an I-15 each.

Republican fighter pilot Vicente Pinar was killed in an accident at Caspe.
It is possible that he flew I-16 CM-102 from 5a/21, since this aircraft was destroyed by fire at Caspe.

14 March 1938
Around 09:00, Maggiore Ciro Aiello (CO XVI Gruppo) led 25 CR.32s on a morning patrol as air cover for advancing columns of the Corpo Truppe Volontarie. As the aircraft approached Alcañiz they ran into 20 I-15s and 28 I-16s. Overwhelmed by the sheer size of the Republican formation, four CR.32s were quickly shot down. Sottotenente Luigi Armanino, Sottotenente Mario Montefusco (’Minervi’) (24a Squadriglia) and Sottotenete Alberto Brondi (’Buona’). Armanino returned home the following day, Montefusco and Brondi became POWs.
Guido Bobba (26a Squadriglia) claimed a 'Curtiss' during this combat as his only victory in Spain.
Maggiore Aiello’s aircraft was also forced down, the fighter flipping onto its back as its pilot attempted a forced landing. Aiello was also taken prisoner, but he somehow convinced his captors to defect and they accompanied him to Nationalist territory!
Four weeks later Maggiore Armando François, who had been recalled to command XVI Gruppo just as he was about to return to Italy, ordered the recovery of Aiello’s fighter from occupied territory. Once back in Nationalist hands, it was despatched to the Hispano-Suiza workshops at Seville-Tablada and rebuilt.
The Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed six CR.32s destroyed during the day.

15 March 1938
At 17:00, fighters of the XXIII Gruppo again led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti, who had been called back to lead the unit, attacked twelve SBs escorted by 20 I-15s and 15 I-16s. The CR.32s claimed two I-15s and two I-16s. The bombers turned back without completing their mission, but one fell near Castelseras. During the combat, Franco Lucchini was hit and shot down. He parachuted and hid in a cave, watching Republican militiamen looking for him. Only under the cover of darkness, he could reach Nationalist lines.

Capitán Eduardo Claudín Moncada, CO 1a/21 (I-16), claimed a shared in the destruction of a CR.32 with sargento Francisco Tarazona Torán. However, Tarazona had to make a belly landing following the action.

The I-15s from 2a and 3a/26 claimed three CR.32s during the day.

16 March 1938
The Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed two He 51s destroyed during the day.
These claims can’t be verified with Nationalist records.

19 March 1938
The Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed a CR.32 destroyed during the day.

20 March 1938
J. Pérez Chulvi of 4a/21 (I-16) claimed a seaplane during the day.

21 March 1938
In the early hours of 21 March, sargento José Sarrió Calatayud of the 1a Escuadrilla of Grupo de Defensa de Costas No 71, Reus patrulla, took off from Reus in D.510 ‘CW-001’ (one of only two in Spain) and during the ensuing sortie shot down a He 59B seaplane from AS/88 near Cambrils, Tarragona, killing the crew.
This was the first night success for a Spanish Republican pilot and the Boletin de Información del Sector Aéreo de Reus noted:

“At 0425 hrs enemy air activity was reported near Reus, and a Dewoitine was scrambled from this airfield. A combat ensued over Cambrils with two seaplanes, one of which was shot down - it crashed on the road from Cambrils to Hospitalet. Four crewmen were killed, and a German survivor was taken to hospital at Cambrils but he died 40 minutes later. The wreckage indicates that the aircraft is of the same type as the one shot down a few days earlier at Vinaroz, namely a twin-engined Heinkel seaplane. The aircraft was completely destroyed in the ensuing fire. The other seaplane, which was forced to drop its bombs over the sea, returned to Palma. It too had been hit, but our aircraft was not able to continue the pursuit for lack of ammunition. Our aircraft landed safely.”
The following day Sarrió was promoted to teniente by Order No 4.356, which stated:
“In recognition of his conduct in shooting down a Heinkel twin- engined aircraft near Cambrils last night, sargento D José Sarrió Calatayud is promoted to teniente de Aviación.”
Sarrió was personally congratulated by the commander of the Fuerzas Aéreas, coronel Hidalgo de Cisneros. He was then posted to the I-15-equipped 1a/26, then still under the command of Soviet pilot Aleksandr Osipenko. In spite of Sarrió’s promotion, Osipenko assigned him to a patrulla that was led by a sargento, which the newly acclaimed hero failed to appreciate. A short while later Sarrió was shot down in combat on the Levante front, although he was able to safely take to his parachute.

22 March 1938
After a short pause, the attack to the north of the River Ebro was resumed. 18 Fiats from 2-G-3 supported the Navarre Army Corps as they entered the Huesca sector.

23 March 1938
2-G-3 carried out five sorties in the Huesca sector, two by the entire group, one with two squadrons and two with patrols.
At 13:15, Ángel Salas and Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal took off to locate a battery, which was firing at the pontoon bridge in Quinto. During the course of this patrol, they spotted twelve Chatos flying above them and immediately climbed to attack. Salas and Vázquez both made a number of passes at the enemy without registering any vital hits, and just before the Chatos withdrew Vázquez’s machine-guns jammed. Salas returned to base and Vázquez continued on a reconnaissance of his own. He spotted a battery of three guns, which were being dismantled and loaded on to lorries. When he returned to the airfield the group had already taken off, under Miguel García Pardo's leadership, which meant that only Salas, Julio Salvador and Vázquez were available to mount an attack against the enemy battery. Only minutes elapsed before all three were in the air, and so fast had been their action that the battery was still in the same position. Low-level attacks soon had five lorries in flames, one of which carried the battery's ammunition, and which exploded spectacularly.

24 March 1938
Around midday, 18 Fiats from all six Spanish CR.32 escuadrillas led by capitán Ángel Salas provided escort for the He 51s and SM.79s attacking Quinto. Between Quinto and Farlete they encountered eleven Ratas and 30 Chatos. In the ensuing combats four Chatos were claimed; capitán Salas, alférez Arístides García López Rengel (1-E-3), brigada Ramón Senra Àlvarez (1-E-3) and Rúiz Jiménez each claiming one. Teniente José Jurado González (3-E-3), flying Fiat No 3-104, was killed in action when Republican fighters shot him down between Caspe and Quinto.
Legion Condor Bf 109s also joined the fray, while He 51s flown by Spanish pilots performed ground attack missions below the swirling dogfight and one of the He 51s were destroyed, although its pilot survived.
At the end of this air battle, Salas almost succeeded in capturing a Chato. He had attacked one of the enemies and, although unable to destroy the machine, he so clearly held the upper hand that the Chato pilot descended to a low altitude and was making for Nationalist lines, with Salas in close attendance. Just as the Chato was about to land, it was attacked by a Bf 109B (No 51) flown by Oberleutnant Wolfgang Schellmann, staffelkapitän of 1.J/88, and destroyed, prompting Salas to lodge a formal complaint with the Legion Condor.
The German Bf 109s from 1.J/88 claimed two more I-15s in this combat when Leutnant Fritz Awe and Unteroffizier Alfred Stark claimed one I-15 each.
Totally the CR.32 pilots claimed four I-15s and five probable and the Bf 109s were credited with three I-15s.
In this battle Government aircraft Nos. CA-006, CA-032, CA-037 and CA-052, piloted respectively by Antonio Sánchez, Benigno Domingo Hueso, Jesús Pérez Pérez and Fernando Villins León, were destroyed and the pilots KIA; teniente Francisco Viñals Guarro and Elías Hernández flying machines Nos. CC-030 and CC-027 collided; and Alfredo Dealbert, aircraft No. CA-038 force-landed outside the airfield.
Teniente Viñals of the 2a/26 had sortied from Pomar de Cinca airfield and he bailed out and landed between Pina and Osera.
The Government Air Force had not previously lost so many aircraft in a single battle. The Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed four CR.32s and one Bf 109 with one CR.32 and one He 51 as probably destroyed.

Republican fighter pilot Conrado Suazo Gare was killed in an accident at Caspe-Balaguer.

25 March 1938
2-G-3 destroyed five lorries in the morning and a similar number in the afternoon. As this second sortie was ending, capitán Ángel Salas saw three Government light aircraft landing on the aerodrome at Mas de las Matas, which was about to be occupied by the land forces. Salas landed alongside these light aircraft, while his group maintained air cover. The enemy aircraft were soon captured, but the land forces tried to include Salas among the prisoners. These aircraft, which belonged to the School at Reus, were en route from Celrá to Valencia, under the leadership of Lieutenant Momblona; the pilot of a fourth machine, who was still airborne, realized what had happened and made good his escape.

26 March 1938
Antonio Figueroa Fernández (3-114) from 3-E-3 were shot down and killed by small-arms fire in the Aragón area while Manuel García Díaz (3-86), from the same unit, was killed at Caspe by small-arms fire.

27 March 1938
I-16s CM-135 (4a/21) and CM-152 (5a/21) were destroyed by fire at Lérida.

I-16s CM-006 and CM-044 (both from 4a/21) were destroyed when they collided at Alcorisa.

29 March 1938
Capitán Manuel Zarauza Clavero, CO 4a/21 (I-16), claimed a Bf 109.
He had been promoted to capitán during the month.

Leutnant Hans-Karl Meyer of 1.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-15.

30 March 1938
I-16 CM-155 from 1a/21 disappeared over the front and was lost.

April 1938

Ground Operations

15 April 1938
The Nationalists reach the Mediterranean at Vinaròs, dividing the Republican zone in two.

Fuerza Aérea de la República Española - Republican Air Force

In an effort to redress the growing imbalance in both quality and quantity between the Republican and Nationalist air arms, in April 1938 the USSR sent 31 I-16 Type 10s powered by M-25V engines to Spain, but again they proved to be of substandard quality when uncrated on their arrival. This was confirmed by a new crop of Soviet pilots who flight-tested the aircraft and then reported several alarming faults. Defects in the construction of the engines, as well as unsafe armament, caused a general reluctance among pilots to fly combat missions in the new fighters.

Republican lost 60 aircraft through enemy action during the offensive in Aragon - mainly I-15s and I-16s, half of which were destroyed on the ground or abandoned during the retreat. Several others were lost through accidents.

On 10 April 1938 the I-16-equipped 3a Escuadrilla, which had been disbanded by the Soviet command, was officially re-established under teniente José María Bravo Fernández, who was another first year graduate from the USSR. Bravo appointed two course mates from the USSR, Francisco Tarazona Torán and Restituto Toquero (both Northern front veterans), and José Alarcón from Murcia as patrulla commanders. The other members of the escuadrilla were Vicente Yuste and Andrés Fierro, both from Madrid, Francisco Paredes and Vicente Beltrán from Valencia and Pedro Utrilla and Luis Sirvent from Aragon.
Sargento Francisco Tarazona Torán was appointed patrulla CO in the 3a/21 on 10 April. He duly participated in the campaign in Levante while based at Sagunto and Camporrobles.
By this time, capitán Manuel Aguirre López, whose I-16 was coded ‘CM-137’, was leading three escuadrillas - 1a, 3a and 4a.
Shortly thereafter the Soviet-led 6a Escuadrilla was also disbanded, only to be reactivated under teniente Francisco Meroño Pellicer’s command during the battle of the Ebro.

On 9 April the 1a/21 (I-16) left the Aragon front for Barcelona to provide support for the new Minister of National Defence, Dr Juan Negrín. Capitán Eduardo Claudín Moncada and his men flew from airfields at Valls, Salou and Sagunto until May

Antonio Arias Arias, deputy CO 4a/21 (I-16) was promoted to teniente. At this time he was convalescencing from an accident in February at the Casa de Reposo de Aviación at La Malvarrosa. After 56 days in hospital he rejoined his unit, whereupon he discovered that government-held territory had been cut in two by the Nationalists. Arias took part in the Levante campaign and the offensive on Valencia, flying from Camporrobles airfield.

The 5a Escuadrilla de Chatos was disbanded.
One pilot serving in this unit was José Falcó Sanmartín, who was posted to the 3a/26, led by capitán Juan Comas Borrás. It was during his service with this unit that Falcó logged a total of 366 flying hours and fought in 20 aerial combats. During the month, he claimed eight victories, of which five were confirmed - three CR.32s, a Bf 109 and a He 59.

Fuerza Aérea Nacionales (Arma de Aviación) - Nationalist Air Force

On 11 April, Ángel Salas, in company with the entire 2-G-3, was able to celebrate a double event; his escape unharmed from the difficult forced-landing near Morella on 8 April, and his promotion to Commander, which had been authorized on 4 April. The news of this did not reach him until 11 April, hence the date of the Grupo’s celebration in Saragossa.
From December 1937 to Apri11938 Grupo 2-G-3 destroyed 40 Government aircraft, which together with those shot down previously, made a total of 82 victories.

During the offensive in Aragon Nationalist air elements had lost 30 aircraft due to enemy action and an equal number in accidents.

Grupos 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 replaced XXIII Gruppo at Bello by the end of the month.

In the spring of 1938, the Escuadrilla 5-E-3 was formed with Fiat CR.32s. The unit was commanded by capitán Miguel Guerrero García.

Aviazione Legionaria

VI Gruppo moved to Escatrón on 3 April, where it was joined by the Squadriglia Autonoma Caccia Mitragliamento (Autonomous Strafing Fighter Unit) the following day.
XXIII Gruppo moved to Puig Moreno on 4 April, while Gruppo XVI transferred to Mas de las Matas (near Alcañiz) on 23 April (later it advanced to Caspe).

Legion Condor

Among the 24 new Messerschmitts that docked in Spain in April were five new Augsburg-built Bf 109C-1s, into which it had been planned to fit a 700 hp Jumo 210G engine with fuel-injection and a two-stage compressor. This configuration was to be augmented by a pair of wing-mounted MG 17s to provide more firepower and a cockpit radio. Unfortunately, the engine was simply not sufficiently ready, so most models were powered by the Jumo 210D.

Operations

4 April 1938
1. and 2.J/88 relocated from Zaragoza to Larraja, south of Huesca, where Volkmann was to make an inspection of the units. Leading a Schwann from 1. Staffel, Leutnant Fritz Awe ordered a 90-degree turn to port as the Messerschmitts made their landing approach around midday. As his wingman, Unteroffizier Adolf Borchers, overlapped Awe’s Bf 109, his propeller cut into Awe’s cockpit, breaking the fuselage in half. The tail spun to the ground while the cockpit, forward fuselage, engine and wing fell in pieces after it. Awe was discovered decapitated in the remains of his cockpit. Borchers, whose fighter overturned upon landing, suffered only light injuries.

6 April 1938
The 4a/26 (I-15) claimed a Fiat CR.32 during the day.

8 April 1938
After escorting Ju 52s and He 45s to the Morella front, capitán Ángel Salas' Fiat was hit while he was strafing enemy troops. The bullet had severed an oil pipe, and with oil pressure falling rapidly he had only seconds to choose a suitable area for the in evitable forced-landing.
The terrain to the north of Morella was all hill country, an extremely difficult area for a landing. Salas was preparing to bale out when he caught sight of a clear patch of ground that seemed to offer a fair chance of getting his aircraft down safely, and immediately he circled to make an approach, putting the Fiat down with such skill that only the landing gear and the under surface of the port wing was damaged. The site of this manoeuvre was within half a 1 km of general Aranda’s Command Post. Aranda watched the landing with great interest, and lost no time in recovering both pilot and aircraft.
This aircraft was No. 3-61 (Factory No. 111), which was flown by Salas for the first time in September-October 1937 when he became CO of 2-G-3 and he flew it until his forced-landing at Morella on 8 April 1938. He regained possession of 3-61 on 3 July 1938, following repairs, and continued with it until 12 November, when he suffered a serious accident. After being repaired again the Fiat came back into the possession of Salas in January 1939, remaining with him until the end of the war. He continued to fly this machine from Getafe for a considerable time after the war’s end, until it was completely destroyed in an accident. This aircraft retained the two Breda-Safat 7.7mm machine-guns throughout its service life. Later machines of this type had two 12.7mm machine-guns of the same make, but the Spanish pilots normally preferred a combination of one 7.7mm and one 12.7mm machine-gun.

The 1a/21 (I-16) claimed a Fiat CR.32 during the day.

11 April 1938
CR.32 3-110 of 3-E-3 was destroyed.

21 April 1938
Teniente José María Bravo Fernández, CO 3a/21 (I-16), claimed a He 111.

25 April 1938
Teniente José María Bravo Fernández, CO 3a/21 (I-16), claimed a shared He 111 and a Bf 109 destroyed while sargento Francisco Tarazona Torán claimed a He 111 during the Levante campaign.

27 April 1938
Teniente José María Bravo Fernández, CO 3a/21 (I-16), claimed a SM 79.

29 April 1938
Teniente Antonio Arias Arias, deputy CO 4a/21 (I-16), claimed a Bf 109.

May 1938

Fuerza Aérea de la República Española - Republican Air Force

In early May, teniente Katz (CO of the Escuadrilla de Bombardeo Nocturno) was ordered by the Subsecretaría de Aviacíon to undertake a secret mission to Paris, where he was almost certainly tasked with purchasing night flying equipment. He flew to London on 4 May, leaving for Paris via Boulogne. Remaining in the French capital until 4 June, Katz returned to Barcelona via Cerbère after a 16-day trip.

Capitán Andrés García La Calle was ordered to form the Grupo No 28, which was equipped with Canadian Car & Foundry-built Grumman GE-23 Delfin biplanes that were to be used for ground attack and coastal patrol duties.
As CO, capitán García La Calle participated in the early stages of the battle of the Ebro, although in reality he did little flying as he was attached to the command post of general Rojo and coronel Modesto as Aviación liaison officer.
On 5 May, capitán José Riverola Grúas became deputy CO of the new Grupo de Asalto No 28, which was based at Cardedeu airfield.
During the month, Juan Lario Sanchez was posted to the Grupo and he remained at this unit until the end of the war.

Capitán Rafael Peña Dugo was posted to the staff of Grupo No 71 of the Fuerzas Aéreas.

On 21 May, there were just 43 combat-ready I-16s in Spain.

Aside from the two Soviet escuadrillas (2a and 5a) equipped with the I-16, there were three Spanish escuadrillas too, the 1a, 3a and 4a.

The 1a/21 (I-16) commenced operations on the Castellón front from Liria. Fresh pilots replaced unit veterans at this time, the latter being transferred to teniente Jose María Bravo’s re-formed 3a/21.
Bravo was promoted to capitán on 28 May.
His 3a Escuadrilla, also known as Seis Doble (Double Six) after the domino artwork displayed on the fins of its aircraft, operated from Sagunto airfield for the whole of the Castellón campaign. It also flew from El Vendrell during a Nationalist attack on the Balaguer bridgehead and from Camporrobles towards the end of the battle for Valencia. Finally, there was a period of duty at La Rabasa, from where patrols were flown over the port of Valencia. During the early weeks of the battle of the Ebro the unit operated from el Plá de Cabra airfield.

Mayor Ramón Puparelli Francia was relieved as CO of the 4a Región Aérea by coronel Felipe Díaz Sandino and given command of the 3a Sección (Operations) of the Estado Mayor de Fuerzas Aéreas in Barcelona.

After further leave, capitán Juan Comas Borrás (CO 3a/26) was injured in a landing accident at El Toro airfield on 15 May when the undercarriage of his Chato collapsed, resulting in him spending several months in hospital at Torrente, in Valencia.

When teniente José Redondo Martín (temporary CO 3a/26) was sent on an I-16 Mosca course at the Escuela de Alta Velocidad at El Carmolí, teniente Miguel Zambudio Martínez was appointed CO of the unit. He led the unit during operations over Levante in May and June and also in the Ebro offensive.

Capitán Chindasvinto González García returned to Spain from Kirovabad, USSR, on 10 May.

Aviazione Legionaria

Capitano Alfiero Mezzetti left the command of the 26a Squadriglia, XVI Gruppo, on 10 May.

Colonnello Guglielmo Cassinelli left the command of the 3o Stormo Caccia to Colonnello Venceslao D’Aurelio (’Dauria’) on 23 May.

Legion Condor

After completing 280 sorties, Oberleutnant Adolf Galland was ordered to return to Germany. His replacement as leader of 3.J/88 was Oberleutnant Werner Mölders, the former Staffelkapitän of 2./JG 334 who arrived in Spain on 24 May 1938 to join a growing number of his fellow squadronmates, having handed over command of his Staffel to returning Spanish ‘veteran’ Oberleutnant Rolf Pingel.

In the beginning of the summer, the next model of Bf 109 - the D - arrived with 3.J/88. Fitted with the Jumo 210Da engine, this variant carried the same four-gun arrangement as the Bf 109C, but was really a transitionary aircraft built in anticipation of the Bf 109E.

1., 2. and 3. Staffeln now flew Bf 109s, with only Hauptmann Eberhard d’Elsa’s 4.J/88 retaining He 51s. As soon as each Staffel re-equipped with the Bf 109, its rates of operational success increased dramatically.

Operations

4 May 1938
Commander Ángel Salas of 2-G-3 had his fuel and water tanks holed by machine-gun fire from the ground, forcing him to make an emergency landing at Aguilar aerodrome, which had been occupied only days before. During the same sortie the Fiats flown by Carlos Bayo, Jorge Muntadas Claramunt and de Hemricourt all received damage from ground fire.

11 May 1938
Sargento Francisco Tarazona Torán of the 3a/21 (I-16) claimed a Bf 109 during the Levante campaign.

Unteroffizier Herbert Ihlefeld of 2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16.

13 May 1938
Teniente Antonio Arias Arias, deputy CO 4a/21 (I-16), claimed a CR.32.
He later claimed a shared Do 17 in June on an unknown date.
Totally the Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed eight CR.32s and two Bf 109s during the day.

Petr Bashmakov was wounded in combat but was able to bring back his I-16 and land at Villar Field.

14 May 1938
Leutnant Eckehardt Priebe of 1.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16.
It seems that he had been involved in combat with Grupo No 21 (I-16), which claimed two Bf 109s during the day.

15 May 1938
The Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed one CR.32 (set on fire) and one Bf 109 during the day.

18 May 1938
Hauptmann Gotthardt Handrick, CO of J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16.
2.J/88 (Bf 109) was also involved in combat during the day and Unteroffizier Kurt Rochel claimed an I-16 while Unteroffizier Herbert Ihlefeld and Unteroffizier Bernhard Seufert claimed one each; both being credited as unconfirmed.
Starshii Leitenant Leontii Aleksandrovich Klimov (Plyasov’s patrulla in 5a/21) was killed in his I-16 during an attack on La Cenia by SB with I-16 escort. While trying to protect the bombers, his aircraft was attacked by two Bf 109s. Hit, the aircraft went into a dive, crashing into the ground with Klimov unable to get out.

During air combat, Leitenant Fedor Aleksandrovich Samsonov’s I-16 ran low on fuel and he crashed while making an emergency landing. He was injured and was taken to hospital.
After his releaser he went home.

19 May 1938
The Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed four Bf 109s and one Do 17 during the day.

21 May 1938
I-16 CM-151 was damaged when it landed on top of an I-15 at Monjos.

22 May 1938
I-16 CM-167 from 5a/21 was damaged while ground-looping at landing and turning turtle at Valls.
It seems that conditions at Valls were difficult since CM-125 suffered a damaged starboard wing while CM-169 suffered a damaged starboard wing and rudder.

SBs from Escuadrilla Krasnoglazov attacked Zaragoza and Leitenant Sergei Pavlovich Asaulov, piloting one of the SBs, was wounded when his aircraft was hit by AA fire.

23 May 1938
During the afternoon, the XXIII Gruppo escorted 20 S.79s and five BR.20s over the Balaguer bridgehead in Catalonia in support of the Spanish Nationalist Army. The XXIII Gruppo clashed with 25 I-15s, of which six were claimed shot down (one of them seems to have been claimed by Sergente Aldo Buvoli from the 19a Squadriglia), for the loss of Maresciallo Mario Boschelli of the 19a Squadriglia, who was killed.
About half an hour later, at 14:35, Maggiore Armando François led 28 CR.32s from his XVI Gruppo on an interdiction patrol over the area. The Italian formation consisted of 12 fighters from the 24a Squadriglia, led by Capitano Luigi Bianchi, nine machines from the 25a Squadriglia, led by Capitano Roberto Fassi, and seven CR.32s from the 26a Squadriglia, led by Capitano Vincenzo La Carubba.
As the Fiat fighters of XVI Gruppo approached the bridgehead to escort the last of the S.79s home, they attacked nine Republican Tupolev SBs when they were set upon by 27 I-16s of Grupo de Caza No 21. Diving on the Italian aircraft from 19,000 ft, the Republican machines enjoyed a height advantage over the CR.32s. Nevertheless, Maggiore François successfully led his fighters against the enemy machines. Indeed, the XVI Gruppo pilots claimed five ’Ratas’ destroyed and three more probably destroyed and one SB. One of the confirmed fighters was credited to Maggiore François, whose aircraft was shot up during the engagement. Sottotenente Mario Visintini of the 25a Squadriglia took part in this combat and claimed a pair of I-16s damaged.
In return, XVI Gruppo lost two CR.32s in a mid-air collision while chasing an I-16 when Tenente Pericle Baruffi of the 26a Squadriglia and Sottotenente Alfonso Caracciolo of the 25a Squadriglia collided; both parachuted and were captured. Three biplane fighters were also damaged by enemy fire.
Republicans admitted the loss of three fighters and a bomber. Soviet patrol leaders Leitenant N. I. Marthishchenko from 2a Escuadrilla and Leitenant I. I. Turchin from 5a Escuadrilla, both of whom were flying newly delivered Tip 10 versions of the I-16, perished in this clash. The Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed one CR.32 and one He 111 during the day; the CR.32 seems to have been shot down by Nikifor Livanskii (I-16).

I-16 CM-165 from 5a/21 was damaged while ground-looping at landing and turning turtle at Bell Puig (battle damage?).

Ivan Semenovich Anaschenko of the 1a/26 (I-15) was shot down by AA fire but was able to bale out.

26 May 1938
The Escuadra de Caza No 11 was heavily involved in combat during the day, claiming no less than four CR.32s and 12 more as probably destroyed.

28 May 1938
CR.32s were operating over the Teruel front, setting four lorries on fire.

30 May 1938
While operating over Teruel, capitán Ángel Salas, teniente Miguel García Pardo and teniente Carlos Serra Pablo-Romero, all received damage to their aircraft.

31 May 1938
Eight CR.32s from 2-G-3 and six from 3-G-3 took off in the morning. Their task was to escort a number of Ju 52/3ms and Ro.37s over the La Puebla de Valverde sector.
On arrival, they encountered 22 Chatos and 22 Ratas. A 90-minute clash began immediately but the Nationalist crews were successful in protecting the bombers, which, their task completed, made good their escape.
Eight I-15s and two I-16s were claimed shot down without losses. The successful pilots were teniente de Hemricourt (2-E-3) (I-15), teniente Julio Salvador (CO 1-E-3) (three I-15s and one I-16), teniente Rafael Simón García (2-G-3) (I-15), teniente Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal (1-E-3) (I-15), capitán Javier Murcia Rubio (3-E-3) (two I-15s) and Muerza (I-16).
Teniente Salvador’s first I-15 was seen falling close to La Puebla, the pilot of the second escaped by parachute into Republican territory and the third, flown by teniente Juan Sayós Estivill of 1a Escuadrilla, made an emergency landing at the Republican airfield of Sarrión with a damaged engine. Estivill quickly abandoned his fighter, which was strafed by Salvador until it caught fire and burnt out. A few minutes later the Spanish ace destroyed an I-16. Teniente de Hemricourt shot down another I-15 near La Puebla, the Belgian watching his opponent take to his parachute and land in the Republican zone.
During this combat, capitán Ángel Salas was attacking a Chato when three enemy fighters in turn attacked him. His Fiat was hit several times before he managed to break away from the attack, but his machine was vibrating so badly that he had to return to base.
Bf 109s escorting Legion Condor bombers also engaged some of the I-16s.
The Republican bulletin issued the following day acknowledged the loss of five aeroplanes that crashed within its own lines, with four wounded pilots and one uninjured. The Polikarpov units had claimed the destruction of 12 Italian and German aircraft in return, although not a single Nationalist aircraft had actually been lost in combat. The Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed ten CR.32s and it seems that Vladimir Bobrov of the 1a/21 (I-16) claimed one of the CR.32s.

Leutnant Fritz Losigkeit of 3.J/88 was shot down during the day and taken POW. He recalled:

“Galland left Oberleutnant Horst Lehrmann in command, and he was assisted by Oberleutant Mölders. Most of our missions could not be considered dangerous, since there was no anti-aircraft defence and the enemy infantry had very little chance of hitting us with small arms fire. However, on 31 May 1938, I took off in the afternoon for my second mission of the day - a mission which would prove to be my last in Spain. Lehrmann led the Staffel and Mölders led my Schwarm. We were briefed to attack an artillery position close to the front.
After about 15 minutes I saw a cloud of dust in the target area, and as I approached I could see that it was caused by a truck. Because it was so near the front and close to enemy lines, I assumed it was carrying munitions. The truck was moving fast, and I quickly realised that it was actually making for the cover of the enemy defences. My first attack was unsuccessful, and I decided to approach the vehicle at the lowest possible altitude. When I neared it, a 2 cm four-barrelled flak gun opened fire. I was taken completely by surprise and my aircraft was hit at an altitude of 100 m. Fortunately, I was not wounded, but my aircraft was so badly damaged that I knew I would not be able to reach my lines. I decided to bail out.
Seconds after opening my parachute I hit the ground. In the meantime, my comrades, having seen me shot down, opened fire in order to discourage the enemy from attempting to pick me up. In fact, having released my parachute, they could see exactly where I was, and that I was still alive. I was captured almost immediately.”
Losigkeit would endure eight months in captivity in Valencia and Barcelona before eventually making it back to Germany in February 1939 - almost a year after joining the Legion - after having crossed the Pyrenees. He then rejoined his former Staffelkapitän, Hauptmann Gotthard Handrick, in JG 234.

June 1938

Ground operations

13 June 1938
Nationalist forces captured the town of Castellón, together with the port of El Grao.

Fuerza Aérea de la República Española - Republican Air Force

Capitán Manuel Aguirre López relinquished command of Grupo No 21 on 18 June.
Aguirre was succeeded as CO of Grupo No 21 by capitán Eduardo Claudín Moncada, who was killed in action on 5 July. The latter was then replaced by Manuel Zarauza.

On 30 June capitán José Riverola Grúas was transferred to Valencia with the 1a Escuadrilla of the Grupo No 28 to fly defensive patrols over the port.
The unit also operated from Alcantarilla, El Carmolí, Los Alcázares and La Aparecida airfields in Murcia.
During the summer of 1938 Riverola’s Grummans were briefly committed to the Extremadura fronts, based at Saceruela and Almodóvar del Campo airfields.

In June, horizontal bomb racks, capable of carrying two 100-kg bombs, were tested on SB number BK-004.

Isidoro Jiménez García was promoted to mayor de Aviación on 8 June.

Capitán Manuel Zarauza Clavero continued to lead the 4a/21 (I-16) - also known as the ‘Popeye’ squadron through its adoption of the cartoon character whose image was displayed on the fins of its aircraft - and participated in the campaigns in Aragon and Levante. According to an official biographical sketch published in the Barcelona newspaper El Diluvio on 12 June 1938, Zarauza had by then participated in about 100 aerial battles and shot down 23 enemy aircraft, a total which included fighters and bombers.
As CO of the 4a Escuadrilla, Zarauza usually flew I-16 ‘CM-125’.

Fuerza Aérea Nacionales (Arma de Aviación) - Nationalist Air Force

On 16 June, the pilots of the first fighter course held in the Nationalist zone were graduated. The large number of accidents caused by new and inexperienced Fiat pilots in December and January had showed that it was essential to set up a school of this type.
Gallur was chosen as the aerodrome and Maggiore Guido Nobili and teniente Ramón Senra Àlvarez (from Group 2-G-3), were posted there as instructors.
The first fighter course lasted for two months and was attended by 22 pupils. Of these, six were sent to 2-G-3 (José Luis Bernal de Mérida, José M.a Etayo Elizondo, Luis Alcocer Moreno Abellá, Antonio Manrique Garrido, Abundio Cesteros García and Diego Vigueras), eight to 3-G-3 (Heraclio Gautier Larrainzar, Enrique Munaiz de Brea, Fernando Arrechea Belzunce, Carracido, Acuña, Alonso Fariña, P. Téllez Rivas and Epelde), and of the remainder four were posted to fly He 51s, three to the He 45s and one to the Aero 101s.

In the end of June 1938, Joaquín García Morato assumed command of the second Fiat group (3-G-3).
Pilots in Escuadrilla 3-E-3 (later 5-E-3) were:
Capitán Javier Murcia Rubio (CO)
Ignacio Alfaro Arregui
G. Queipo de Llano Martí
Andrés Robles Cebrián
Joaquín Chapaprieta Inglada
Ruibal
García de Juan

Pilots in Escuadrilla 4-E-3 (later 7-E-3) were:
Capitán Heraclio Gautier Larrainzar (CO)
Teniente Joaquín Velasco Fernández Nespral
Teniente Emelio O’Connor Valdivielso
Acuña
Fernando Arrechea Belzunce
Enrique Munaiz de Brea
Alférez Alonso Fariña

Pilots in the Escuadrilla 6-E-3 were:
Capitán Jose Barranco del Egido (CO)
Teniente José Larios y Fernández Villavicencio
Muerza
José Andrés Lacour Macia
R. Bartolomé Chávarri
Kindelán
Carracido P. Téllez Rivas

Aviazione Legionaria

On 4 June, the 65a Squadriglia was transferred to Puig Moreno airfield.

Capitano Antonio Raffi (’Anton Ramu’) took command of the 18a Squadriglia on 6 June after Capitano Marco Larcher.
Capitano Raffi was shot down in combat on 18 July to become a PoW.

Operations

2 June 1938
A raid by Republican bombers on the fighter base at La Sénia, south of Tortosa, resulted in the claim of five SBs around the airfield - three to the guns of Leutnant Kurt Heinrich of 2. Staffel (Bf 109) and one each to Unteroffizier Herbert Ihlefeld and Unteroffizier Willi Meyer of the same unit.
Hermann Göring wired his congratulations from Berlin on such an accomplishment.

Leutnant Martin Haupt of J/88 was killed when his aircraft was shot down by AA fire over Culla.

3 June 1938
The Legion Condor command post, located high in the Sierra de San Christóbal, which had moved from one mountain top to another as the Nationalist advance bore south from Morella, was attacked by nine enemy bombers accompanied by 31 fighters. On this occasion, there was not enough time to scramble the Bf 109s, but although the command post was strafed and bombed, there were no casualties.

4 June 1938
The Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed a bomber during the day.

6 June 1938
SB navigator Leitenant Vasilii Dmitrievich Chugunov was slightly wounded by AAA fire when bombing enemy troops near Barracas.

7 June 1938
Sargento Francisco Sánchez Matos of the Escuela de Vuelo Nocturno at El Carmolí scrambled in Koolhoven FK.51 ‘EK-008’ at 00:30, but he was forced to crash-land when his engine seized due to oil starvation. The FK.51 turned over in front of the base hospital and Sánchez was wounded and the aircraft destroyed.

Republican fighters claimed two Bf 109s during the day according to the Jefatura de Fuerzas Aéreas War Diaries.

8 June 1938
Tenente Corrado Santoro of the 31a Squadriglia took part in an escort mission to bombers attacking Vistabella Choclos. 11 enemy aircraft was claimed shared destroyed (probably on the ground) by 22 Italian pilots.

Image taking during an escort to bombers over Spain.
Leading the formation is Maggiore Rossi and Tenente Corrado Santoro of the 31a Squadriglia is flying in the CR.32 behind him.
Image kindly provided by Sergio Santoro

The He 51 of Leutnant Erich Beyer of 4.J/88 was hit by ground fire as it strafed enemy ground columns and crashed in flames at Sarratella, killing its pilot.

Republican fighter pilot Antonio Solana was killed in an accident at Celrá.

9 June 1938
According to the Jefatura de Fuerzas Aéreas War Diaries, Republican fighters claimed nine CR.32s during the day.

10 June 1938
Capitán José María Bravo Fernández, CO 3a/21 (I-16), claimed a shared Bf 109 destroyed together with sargento Francisco Tarazona Torán during the Levante campaign.
Pedro Utrilla from the same unit was killed in combat in the Levante area.

Republican fighter pilot Antonio Díaz Pérez was KIA in the Levante area.

Leutnant Hans-Karl Mayer of 1./J88 (Bf 109) claimed a SB. All three crewmembers of the SB were able to bail out; pilot Leitenant Vasilii Andreevich Murav’ev (wounded), navigator Leitenant Andrei Vasil’evich Belitskii and gunner/radio Fedor Eliseevich Parakhin (wounded).

2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed two and one unconfirmed I-16s; these were claimed by Unteroffizier Kurt Rochel, Unteroffizier Bernhard Seufert and Leutnant Kurt Heinrich (the unconfirmed).

11 June 1938
Leutnant Eduard Neumann, Stab J/88 (Bf 109), claimed an I-16.
According to the Jefatura de Fuerzas Aéreas War Diaries, Republican fighters claimed two Bf 109s during the day.

13 June 1938
A large formation of Bf 109s intercepted an equally sizeable group of enemy fighters. Oberleutnant Wolfgang Schellmann (1.J/88) and Leutnant Wolfgang Ewald (2.J/88) both claimed I-16s, while Unteroffizier Wilhelm Staege (2.J/88), Unteroffizier Bernhard Seufert (2.J/88), Leutnant Lothar Keller (1.J/88) and Unteroffizier Erich Kuhlmann (1.J/88) each accounted for an I-15. Leutnant Walter Maurer (1.J/88), Oberleutnant Kurt Müller (1.J/88), Leutnant Hans-Karl Mayer (1.J/88) each claimed an unconfirmed I-15.

Vladimir Bobrov of the 1a/21 (I-16) claimed a Bf 109 in the Vilafames area.

14 June 1938
1.J/88 escorted Stukas when they encountered I-15s and I-16s. The newly promoted Feldwebel Erich Kuhlmann claimed an I-15 but Leutnant Eckehart Pribe of 1.J/88 (on his 140th mission) gets his Bf 109 (6-33) severly damaged by an I-15 in the combat while trying to dislodge a particularly tenacious aircraft of the tail of Leutnant Rudolf Rech (2.J/88). Pribe later wrote:

‘Stuka escort, altitude about 4,000 meters; in front of us and above us a squadron of Ratas and many Curtisses. The command Schwarm turns to the left to climb into the sun. The Rata squadron dives on them. I intend to follow and after completing a turn I look around for Lt. Rech; instead I see a Curtiss close behind me. I dive away and in doing so I am struck a blow on my left shoulder. This is the end. My arm falls from the throttle lever, my side is completely stiff, great pain – a curtain begins to fall before my eyes! Then I pull myself together: the 109 is tumbling like a falling leaf, one moment the nose is up the next down. I don’t have the strength to reach over to the left with my right arm and jettison the canopy. That is my salvation, as I would have bailed out over Red territory. Orientation is simple: the Mediterranean to the right, to the left land and home!
Then I see Villafames, friendly territory, I become wide awake. I begin preparations to land, but I am unable to operate the throttle lever which is on my left side. With the last of my strength I push the red button to kill the engine, so as to land with a stationary propeller and, as it turned out, one flat tire. I come to as someone pounds on the canopy and shouts: “Herr Leutnant, open up, what’s wrong?” We are just behind the line of advance. They pull me out of the cockpit and report my condition to the Kommandeur. That’s Hpt. Harder, as Handrick is on leave. Harder comes rushing up, sees me spitting blood and laying in the hot Spanish earth surrounded by Spaniards and says in gretting: “Well, the big-mouth Berliner is going to be taking a little rest.” Covered in blood, I reply: “Thanks very much for the flowers!”
Zaragoza hospital: A bullet has pierced one lung, another is lodged in my shoulder blade. I receive excellent care and am given leave to recover. Several times I try to obtain permission to return to action, but nothing doing. I am sent home.’

Republican aircraft made five major missions to cover the Caspian region, Onda, Nules. During the last mission in the afternoon, 32 I-15s and 25 I-16s encountered 30 bombers escorted by Bf 109 in the Castellón area. The commander of the group Nikifor Glushenkov attacked the bombers and fighters out of the sun, but were counter-attacked by the Germans.
According to the Jefatura de Fuerzas Aéreas War Diaries, Republican I-16s claimed three Bf 109s and one He 111 during the day and Petr Bashmakov, Nikifor Livanskii and Andrei Stepanov claimed the three Bf 109s as shared with Spanish pilots while Livanskii also claimed the He 111 as a shared together with Glushenkov.
Known claiming Spanish pilots were capitán Eduardo Claudín Moncada, CO 1a/21 (I-16), and sargento Francisco Tarazona Torán of the 3a/21 (I-16).
One I-16 was shot down, the pilot bailed out and after running out of fuel, Leitenant Vasilii Dmitrevich Andreev crash-landed his I-16 being slightly injured in the crash. According to some sources a third I-16 crash-landed, killing the Spanish pilot.
The battle seems to have been very intense since no German pilots claimed anything during the combat. Hauptmann Harro Harder in He 112V-9 (8-2), recalled:

‘There come the Red fighters, first several Curtisses, then swarms of Ratas, spiralling upwards. By turning tightly we are able three times to keep them from attacking the bombers. Suddenly the Reds are gone. There are still two Curtisses south of Sagunto at 4,000 meters. I attack one of them. In the instant I begin to fire he pulls up and opens fire at me while on his back. I pull up and at the same instant I am attacked by four Ratas. One is already on my tail in firing position. I dive away but can’t shake him off. I try everything to lose him: full throttle, shallow dive, radiator flap up, propeller pitch set for diving flight. The Rata sits somewhat off to my left and tries to get below me by diving steeply. There are machines in front of me, many Red fighters! The way is blocked!
I try to count them. 10, 20, then a new swarm approaches, I can only estimate their numbers at 10 to 20. I try to slip past them at the coast but that fat radial engine is still behind me. The Reds fail to notice me until I’m at their altitude, too late for them. Not far from Castellon, at an altitude of 1,000 meters, my pursuer gives up. How would things had turned out if I hadn’t had the fatest machine in the Gruppe?’
Oberleutnant Helmut Henz’ Bf 109 was hit over Castellón, however, and he crash-landed his machine north of the Mijares River. He tried to set his fighter alight but was subsequently taken prisoner and sargento Tarazona subsequently recorded:
‘14th June. Today we were returning, the first and third squadrons, from Castellón front. Nules had been bombed brutally. We had had a tremendous battle with Heinkel bombers and Me 109 fighters. During the battle I had teamed up with Claudín. Yuste was at my side.
Whilst looking at the destruction caused by the Fascists at Nules, something down there, near the beach caught my eye.
A plane, leaving a trail of white smoke, was turning towards the north. I pointed this out to Claudín. We dived. We discovered that it was an Me 109. It had been hit. We swooped over it, without firing, where it had landed on the beach, on the right bank of the River Mijares…
… On reaching Sagunto I received orders to go out and bring back the Me 109. We went in a lorry, various mechanics, armourers and myself…
…”There is the ugly bird”, said one of them. “The pilot is nearby, in a gully at Villareal. He has been detained; he is only a lad of about 18 years”.
I am enthralled with the beauty of this fine piece of German aeronautical engineering. I admire it from the outside for a long time. Then, with aplomb, I sit in the cockpit. The oxygen, the radiotelephone, the fuel tank which serves as the pilot’s seat…
… We need to fly it; to study its characteristics, to compare it more closely with our own fighters. It is intact. As we are talking, the rattle of friendly machine-guns and the hollow sound of cannons from both sides serve as a background. The enemy is barely fifteen kilometres from us; within sight of Castellón…
… The rumble of aeroplane engines makes us look up. The noise increases; it seems as if they are coming along the road, but they are not yet visible.
There they are!
Six Me 109s appear over the sea, skimming the water. When they reach the Mijares estuary they make a gentle bank to starboard.
They are coming towards us…
Get out quickly!
The monoplanes form a circle around the Me 109 on the ground. They fire at it. At their second attack it bursts into flames…’

15 June 1938
According to the Jefatura de Fuerzas Aéreas War Diaries, Republican fighters claimed four Bf 109s and one enemy bomber during the day.

18 June 1938
Sottotenente Ranieri Piccolomini of the 65a Squadriglia Assalto personal aircraft was coded "16-7", and he flew it from September 1937 until he crashed it after an aborted take-off due to a propeller failure during the day.

Ten pilots from 2-G-3 rescued a pilot of a He 51, who had fallen between the lines. The pilot, Alegría from 1-G-2 (a former member of 3-G-3) was shot down by when his group was harassing enemy forces on the Crementala slopes. Ángel Salas later wrote:

‘When I saw the pilot of a He 51 take to his parachute and land between the lines, I went down low to prevent his capture. After watching the situation for a while, I fired at the Red trenches, forcing the enemy to flee. At that moment two or three of our own men came out and picked up the pilot.’

19 June 1938
At 00:05, Koolhoven FK.51 ‘EK-013’ of the Escuela de Vuelo Nocturno, flown by sargento Juan Cobo Becerril, took off from El Carmolí and dived into the Mar Menor a short while later for no apparent reason, killing the pilot.

During a second sortie of the day, ten Fiats of 2-G-3 took off at 18:00 led by capitán Ángel Salas, to escort Ju 52/3ms bombing La Puebla de Valverde. They encountered a formation of 18 Chatos, which they chased as far as Alcublas, where nine Ratas joined the fray. Capitán Salas dived over the Chatos to attack, but was unable to fire his guns because a leak had emptied his compressed air bottle. Despite this, he continued to make dummy attacks, being hit five times by the Ratas, one bullet puncturing the coolant radiator. Teniente Julio Salvador (CO 1-E-3) enjoyed better luck, bouncing two Chatos from above near La Puebla, one of which exploded in the air, the other following in flames. It seems that these come from the 3a Escuadrilla and both pilots survived with wounds. Salvador then had to retire with an overheating engine. Teniente Miguel García Pardo (2-E-3) effectively removed a Rata from the tail of alférez Arístides García López Rengel’s (1-E-3) Fiat by shooting it down. Teniente de Hemricourt (2-E-3) downed a Chato near Alcublas, then a Rata to the north of Villar del Arzobispo, and saw a Chato turn somersault as it attempted to land at its aerodrome. Teniente Esteban Ibarreche fired at a Chato close to the ground, and this separated from the rest of the formation and fell near to Hiruerela. Alférez Joaquín Ansaldo Vejarano (2-E-3) had to return to base when an engine cowling parted company from his Fiat.
No CR.32s were lost in this combat.

Sargento José Falcó Sanmartín of the 3a/26 (I-15) claimed a CR.32 on the Levante front.

21 June 1938
According to the Jefatura de Fuerzas Aéreas War Diaries, Republican fighters claimed four CR.32s during the day.

23 June 1938
Unteroffizier Boer of 3.J/88 made a forced landing in Bf 109E 6-90 following combat with a large formation of Republican I-15s and I-16s over the Ebro front.
The aircraft, the fourth ‘Emil’ to arrive in Spain, was subsequently salvaged

25 June 1938
Comandante Joaquín García Morato surprised a formation of nine R-Zs from 3a Escuadrilla of Grupo No 30 near La Puebla de Valverde. Although the light bombers were being escorted by three higher-flying I-15s, both the Republican fighter pilots and the R-Z crews were distracted long enough by an increasing flak barrage for the lone CR.32 to sneak in undetected beneath them.
Ignoring the ‘friendly’ Nationalist ground fire, Morato quickly sent two R-Zs down in flames - the first in Nationalist territory as the formation began banking around towards home. The second fell a few moments later near the frontline, its crew taking to their parachutes and landing in the Republican zone. Morato subsequently recalled:

“This was one of the actions that I will remember most enthusiastically for the rest of my life. I was flying my faithful “3-51” alone on a reconnaissance sortie over the front when suddenly I saw enemy aircraft heading in my direction towards our lines. Although it was clearly an unequal fight in the enemy’s favour, I didn’t want to quit and let them attack our forces without trying to stop them. In fact I should have abandoned my attack as I was flying at a lower altitude than the Republican formation. Nevertheless, I managed to take the bombers by surprise, as their escorts were some way above them. Within a short time two bombers fell shrouded in flames, while the others beat a hasty retreat.
I left the scene without the fighters having noticed either their invisible enemy’s arrival nor his withdrawal.”
Morato and the 4th Anti-aircraft Battery, operating from La Puebla, were both credited with shooting down two aeroplanes. In actual fact their victims were the same pair of R-Zs lost on this occasion. The bombers had probably been hit in rapid succession by both anti-aircraft fire and gunfire from Morato’s CR.32.

Feldwebel Herbert Ihlefeld of 2.J/88 claimed an unconfirmed I-16 while flying Bf 109B-1 6-6.

Oberleutnant Wolfgang Schellmann, 1.J/88 (Bf 109), claimed an I-16.

Republican fighter pilot José Ruiz Gómez was KIA in the Levante area.

26 June 1938
According to the Jefatura de Fuerzas Aéreas War Diaries, Republican fighters claimed two Bf 109s during the day.

30 June 1938
During the day, Leitenant Dmitrii Alekseevich Kiselev (patrulla CO of the 5a/21) suffered problems when the leading edge of his port wing on his I-16 began to come apart, but he was able to bring it in for a landing.
Leitenant Kiselev served in Spain between 26 March and 13 August 1938, flew 77 missions, fought in 15 air combats and claimed two Fiat CR.32s (on unknown dates).

July 1938

Ground operations

25 July 1938
Start of the Battle of the Ebro when the Republican army launched its Ebro offensive at midnight of 25 July by crossing the river between the cities of Fayón and Benifallet in an attempt to divert the Nationalists from attacking Valencia and to diminish the pressure on Catalonia.
At the start of the offensive the Republican could muster 176 serviceable I-16s, I-15s and Grumman G-23 Delfins while the Nationalist had 168 CR.32s and Bf 109s (96 Italian and 36 Spanish CR.32s, and 36 German Bf 109s).

Fuerza Aérea de la República Española - Republican Air Force

Kapitan Yevgenii Stepanov departed Spain on 27 July 1938, passing through France and Belgium, and then on to Leningrad by ship.

In early July, capitán Chindasvinto González García was appointed to lead the formerly Soviet 1a/26 in succession to Aleksandr Osipenko, this unit being based at Manises and Requena airfields during the Levante campaign. According to one of González’ subordinates, unit deputy CO teniente Juan Sayós, he enjoyed a mixed reputation during his short period in command:

“He was a big, aggressive man. He was authoritarian and did not like his orders being questioned. He gave us instructions about our conduct over the front as if we had never been there before or as though we used to turn tail and run. We were flying a strafing mission over the Sarrión area when we noticed three or four enemy aeroplanes far in the distance. We warned the capitán about the presence of these aircraft and, although there were nine of us, he ordered us to return to base immediately. After we landed we asked him why we had not attacked those fighters. He angrily asked if we had realised that there were 15 or 20 of them. It was obvious that fear had made him see what hadn’t actually been there, and that his shouts and his aggressive behaviour was just a mask to hide his cowardice.
We were ordered to fly top cover for another escuadrilla, the 3a de Chatos, which had to strafe enemy positions. We were over the target together and, while we flew top cover at 9000 ft, the 3a Escuadrilla pilots dived to fulfil their mission, confident that we were covering their backs and would intercept enemy fighters. For a while it looked as though everything was going fine, but some minutes later we saw a group of Fiat fighters heading straight for us, and the capitán ordered us to retreat once again. One after another, all of us formally accused González of desertion in the face of the enemy.”
In light of these events, capitán González resigned command of the unit on 20 July 1938 and was posted to Alcantarilla airfield. There, he performed the role of test pilot for factory-fresh I-15 Chatos, as well as serving as an instructor at the Escuela de Caza. González was still at Alcantarilla airfield at the end of the civil war, being captured by the victorious Nationalist forces.
Capitán Chindasvinto González García was succeeded as CO of the 1a/26 by teniente Vicente Castillo Monzó.
Later in the month the 1a/26 was transferred to Valls airfield

On 21 July, capitán Manuel Aguirre López was posted to the Jefatura de la Sección de Parque y Experimentación (Test Branch Command and Depot) at Manlleu airfield.

In late July, teniente Antonio Arias Arias succeeded capitán Manuel Zarauza Clavero (posted as CO of Grupo No 21 on 23 July) in command of the 4a/21.
On 30 July the 4a/21 was transferred to El Vendrell airfield for operations over the hotly contested Ebro front.
90 new I-16 Type 10 arrived in Spain during early August to make good losses suffered by Republican units, but Arias’ escuadrilla only received five examples as the aircraft in his unit had already been fitted with more powerful Wright-Cyclone R-1820-F4 engines to improve the I-16’s performance at higher altitudes. Higher ceilings meant that pilots now had to wear oxygen masks, and the latter led to the 4a Escuadrilla being given a new nickname - la del chupete (dummy).

Following capitán Eduardo Claudín Moncada’s (CO Grupo No 21) death on 5 July, teniente José Redondo Martín was given command of the 1a/21 at Camporrobles airfield in mid-July.
It was at around this time that he was involved in a collision with a Bf 109 during an engagement over the Levante front, the Spaniard being forced to take to his parachute. Redondo reached friendly lines two days later.

Fuerza Aérea Nacionales (Arma de Aviación) - Nationalist Air Force

During the period 10 to 18 July the two Spanish Fiat groups operated jointly under Joaquín García Morato’s command, as Ángel Salas took advantage of the arrival of his old friend and leader to make a short break from operations.

On 18 July the fighter Groups 2-G-3 (Ángel Salas) and 3-G-3 (Joaquín García Morato) moved to Mérida and remained there, in oppressive heat, until the 28 July when they returned to Escatrón.

Aviazione Legionaria

Tenente Giorgio Frattini was replaced as CO of the 18a Squadriglia, XXIII Gruppo, by Capitano Luigi Borgogno, which in turn was replaced by Capitano Mario Bonzano later in the month.

On 1 July, Capitano Duilio Fanali left the command of the 65a Squadriglia to Capitano Miotto and returned to Italy.

Capitano Giuseppe Majone took command of the 24a Squadriglia, XVI Gruppo, on 7 July 1938.

On 20 July, the XXIII Gruppo transferred to Teruel.

Recently promoted Tenente Colonnello Andrea Zotti handed over command of XXIII Gruppo to Maggiore Aldo Remondino on the evening of 23 July at Teruel-Caudé.
On this date the gruppo could muster 24 CR.32s. During Zotti’s time in command between 22 April 1937 and 23 July 1938, the unit had received 33 CR.32s. A total of 27 had been lost to enemy action and 15 in accidents during this period. Whilst Zotti was CO the gruppo had flown 13,790 hours, of which 13,222 hours were in combat during the course of 337 engagements. Of the latter, 31 had involved aerial combat, resulting in claims for 143 enemy aircraft shot down and 19 probably destroyed. Seven pilots had lost their lives in combat or in flying accidents, five had been captured and five wounded.

Capitano Mario Bonzano took command of the 18a Squadriglia, XXIII Gruppo, on 30 July 1938.

Sottotenente Franco Lucchini while checking the route before a mission, at Teruel airfield in early summer 1938. His aircraft was "3-6" of the 19a Squadriglia, XXIII Gruppo.

Legion Condor

On 20 July, Sonderstab W issued a situation report stating that ”In the five days since the delivery of 22 new Bf 109s, the German Jagdgruppe has shot down 22 Red fighters without loss.”

Operations

4 July 1938
Sargento Francisco Tarazona Torán of the 3a/21 (I-16) claimed a SM.79 during the Levante campaign.

5 July 1938
A patrol formed by capitán Ángel Salas, Isidro Comas Altadill and Abundio Cesteros took off to seek out enemy aircraft operating over the Villel front, to the south of Teruel. Anti-aircraft fire indicated the position of an enemy formation and, closing gradually, Comas Altadill and Cesteros each claimed an I-16.
Flying over the Teruel front, capitán Eduardo Claudín Moncada, CO Grupo No 21 (I-16), perished when his Mosca reportedly was hit by Nationalist anti-aircraft fire and crashed in enemy-held territory near Villaestar.
His posthumous promotion to mayor was dated 7 July 1938.
Claudín was replaced by Manuel Zarauza Clavero as CO Grupo No 21. His appointment was dated 23 July 1938, and he remained in this position until the fall of Catalonia four months later. Zarauza usually flew Mosca ‘CM-225’, which was assigned to the grupo staff.

6 July 1938
Starshii Leitenant Sergei Gritsevets of the 5a/21 (I-16) claimed two Bf 109s.

Teniente Antonio Arias Arias, deputy CO 4a/21 (I-16), claimed a CR.32.
Arias also claimed a shared Bf 109 on an unknown date in July.

9 July 1938
Starshii Leitenant Sergei Gritsevets of the 5a/21 (I-16) claimed a Fiat CR.32.

10 July 1938
During the night, sargento José Falcó Sanmartín of the 3a/26 (I-15) claimed a He 59.

12 July 1938
2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed two I-15s. These were claimed by Leutnant Wilhelm Keidel and Feldwebel Herbert Ihlefeld.

13 July 1938
On the first day of the offensive on Valencia, Nationalist fighter groups made two sorties without meeting any enemy aircraft.
During the second sortie, three Spanish He 51s were damaged and one was destroyed in a fourth attack, its pilot, teniente Rafael Serra Hamilton being killed when he was shot down by flak in the Tortosa area.
The Aviazione Legionariawere more successful, claiming four I-15s and one SB, at the cost of one of their number. At 09:30, Tenente Vittorio Minguzzi of the 25a Squadriglia claimed a shared I-15 over Albentosa.

Starshii Leitenant Sergei Gritsevets of the 5a/21 (I-16) claimed a Fiat CR.32 over Albentosa.

14 July 1938
During 2-G-3’s second sortie of the day, they escorted Ju 52/3ms over the Sarrión sector. Teniente Miguel García Pardo and teniente Rodolphe de Hemricourt split away from the group, attempting to pinpoint enemy anti-aircraft batteries, which had been troublesome. Seeing that the Ju 52/3ms then only had six escorting CR.32s (flown by the veterans teniente Julio Salvador, teniente Miguel Guerrero García and teniente Esteban Ibarreche Arriaga and the novices Abundio Cesteros García, José Luis Bernal de Mérida and José M.a Etayo Elizondo), an escuadrilla of high-flying I-16s attempted to jump the bombers. The CR.32, nevertheless, proved more than a match for them, and all Ju 52/3ms escaped without damage, but in the mélée Bernal (CR.32 3-65) of 5-E-3 disappeared. It is not known whether he was shot down, or if the speed of combat proved too much for his inexperience, causing him to lose control of the aircraft.

15 July 1938
The Bf 109s of J/88 claimed heavy during the day when they claimed nine I-15s shot down. Feldwebel Herbert Ihlefeld (2.J/88) claimed two while Leutnant Lothar Keller (1.J/88), Leutnant Wolfgang Lippert (3.J/88), Oberleutnant Kurt Müller (1.J/88), Feldwebel Erich Kuhlmann (1.J/88), Unteroffizier Ernst Quasinowski (1.J/88), Leutnant Walter Oesau (Stab J/88) and Oberleutnant Werner Mölders (3.J/88) claimed one each.
Oberleutnant Mölders claimed his first victory flying a Bf 109C over Villamalur. It proved a tough challenge for him to manoeuvre his Messerschmitt in an engagement in which his formation of six fighters were outnumbered by 25-30 Republican machines, and he questioned the wisdom of his decision to take them on. In a violent, whirling encounter in which Mölders found himself sweating ”like a bull”, he dived and reeled around the sky until eventually, coming up on an enemy machine, he closed to just 50 metres and opened fire. He continued firing as he followed the Chato down to its destruction. Mölders then felt relief that all his comrades had survived the brutal encounter.

17 July 1938
The Bf 109s of J/88 claimed six I-15s shot down. Unteroffizier Josef Bauer (3.J/88) claimed two while Oberleutnant Werner Mölders (3.J/88), Leutnant Rudolf Resch (2.J/88), Leutnant Walter Oesau (Stab J/88) and Unteroffizier Ernst Quasinowski (1.J/88) claimed one each. Oberleutnant Mölder’s I-15 was claimed north of Liria.

18 July 1938
At 12:15, two 12-aircraft formations of CR.32s from XXIII Gruppo were taking it in turns to patrol over the Viver front south of Barracas. The formations, led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti and Capitano Guido Nobili, were flying at altitudes of 3,600 meters and 4,000 meters, respectively, when they spotted 24 I-15s from Escuadrillas 1a and 3a of Grupo No 26 on a strafing mission. The biplane fighters were escorted by 24 I-16s from Escuadrillas 2a, 3a, 4a and 5a of Grupo No 21, which were flying above them.
The CR.32 pilots engaged the monoplane fighters and Maggiore Zotti described the well-tried tactics adopted by the enemy in his after action report:

“The Ratas tried to fragment our compactness into a widespread battle, reduce our operational height and bring the broken formation down into the “Curtiss fighters’” engagement zone - a restricted combat zone that would have put us in a disadvantageous position.”
Despite the Republican tactic, most Italian pilots stayed in formation and manoeuvred without losing height. The I-16s were tackled first in an engagement that lasted ten minutes, with Republican documents showing that three Polikarpovs were lost and two pilots killed. However, it appears that these aircraft were shot down by Legion Condor Bf 109s that had independently joined the battle at a higher altitude - German pilots claimed to have shot down three Ratas in the vicinity of Segorbe. Three more I-16s were hit by CR.32s or Bf 109s and had to make emergency landings. Two of the fighters collided whilst landing back at their base and one was destroyed, although both pilots survived.
One of the I-16s that force landed at Utiel airfield was flown by flight commander, Starshii Leitenant Sergey Gritsevets of 5a/21. His fighter on this occasion was one of the new four-gun I-16 Type 10s recently delivered to Spain. Gritsevets’ aircraft had suffered 25 hits from the guns of CR.32s, although he had also enjoyed success during the dogfight. Indeed, he was credited with two Fiat fighters destroyed, one of which was the aircraft flown by Capitano Giorgio Frattini, second-in-command of the 18a Squadriglia, which fell near Altura (his body was never found). Capitano Antonio Raffi (CO 18a Squadriglia) was also hit when an I-16 Type 10 flown by patrol leader Nikolay Prokofevich Zherdev intentionally collided with the tail of his CR.32. Zherdev managed to return to Utiel, thus saving his aircraft, but Raffi was forced to bail out over enemy territory in the vicinity of Teresa, where he was taken prisoner.
Zotti’s report concluded:
“Having seen off the Ratas, which suddenly vanished, our CR.32s turned their attention to the “Curtiss fighters” that had dived down low in order to engage us in close combat. This tactic left us with no room for a diving attack. In the second action, which lasted a good 20 minutes, we resisted the temptation to make individual attacks. Instead, we remained in formation, thus forcing the Republicans to fight us as a unified mass that dominated the battle from a higher altitude. During this second combat five “Curtiss fighters” were shot down.”
Two I-15s had actually been downed by the CR.32s, one from 2a Escuadrilla crashing near Chelva and a machine from 3a Escuadrilla falling in Nationalist territory. According to Teniente Calvo Diago of 2a Escudarilla, all the unit’s fighters had been hit in the action. One of the lost I-15s fell in flames after it was attacked by Zotti, but not before it had shot down Sergente Danilo Vestrini’s CR.32. His fighter also ablaze, the badly wounded Italian pilot parachuted into enemy territory between Alcublas and Altura, where he was captured. Concluding his report, Zotti wrote:
“Personally, I had fired 745 rounds during the 30-minute combat. Initially, I had attacked three Ratas without success, before going after six or seven “Curtiss fighters”, two of which I abandoned [one was the I-15 chasing Vestrini’s CR.32] after I saw that they were trailing dark smoke. I landed at Teruel airfield at 1355 hrs when I ran low on fuel.
Nationalist intelligence deciphered a “Red” air force signal during the evening of the 18th saying that following the day’s fighting about 15 of their aircraft were missing and no news had been heard of them. From the accounts of pilots that had taken part in the battle it emerged that eight Ratas and five “Curtiss fighters” had certainly been shot down, with the probable destruction of a further two Ratas.”
Flying with Zotti was Maggiore Aldo Remondino (“Remotti”) on his first combat mission and who was designated to succeed Zotti. Later, Remondino recalled this action, which can give an idea on a typical Spanish War dogfight (“la lucha de perros” in Spanish):
“… I was looking above and below to avoid surprises. I spotted, higher at right, a formation of “Ratas” which was diving on us. I immediately turned into to chase them, while at lower height the combat against “Chatos” was going on. I shot on the first “Rata” that went in front on me, but I was attacked at the rear by three “Ratas”, that went away as another CR.32 intervened. Then I shot at two other “Ratas” and I reached 3000 m, where I spotted a “Curtiss” below me. I attacked, shooting at it by close distance quite until the ground […]
I fought with another “Rata” that however dived to escape. After returning in combat area, I saw no more enemies. I landed to Teruel with two other CR.32s, having no enough fuel to reach Puig Moreno.”
It seems that Sergente Aldo Buvoli of the 19a Squadriglia claimed one I-16 and a shared I-15 in this combat.
1.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed two and one unconfirmed I-16s. These were claimed by Oberleutnant Wolfgang Schellmann, Unteroffizier Ernst Quasinowski and Feldwebel Erich Kuhlmann (the unconfirmed) while Leutnant Walter Oesau, Stab J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16.
Republicans declared to have fought against about 100 CR.32s and Bf 109s and claimed nine Fiats and a Messerschmitt, but admitted the loss of three “Ratas” and two “Chatos”. It seems that the Bf 109 was credited to capitán José María Bravo Fernández, CO 3a/21 (I-16), since he claimed a destroyed Bf 109 during the day. Republican fighter pilots Vicente Yuste Gorbatón (3a/21?) and Belmonte was killed in combat in the Levante area.

19 July 1938
3.J/88 was despatched from La Senia airfield as escort to bombers of the Legion Condor. They encountered three escuadrilla of I-16s. In the ensuing combat between Segorbe and Viver, just east of Valencia, they claimed four victories by Oberleutnant Werner Mölders (west of Villar del Arzobispo), Leutnant Horst Tietzen, Obergefreiter Willibald Hien and Leutnant Karl Ebbighausen. A fifth was claimed as an unconfirmed by Leutnant Rudolf Goy (Bf 109D 6-75).

Capitán José María Bravo Fernández, CO 3a/21 (I-16), claimed a shared CR.32 together with sargento Francisco Tarazona Torán during the Levante campaign.

Republican fighter pilot Eduardo González Cassola was killed in combat in the Levante area.

20 July 1938
The Bf 109s of 1.J/88 claimed three I-16s when Oberleutnant Wolfgang Schellmann claimed two and Unteroffizier Helmut Brucks claimed one. Leutnant Walter Oesau (Stab J/88) claimed an unconfirmed I-15.

P. Téllez Rivas of 4-E-3 suffered an accident at Mérida and CR.32 3-103 was destroyed.

Starshii Leitenant Sergei Gritsevets of the 5a/21 (I-16) claimed a shared Bf 109.
This claim can’t be verified with Legion Condor records.

22 July 1938
Starshii Leitenant Sergei Gritsevets of the 5a/21 (I-16) claimed a shared Fiat CR.32.

23 July 1938
Feldwebel Robert Menge of 1.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16.

Unteroffizier Georg Braunshirn of 2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an unconfirmed I-16.

3.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed one I-16 by Leutnant Wolfgang Lippert and one unconfirmed I-15 by Unteroffizier Günther Böer.
Boer suffered an accident at La Cenia with his Bf 109 and it’s possible that it had been damaged in combat.

The 5a/21 (I-16) was in combat with Bf 109s in the Valencia area. Leitenant Iosef Sidorovich Khotelev claimed two destroyed but was wounded together with his two Patrulla comrades; Filippchenko and Nikolai Romanov.
All three pilots managed to return to base but where all three hospitalized. Khotelev was badly wounded but was able to return to base with his fighter, aided by a Spanish pilot who flew alongside him. 85 bullet holes were counted in his fighter and upon release from hospital, he returned to the Soviet Union on 26 October. He had arrived on 10 June 1938, flew 25 combat mission and had taken part in six air combats in Spain.
17 bullet holes were counted in Filippchenko’s I-16.
While landing his I-16, Leitenant Viktor Zyuzin from the same unit suffered an accident and the fighter was damaged.

24 July 1938
Starshii Leitenant Sergei Gritsevets of the 5a/21 (I-16) claimed a shared Ju 52/3m.

25 July 1938
Unteroffizier Franz Jaenisch of 3.J/88 crashed with Bf 109B 6-6.

26 July 1938
Sottotenente Ranieri Piccolomini of the 65a Squadriglia Assalto destroyed the Ascò Bridge over the Ebro with 100kg bombs together with Capitano Miotto (who at this time was the new Squadriglia commander) and Maresciallo Marinelli.
Two hours later he and five other Ba.65s were back to strafe roads around the bridge, but his aircraft was hit by AA fire. With the engine out of order, Piccolomini crash-landed near Gandesa, destroying Ba.65 "16-16", but suffering only minor wounds.
This was probably Piccolomini’s last combat mission in Spain.


Soria, October 1937. From left to right:
Sottotenente Ranieri Piccolomini, Tenente Leopoldo Sartirana, Capitano Desiderio, Capitano Duilio Fanali and Sottotenente Torquato Testerini.

27 July 1938
Unteroffizier Franz “Francisco” Jaenisch of 3.J/88 had to crash-land his Bf 109 southwest of Tortosa. His aircraft was a complete wreck, but Jaenisch was not injured and in a few days was back in the air with another fighter.
Leutnant Walter Oesau (Stab J/88) claimed an unconfirmed SB.

28 July 1938
Capitán Heraclio Gautier Larrainzar (CR.32 3-116) of CO 7-E-3 was shot down and killed by small-arms fire at the Ebro.

30 July 1938
J/88 provided fighter cover for five bomber and Stuka missions, as well as undertaking two search-and-destroy missions in the Flix area, but without success.

August 1938

Fuerza Aérea de la República Española - Republican Air Force

In August, Starshii Leitenant Sergey Gritsevets took command of the 5a/21 (I-16).

Early in August, the Republicans received 90 improved I-16 Type 10 fighters, which enabled additional escuadrillas to be formed. This was the last shipment of I-16s to Spain.

The total number of Polikarpov I-16s shipped to Spain in 1936-38 amounted to 276 I-16s and four UTI-4 trainers. Monthly shipments of I-16s were 31 in October 1936, 62 (and four UTI-4s) in May 1937, 62 in August 1937, 31 in March 1938 and 90 in August of that same year.
Within three months of the last examples of the I-16 had been delivered to the Republicans, all Soviet pilots had been withdrawn from Spain on direct orders from the Kremlin and returned to the USSR.

The Republicans in Catalonia had around 120 Polikarpov fighters split between two escuadrillas of I-15s and seven of I-16s.

Mayor Luis Alonso Vega’s staff of the Escuadra de Caza No 11 was based at Valls airfield, in Tarragona, from where he participated in the first phase of the battle of the Ebro in August-September.

From August, capitán Andrés García La Calle operated with his Grupo No 28 (Grumman GE-23 Delfin) at Lérida.

In June capitán Leopoldo Morquillas Rubio was selected to head up a group of four I-15 pilots, one I-16 pilot and two SB pilots that were to be sent to the USSR for training at the Tactical High School in Lipetsk. The aviators sailed for the USSR on 23 August, and while there Morquillas was promoted to mayor. Because of the length of the course the group was still in the Soviet Union when the Spanish conflict ended in late March 1939.

In early August, the 1a/26 was moved to Sabanell.

On 23 August the commander of the Escuadra No 11, mayor Isidoro Jiménez, recommended capitán Ladislao Duarte Espés (CO 4a/26) for the Medalla del Deber (Medal for Duty), commending him for his ”extremely high morale and fighting skills” and for being ”highly admired by his comrades for his determination in combat and great leadership qualities”.

After seeing action on the Levente front the 3a/26 moved again on 10 August to take part in the Battle of Ebro.

Capitán José María Bravo Fernández handed over the command of 3a/21 (I-16) to sargento Francisco Tarazona Torán on 27 August and was appointed deputy CO of the Grupo No 21 under Manuel Zarauza Clavero. He remained in this position until the end of the campaign in Catalonia, flying up to four sorties a day as he led his grupo throughout the battle of the Ebro.
On 3 August, sargento Tarazona had collected I-16 No. 19, which was newly arrived.

On 9 August the 1a/21 (CO teniente José Redondo Martín) collected 12 brand new Type 10 Moscas (coded ‘CM-211’ to ‘CM-226’) from Celrá and took them to Vendrell airfield, where the unit was based for Ebro operations.
On 21 August the 1a/21 received reinforcements in the form of four new Moscas from the 3a Escuadrilla. The following day the unit was ordered to fly to the Central-South area, where its pilots operated from Liria airfield (known as Aeródromo 424) before moving to Almodóvar del Campo.

In August the 6a/21 was reformed and Teniente Francisco Meroño Pellicer was appointed CO.
The new unit included veterans like teniente Juan Huertas Garcíafrom and Primitivo Pérez Gómez, as well as the newly qualified sargentos José Carbonell Balaguer, Manuel Fernández Ferreiro, Antonio García Cano, Francisco Ortega Casado, Juan Cebrián Motada, Fernando Morales Escamilla, Francisco Castelló Poveda, Antonio Cano Cano, Rafael Izquierdo Pascual, José Ramón Fernández González and Manuel Morató Arias. All had been on the second year flying course in the USSR. They were joined by sargentos Francisco Arroyo Adarbe and José Serrato Serrato.
The 6a Escuadrilla played an active role in the battle of the Ebro and recorded notable success during the bitter fighting.

Romulo Negrin Mijoilar was sent to the USSR to take part in a higher command course. It seems that he was still in the USSR ended and he later took part in the Second World War with this country.

Fuerza Aérea Nacionales (Arma de Aviación) - Nationalist Air Force

The six Spanish CR.32 escuadrillas consisting of Grupos 2-G-3 (led by capitán Ángel Salas) and 3-G-3 (led by comandante Joaquín García Morato) were at the Ebro front in the beginning of August.

On 25 August, to contain the Government counter-offensive in the bend of the Zújar, fighter Groups 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 returned to Mérida, where they remained until 18 September.

The Nationalists could field 180 fighters in total (including the Aviazione Legionaria and Legion Condor).

Aviazione Legionaria

Capitano Carlo Calosso was replaced as CO of the 20a Squadriglia by Capitano Andrea Favini.

In early August there were ten Italian CR.32 Squadriglie present on the Ebro front, namely the 24a, 25a and 26a Squadriglie of XVI Gruppo (CO Maggiore Armando François) at Caspe; 18a, 19a and 20a Squadriglie of XXIII Gruppo (CO Maggiore Aldo Remondino) at Sarinena; 31a, 32a and 33a Squadriglie of VI Gruppo (commanded by Maggiore Rossi) at Puig Moreno; and the Squadriglia Autonoma Caccia Mitragliamento (CO Tenente Ferruccio Vosilla at Caspe.

Maggiore Armando François left the command of XVI Gruppo on 10 August 1938 to Tenente Colonnello Arrigo Tessari.

Tenente Ferruccio Vosilla was replaced as commanding officer of the Squadriglia Autonoma Caccia Mitragliamento on 15 August by Tenente Zannetti.

Legion Condor

Three staffeln of Bf 109s represented the German contingent on the Ebro front in early August.

Operations

1 August 1938
During the night, sargento José Falcó Sanmartín of the 3a/26 (I-15) claimed an unconfirmed He 59.

Near Fayón, a group of Spanish pilots led by comandante Joaquín García Morato (3-G-3) engaged a formation of I-15s. Although CR.32 (3-100) pilot Enrique Munaiz de Brea (4-E-3) lost his life during the action, the Spaniards claimed seven ‘Curtiss fighters’ destroyed. Two of these aircraft were the first successes for alférez Antonio Manrique Garrido (1-E-3) - one I-15 was seen to fall in flames near Mequinenza, while the pilot of the second machine escaped by parachute. The other kills were individually credited to comandante Morato, capitán Julio Salvador (1-E-3), teniente Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal (1-E-3), teniente Joaquín Velasco Fernández Nespral (7-E-3) and teniente Emelio O’Connor Valdivielso (4-E-3).

The Bf 109s of 3.J/88 claimed three I-15s during the day. These were claimed by Unteroffizier Franz Jaenisch, Unteroffizier Josef Bauer and Oberleutnant Karl Ebbighausen.

2 August 1938
Oberleutnant Hubert Kroeck of 2.J/88 claimed an I-16.

3 August 1938
Leitenant Viktor Zyuzin’s (5a/21) I-16 was completely destroyed in a landing accident.

5 August 1938
In the morning, the XVI Gruppo was led into action by its CO, Maggiore Armando François when its three squadriglie, comprising some 30 CR.32s, intercepted six SBs from the 3a Escuadrilla “Katiuska”, escorted by 21 I-16s, approaching Nationalist positions from the northeast and crossing the river line over Cherta. During the battle that ensued Maggiore François and a section of Italian pilots shared in the destruction of an SB, whose crew escaped by parachute and landed in the Republican zone. Capitano Roberto Fassi (CO 25a Squadriglia) also shot up the I-16 flown by Leitenant Konovalov, who had to force-land at the Republican airfield of Reus.
No CR.32s were lost.

Starshii Leitenant Sergei Gritsevets of the 5a/21 (I-16) claimed a shared Fiat CR.32 in the Ebro area.

Sergei Bykovskii of the 5a/21 crash-landed with his I-16 CM-209 after running out of fuel and the aircraft was destroyed.

12 August 1938
The Bf 109s of 1.J/88 claimed four victories during the day. These were claimed by Unteroffizier Helmut Brucks (one SB), Hauptmann Wolfgang Schellmann (two SBs) and Leutnant Otto Bertram (one I-16).

13 August 1938
Starshii Leitenant Sergey Gritsevets of the 5a/21 (I-16) claimed a shared He 111 together with another pilot. The He 111 was forced to land in Republican territory near Barcelona.

Teniente Antonio Arias Arias, CO 4a/21 (I-16 CM-260), claimed a Bf 109 in the Ebro area.

14 August 1938
In the morning, Grupos 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 attacked a formation of Ratas, which were pursuing some He 111s over Gandesa. Other Chatos and Ratas later joined in the battle. Totally the Spanish pilots reported 52 I-16s and 28 I-15s (!).This massive formation of Polikarpovs was also targeted by ten Bf 109s.
Group 2-G-3 claimed three Ratas (teniente Miguel García Pardo (2-E-3), teniente Carlos Bayo (2-E-3) and teniente de Hemricourt (2-E-3)) and 3-G-3 claimed two more (comandante Joaquín García Morato and teniente Emelio O’Connor Valdivielso (4-E-3)). 2-G-3s record of operations described the combat:

García Pardo attacked some Ratas which were pursuing an He 111, shooting down one of the which fell near to Mora de Ebro … Teniente Bayo attacked three Ratas and succeeded in destroying one which fell on the edge of the Blanerías mountains. Later he attacked a Chato, but was unable to ascertain whether it was destroyed as damage to his engine forced him to land at Horta…
Teniente de Hemricourt fired at one Rata without any result; and then attacked some Ratas engaged with other Fiats, hitting one which fell in a wood to the north of Reus.”
The Bf 109s of J/88 claimed seven I-16s. Unteroffizier Willibald Hein (3.J/88) and Unteroffizier Willhelm Szuggar (1.J/88) claimed two each while Leutnant Otto Bertram (1.J/88), Hauptmann Wolfgang Schellmann ((1.J/88) and Leutnant Wolfgang Lippert (3.J/88) claimed one each.
The Republican side reported that 1a, 3a and 4a Escuadrillas fought against 90 enemy aircraft, which included seven Bf 109s and 27 He 111s, and claimed the destruction of three Fiats and one He 111. They lost one Rata from 4a Escuadrilla and two more pilots were injured. Republican pilot Francisco Meroño also managed to get a Rata back to base with half of the elevator shot away. According to Nationalist records no bomb fell on this day, and the only Fiat to be lost was that of alférez José Mesía Lesseps (2-E-3) (3-75) which did not return to base. Teniente Bayo (3-127) had to make a forced landing at Horta de San Juan and alférez Alonso Fariña (3-139) was wounded and landed at Puig Moreno. Alférez Antonio Manrique Garrido’s Fiat was hit 30 times, but he managed to get back to base at Escatrón. Johann Krug’s He 51 was also badly mauled by enemy fire, but he too got back to base at Mas de las Matas.

Sargento Francisco Tarazona Torán of the 3a/21 (I-16) claimed an unconfirmed He 111 during the Levante campaign.

At 17:40, the 1a/21 (CO teniente José Redondo Martín) engaged a force of 12 He 111s and 30 CR.32s, and although the Republicans claimed several victories they lost two I-16s and sargentos Rubén Gómez Redondo and Sirio Martín González to landing accidents at Vendrell.

Starshii Leitenant Sergei Gritsevets of the 5a/21 claimed a shared Bf 109 together with Mikhail Semenovich Sapronov (2a/21) over Gandesa.
This claim can’t be verified with any Legion Condor losses.

Teniente Francisco Meroño Pellicer, CO 6a/21 (I-16), claimed a CR.32 over the Ebro area.

15 August 1938
The Bf 109s of J/88 claimed one I-16 and two I-15s when Leutnant Otto Bertram (1.J/88) claimed a ’Rata’ while Unteroffizier Gustav Küll (2.J/88) and Leutnant Walter Oesau (Stab J/88) claimed one ‘Curtiss’ each.

Republican fighter pilot Eduardo Fernándes Prada was killed in combat in the Ebro area.

18 August 1938
Starshii Leitenant Sergei Gritsevets of the 5a/21 claimed two shared CR.32s in the Ebro area.

19 August 1938
The Nationalists counter-attacked towards Fatarelle, with strong support from the Legion Condor. Although J/88 claimed four Ratas, little success was achieved on the ground. The claiming Bf 109 pilots were Unteroffizier Gustav Küll (2.J/88), Oberleutnant Lothar Keller (1.J/88), Oberleutnant Werner Mölders (3.J/88) and Leutnant Günther Scholz (3.J/88). Oberleutnant Mölders’ I-16 was claimed in the Flix area.

20 August 1938
The Bf 109s of J/88 claimed two I-16s when Leutnant Walter Oesau (Stab J/88) and Hauptmann Wolfgang Schellmann (1.J/88) claimed one each.

21 August 1938
During the night, sargento José Falcó Sanmartín of the 3a/26 (I-15) claimed an unconfirmed He 59.

Sargento Álvaro Muñoz López of 3a/26 claimed a CR.32 over Ebro.

Teniente Antonio Arias Arias, CO 4a/21 (I-16 CM-260), claimed a Bf 109 in the Ebro area.

23 August 1938
Sottotenente Claudio Solaro of the 26a Squadriglia claimed a Polikarpov I-16 “Rata”.

Sergente Aldo Buvoli of the 19a Squadriglia claimed a shared I-16.

The Bf 109s of J/88 claimed four aircraft when Leutnant Otto Bertram (1.J/88) claimed an I-16, Oberleutnant Kurt Müller (1.J/88) an I-16, Leutnant Wilhelm Ensslen (2.J/88) an I-15 and Oberleutnant Werner Mölders (3.J/88) a SB (in the Albi area).

Starshii Leitenant Sergei Gritsevets of the 5a/21 claimed a shared Bf 109 over Villalba Saserra, 12km north of Mataró.
This claim can’t be verified with any Legion Condor losses.

24 August 1938
The XVI Gruppo, led by its CO Tenente Colonnello Arrigo Tessari, together with the Squadriglia Autonoma Mitragliamento “Frecce”, was patrolling over the Gandesa front. The 25a Squadriglia was covering at 7,000m.
At 08:50 they spotted a formation of six Martin Bombers, followed by an escort of about 30 Ratas. The 24a and 26a Squadriglie attacked the bombers, and the 25a Squadriglia chased the fighters. The combat lasted 15 minutes, and at the end the Italians claimed seven I-16s destroyed, plus two more probably destroyed and a probable Martin Bomber. Sottotenente Mario Visintini (25a Squadriglia) claimed a Rata which crashed in the Montblanc valley (it seems that the combat occurred between La Palma-Margalef).

Capitán José María Bravo Fernández, CO 3a/21 (I-16), claimed a CR.32 while sargento Francisco Tarazona Torán claimed a second during the Levante campaign.

José Andrés Lacour Macia claimed an I-15 over Mora del Ebro.

CR.32s 3-135 flown by Joaquín Chapaprieta Inglada (3-E-3) and 3-97 flown by Fernando Arrechea Belzunce (4-E-3) were lost in combat in the Ebro area.

Republican fighter pilot José Gascón Yuste was killed in a collision.

Starshii Leitenant Sergei Gritsevets, 5a/21, claimed a shared CR.32 in the Ebro area.

While returning from combat, Leonid Boguslavchik, 2a/21 (I-16), found out that his undercarriage had been shot up and was no longer working, forcing him to make belly landing at his airfield.

25 August 1938
2-G-3 shot down two Chatos (Ángel Salas and Julio Salvador) and lost José M.a Etayo Elizondo (2-E-3), who died of injuries after trying to land his burning Fiat (3-63) at Campanario. It seems that Elizondo possibly was credited with one victory at the time of his death.

26 August 1938
Starshii Leitenant Sergei Gritsevets, 5a/21, claimed a shared He 51 in the Ebro area.

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 Raimondi
2nd section – Sottotenente Mario Visintini and Sergente Giuseppe Marini
3rd section – Sottotenente Bongiovanni and Sottotenente Mario Pinna
4th section – Sottotenente Emilio Marchi and Maresciallo 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.

An SB piloted by Leitenant Aleksandr Nakonechnikov (with Leitenant Kirill Pavlovich Kolomiets as navigator) lost power one one engine (hit by fighters?) during a mission over the Ebro and began to fall behind its formation and was attacked by CR.32s (XVI Gruppo?). The detachment commander, Kalachikov, noticed what was happening and slowed the formation down so that Nakonechnikov could keep up, thus saving it from the CR.32s.

After a mission at Gandesa, Leonid Boguslavchik, 2a/21, crash-landed his I-16 (CM200). The aircraft flipped over and was wrecked.

Unteroffizier Willibald Hien of 3.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an unconfirmed I-16.

Francisco Gómez Trenor of 8-E-3 was shot down by small-arms fire in the Extramadura area and CR.32 3-145 was destroyed.

September 1938

Fuerza Aérea de la República Española - Republican Air Force

The Republicans had two or three escuadrillas of I-15s (1a, 3a and, temporarily, 4a Escuadrillas of Grupo No 26) totalling 30 to 40 biplane fighters, and five or six I-16 escuadrillas (3a, 4a, 5a, 6a, 7a and, temporarily, 1a Escuadrillas) with 60 or 70 monoplane fighters on the Ebro front. These totals excluded those fighter units provisionally detached to other areas.

Gradually, all the government fighter escuadrillas with both I-16s and I-15s eventually came under wholly Spanish control during the battle of the Ebro. A 7a Escuadrilla was even established within Grupo No 21, commanded by teniente José Puig Torres, which operate overhauled Type 6 I-16s. The other escuadrillas of the Grupo No 21 were re-equipped with 90 Type 10 Moscas from the last batch of l-16s to arrive in Spain via France. The 2a and 5a Escuadrillas of this grupo (at least the 5a with Soviet crews) were merged in September 1938 and placed under the control of Spanish officer teniente Julio Pereiro Pérez. The new Escuadrilla became the 5a/21 and was manned by second year Soviet-trained Spanish pilots.

Manuel Zarauza Clavero CO Grupo No 21 was promoted to mayor in September.
He flew extensively during the battle of the Ebro (fought between July and November 1938), taking it in turns with deputy CO capitán José María Bravo to lead the escuadrillas., Zarauza remained continuously on duty without taking leave throughout the key battles of 1938. And during the 500 flying hours of operational flying he clocked up that year he avoided being shot down or even wounded.
Short in stature, Zarauza was one of the youngest Republican squadron COs - he was barely 22 when he was promoted to comandante. Fellow high-scoring ace Francisco Tarazona Torán wrote that Zarauza would hunch down in his cockpit, thus earning himself the nickname of piloto fantasma or ’ghost pilot’. He was irascible, but also liked to play tricks with his pistol. It has been said that when teniente coronel Valentín Gonzalez (commander of the 46a Division) moved his headquarters to a country estate that the grupo had been ordered to vacate Zarauza threatened to take off and strafe it. He was dissuaded from doing so by his comrades. Zarauza also tossed a smoke canister into the mess during a dinner in the presence of Aviación Militar ‘top brass’ and Soviet commanders. Yet many, including his subordinates, considered him to be both a good leader and a valiant pilot.

On 6 September the 4a/26 moved to La Señera airfield, in Valencia.
Capitán Ladislao Duarte Espés (CO) was wounded in combat the following day and he was replaced as CO by teniente Emilio Ramírez Bravo. By his own account, Duarte’s unit had shot down about 30 enemy aircraft during his time as CO.

Fernando Romero Tejero was promoted to capitán on 1 September.

On 24 September Mayor Luis Alonso Vega handed over command of the Escuadra de Caza No 11 to mayor Isidoro Jiménez García, after which Alonso Vega headed up the Fuerzas Aéreas staff of the Central-Southern area, based at Finca de Los Llanos.
Based at Valls, Isidoro Jiménez led several sorties over the front in one of two I-15s assigned to the staff flight of Escuadra No 11.

On 24 September, during the battle of the Ebro, mayor Juan José Armario Álvarez departed as CO of the Grupo No 26 to join the Jefe de Estado Mayor de Fuerzas Aéreas in Barcelona.
For a time Armario was attached to the headquarters of the Ejército del Ebro as an aviation adviser to the commander of the army, coronel Modesto.
Armario’s replacement as CO of the Grupo No 26 was capitán Juan Comas Borrás, who now was fully recovered from his accident on 15 May 1938 when he took command of the unit on 22 September. On that same day, whilst flying Chato ‘CA-190’ of the grupo staff, he was forced to land at Reus.

Teniente Gerardo Gil Sánchez remained until September 1938 as aerobatic instruction at La Ribera airfield when he was posted to the Escuela de Alta Velocidad at El Carmolí, initially serving under mayor José González Montero and later mayor Isidoro Jiménez. He flew the school I-16 Moscas in defensive patrols over Cartagena.

Álvaro Muñoz López (3a/26) was promoted to teniente.

On 11 September, capitán Manuel Aguirre López was appointed deputy commander of the Escuadra de Caza No The I-16s of 1a/21 (CO teniente José Redondo Martín) remained at Liria, then known as Aeródromo 424, until 9 September when 15 aircraft departed for Reus airfield for operations over the Ebro front.

Francisco Tarazona Torán, CO 3a/21 (I-16), was promoted to teniente and confirmed as escuadrilla CO.

José Falcó Sanmartín of the 3a/26 (I-15) was promoted to teniente.

Fuerza Aérea Nacionales (Arma de Aviación) - Nationalist Air Force

Miguel García Pardo was in temporary command of the group until Salas arrived back on 7 September.
Between the middle of July and the middle of September, Group 2-G-3 had destroyed 34 aircraft and 3-G-3 ten more. Ángel Salas topped individual scores with five victories and he now had 15 victories.

As operations in Extremadura ended, Grupos 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 returned to Aragon, taking up station at Escatrón on 18 September taking over the equipment which had belonged to the Italian VI Gruppo ’Gamba di Ferro’, which had then been disbanded. All the frontline fighter units fielded by the Nationalists in continental Spain were now gathered together close to the Ebro theatre of operations. These included 18 CR.32 squadriglie and escuadrillas and three Messerschmitt staffeln, with serviceable totals of about 180 CR.32s and 30 Bf 109s, respectively.

On 20 September a series of daily battles began, culminating in fierce combats on 2 and 3 October. Groups 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 fought jointly in all these battles, achieving a total of twenty-five victories (17 by 2-G-3). Ángel Salas claimed one of these victories.

Aviazione Legionaria

In the beginning of September, the Nationalists successfully embarked upon a local counteroffensive along the Gandesa-Corbera-La Venta de los Camposines route, which was well supported from the air. Amongst the aircraft involved were fighters from the Aviazione Legionaria’s XVI Gruppo, based at Caspe, and XXIII Gruppo at Sariñena.

Capitano Ettore Foschini was replaced as CO of the 19a Squadriglia by Capitano Giulio Crosara.

On 7 September, Capitano Roberto Fassi left the command of the 25a Squadriglia, XVI Gruppo.

Maggiore Mario Rossi left the command of the VI Gruppo Capitano Giuseppe Baylon. The Gruppo was at the time based at Puig Moreno.

On 20 September, Sottotenente Mario Visintini (25a Squadriglia) returned to Italy and 4o Stormo, having claimed at least two individual and one shared victories, one shared probable and eight enemy aircraft damaged during his duty tour in Spain.
For his service in Spain he was decorated with the Medaglia d’argento al valor militare.

On 27 September, VI Gruppo was ordered to disband, along with other units of the Aviazione Legionaria, in accordance with wider commitments made by the major powers that signed up to the Münich agreement. This document, which was meant to avert the growing crisis in Europe, called for the removal of all foreign soldiers from Spanish soil. VI Gruppo’s CR.32s were duly handed over to the Spanish Nationalist air force at the end of September.

Legion Condor

On 2 September, Hauptmann Siebelt Reents took over from Hauptmann Wolfgang Schellmann in 1.J/88.
Hauptmann Gotthard Handrick was relieved as commander of J/88 on 10 September, his place being taken by Hauptmann Walter Grabmann (former commander of I./JG 234).
Simultaneously a number of other experienced pilots returned to Germany due to the looming Sudeten crisis.

Operations

1 September 1938
On the morning, seven CR.32s from Grupo 2-G-3 attacked a flight of two-seat Grumman FF-1 biplanes from Grupo No 28 over the Cabeza del Buey front. Two Delfines were shot down, their destruction being credited to teniente Miguel García Pardo (2-E-3) and teniente Rodolphe de Hemricourt (2-E-3).
Only one FF-1 was actually destroyed, with its pilot wounded and observer killed.

2 September 1938
In the morning, a formation of nine R-Zs, escorted by a similar number of I-15s, were attacked by 18 Spanish-flown CR.32s near Monterrubio de la Serena as they returned from a bombing mission. Minutes later nine SBs from 4a Escuadrilla of Grupo No 24, escorted at a distance by 11 I-16s Type 10, hove into view too. The CR.32s concentrated on the Tupolev bombers and their monoplane fighter escorts. In a single attack, capitán Ángel Salas (2-G-3) destroyed three Katiuskas, and then capped this by damaging the I-16 Type 10 flown by the leader of the 1a Escuadrilla Grupo de Moscas No 21 that was escorting them. This pilot, teniente José Redondo Martín (the son of the former mayor of Madrid, Cayetano Redondo Aceña), took to his parachute and was guarded by Salas until he had almost reached the ground. Salas, before flying away, raised an arm in the Fascist salute, and Redondo (I-16 ‘CM-214’) responded in a similar manner with a clenched fist.
Salas noted in his logbook:

“After 50 minutes on patrol I spotted nine “Martin bombers” that were a little higher than us heading in the direction of our lines. I gained height as I flew towards them, cutting off their escape route. As they returned after bombing Monterrubio, I attacked the bomber on the left in the first section, setting his left engine on fire. I then hit the left engine of the leader’s aircraft, setting it on fire too, and the third bomber suffered the same fate. Then I fired straight up at the leader of the second flight, and his aircraft started trailing white smoke. It was then that I noticed some Ratas, so I attacked one. After a long fight it also started to trail smoke, and the pilot took to his parachute. He landed close to his aircraft, north of Belalcázar. During his descent I saluted him and he saluted me back.”
Salas had shot down four aircraft in five minutes. A number of the crewmen from the downed bombers took to their parachutes, only to be killed as they floated down, or immediately after landing, by groundfire from Moroccan troops fighting in this area. Ricote, commander of 4a/24 and flying the SB damaged by Salas, force-landed his bomber on Almodóvar airfield after having one of his engines shot out. This event must have been well known in the Government zone, as it was reported from several sources.
In this combat 2-G-3 also claimed four more Ratas (teniente Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal (1-E-3), teniente Luis Alcocer, teniente Carlos Bayo (2-E-3) and teniente Esteban Ibarreche) and one more Katiuska (teniente Salvador Serra Alorda (1-E-3)).
The Katiuskas flown by Blas, Monzónis and Pavía were shot down. These were all from the 4a Escuadrilla of Grupo No 24 led by Ricote.
Teniente José Redondo Martín landed in Republican territory and Redondo returned to lead his unit (he had previously been CO of the I-15s in the 3a/26).
When Salas landed at Mérida he received news that his brother, Ignacio, had just been killed in the Ebro sector where he was serving as an army officer, during an attack on Bot (near Gandesa) by Katiuska escuadrilla 2a/24.
The coronel in Charge of the Primera Brigada Aérea (1st Air Brigade) sent the following congratulations to Salas:
“The part played by the group under your command in today's operation has filled me with pride and it gives me great satisfaction to have people under my command who know how to make the best use of prevailing circumstances. It gives me great pleasure to congratulate you personally, and the whole of your unit, to whom I hope you will convey this message.”

Republican fighter pilot Antonio Nogueira Gordaliza was killed in combat in the Ebro area.

5 September 1938
In the morning, CR.32s from both Aviazione Legionaria gruppi, as well as the Comando di Stormo, escorted S.81 bombers sent to attack Republican targets on the Gandesa front. XXIII Gruppo, in particular, stuck closely to the three flights of Italian tri-motors, thus deterring formations of I-15s and I-16s from attacking the S.81s. Some 50 Polikarpov fighters in two formations circling above were then spotted below the CR.32s by pilots from XVI Gruppo (which had taken off from Caspe at 09:00), which was indirectly supporting the operation. A large-scale engagement involving more than 100 fighters then broke out, lasting over 30 minutes, this swirling mass of aircraft drifting east over Republican territory beyond Falset.
Pilots of XVl Gruppo were subsequently credited with shooting down four “Curtiss fighters” and four Ratas, while six other fighters were classified as probably destroyed. Individual victories were awarded to 24a and 25a Squadriglie commanders, Capitani Giuseppe Majone and Roberto Fassi. Sottotenente Mario Visintini (25a Squadriglia), whose aircraft was again hit, was credited with a I-15 destroyed, which fell in the Sierra de los Caballos, and three more I-15s and an I-16 as damaged.
It seems that the XXIII Gruppo claimed five “Curtiss fighters” and two Ratas.
The Republicans lost five I-15s and four I-16s, including a Type 10 from 2a Escuadrilla. Three more Type 10s returned to base with varying degrees of battle damage, the Spanish pilot of a 3a Escuadrilla machine making a wheels-up landing at Pla de Cabra airfield when wounds to his arm prevented him from manually lowering the fighter’s undercarriage. It is possible that one of the I-16 was flown by Ivan Galaktionovic Saulo who was killed on 5 or 6 September (Saulo had flown 13 missions and taken part in 6 combats at the time of his death).
Other known Republican fighter pilots killed in the Ebro area during the day were Manuel Araza Sabaté (killed in combat), José Correa Antón and Antonio Pascual Gaset (disappeared).
No losses were suffered by the CR.32s, although several pilots from XVI Gruppo returned with bullet holes in their aircraft.

Leutnant Wilhelm Ensslen of 2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-15.

7 September 1938
Leutnant Otto Bertram of 1.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed two unconfirmed I-16s.

Capitán Ladislao Duarte Espés (CO 4a/26) was shot down by anti-aircraft fire while he was making a strafing attack on the Teruel front. His I-15 was set on fire but Duarte managed to bail out behind friendly lines. Although suffering burns, he was rescued by Republican infantrymen and spent the next three months in Valencia's El Vedat hospital.
Duarte was promoted to mayor shortly after being wounded.

9 September 1938
Oberleutnant Werner Mölders of 3.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16 in the Flix area. Mölders reported that his claim was made in a one-sided air battle against 60 (!) enemy aircraft that required every measure of his skill as a fighter pilot.
It is possible that this was I-16 CM-242 of 4a/21, which was destroyed during the day.

13 September 1938
Oberleutnant Werner Mölders of 3.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16 in the Flix area.

Four I-16s were lost; CM-125, CM-154 and CM-178 from the 7a/21 and CM-192 from the 1a/21.

Republican fighter pilot Jaime San Colom disappeared over the Ebro and was lost.

18 September 1938
Leutnant Josef Fözö of 3.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an unconfirmed I-16.

20 September 1938
A series of daily battles began, culminating in fierce combats on 2 and 3 October. Groups 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 fought jointly in all these battles, achieving a total of 25 victories (17 by 2-G-3). Of these Carlos Bayo claimed four and Esteban Ibarreche two.

Grupo 3-G-3 escorted bombers over the Manzanera front. Polikarpov fighters were encountered, and a probable kill was claimed by teniente José Larios y Fernández from Escuadrilla 6-E-3. He later recalled:

“A large formation of Ratas suddenly appeared above us, flying high in the blue sky as if they had just come out of the sun. Pilots from our escuadrilla above us waved to signal the alarm, after which we all flew directly at the enemy at full throttle in an attempt to prevent them from reaching our bombers. I desperately tried to position my section above the Ratas before attacking them but I did not succeed, as they fell on us like an avalanche and we had little choice other than to defend ourselves.
Four Ratas in formation dived like lightning straight towards me in a frontal attack. I rapidly raised the nose of my “Fiat” and pointed it directly at the leading Rata. I had just enough time to fire a couple of bursts before the “Red” aeroplane dived straight down towards the ground and the others passed by at high speed over our heads, before banking around tightly so as to attack us from the rear.
Things now took a turn for the worse, as they held all the advantages - a superior number of aircraft, height and greater speed with which to manoeuvre. I had no option but to turn as tightly as possible. The enemy seemed to be everywhere, and again I could hear the classic chatter of gunfire behind my shoulders. Instinctively, I threw my aeroplane into a sharp spin towards the River Ebro, knowing this to be my sole chance of survival. It worked, as the Ratas immediately gave up chasing me, probably thinking that I was on my way to the other world. I recovered from the violent dive upon seeing that I wasn’t being chased and started to climb once again with my engine flat out, attentively observing the sky in all directions. I was impatient to regain height and rejoin the battle.
On reaching 13,000 ft I felt secure once more. I could see that fierce fighting was still going on. A lonely Rata crossed the brilliant sky some 700 ft above me. I was in his blind spot, and it flew on without attempting to take any evasive action. Seizing my opportunity, I was able to fire several bursts right into its belly - one of the Rata’s most vulnerable spots. The fighter trembled with the impact and appeared to swing for a second, before dropping on a wing, lowering its nose and entering a spin. I followed for a while, stuck to the Rata’s tail, still firing. Climbing back up again, I lost sight of the aircraft as if it had been swallowed up by the uneven ground. I never did find out whether the Rata had indeed hit the ground or not. It remained another combat uncertainty.
I turned towards our lines low on fuel. On landing, Rossi and I examined the aeroplane and could count a good number of bullet holes in the fuselage - fortunately no vital parts had been hit. The Fiat was strong and could take great punishment. It would soon be parked, fully serviced and prepared to take off again as part of the next flight.”

The Bf 109s of J/88 made a number of claims when Leutnant Wilhelm Ensslen (2.J/88) claimed an I-16, Leutnant Wilhelm Keidel (2.J/88) claimed an unconfirmed enemy aircraft and Leutnant Horst Tietzen (1.J/88) claimed two unconfirmed I-16.

I-16 CM-257 from the 3a/21 was destroyed during the day.

21 September 1938
Tenente Vittorio Minguzzi of the 25a Squadriglia claimed a probable I-15 was claimed over Venta de Camposines at 16:30.

VI Gruppo was involved in combat near Flix on the Ebro Front during the afternoon. Two Ratas from 3a/21 were shot down and five claimed as probables with three CR.32s being damaged in return. The claims were collectively credited to all pilots that had participated in the action.
Teniente Francisco Tarazona Torán, CO 3a/21 (I-16), claimed a CR.32.

Teniente Francisco Meroño Pellicer, CO 6a/21 (I-16), claimed two CR.32s over the Ebro area.

A damaged SB piloted by Leitenant Aleksandr Nakonechnikov (with Leitenant Kirill Pavlovich Kolomiets as navigator) crash-landed at the Valls fighter field (possibly BK-19, which landed at Reus).

Leonid Dmitrievich Boguslavchik, 2a/21, was shot down and killed in combat with CR.32s near the Ebron. It is possible that he was flying I-16 CM227.

22 September 1938
Joaquín García Morato (3-51) claimed an I-15.

Rodolphe de Hemricourt of 2-G-3 claimed one I-15 and one I-16 over Corbera.

CR.32 3-122 flown by Pedro Martínez de Irujo (KIA) of the 5-E-3 was lost in combat in the Ebro area.

Teniente Francisco Tarazona Torán, CO 3a/21 (I-16), claimed a shared CR.32.

Republican fighter pilot Manuel Vega Gómez disappeared over the Ebro and was lost.

23 September 1938
VI Gruppo was involved in combat near Falset on the Ebro Front. A ‘Martin bomber’ and three I-16s were destroyed, with two more claimed as probables. These were collectively credited to all pilots that had participated in the action. One of the CR.32s returned to base with minor battle damage. The VI Gruppo diary entry following this final clash with the enemy read as follows:

“The Ratas fought bravely, although they displayed defensive rather than offensive tactics, notwithstanding their superior aircraft.”
This was the VI Gruppo’s last combat in Spain.

At 16:00, Tenente Vittorio Minguzzi of the 25a Squadriglia claimed a shared I-16 over Corvera.

The Bf 109s of J/88 claimed heavily during the day when the claimed eight Republican aircraft and two more as unconfirmed.
Hauptmann Walter Grabmann (Stab J/88) claimed one SB, one I-15 and one I-16, Oberleutnant Werner Mölders (3.J/88) claimed one I-16 south-west of Ginestar and one more unconfirmed I-16, Unteroffizier Walter März (3.J/88) claimed one I-16, Unteroffizier Georg Braunschirn (2.J/88) claimed a SB, Leutnant Rudlf Goy (2 or 3./J88) claimed two I-16s while Leutnant Otto Bertram (1.J/88) claimed an unconfirmed I-16.
Six SBs were reportedly attacked by Bf 109s and two of the group were badly damaged and had to land at Valls and Reus. One of the six SBs included navigator Kapitan Pavel Mitrofanovich Chernyavskii (arrived ion Spain on 30 May and returned on 11 November 1938).

Teniente José Falcó Sanmartín of the 3a/26 (I-15) claimed a Bf 109.

Three I-16s were lost; CM-148 (2a/21), CM-190 (3a/21) and one from 5a/21.
The one from 5a/21 was probably flown by Leitenant Viktor Vasil’evich Zyuzin (born 1917), who was killed in a large combat with CR.32s in the afternoon.

Republican fighter pilot Luis Margalef Vernet disappeared over the Ebro and was lost.

24 September 1938
Unteroffizier Herbert Schob (2.J/88) claimed an I-16 in his Bf 109.

During the day, the I-16s of Grupo No 21 claimed four CR.32s (one by 5a/21 and three by 6a/21) and one Bf 109.

Teniente José Falcó Sanmartín of the 3a/26 (I-15) claimed an unconfirmed SM.79.

27 September 1938
The Bf 109’s of 1.J/88 claimed four I-16s during the day. These were claimed by Leutnant Otto Bertram, Oberleutnant Rudolf Unger and Leutnant Horst Tietzen (2 I-16s).

During the day, the I-16s of 4a/21 and 5a/21) claimed two Bf 109s. One of these was claimed by Starshii Leitenant Sergei Gritsevets, 5a/21, who reportedly claimed a shared Bf 109 in the Ebro area.
These claims can’t be verified with any Legion Condor losses.

CR.32 3-96 flown by G. Queipo de Llano Martí from 3-E-3 was lost in an accident in the Ebro area.

October 1938

Ground Operations

30 October 1938
The Nationalist counteroffensive on the Ebro front resumed on 30 October in the north-central sector between Asco and Cherta, with this attack being well supported by an air component consisting of 100 tri-motor and twin-engined bombers of the Nationalist air force, Aviazione Legionaria and the Legion Condor.

Fuerza Aérea de la República Española - Republican Air Force

Miguel Zambudio Martínez (CO 3a/26) was promoted to capitán on 1 October.
Later in the month, Zambudio was replaced as CO by teniente Antonio Nieto Sandoval-Díaz, with teniente Francisco Montagut Ferrer serving as his deputy.
The escuadrilla included José Santander Menéndez, Esteban Corbalán Marín, Sánchez López, José Falcó, Joaquín Tremosa Arnavat, Álvaro Muñoz, José Garre Solano, Alfredo de Albert, Mario Cuesta, Antonio Britz Martínez and Rafael Belda.

On 3 October 1938, capitán Fernando Romero Tejero was appointed CO of the 6o Sector Aéreo at Hellín, in Albacete.

On 26 October, Ramón Puparelli Francia was appointed chief-of-staff of the Estado Mayor de Fuerzas Aéreas in the Northern Zone.

In October, two SBs (tactical numbers “21” (reg/n BK-083) and “26”) were used for carrying bomb containers which could accommodate 48 12-kg bombs or 436 0.76-kg bombs.
During the final stage of the Spanish Civil War, given the insufficient number of Republican fighters, the SBs saw limited action and operated in small groups. Starting in autumn 1938 the airplanes were flown only by Spanish crews. At that time the total number of SBs was maintained at about two dozen aircraft. This was possible partially due to on-going maintenance and repair of the aircraft and their engines. In 1938 alone the Barcelona- based SAF-9 factory repaired 169 M-100 engines. The SBs were also repaired at the SAF-3/16 factory in Reus and the SAF-21/23 factory.

In the end of October, all Soviet volunteers were recalled to the Soviet Union.

From October 1938 capitán José Riverola Grúas assumed command of Grupo No 71 of the Zona Aérea Centro-Sur. This unit, consisting of two squadrons (namely the mixed 4a Escuadrilla and the 5a Escuadrilla operating bombers only), took part in the defence of the Cartagena area.

Capitán Juan Comas Borrás moved with the staff flight of the Grupo No 26 to airfields at Sabadell and Monjos, in Barcelona, from where he flew sorties over the Ebro front in October in Chato ‘CA-166’.

Capitán Andrés García La Calle handed over command of the Grupo No 28 (Grumman GE-23 Delfin) to mayor Antonio Saluela Lucientes, having been appointed deputy CO of the Escuadra de Caza No 11, replacing mayor Manuel Aguirre López.

On 28 October mayor Juan José Armario Álvarez was appointed Jefe de la 3a Sección (Operations) of the Estado Mayor de las Fuerzas Aéreas de la Zona Norte (Barcelona).

Antonio Arias Arias, CO 4a/21 (I-16) was promoted to capitán.

Aviazione Legionaria

In October 1938 Tenente Vittorio Minguzzi was transferred to the XXIII Gruppo ’Asso di Bastoni’.
With this unit he flew a CR.32 coded “3-11” of the 19a Squadriglia.

Operations

2 October 1938
Rodolphe de Hemricourt of 2-E-3 claimed one I-16 flown by Sergeant Alvaro Pitarch Escorituella over Corbera.

Teniente José Sarrió Calatayud of the 1a/26 (I-15 ‘CA-188’) was shot down over the Ebro. Although he managed to bail out of his stricken biplane over no-man’s-land, Sarrió was apparently killed in the crossfire between Republican and Nationalist troops once on the ground.

During the day, the I-16s of Grupo No 21 claimed two CR.32s destroyed and three probably destroyed.
One of these are probably CR.32 3-140 flown by Antonio Olivera Fernández (CR.32 3-70) from 4-E-3 (2-E-3?), which was lost in combat in the Ebro area (according to some sources, he was killed in an accident).

3 October 1938
During the morning, comandante Joaquín García Morato led 24 CR.32s from Grupos 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 on an escort mission for Ro.37s on the Ebro front. They encountered 28 I-16s escorting 24 I-15s that had been undertaking strafing attacks, comandante Morato and 12 fighters from 3-G-3 attacking the biplane fighters at low level, two of which were claimed shot down by Tenientes Medizabal and Emelio O’Connor Valdivielso (4-E-3). Twelve other fighters from 2-G-3 tackled the I-16s at a higher altitude, but they soon found themselves badly outnumbered.
As the I-15 escuadrillas withdrew towards Republican lines, Morato and his pilots broke off their attacks and gained height in order to aid their compatriots in the struggle against the I-16s. Morato attacked a Rata from the rear, quickly setting it on fire, but at the same time another CR.32 pilot targeted the same I-16 from an acute angle. A 12.7 mm bullet fired by the second Fiat hit the engine of Morato’s fighter, knocking it out. Still some 12 miles behind enemy lines, but at medium altitude, he used all his skills to glide the engineless CR.32 to within sight of the frontline, before he was forced to perform a dead-stick landing in a vineyard. His aircraft suffered no further damage when he landed. This was the only time that Morato was shot down in combat, albeit not through enemy action but accidentally by his wingman during the heat of battle (according to other sources, Morato was shot down by teniente Sirvent Cerrillo).
The fighter shot down by Morato (although not credited to him) was an I-16 Type 10 from 3a Escuadrilla, and it was seen to explode in mid-air. Another I-16 (CM-061), this time from 7a Escuadrilla was destroyed over Corbera by teniente de Hemricourt (2-E-3), de Hemricourt seeing its pilot bail out over Republican territory. A third I-16 Type 10 was hit in the propeller and main-wheel doors by bullets from a CR.32 and its pilot crash-landed near Reus, from where it was recovered.
Republican pilots, in return, claimed nine CR.32s shot down, although in actual fact only one had been lost. However, the pilot downed was none other than the commander of Escuadrilla 1-E-3, capitán Julio Salvador (CR.32ter NC 753/3-69), who was shot down after claiming two enemy aircraft. According to Republican witnesses, his CR.32 had been hit near Fayón early on in the engagement with the I-16s. Salvador’s opponent was the second-in-command of Grupo No 21, José Maria Bravo Fernández (according to other sources, Salvador was shot down by teniente Francisco Meroño Pellicer, CO 6a/21, who claimed a CR.32 during the day). The nationalist pilot was taken prisoner by soldiers of the 46th Division of the Popular Army, commanded by the famous communist leader Valentin Gonzalez.
Salvador was eventually set free in France along with other pilot detainees held by the Republicans after four months in prison.
The I-15s of Grupo No 26 claimed four CR.32s (three by 1a/26 and one by 3a/26) during the day while the I-16s of Grupo No 21 claimed nine CR.32s (three by 4a/21, two by 7a/21, three by 1a/21 and one by 6a/21).
I-16s CM-261 and CM-263 (both from 3a/21) were destroyed during the day.

Starshii Leitenant Sergey Gritsevets of the 5a/21 claimed a shared CR.32 in the Ebro area.

4 October 1938
The Bf 109s of J/88 claimed three Republican aircraft during the day when Leutnant Otto Bertram (1.J/88) claimed one I-15, Leutnant Wolfgang Lippert (3.J/88) claimed an I-16 and Unteroffizier Willi Szuggar (1.J/88) claimed an I-15.

J. R. González Fdez of the 6a/21 (I-16) claimed a Bf 109 during the day.
The I-16s of Grupo No 21 claimed an additional Bf 109 and a He 111 during the day.

5 October 1938
Starshii Leitenant Sergey Gritsevets of the 5a Escuadrilla claimed a shared Bf 109 in the Ebro area.
This claim can’t be verified with any Legion Condor losses.

Republican fighter pilot Enrique Tébar Pérez disappeared over the Ebro and was lost.

7 October 1938
The Bf 109s of 1.J/88 claimed two I-16s during the day when Leutnant Hans-Jürgen Ehrig and Feldwebel Robert Menge claimed one each.

The I-16s of Grupo No 21 claimed three Bf 109s during the day (one each by 3a/21, 5a/21 and 6a/21).

Republican fighter pilot Huerta disappeared over the Ebro and was lost.

8 October 1938
Tenente Vittorio Minguzzi of the 19a Squadriglia claimed his first victory when he claimed an I-16 over Fatarella at 15:30.

The 3a/21 (I-16) and Grupo No 26 (I-15) claimed a shared damaged He 111 while the I-16s of Grupo No 21 claimed three destroyed CR.32s and one probable (as set on fire); one by 4a/21 and two and one probable by 5a/21.

9 October 1938
At 16:00, Tenente Vittorio Minguzzi of the 19a Squadriglia claimed a shared I-16 together with three other pilots over Ascò.

The 6a/21 (I-16) claimed a He 51.

10 October 1938
The Bf 109s of J/88 claimed two SBs and one I-16 during the day when Oberleutnant Werner Mölders (3.J/88) claimed one I-16 while Hauptmann Walter Grabmann (Stab J/88) and Oberleutnant Johann Gamringer (3.J/88) claimed one SB each.
Oberleutnant Gamringer subsequently force-landed his Bf 109 and from Republican side it was stated that he was shot down by the gunners on three SBs; Leitenant Nikolai Trofimovich Tertychnyi, Il’in and Kozhemyako.
One SB was lost when one flown by Soviet volunteers were shot down by Bf 109s. The pilot Trubitsyn and the navigator Utkin were able to bail out, but said that their repeated calls to the radio/gunner Zakhar Savel’evich Skutov (born 1912) went unanswered. Undoubtly he was either dead or unconscious at the time and he was killed when the SB crashed in enemy territory.
Skutov was the last Soviet airman to die in Spain.

13 October 1938
Unteroffizier Herbert Schob of 2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16 during the day.

14 October 1938
The I-16s from the 5a/21 claimed two destroyed CR.32s and another as a probable (set on fire) while the 4a/21 (I-16) claimed a probable CR.32 (set on fire) (there is some uncertainties on which unit that made this claim).

15 October 1938
Four squadrons of Fiats made a combined sortie, three from 2-G-3, and one from 3-G-3. They succeeded in destroying two Ratas (Carlos Bayo and González Guzmán), one for each group. Capitán Ángel Salas, Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal and Bayo each damaged another.

The Bf 109s of J/88 claimed four I-16s during the day when Hauptmann Walter Grabmann (Stab J/88) and Leutnant Walter Oesau (Stab J/88) claimed one each while Oberleutnant Werner Mölders (3.J/88) claimed two (these were claimed west of La Figuera and in the Sierra de Montsant area).

The I-16s of Grupo No 21 were heavily involved in combat during the day:
3a/21 claimed four CR.32s.
4a/21 claimed one and two probables (both set on fire) CR.32s.
5a/21 claimed a Bf 109 and two probable CR.32 (both set on fire).
6a/21 claimed a Bf 109.

1a/26 (I-15) claimed a SM.79 (?) during the day.

16 October 1938
The patrulla led by teniente Francisco Tarazona Torán, CO 3a/21 (I-16), claimed two shared CR.32s.

30 October 1938
Sottotenente Claudio Solaro of the 26a Squadriglia was shot down over enemy territory. He parachuted successfully but was taken POW. He was released from prison in February 1939.

Teniente Francisco Tarazona Torán, CO 3a/21 (I-16), claimed a CR.32.
According to some sources, the 3a/21 claimed a probable (set on fire) CR.32 during the day. Whether this is the same claim or another one is not known.

The 4a/21 (I-16) claimed a probable (set on fire) CR.32.

Escuadra No 11 claimed two and one probable (set on fire) CR.32s.

31 October 1938
The patrulla of teniente Francisco Tarazona Torán, CO 3a/21 (I-16), claimed a shared He 111.

The I-16s of the 6a/21 (I-16) claimed a Bf 109 when teniente Francisco Meroño Pellicer (CO) and A. García Cano shot one down over the Ebro area.

The Bf 109s of J/88 had a field day and claimed nine and one unconfirmed during the day. Hauptmann Werner Mölder (3.J/88) claimed two I-16s (one of them north-west of Flix), Leutnant Josef Fözö (3.J/88) one I-16, Feldwebel Georg Fleischmann (3.J/88) two I-16s, Leutnant Martin Lutz (2.J/88) one I-16, Leutnant August-Wilhelm Schumann (2.J/88) one I-15, Unteroffizier Georg Braunshirn (2.J/88) one I-15 and Unteroffizier Kiening (3.J/88) one I-16. The unconfirmed I-16 was claimed by Leutnant Theodor Rossiwall (3.J/88).

Republican fighter pilot Beltrán was killed in combat over the Ebro.

November 1938

The ground war

3 November 1938
The Nationalist forces captured the town of Pinell, marking the first major breakthrough at the Ebro.

15 November 1938
The Battle of Ebro came to an end during the night of 15-16 November when the Republican army completed its withdrawal beyond the northern banks of the River Ebro.

Fuerza Aérea de la República Española - Republican Air Force

Ramón Puparelli Francia, chief-of-staff of the Estado Mayor de Fuerzas Aéreas in the Northern Zone, was promoted to teniente coronel de Artilleria.

Andrés García La Calle was promoted to mayor.

In November, teniente José Redondo Martín handed over command of the 1a/21 to teniente Enrique Vilatela Soria.
Redondo was to remain without a command until war’s end.

Francisco Meroño Pellicer, CO 6a/21 (I-16), was promoted to capitán. Little is known about his subsequent career from late 1938 except that he fled to the USSR after the war ended and died in Moscow on 17 July 1995.

In late 1938 the Patrulla de Caza Nocturna was established, equipped with the versatile I-15 Chato. The unit’s Polikarpov biplane fighters were progressively modified over coming weeks through the fitment of landing lights and special exhaust pipe collector rings. The squadron, who’s first CO was teniente Walter Katz, was given the task of defending the Catalan coastline from bases at Canudas (El Prat de Llobregat) and Sabadell airfields.
After teniente Katz’ death on 11 November, command of the nightfighter patrulla passed to teniente José Falcó Sanmartín.

The last Soviet volunteers left Spain in the end of November (SB crews).

Fuerza Aérea Nacionales (Arma de Aviación) - Nationalist Air Force

Carlos Bayo was transferred to 5-G-5, which was equipped with German monoplanes (Bf 109s and He 112s). Bayo, however, didn’t claim anything while flying in this unit.

In November, Joaquín García Morato was named the leader of the Fighter Squadron.

During the Battle of Ebro, Grupos 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 participated in a total of 16 aerial engagements between 18 September and 15 November 1938. Pilots from these units claimed 58 ‘Curtiss fighters’ and Ratas destroyed, with 15 more as probables, and one SB destroyed and a second as a probable; only ten of these victories could be historically verified, however. Three CR.32s were lost in return, with two pilots killed and one taken prisoner.

Aviazione Legionaria

During the Battle of Ebro, Italian Gruppi XVI and XXIII, the Squadriglia Autonoma Caccia Mitragliamento and the Sezione Comando of 3o Stormo Caccia experienced nine aerial combats, claiming the destruction of 57 ‘Curtiss fighters’ and Ratas with 34 probables, and two ‘Martin bombers’ destroyed and one probable - 16 claims could be historically verified. They lost three CR.32s, with two pilots killed and the third taken prisoner.

Legion Condor

After the battle of the Ebro the Legion Condor was ordered to rest, with only one Staffel remaining operational. At its height in the late autumn of 1938, the Legion Condor had at most 45 Bf 109s operational. At the end of November, Volkmann was replaced by von Richthofen, who returned to Spain as commander of the Legion Condor.

Hauptmann Werner Mölders was also posted back to Germany at this time, his place as commander of 3.J/88 being taken by Oberleutnant Hubertus von Bonin.

Operations

1 November 1938
The 1a/26 (I-15) claimed three and three shared CR.32s during the day when Jaime Torn Roca (CO) claimed one and one shared, J. Bastida Porres claimed one, L. Población Cuenca one, A. Vallés Gateu one shared and J. Vela Díaz one shared.

The 3a/26 (I-15) claimed seven CR.32s during the day. These were claimed by teniente José Falcó Sanmartín, Álvaro Muñoz López, Esteban Corbalán Marín, José Garre Solano, Francisco Sánchez Matos, José Santander Menéndez and J. Tremosa Arnavat.

Emilio Ramírez Bravo of the 4a/26 (I-15) claimed a CR.32.

The 1a/21 (I-16) scored a confirmed victory over a Nationalist CR.32 when teniente José Redondo Martín (CO) and teniente José María Cano Arnáiz of the 5a/21 (I-16 ‘CM-198’) were given shared credit for downing the Fiat fighter near Fatarella Hill, the machine crashing in flames.
J. Santamaría (1a/21) claimed a shared CR.32 during the day. This was possibly shared with P. Dosta Fossá (5a/21), who claimed a shared CR.32 during the day.

The 3a/21 (I-16), which claimed a shared CR.32 during the day.

The 6a/21 (I-16) claimed three CR.32s.

Feldwebel Robert Menge of 1.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-15 during the day.

2 November 1938
During two missions the two Spanish Nationalist fighter Groups claimed 17 enemy aircraft. De Hemricourt claimed one of these, an I-15, over Pinell.

The 1a/21 (I-16) claimed a Bf 109, which crashed on the sierra at Tirisa.
J. Simón Valverde of the same unit claimed a CR.32 during the day.

The 6a/21 (I-16) claimed two CR.32s. One of these were claimed by M. Fernández Morales.

Teniente José Falcó Sanmartín of the 3a/26 (I-15) claimed a CR.32.

Unteroffizier Walter März of 3.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an unconfirmed I-16 during the day.

Republican fighter pilot Paredes was killed in combat over the Ebro.

3 November 1938
Rodolphe de Hemricourt of 2-G-3 claimed one I-15 over Salvatierra.

The Bf 109s of J/88 claimed three I-16s, two I-15s and one additional unconfirmed I-16 during the day. Hauptmann Werner Mölders (3.J/88) claimed an I-16 in the Mola area as his last and 14th claim in Spain, Leutnant Walter Oesau (Stab J/88) claimed an I-16, Unteroffizier Georg Braunshirn (2.J/88) claimed an I-15, Obergefreiter Günther Freund (2.J/88) claimed an I-15, Unteroffizier Herbert Schob (2.J/88) claimed an I-16 and Hauptmann Walter Grabmann (Stab J/88) claimed an unconfirmed I-16.

Capitán José María Bravo Fernández, deputy CO Grupo No (I-16), claimed a Bf 109 as his last victory.

The 1a/21 (I-16) claimed a shared Do 17.

The 3a/21 (I-16) claimed a Bf 109.

P. Rueda Hernández of the 4a/21 (I-16) claimed a Bf 109.

P. Dosta Fossá of the 5a/21 (I-16) claimed a CR.32.
The Escuadrilla also claimed a shared Do17.

The 6a/21 (I-16) claimed a shared Do 17.

V. Lliveria Grau of the 1a/26 (I-15) claimed a Bf 109.
The Escuadrilla also claimed a twin-engined bomber.

The 4a/26 (I-15) claimed a twin-engined bomber.

4 November 1938
Unteroffizier Walter März of 3.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16 during the day.

5 November 1938
While based at Monjos airfield capitán Juan Comas Borrás (CO of the Grupo No 26) received serious shrapnel wounds in his left leg during a raid by Savoia-Marchetti SM.79s. Comas was taken to hospital at Villafranca de Penedés, where his leg was amputated.
Whilst recuperating he was promoted to mayor de Aviación.
Comas was replaced as CO of the Grupo No 26 by capitán Miguel Zambudio Martínez.

Oberfeldwebel Robert Menge of 1.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed one I-16 during the day while the Bf 109s of 2.J/88 claimed two victories; Leutnant Karl-Wolfgang Redlich claimed one I-16 while an unknown pilot from the same unit claimed another unconfirmed victory (unknown type).

6 November 1938
The Bf 109s of 2.J/88 claimed two I-15s during the day. These were claimed by Leutnant Heinz Bretnütz and Unteroffizier Georg Braunshirn.

Escuadra No 11 (?) claimed a Bf 109.

P. Dosta Fossá of the 5a/21 (I-16) was killed in combat in the Ebro area.

7 November 1938
Teniente Francisco Tarazona Torán, CO 3a/21 (I-16), claimed an unconfirmed Do 17 set on fire.

8 November 1938
Leutnant ‘Antek’ Bolz of 3.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an unconfirmed enemy aircraft.

The 6a/21 (I-16) claimed a He 51.

9 November 1938
The 1a and 6a Escuadrillas of Grupo No 21 (I-16) attacked enemy twin-engined aircraft, forcing them to break formation and dive for their own lines. One of the bombers crashed in flames after being attacked by teniente Enrique Vilatela Soria south of Fatarella, while sargento J. Santamaría downed a CR.32. But these successes were not without cost, as the 1a/21 lost Mosca ‘CM-238’ of teniente Juan Sayós, while ‘CM-244’ sustained a damaged propeller.
The pilots from the 6a/21 claimed one CR.32 in this combat.

The 3a/21 (I-16) claimed a CR.32.

A. Vallés Gateu of the 1a/26 (I-15) claimed a CR.32.

11 November 1938
Teniente Walter Katz (CO of the Patrulla de Caza Nocturna) was shot down and killed by anti-aircraft fire during a night attack on the Serós bridgehead on the left bank of the River Segre. He had been accompanied on the mission by sargento López Fernández, who escaped the intense flak unscathed.
Katz was posthumously promoted to capitán with effect from 1 September.

12 November 1938
The Bf 109s of J/88 claimed four enemy aircraft during the day when Unteroffizier Karl Kolb (1.J/88) claimed an I-16, Feldwebel Georg Fleischmann (3.J/88) an I-15, Unteroffizier Norbert Fischer (1.J/88) an I-16 and Unteroffizier ‘Willi’ Szuggar an I-16.

18 Fiats of 2-G-3 and six from 3-G-3 took off under the leadership of Ángel Salas, to escort Ju 52/3ms and He 70s in the Segre sector. Six Katiuskas were encountered, escorted by two formations of Ratas. de Hemricourt succeeded in destroying one Rata, and one Katiuska was shot down by the combined attack of about five machines.
As the Fiats landed back at base from this sortie - one, which had been damaged in combat, collided with machine No 3-61, Salas’ aircraft, damaging the lower wings. This latter machine, one of the first to serve with the group, was repaired by the middle of January and Salas finished the war in it.
This combat marked the end of air operations in support of the battle of the Ebro, which ended on 16 November with the retreat of the XV Army Corps.

16 November 1938
Unteroffizier Herbert Schob (2.J/88) claimed an SB flying a Bf 109E while 3.J/88’s Leutnant Helmut-Felix Bolz (Bf 109) claimed an unconfirmed.

18 November 1938
During the night, teniente José Falcó Sanmartín, CO Patrulla de Vuelo Nocturno (I-15), claimed a He 59.

Republican fighter pilot Arrés was killed in combat in the Cataluña area.

27 November 1938
While making a routine patrol on 27 November, Ángel Salas suffered a sudden hernia and was taken immediately to hospital for an operation. He was discharged from hospital in the middle of January 1939.

December 1938

Ground Operations

23 December 1938
The battle for Barcelona began. A six-pronged Nationalist attack was launched, with separate columns from the Pyrenees to the Ebro.
Spanish Nationalist aircraft supported the Northern Army Corps, the Aviazione Legionaria operated closely with the Corpo Truppe Volontarie on the central front of Lerida and the Legion Condor supported the army corps advance through the southern Ebro area.

Fuerza Aérea de la República Española - Republican Air Force

By the end of 1938 a total of 213 Chatos had been built in Spain.

Promoted to teniente coronel de Aviación on 11 December 1938, Luis Alonso Vega served under coronel Antonio Camacho, Chief-of-Staff of the Zona Aérea Centro-Sur.

On 22 December, during the battle of Catalonia, mayor Isidoro Jiménez García handed over command of the Escuadra de Caza No 11 to mayor Andrés García La Calle and returned to the Escuela de Alta Velocidadat El Carmolí as Jefatura (CO) where he remained until the end of the war.

Capitán Vicente Castillo Monzó was appointed CO of the Grupo de Chatos No 26, succeeding capitán Miguel Zambudio Martínez, who had been wounded in combat.

In December, teniente Francisco Viñals Guarro was appointed CO of the 2a/26 shortly before the start of operations in Catalonia. The unit also saw action over Extremadura and Pozoblanco in 1939.

Returning from a month’s leave on 24 December, teniente Álvaro Muñoz López was confirmed as the 3a/26 CO after teniente Antonio Nieto Sandoval-Díaz.

Fuerza Aérea Nacionales (Arma de Aviación) - Nationalist Air Force

To support the campaign to capture Barcelona, virtually all the CR.32 units in Spain were committed. This included the 7a Escuadra de Caza, commanded by comandante Joaquín García Morato and comprising Grupos 2-G-3 and 3-G-3, based at Escatron. The 3o Stormo Caccia of the Aviazione Legionaria, led by Colonnello Venceslao D’Aurelio, was transferred from Caspe to Sariñena at the beginning of the offensive. XVI Gruppo, led by Arrigo Tessari, and including 24a, 25a and 26a Squadriglie led by Capitani Giuseppe Majone, Meille and Travaglini, respectively, remained at Caspe, however. XXIII Gruppo, commanded by Maggiore Aldo Remondino, and including 18a, 19a and 20a Squadriglie led by Capitani Mario Bonzano, Giulio Crosara and Andrea Favini, respectively, was also based at Sariñena. Finally, the Squadriglia Autonoma Caccia Mitragliamento, led by Capitano Giorgio Iannicelli, flew from Caspe too.

Legion Condor

On 21 December, von Richthofen visited La Sénia and noted:
“Things at J/88 are just about tolerable. The Verbandsführer of J/88 are at the present time quartered far away from their people. Too many personnel were to be seen running around without wearing uniforms, playing during celebrations with priests’ hats and they have no communal dining facility. It does not please me at all. It will be remedied and J/88 will soon be relocated.”

By the time of the Battle for Barcelona, the first Bf 109E-1s had been delivered to J/88 at La Sénia.

By December, Oberleutnant Alfred von Lojewski was the new CO of 2.J/88.

Operations

8 December 1938
Teniente Francisco Tarazona Torán, CO 3a/21 (I-16), was injured when his I-16 (‘CM-249’) suffered engine failure while taking off from Valls. After a short spell in hospital, Tarazona returned to Catalonia.

24 December 1938
During the morning, 22 CR.32s from XVI Gruppo clashed over the Lérida front with 26 I-15s and eight I-16s. Capitani Giuseppe Majone and Travaglini, leading 24a and 26a Squadriglie, dived headlong at the I-15s, which in turn fled towards the northern bank of the River Segre. The aerial battle continued between Serós and Castelldáns following the intervention of eight CR.32s from Capitano Meille’s 25a Squadriglia just as three I-15s that were hit as the combat commenced abandoned the fight. The I-16s also fled at this time, leaving close to 40 biplane fighters locked in a series of bitter duels from a height of 3500 ft all the way down to the ground between Castelldáns and Borjas Blancas.
The battle lasted more than 30 minutes, and upon returning to base the Italians claimed 14 ‘Curtiss fighters’ destroyed and four more as probables - two victories were awarded to Capitano Majone.
In reality, just five I-15s had actually been shot down by the CR.32s, including the fighter flown by the veteran commander of Grupo No 26, capitán Miguel Zambudio Martínez, who had been leading the Grupo No 26 on a sortie over the Serós bridgehead. Despite having suffered a serious bullet wound to his right leg including damage to the sciatic nerve, he managed to force land his aircraft in Republican territory and admitted to hospital in Barcelona. The remaining aircraft destroyed came from 1a and 4a Escuadrillas, and four more I-15s returned to base with battle damage.
In return, two CR.32s from 25a Squadriglia were shot down by I-15s between Castelldáns and Borjas Blancas. Sergente Giuseppe Marini was killed, while Sergente Giovanni Accorsi crash-landed in Nationalist territory and emerged from the wreckage of his CR.32 with only a slight wound following the explosion of his fighter’s fuel tank.

Several hours later, 20 km north of Balaguer, 18 CR.32s from comandante Joaquín García Morato’s Spanish units intercepted a formation of nine R-Z light bombers from 2a Escuadrilla of Grupo No 30, escorted at a distance by 19 I-16s from the 6a and 7a Escuadrillas of No Grupo 21, near Fontllonga. Initially diving head-on at the bombers, the CR.32s then made a second attacking pass from the rear before the escort fighters could intervene. The Spaniards claimed nine R-Zs destroyed, three of which (plus a probable) were attributed to Morato, two to teniente Joaquín Velasco (7-E-3) and one each to teniente José Larios y Fernández (6-E-3), José Andrés Lacour Macia, Ruibal and José Recasens.
Of the nine R-Z, three returned to their own side's airfields (two to La Garriga and one to Vic). Six were shot down, of which three were lost, while the remainder managed to land with varying damaged inside their own lines. Overall, the R-Z escuadrilla suffered three dead, eight wounded and two taken prisoner. I-16s from 6a Capitán Amézaga took to his parachute and landed near Camarasa, where he was soon captured. Following six weeks in captivity, Amézaga was executed. Another Fiat had to land because of damage at Almenar.

Republican fighter pilot Almodóvar was killed in combat in the Cataluña area.

26 December 1938
The 7a/21 (I-16) claimed three CR.32s during the day. These were claimed by M. Fernández Ferreiro, P. Jiménez Ruiz and P. Pérez Gómez.

28 December 1938
At 12:00, Tenente Vittorio Minguzzi of the 19a Squadriglia claimed two I-15s over Aspa.

The Bf 109s of 2.J/88 claimed three SBs and three I-16s when Leutnant August-Wilhelm Schumann claimed an I-16, Leutnant Wilhelm Ensslen one SB and one I-16, Feldwebel Georg Schott an I-16, Leutnant Heinz Bretnütz a SB and Leutnant Karl-Wolfgang Redlich a SB.

Teniente José Redondo Martín and J. Ramoneda Vilardaga of 1a/21 (I-16) claimed a shared Bf 109.

29 December 1938
The Bf 109s of J/88 claimed four Republican fighters when Leutnant Wolfgang Lippert (3.J/88) claimed an I-15, Oberleutnant Hubertus von Bonin (3.J/88) an I-16, Unteroffizier Günther Freund (3.J/88) an I-16 and Leutnant Horst Tietzen (1./J88) an I-16.

José María Cano Arnáiz of the 1a/21 (I-16) claimed a probable CR.32 (set on fire).

The 3a/21 (I-16) claimed two Bf 109s.

P. Pérez Gómez of the 7a/21 (I-16) claimed a Bf 109.

30 December 1938
Capitano Giuseppe Majone (CO 24a Squadriglia) claimed two I-15s near Montblanch, Catalonia.

The Bf 109s of J/88 claimed six Republican fighters when Oberleutnant Alfred von Lojewski (CO 2.J/88) claimed an I-15, Unteroffizier Herbert Schob (2.J/88) an I-16, Leutnant Kurt Hörmann (Stab J/88) an I-16, Leutnant Wilhelm Ensslen (2.J/88) an I-16, Feldwebel Georg Schott (2.J/88) an I-15 and Leutnant August-Wilhelm Schumann (2.J/88) and I-16.

N. J. Fernández Díaz of the 1a/21 (I-16) claimed a Bf 109.

Teniente Francisco Tarazona Torán, CO 3a/21 (I-16 ‘CM-193’), claimed a Bf 109.

The 6a/21 (I-16) claimed a Bf 109.

J. Lloréns Bonet of the 3a/26 (I-15) claimed a CR.32.

F. Alférez Jiménez of the 4a/26 (I-15) claimed a CR.32.

31 December 1938
During the night, teniente José Falcó Sanmartín, CO Patrulla de Vuelo Nocturno (I-15), claimed a He 59.

Feldwebel Georg Schott of 2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16.

Capitán Antonio Arias Arias, CO 4a/21 (I-16 CM-260), claimed a shared Bf 109.
















Last modified 14 December 2017