Air War in the Spanish Civil War 1936-39


January 1939

Ground Operations

5 January 1939
The last Republican offensive of the war starts close to the border between Andalusia and Extremadura, on the Pozoblanco front (the Valsequillo Offensive), this campaign being launched in a vain attempt to slow down the Nationalist advance in Catalonia.
By the end of January the Nationalist counteroffensive, using overwhelming land and aerial forces, had pushed the Republicans back to their previous defensive positions along the Pozoblanco front.

19 January 1939
The Nationalist Army Corps in Catalonia and the Italian Corpo Truppe Volontarie resumed their advance on Barcelona after having been slowed down by inclement winter weather.

26 January 1939
Barcelona falls to the Nationalists.

Fuerza Aérea de la República Española - Republican Air Force

The last 24 Spanish-built I-15s were completed in January 1939 to take the total number of airframes (rather than complete aircraft) produced to 237 units. Of this total, some 96, built between November 1938 and January 1939, stood incomplete for lack of engines and other equipment. As a result, the total number of Soviet-made and locally built I-15s said to have participated in the Spanish Civil War varies between 272 and 368 (the Soviet Union shipped a total of 131 I-15s to the Republicans, including 116 sent in 1936-37 to the central zone and 15 that arrived in early November 1936 in the northern zone).

By 1 January 1939, a total of 197 I-15s had reportedly been lost, including 88 shot down, 27 destroyed on the ground, 67 written off in accidents, nine downed by anti-aircraft artillery and six captured after force-landing in enemy territory. Yet Nationalist pilots (Spanish, Italian and German) reportedly claimed that about 500 I-15s had been shot down in air combat! Actual I-15 losses were probably comparable to those of its principal rival, the CR.32.

By January, all Soviet pilots had been withdrawn back to the Soviet Union (orders for withdrawal were sent in late October 1938). A total of around 160 Soviet fighter pilots had seen action in the conflict, with 35 being created Heroes of the Soviet Union.

After the fall of Catalonia in January 1939, teniente coronel Ramón Puparelli Francia escaped to France, where he was interned in a concentration camp. He eventually left for exile in Argentina, but no further information is available on his subsequent life.

January 1939 saw capitan Vicente Castillo Monzó and his unit, Grupo de Chatos No 26, transferred to Sisones airfield, in the Central-Southern area, to participate in operations over Extremadura.
The Grupo de Chatos No 26 later left for Manises.

The only group decoration awarded to the Republican Fuerzas Aéreas was the Distintivo al Valor (Ensign of Valour), which went to the 1a Escuadrilla of Grupo No 26 for its strafing missions flown during operations in Catalonia. The award was gazetted on 16 January 1939 in the Diario Oficial del Ministerio de Defensa National No 16.

Teniente Álvaro Muñoz López (CO 3a/26) flew sorties over the Catalan front until 8 January 1939, when he and the 3a Escuadrilla moved to the Central-Southern area to participate in the offensive in Extremadura. However, when this operation was cancelled the unit was transferred to Fuenteovejuna, where Muñoz fought several engagements against Nationalist CR.32s.
The 3a Escuadrilla was subsequently transferred to La Señera airfield to provide fighter cover for the port of Valencia.

In early January 1939, capitan José Redondo Martín went on leave, accompanied by teniente Antonio Nieto Sandoval-Díaz. The pair stayed at a rest home operated by the Jefatura de Sanidad (Health Service) of the Fuerzas Aéreas in the city of Camprodon.

In January 1939, mayor Manuel Aguirre López returned to Catalonia, but after its fall to the Nationalists he escaped across the Pyrenees into France.

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

At the start of the Valsequillo Offensive on 5 January, the only CR.32 unit in Andalusia at the time was Escuadrilla 8-E-3 (led by capitán Arístides García López) at Posadas, near Cordoba. One week later it was joined by 1-E-3 and 3-E-3 Escuadrillas (led by capitán Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal and capitán Miguel Guerrero García, respectively), which were transferred in from Aragon.

Miguel Guerrero García led 2-G-3 temporarily until 13 January, when Ángel Salas returned from hospital.
Salas, in his new rank of comandante, reassumed leadership of 2-G-3, which was still based at Escatrón. The unit remained here until 17 January when they moved, together with 3-G-3, to Balaguer aerodrome (Lérida).

Aviazione Legionaria

Capitano Mario Bonzano was replaced as CO of the 18a Squadriglia by Capitano Vezio Mezzetti on 8 January.

Capitano Giuseppe Majone left the command of the 24a Squadriglia, XVI Gruppo, on 8 January.
During his time as CO, the unit had fought over Levante, Ebro and Catalonia.

Legion Condor

On 16 January, J/88 was transferred from Zaidin to Lérida.
On 21 January, they moved to Valls airfield north of Tarragona.


1 January 1939
Leutnant Wilhelm Ensslen of 2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16 during the day.

2 January 1939
Rodolphe de Hemricourt of 2-G-3 claimed one I-15 over Ciervoles.
This was his 14th and last claim in the Spanish Civil War.

3 January 1939
Unteroffizier ‘Willi’ Szuggar of 1.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an unconfirmed I-15 during the day.

Escuadra No 11 claimed three CR.32s as probables (one of them set on fire).

4 January 1939
Leutnant Karl-Wolfgang Redlich of 1.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an unconfirmed SB during the day while Hauptmann Walter Grabmann of Stab J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-15 destroyed.

Republican fighter pilot Guillermo Fernández Adalpe disappeared in the Cataluña area and was lost.

5 January 1939
Oberleutnant Karl Ebbinghausen of Stab J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16 during the day.

The 4a/21 (I-16) and 7a/21 (I-16) claimed a shared He 111.

7 January 1939
Teniente Carlos Serra Pablo-Romero from 2-E-3 suffered an accident in Cataluña and CR.32 3-71 was destroyed.

8 January 1939
Grupo No 26 (I-15) claimed a CR.32.

9 January 1939
Oberleutnant Wilhelm Ensslen of 2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16 during the day.

The 4a/21 (I-16) claimed a probable Bf 109 (set on fire).

11 January 1939
Republican fighter pilot Antonio Carpi Dols disappeared in the Cataluña area and was lost.

12 January 1939
Bf 109s from J/88 carried out a surprise attack on Republican airfields, claiming 13 aircraft destroyed on the ground.

Escuadra No 11 claimed a probable Do 17.

Enrique Ruiz Hermosilla from 1-E-3 was killed in an accident at Matacán and CR.32 3-81 was destroyed.

13 January 1939
Tenente Vittorio Minguzzi of the 19a Squadriglia claimed three I-15s damaged at 11:30 over Montblanch.

15 January 1939
Republican fighter pilot Jaime Cairo was killed in an accident in the Cataluña area.

16 January 1939
Republican fighter pilot Llovina was killed in combat in the Cataluña area.

17 January 1939
During the night, teniente José Falcó Sanmartín, CO Patrulla de Vuelo Nocturno (I-15), claimed an unconfirmed He 59.

The Bf 109s from 3.J/88 claimed four I-16s. These were claimed by Oberleutnant Hubertus von Bonin, Fähnrich Heinz Tornow, Leutnant Josef Fözö and Oberfeldwebel Müller.

19 January 1939
At midday, six CR.32s of Grupo 3-G-3, led by comandante Joaquín García Morato, and six from 2-G-3, headed by comandante Ángel Salas, flew a surveillance patrol near Igualada, on the Lérida-Barcelona road. The biplane fighters were accompanied by five He 112s of Grupo 5-G-5, led by capitán Miguel García Pardo.
During the course of their patrol the Nationalist fighters intercepted 16 I-15s and 13 I-16s, and comandante Morato shot down an I-15 from 4a Escuadrilla (Morato’s 40th and last victory). García Pardo also claimed a Rata destroyed for his 13th, and last, aerial success. It was also the only victory credited to the He 112 in Spain.

A. Escardó Soler of the 4a/21 (I-16) claimed a Bf 109.

Escuadra No 11 claimed a probable Bf 109.

Republican fighter pilot Fernández disappeared in the Cataluña area and was lost.

21 January 1939
Oberleutnant Helmut-Felix “Antek” Bolz and Oberfeldwebel Müller, both of 3.J/88 (Bf 109), claimed an I-15 each.

Francisco Alférez Jiménez of the 1a/26 (I-15) claimed a Ju 87.

Miguel Castillo Puerta of the 4a/26 (I-15) claimed a Bf 109.

Escuadra No 11 claimed a Bf 109 and a Ju 87 (same claim as above?).

Republican losses during the day included two I-16s when Sabino Cortizo Bertolo (KIA in CM-222) and Antonio Soria Cervera were shot down.

22 January 1939
Unteroffizier Herbert Schob of 2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an unconfirmed I-15.

It seems that Grupo No 26 lost two I-15s during the day; sargento José Tebar Villar (KIA) over Tarragona and teniente Manuel Quitros Bonent over Figueras.

23 January 1939
Capitanes Miguel Guerrero García and Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal (CR.32 NC 931/3-118) and Maggiore Guido Nobili (detached from the Nationalist Escuela de Caza) were leading seven CR.32s of Grupo 2-G-3 on a bomber escort mission when enemy fighters were engaged. Capitán Vázquez, together with his wingmen teniente Antonio Manrique Garrido (1-E-3) (CR.32 NC 939/3-123) and Vigueras, chased after the aircraft while the remaining seven CR.32s stayed with the bombers. The three Fiat fighters then ran into a much larger formation of I-15s belonging to Escuadrillas 2a and 3a of Grupo No26 near Hinojosa del Dunque. Manrique was credited with shooting down a ‘Curtiss fighter’ and Vigueras scored a probable before returning to base in his battle-damaged fighter.
Vázquez, however, was badly wounded in the stomach by an I-15 and forced to bail out of his stricken CR.32. He was quickly captured by Republican troops and taken to a hospital in Pozoblanco, where he passed away before he was able to identify himself to his captors. Vázquez was carrying a cigarette case given to him by Joaquín García Morato, which was inscribed with his commander’s initials. Moreover, Vázquez bore a resemblance to Morato, and the Republicans duly announced the death of the ‘Separatist air force’s “ace of aces”’.

Grupo No 21 (I-16) claimed a probable He 111.

Republican fighter pilot Antonio Soria Cervera was killed in combat in the Cataluña area.
It is possible that he was killed on 21 January when he also was shot down.

24 January 1939
Bf 109s from J/88 covered Ju 87s attacking the bridge at Molina del Rey.

E. Mendía Ruiz (CR.32 3-146) and P. Lacalle Orellana (3-147), both from 8-E-3, suffered a mid-air collision over Extremadura and both fighters were destroyed.

27 January 1939
L. Márquez Maristany of 5-E-3 suffered an accident at Pla de Vilanoveta and CR.32 3-170 was destroyed.

28 January 1939
Bf 109s from J/88 guarded a large victory parade over Barcelona in case there should be a surprise attack.

29 January 1939
Bf 109s from J/88 escorted bombers from K/88 sent to attack the railway stations at Gerona and Figueras. When it became apparent that no enemy fighters were going to show themselves, the Bf 109s switched to attacking motor transport along the coastal roads.
The next few days were spent in pursuing what remained of the Republican forces towards the Pyrenees, but heavy rains restricted operations.

February 1939

Ground Operations

10 February 1939
Nationalist forces completed the occupation of Catalonia by reaching Spain’s eastern border with France.

27 February 1939
France and Great Britain recognized the Nationalist’ government.

Fuerza Aérea de la República Española - Republican Air Force

In February 1939, capitán Fernando Romero Tejero became CO of the 3o Sector Aéreo at Los Llanos, again in Albacete.

On 7 February 1939, at the end of the campaign in Catalonia, mayor Juan Comas Borrás escaped from the Clínica Platón in Barcelona to France by ambulance. He remained hospitalised for a further six months, and was subsequently interned at Gurs. After the German occupation of France he was handed over to the Spanish authorities and court-martialled. Upon his release from prison, Comas settled at Tordera, in Barcelona, and he became its mayor during the 1980s.

Teniente Antonio Nieto Sandoval-Díaz was ordered back from leave to Figueras airfield. He was offered one of the new I-15bis Superchatos to fly to France, which he did on 6 February 1939 with capitán Emilio Galera Macías as his wingman. The aircraft landed at Carcasonne airfield, near Toulouse, and the two Spanish pilots were interned.

On 22 February, Aleksandr Osipenko 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 Osipenko already had left Spain.

At the end of Catalonian campaign, mayor Manuel Zarauza Clavero, CO Grupo No 21 (I-16), escaped to France together with most of his pilots. He was interned at Argelès-sur-Mer and Gurs, but later settled in the USSR and joined the Red Army Air Force on the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War. Kaitan Zarauza commanded an eskadrilya of 961 IAP until he was killed on 12 October 1942 in a mid-air collision with his wingman, Serzhant Alexander Riapishev, over the airfield of Kishli, in Baku. A monument to him was erected in the cemetery where he was interred.

When most of the Republican fighters had been lost in combat or destroyed on the ground, capitán José María Bravo Fernández, deputy CO Grupo No 21 (I-16) left for France on 6 February. Accompanied by his pilots and groundcrewmen, Bravo walked across the Pyrenees and was interned at Argeles-sur-Mer.
Bravo’s logbook shows that he flew 1100 hours in Republican fighters during the civil war. Logging 1120 operational sorties, mostly in I-16s coded ‘CM-129’, ‘CM-193’ and ‘CM-249’, he took part in 160 aerial combats and claimed to have shot down 23 enemy aircraft individually and shared (probables are also included in this tally). Despite seeing so much action, Bravo never had to bail out of his aircraft and suffered no serious incidents in combat.
Following his freedom from internment, Bravo left for the Soviet Union to resume his engineering studies. In the wake of the German invasion of the USSR in June 1941, he joined the Red Army, serving with a mining engineers’ unit that carried out dangerous missions behind enemy lines. A chance meeting with a Soviet general who had also fought in Spain resulted in Bravo being asked to list the 50 or so Spanish airmen that he knew who were scattered among different units of the Red Army. These men were subsequently ordered to join the air defence force.
Kapitan Jose Maria Bravo Fernandez duly served with the 3rd Eskadrilya of 481 1AP, VIII Army Corps. Eventually commanding the unit, he also led 485 and 961 IAPs, but there are no records to indicate whether he claimed any aerial victories. Bravo and Antonio Arias Arias were among the pilots who escorted Stalin’s Lisunov Li-2 to Tehran and back in November and December 1943. He flew later I-16 variants, as well as Spitfires, Hurricanes, Kittyhawks and Airacobras. Upon his demobilization in 1948, Bravo held the rank of lieutenant colonel, his wartime service having added 630 flying hours to his logbook.
Following his discharge from the Red Army Air Force, Bravo worked at a Moscow language school and became its vice-dean. In 1960 he was finally able to return to Spain to be reunited with his family. Bravo duly published his memoirs, and received the Order of Zhukov from the Russian ambassador to Spain. This decoration, presented to senior officers for outstanding military leadership during the Great Patriotic War, was awarded to just 100 combat veterans between 1995 and 1998. Bravo remained active up until his death in Madrid on 26 December 2009, aged 94.

The 4a/21 (I-16) was virtually wiped out during the Catalonian campaign. In February 1939 capitán Antonio Arias Arias, (CO) and his surviving pilots crossed the border to France on foot. Like many other Republican fighter pilots, he was able to leave for the USSR after a brief period of internment.
Upon the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War, Arias joined the Red Army Air Force and was posted to a special unit flying captured German aircraft. He subsequently flew MiG-3 fighters in the defence of Moscow, and by 1942 Arias was commanding the 2nd eskadrilya of 964 IAP/130 AD. Having flown Hurricanes and Tomahawks on the Leningrad front, Arias served with 740 IAP and later became an observer with 439 IAP. He claimed one and one shared Ju 88 during the Second World War.
Demobilised in 1948, Arias settled in Minsk and returned to his job as a printer. He travelled back to Spain in 1990 and died there after publishing his memoirs.

Known Soviet aviators leaving Spain in February 1939
Departure Name Arrival Comment
1939-02-09 Cherkasov, Aleksey Fedorovich 1937-06-15  

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

On 15 February, the nine Fiats from 2-G-3 flew from Escatrón to Posadas, led by Commander Ángel Salas. The independent Squadron 8-E-3 remained at the same aerodrome, but on 13 March they became part of Group 2-G-3, forming its fourth squadron.

Aviazione Legionaria

Colonnello Venceslao D’Aurelio left the command of the 3o Stormo Caccia to Colonnello Enrico Guglielmotti on 11 February.

Known Italian aviators arriving in Spain in February 1939
Arrival Name Nom de guerre Rank Role Born Comment Departure
1939-02-15 Guido Pongiluppi   Sergente Maggiore G.50 pilot 1909-03-28 2nd tour 1939-05-04


1 February 1939
At 09:30, Tenente Vittorio Minguzzi of the 19a Squadriglia claimed a shared I-16 together with three other pilots over Palamos.
It’s possible that Tenente Annibale Sterzi from the same unit claimed one I-16 in the same combat since he’s credited with one during the day.

3 February 1939
Oberleutnant Hubertus von Bonin and Fähnrich Heinrich Tornow, both from 3.J/88 (Bf 109), claimed an I-15 each.

4 February 1939
Leutnant August-Wilhelm Schumann of 2.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-15.

5 February 1939
At 09:50, Tenente Vittorio Minguzzi of the 19a Squadriglia claimed one Delphine and two I-16s destroyed on the ground at Villajuiga.

During escort missions for bombers, the Bf 109s of J/88 encountered I-15s. Obberleutnant Wilhelm Ensslen (2.J/88) claimed one I-15 while one each unconfirmed were claimed by Hauptmann Walter Rubensdörffer (Stab J/88) and Leutnant Karl-Wolfgang Redlich (2.J/88).

6 February 1939
The Bf 109s of Legion Condor made a number of claims when the Geschwaderkommoder of J/88, Hauptmann Siebelt Reents claimed an I-15, as did Unteroffizier Gerhard Halupczek (1.J/88) while Unteroffizier Hans Nirminger (1.J/88) claimed a Ge-23. Unteroffizier Heinrich Windemuth also claimed a Ge-23 while Oberleutnant Alfred von Lojewski claimed an enemy aircraft; these two last claims is somewhat uncertain on the date. J/88 suffered its last operational loss when Unteroffizier Windemuth was killed when his Bf 109E-1 was shot down in flames during a low-level attack on Vilajuiga airfield. In the same attack was also Unteroffizier Nirminger shot down but he survived this.
The Republican pilots at Vilajuiga airfield (in Gerona) reported that at 06:00 in the morning, there was a group of planes at the horizon and they thought that these were reinforcements. They, however soon realised that this was a mistake: ”No, they are Germans, Messers!” (it seems that it was six Bf 109s attacking).
Four Republican pilots managed to scramble. The first to take off was Mayor Andrés García La Calle CO of the Escuadra de Caza No 11 in his last I-16 fighter. He was followed by another pilot (Batista), and they took the direction toward France. Behind them teniente José Falcó Sanmartín, CO Patrulla de Vuelo Nocturno (I-15), was faced with two Bf 109s. There was an intense exchange of shots, and Falcó was sure that he had hit one Bf 109. When he had already taken the course toward the French border, he saw that other German fighter was pursuing a Republican Grumman Ge-23 “Delfin”.

“I managed to put myself after the tail of the Messer and I did not stop shooting him until I had him, although I had to do very strong manoeuvre for not to collide with him and that stopped the fuel to coming to engine. I had to land in a vineyard”
Falcó returned to the airfield, which by now was deserted and he saw only the smoking wreckage of burned planes. These victories were made against Unteroffizier Nirminger (6-96) and Unteroffizier Windemuth (6-98).
For the feat Falcó was promoted to capitan. However, this was his last sortie and he fled to France four days later.
Mayor García La Calle flew to France (Toulouse-Francazal). He stayed in a refugee camp in the area of Argeles-sur-mer in Perpignan, France.
After questioning by Armée de l’Air officers, he sailed for the Dominican Republic.

7 February 1939
Teniente Francisco Tarazona Torán, CO 3a/21 (I-16 Type 10 ‘CM-193’), was lucky to escape with his life when his aircraft was attacked by Legion Condor aircraft while he was attempting to take off from Vilajuiga.
Although Tarazona maintained that ‘CM-193’ was destroyed in the incident, other sources contradict that assertion. Historian Juan Arráez believes the aircraft was in airworthy condition when it was captured by Nationalist troops, while Thomas Sarbaugh says that contemporary French newspapers reported that I-16s ‘CM-193’, ‘CM-244’ and ‘CM-202’ managed to land near Gironde on 5 February 1939.
As Republican resistance crumbled Tarazona sought refuge in France. Thanks to his Mexican nationality, he was able to return to Mexico and join his family there. Tarazona later found employment as a captain with the airline Mexicana, flying Douglas DC-3s, DC-4s and DC-6s, de Havilland Comet 4s and Boeing 727s. After retirement from the flightdeck, he served as an air service inspector at the airline’s headquarters at Mexico City international airport, before becoming operations manager for the Servicios Aéreos de la Comisión Federal de Electricidad. Tarazona then established the Francisco Tarazona Flying School, which he ran until he retired to Cuernavaca. He died there on 1 July 1988.
Tarazona logged a total of 23,300 flying hours and was awarded the Emilio Carranza medals for reaching 10,000 and 15,000 commercial flying hours. He was also a successful author, displaying a meticulous, precise style in numerous articles published in magazines and newspapers like Hélice, the magazine of the Asociación Sindical de Pilotos Aviadores (ASPA – Pilots’ Trade Union). Tarazona also wrote two books the first, entitled Sangre en el cielo (Blood in the Sky) and published by Costa Amic in Mexico City in 1958, was an account of his experiences in the civil war. It was also published in Spain by Editorial San Martín in 1974 - while the country was still ruled by General Franco - under the title Yo fui piloto de caza rojo (I was a Red Fighter Pilot). His second book, El despertar de las aguilas (Eagles Awake), detailed the history of the ASPA, of which Tarazona was an enthusiastic member and office holder.
In his book Blood in the Sky, Tarazona stated that he had scored six individual aerial victories and some shared with other pilots during the civil war.

9 February 1939
Five I-15s were claimed by Spanish pilots near Peñarroya, in Andalusia. Two were credited to capitán Arístides García López (8-E-3), taking his overall tally to 17, and one each to Juan Frutos Rubio, teniente Antonio Manrique (1-E-3) and teniente Luis Alcocer - the latter two pilots each ‘made ace’ with these successes.
This was the last aerial combat for the CR.32 in Spain

March 1939

Ground Operations

26 March 1939
The advance on Pozoblanco by the Moroccan and Andalusian Armv Corps began.

28 March 1939
With the virtual disintegration of the Republican army, the Nationalists took Madrid without further fighting.

Fuerza Aérea de la República Española - Republican Air Force

The Grupo de Chatos Na 26 left from Manises, being transferred to La Rabasa airfield on 29 March. Here, its aircraft were reluctantly surrendered to Nationalist forces after groundcrew refused to refuel them.

Results of the Republican Air Force’s operations with SBs from 28 October 1936 through 1 January 1939:

Target Operations Sorties
Airfields and airbases 118 864
Railroad targets 56 347
Ships and naval bases 73 361
Administrative, political, and economic targets 44 266
Grounds troops 405 3306
Reconnaissance flights 156 302
Non-combat flights and ferry flights 9 118
Total 861 5564

When the Spanish Republic fell in March 1939 the Nationalists took over 19 serviceable SBs. As early as mid-August these aircraft, bearing registration numbers starting at “20W” (later changed to “B.5”), were assigned to the 13a Escuadra de Bombardeo Estrategico, based at Los Llanos. They remained in service with the Escuadra until February 1946.
Out of the 92 SBs delivered to the Republicans, 73 airplanes were lost. Of these, 40 were shot down by enemy fighters or anti-aircraft while the rest were destroyed in crashes and accidents.
In the course of the war SB gunners reported shooting down nine fighters: four CR.32s, three Bf 109s, and two unidentified fighters.

On 29 March, teniente Francisco Viñals Guarro (CO) led a formation of 12 I-15s of the 2a/26 to Barajas airfield, where the unit formally surrendered its equipment to the victorious Nationalist armies.

When the victorious Nationalist forces arrived at La Rabasa airfield on 29 March, teniente Álvaro Muñoz López (CO 3a/26) surrendered his unit to them.

Legion Condor

The Legion Condor took little part in the final offensive against Madrid, flying what were described as ‘practice missions’ during the last days of the war.


1 March 1939
It seems that the Bf 109s of J/88 made some claims during the day (even if some uncertainties of the date exist) when three enemy aircraft where claimed by Oberfeldwebel Walter Grimmling, Unteroffizier Eckart König and Unteroffizier Karl-Heinz Mets.

6 March 1939
Oberleutnant Hubertus von Bonin (3.J/88) claimed J/88’s last and 314th victory when he claimed an I-15.

A number of I-15bis from the final batch ended up in France after their pilots fled to Carcasonne.

Teniente Gerardo Gil Sánchez of the Escuela de Alta Velocidad at El Carmolí operated an I-16 over Nationalist shipping. During the mission he was shot at by hostile anti-aircraft artillery on what proved to be his last flight of the war.
Taken prisoner by the Nationalists, he was court-martialled and sentenced to 20 years and one day’s imprisonment - this sentence was later commuted to ten years. In 1947 Gil was pardoned and settled in Madrid. In the 1980s he was vice-chairman of the Asociación de Aviadores Republicanos.

10 March 1939
Due to unknown causes CR.32 3-148 flown by J. Busquets Sindreu of 8-E-3 was destroyed at Posadas.

17 March 1939
J/88 sent three Bf 109s on a freie Jagd over Madrid but without meeting any opposition.

20 March 1939
Leutnant Peter Boddem (2.J/88) was killed in a flying accident while a passenger in a Ju 52/3m on leaving Spain.

26 March 1939
2-G-3, made three sorties; the first led by Ángel Salas and the other two by Miguel Guerrero García. There was practically no resistance and Salas moved to Grinon, so that he could be one of the first to enter Madrid, where his father was in hiding in an embassy.

27 March 1939
J/88 flew their last sortie when the unit escorted the bombers of K/88 for a final mission against forward Republican positions.
Earlier that same day a Hs 126 reconnaissance aircraft had reported seeing white flags flying in Madrid, and at 10:00 von Richthofen sent the long- awaited message, ’All German units will cease operations!’

A reconnaissance sortie was carried out, and this was 2-G-3’s last operational sortie of the war.

28 March 1939
Capitán Miguel García Pardo of 5-G-5 lost his life in a flying accident at Almaluez airfield upon returning from a surveillance sortie on the Guadalajara front in a He 112.

April 1939

Ground Operations

1 April 1939
Franco announces the end of the war. United States recognize the Nationalist’ government.

Fuerza Aérea de la República Española - Republican Air Force

At the end of the war, some 187 I-16s had been lost in Spain, with 112 downed in combat, one claimed by anti-aircraft fire, 11 destroyed on the ground, 62 lost in accidents and one force-landed in enemy-held territory.

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

At the end of the Spanish Civil War, 118 CR.32s had been lost to enemy action. Totally 477 CR.32s had been involved in the conflict claiming 1029 victories (709 by Italian pilots and 320 by Spanish and other non-Italian pilots).


4 April 1939
Comandante Joaquín García Morato was killed in a flying accident at Griñon airfield in front of newsreel cameras. He died at the controls of his faithful CR.32’'3-51’, in which he had claimed most of his victories. The fighter was reported as having been destroyed when it hit the ground near-horizontally while performing a dangerous landing manoeuvre following an aerobatic display and mock combat with an I-16.
According to some of Morato’s closest friends and colleagues, he seemed to have a death wish as the conflict drew to an end. This was possibly brought on by the tension accumulated over 30 months of war, as Morato had spent most of this time flying and fighting. He had seen numerous friends killed fighting fellow Spaniards, and this had a great effect on him.
The death of Spain’s leading fighter pilot provoked widespread distress among his subordinates, who revered Morato for his qualities as both a leader and an ace. A crowd some 20,000 strong attended his funeral in Madrid. Amongst the mourners were the new Head of State, general Franco, and the Jefe del Aire, general Alfredo Kindelán Duany, who placed the posthumous Medalla Militar (Individual Military Medal) on his body, in addition to the Cruz Laureada de San Fernando that had already been awarded to him during the war.
Following the transfer of his coffin to Malaga, which was his adopted hometown, the local population of 100,000 attended the burial ceremony.
Morato was honoured by the Italians too, receiving the nation's highest honour for military valour, the Medaglia d’oro al valor militaire. The citation accompanying the award noted that the Spanish ace was a ‘legendary courageous aviator, and a brother to all Italian pilots’.

May 1939

Aviazione Legionaria

Known Italian aviators leaving Spain in May 1939
Departure Name Arrival Comment
1939-05-04 Guido Pongiluppi 1939-02-15 2nd tour


19 May 1939
A final victory parade was held in Madrid. Ángel Salas, who had taken command of both Fiat groups following Joaquín García Morato’s death, led the formation that triumphantly spelled out the word FRANCO, high above the enthusiastic and cheering crowds that celebrated the return of peace.

Last modified 08 April 2024