Biplane fighter pilots


Desiatnik Martin Danihel

From left to right: Jozef Drlicka, A. Kubovic and Martin Danihel after having been awarded the German Iron Cross, 2nd Class, on 8 September 1941.
Image kindly provided by Jan Safarik

During the Hungarian attacks on Slovakia on 23-24 March 1939, the 45th and 49th letka operated from Spišská Nová Ves airfield. These units were equipped with Avia B-534s. The units were severely short on flying personnel due to the departure of personnel of Czech nationality to the Protectorate.
Commander of the 45th letka was J. Svetlik and he had to his disposal six pilots (J. Pálencek, J. Hergott, František Hanovec, Danihel, J. Zachar and Viliam Jaloviar).
Commander of the 49th letka was Ján Prhácek and he had to his disposal four pilots (C. Martiš, Š. Devan, Michal Karas and M. Žiaran).

At 15:00 on 24 March 1939 the whole 1/1. "Íjász" vadászszázad’s (Fighter Squadron) scrambled. They formed in three Vs in the air; főhadnagy Béla Csekme leading with hadnagy (2nd Lieutenant) V. Gemeinhardt and őrmester M. Tarr as wingmen. Negró’s trio flew on the starboard side and on the port side flew főhadnagy László Palkó’s 3. Section, with wingmen főhadnagy Antal Békássy and hadnagy Mátyás Pirity. The CR.32s reached the cloud-base at about 6200 feet and then flew into fog. Soon there was a hole in the clouds and at the same moment Palkó and Pirity noticed three Avia B-534s and three Letov Š.328s on the port side. The 1. Section did not appear to notice the enemy and they flew on and were soon swallowed by the fog. The Avias, which were from 45th letka, jumped Negró’s 2. Section but opened fire too soon, outside the range of their machine-guns. Negró, turned the table and shot down one Avia flown by rotmajster Ján Hergott southeast of Bánovce nad Ondavou. A second Avia, flown by František Hanovec, was shot down by Szojak near Senné.
The Letovs, which were from 12th letka on their way to bomb Hungarian troops at Sobrance, were deserted by their escort and offered a tempting target. They were 300 feet higher thus, in order to gain speed and altitude, Palkó threw his machine into a short dive and then climbed behind the Letovs. He dipped the nose of his CR.32 and sent a burst into the belly of the nearest one. The aircraft caught fire and crashed north of Pavlovce nad Uhom. The pilot slobodník Gustáv Pažický and the observer porucík Ferdinand Švento were both killed. A second Letov was claimed shot down by Pirity. This was a Letov flown by slobodník Jozef Drlicka and his observer podporucík L. Šronk and they made an emergency landing near Strazske.
Three more Avias were discovered and Palkó’s wingmen were now locked in combat with the enemy fighter. Békássy pursued one over the border and emptied a total of a thousand rounds from both machine guns into it before shooting it down. This aircraft was flown by Danihel from 45th letka and he made an emergency landing near Brezovice nad Torysa. After having expending all his ammunition Békássy returned to Hungary.
Looking around Pirity saw streams of tracers scorching the sky then noticed an Avia some 1500 feet below. Pirity dived on it but he had to pull out because another CR.32 crossed his path with guns blazing. The sky was now empty, Palkó, staying in the area for a minute or two, sighted Negró’s machine. One by one the other Fiats joined them. Békássy and Szojak had already landed at Ungvar.
The Hungarian pilots totally claimed five Avias and two Letovs in the air combat over Paloc. Negró, Békássy, Szojak, Béla Csekme (not confirmed) and Kertész (one not confirmed over Michalovce) reported the destruction of the Avias, while Palkó and Pirity claimed the Letovs. Gemeinhardt and Tarr had no chance to fire their guns in anger. The Slovakian forces lost three Avia B-534s and two Letovs. Slovakian pilots Hanovec and Danihel both claimed one Fiat but this was not confirmed with the Hungarians.
Porucík Ferdinand Švento, the observer of one of the Letovs, baled out and was wounded in the stomach while descending in his parachute. He fell near a group of Hungarian hussars. Upon impact he forced himself to sit up and reached inside his flying gear. The move was misunderstood and Švento was mortally shot. The hussars found his identification papers in his hand instead of a pistol. Švento was buried with full military honors.

After the invasion of the Soviet Union he flew the Avia B-534 on the Eastern Front.

On 30 July 1941, the Commander of the 12th letka received orders from the German 17th Army to strafe Soviet columns retreating towards Uman with bombs and machinegun fire. During the mission, Avia B-534 No. 242 flown by Catník Danihel was hit by ground fire. Danihel force-landed in enemy territory, near Babanka. He was rescued by his comrade Catník Jozef Drlicka, who landed nearby and brought him home clinging to the wing struts!
They were both awarded the Eiserne Kreuz II.Klasse (Iron Cross 2nd Class) for this bravery on 8 September together with their colleague Augustin Kubovic.
Later this scene was reconstructed in peace airfield for a war document film.

Danihel ended the war with 1 unconfirmed biplane victory.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  24/03/39 p.m. 1 CR.32 (a) Destroyed Avia B-534     45th letka

Biplane victories: 1 unconfirmed destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 unconfirmed destroyed.
(a) Not confirmed. Claimed in combat with 1/1. vadászszázad.

Air Aces Home Page - Jan Safarik
A magyar királyi 1. honvéd éjjeli vadász repülőszázad Magyar Repüléstörténeti Társaság Konferencia Közleményei - Csaba Becze 1999 kindly provided by Csaba Becze
Avia B-34, B-534 a Bk-534, slovenských pilotov 1939-1944 – Peter Šumichrast and Jozef And’al, HT model špeciál, ISSN 1335-3667
Biplane Against The Red Bear - Julius R. Gaal, 1974 Air Combat Spring/1974 kindly provided by Santiago Flores
Harcok az orosz égen Budapest - Tomor László, 1942 kindly provided by Csaba Becze
From Barbarossa to Odessa: Volume 1 – Dénes Bernád, Dmitriy Karlenko and Jean-Louis Roba, 2007 Ian Allan Publishing Ltd, ISBN 978-85780-273-3
Slovenské Letectvo 1939-1944 - Juraj Rajninec, Bratislava, 1997
Tűzkeresztség - Csaba Becze
Additional information kindly provided by Csaba Becze

Last modified 29 April 2008