Biplane fighter pilots


Jozef Drlicka

2 February 1919 – 2 January 1943

Image kindly provided by Jan Safarik

Jozef Drlicka was born on 2 February 1919 in Piestany.

He finished pilot training in 1937 and then served in the Czechoslovak AF as a pilot. After the creation of the Slovak State he served in the new Slovak AF.

He took part in the border skirmishes against the Hungarians in the spring of 1939.

At 15:00 on 24 March 1939 the whole Hungarian 1/1. "Íjász" vadászszázad’s (Fighter Squadron) scrambled. They formed in three Vs in the air; fõhadnagy Béla Csekme leading with hadnagy V. Gemeinhardt and õrmester M. Tarr as wingmen. Negró’s trio flew on the starboard side and on the port side flew fõhadnagy László Palkó’s 3. Section, with wingmen fõhadnagy 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 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 desiatnik Martin 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 Martin Danihel was hit by ground fire. Danihel force-landed in enemy territory, near Babanka. He was rescued by his comrade Catník 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.

At 18:15 on 7 September 1941, Catník Drlicka of 12th letka claimed one victory while flying Avia B-534, when he during dogfights over the bridge near Gornostaypol (about 70km south of Kiev) shot down a Soviet I-16.
An unknown Slovak pilot claimed a second I-16 at the same time.

On 8 September, he was awarded the German Iron Cross, 2nd Class.

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

After training with new Bf 109s in Grove (Denmark) he returned to Eastern Front on 27 October 1942.

During the flight to front he crashed twice but finally arrived there with a new aircraft in the second half of December 1942.

On 2 January 1943 Jozef Drlicka was killed in action in the cockpit of a Bf 109E near Tuapse during air combat with enemy planes. He was the first pilot of 13/JG52 (13th letka) to be killed in combat.

Jozef Drlicka had claimed 1 biplane victory at the time of his death.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 07/09/41 18:15 1 I-16 Destroyed Avia B-534   near Gornostaypol 12th letka

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed.

Air Aces Home Page - Jan Safarik
Most of this information is prepared by Ondrej Repka with kindly permission of Mr. Stano Bursa. Following sources have been used by him:
S.Bursa – personal archive and dates from a prepared book about the 13th fighter flight.
Nieco o clenoch 13.letky, from the magazine Historie a plastikove moedarstvi - S.Bursa, 1&2/1997
Slovak Airmen 1939-1945 - J.Rajlich, J.Sehnal, 1991
Slovenske letectvo 1939-1944 - J.Rajninec, 1997
Following additional information has been used:
Air Enthusiast No 56 winter 1994 - kindly via Lars Larsson
Avia B-534 - Jirí Vraný, 1994
From Barbarossa to Odessa: Volume 1 – Dénes Bernád, Dmitriy Karlenko and Jean-Louis Roba, 2007 Ian Allan Publishing Ltd, ISBN 978-85780-273-3
From Barbarossa to Odessa: Volume 2 – Dénes Bernád, Dmitriy Karlenko and Jean-Louis Roba, 2008 Ian Allan Publishing Ltd, ISBN 978-85780-280-1
More additional information is kindly provided by Pavel Vancata.
Additional information kindly provided by Csaba Becze

Last modified 12 May 2008