Biplane fighter aces


Capitán Jesús García Herguido

18 January 1904 – 6 January 1937

Jesús García Herguido was born at Velilla de Medinaceli, in Soria, on 18 January 1904.

He started his working life as a mechanic-fitter with the La Mecánica company, before gaining employment in the MZA railway workshops at Alcázar de San Juan.

He joined the Escuela de Mecánicos at Cuatro Vientos in July 1925 and graduated in October 1926.

In 1928, Herguido was selected to join the crew of one of three Breguet XIXs of Grupo de Instructión, based at Getafe, for a special flight to Jerusalem.
The patrulla took off on 28 May but the only aircraft to arrive in Palestine was that crewed by capitán Luis Roa and cabo mecánico García Herguido. They returned to Getafe on 11 June.

Herguido then attended a flying course at the Escuela de Vuelo y Combate at Alcalá de Henares, from which he graduated in October 1930.

Posted to Grupo de Caza No 13, based at El Prat de Llobregat, he was promoted to sargento piloto in December 1932.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, pilots loyal to the Republic at Grupo No 13 included capitán Francisco Ponce de León y Díaz de Velasco and oficiales subalternos Amador Silverio Jiménez and Adonis Rodríguez González, as well as sargentos José Cabré Planas, Jesús García Herguido, Fernando Roig Villalta, Alfonso Jiménez Bruguet, Emilio Villaceballos García and Jaime Buyé Berni. These men, together with the Ni-H.52s of the escuadrilla, covered the Aragon. Three pilots, Ponce de León, sargento Emilio Villaceballos and teniente Amador Silverio Jiménez, were even deployed to airfields in the north, the latter two aviators flying Ni-H.52s to Bilbao to cover the Bay of Biscay front.

On 18 July 1936, sargento Herguido of the Grupo de Caza No 13 flew his first mission of the war when he flew a bombing mission from Prat de Llobregat with a Breguet XIX.

On 20 July, sargento Herguido of the Grupo de Caza No 13 flew a bombing mission from Prat de Llobregat with a Breguet XIX when he targeted the rebel-held San Andrés Barracks in Barcelona.

On 2 August, two Ni-H.52s flew from El Prat de Llobregat to the forward airfield at Sariñena, in Huesca, escorting four Breguet XIXs during the flight. The Nieuports and their pilots, teniente Amador Silverio Jiménez and sargento Herguido, remained at this location for some time.
Fellow Grupo de Caza No 13 pilots sargentos Fernando Roig Villalta, José Cabré Planas, Jaime Buyé Berni and Emilio Villaceballos were flown to Sariñena in Breguet XIXs, as was unit CO alférez Alfonso Jiménez Bruguet, and they all flew sorties in the Nieuports from the airfield. Jiménez’ pilots, most of whom were officially still sargentos, were promoted to alférez by the Catalan Generalitat authorities, whose Consejero de Defensa (Secretary of Defence) was teniente coronel de Aviación Felipe Díaz Sandino. These promotions were officially confirmed on 31 August according to a decree dated 27 September.
The Escuadrilla Mixta, based at Sariñena, was unofficially called ’Alas Rojas’. This name was displayed on some of the unit’s vehicles, and it was also the title of the newspaper published at the Republican airfield.

On 4 August, sargento Herguido from the Escuadrilla Mixta at Sariñena used his Ni-H.52 to shoot down a Nationalist Breguet XIX flown by capitán Eduardo Prado Castro, CO of an escuadrilla of Grupo No 23 detached to Saragossa. The aircraft made a forced-landing and both crewmen escaped unhurt. The resulting communique issued by the Consejero de Defensa de la Generalitat reported:

“Late this evening four Fascist aircraft from Andalusia tried to attack the advanced forces at La Zaida by taking advantage of today’s stormy weather, which reduced visibility. A fighter aircraft of the Republic forces, flown by oficial señor Herguido, who was returning to base, engaged the four rebel aircraft and brought one down in flames. Aviator Herguido chased the other three beyond Saragossa, where he lost them. Returning to base, and over Saragossa, he noticed strong concentrations of rebel forces on the Paseo de la Independencia, which he strafed. Our airman returned safely to base.”

By September 1936, Herguido had acquired the nickname ’El Demonio Rojo’ (’'El Dimoni Roig’ in Catalan), and Republican war correspondents like Máximo Silvio praised him in the Catalan press. Regarded as one of the most courageous airmen operating over the Aragon front, he had racks for light 12 kg bombs fitted under the wings of his Ni-H.52. Thus equipped, Herguido dive-bombed enemy machine gun nests and harassed Nationalist forces marching on Huesca.

On 2 September, alférez Herguido of Grupo de Caza No 13 strafed the enemy airfield at Huesca, landed, saluted the astonished enemy airmen that ran up to his fighter with a tight fist and then took off again! The prank was recorded in a communique from Barcelona, which noted ”The advance on Huesca goes on. A loyal aeroplane landed on the enemy airfield. It took off again safely”.

Sergente Achille Buffali of the 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio shot down a Ni-H.52 flown by alférez Herguido of the Escuadrilla Mixta on 11 September. Although wounded in the engagement, Herguido managed to return to Republican territory.

On 15 September there was further air combat in the Tardienta area involving Nieuport fighters from both sides. Escuadrilla ’Alas Rojas’ (Grupo de Caza No 13) teniente Adonis Rodríguez González and alféreces Herguido and Fernando Roig Villalta took off from Sariñena and headed for the front in their Ni-H.52s. Once on patrol, the aircraft were bounced by three enemy fighters and teniente Rodríguez was wounded. Force-landing near Tardienta, the Republican pilot was helped by militiamen to a field hospital. On the Nationalist side, a three-strong Breguet XIX patrulla that was attacked by Herguido and Roig was forced to land at Tardienta frontline airfield.
Both the Consejeria de Defensa communiqué in Barcelona and the press coverage of this combat were remarkable. According to the first communiqué, ”In the Tardienta area our airmen scored a great success by shooting down three enemy aeroplanes”. The second communiqué added details:

“In the Huesca area rebel forces have carried out strong attacks, escorted by their aircraft which have been battered. Three of our fighter aircraft have shot down two enemy bombers and one fighter.”
A third communiqué admitted that it was the enemy Ni-H.52s - three actually - that had attacked the friendly aircraft:
“A republican Aviation patrulla was attacked by six enemy aeroplanes when it was returning from Huesca. Our airmen forced an enemy aircraft down and it was captured by the Tardienta militias. Both the aircraft and the aviator are foreign.”
The Catalan press published additional details:
“Our airmen chased a rebel bomber and forced it down at the village of La Zaida. The pilot was taken prisoner and the aircraft was captured intact by our troops, together with all the crew.”
As we have seen, however, the outcome of this clash was quite different from the official version. Teniente Adonis Rodríguez was the captured ‘foreign airman’ referred to by the communiqué! Coronel Felipe Díaz Sandino, Consejero de Defensa of the Catalan autonomous government, seemed well versed in the techniques of propaganda and disinformation.

In October, he was promoted to teniente.

In late October/early November, the Soviet command in Spain eventually permitted the best Spanish fighter pilots to join the two escuadrillas that had been established upon the I-15s’ arrival. Aviators such as Andrés García La Calle, Fernando Roig Villalta and Augusto Martín Campos soon began flying the biplanes, and although the latter pilot was quickly dismissed because the Soviet command did not trust him, further Spanish pilots joined the escuadrillas. They included José Cuartero, Emilio Galera, Herguido, Alfonso Jiménez Bruguet, Manuel Aguirre López, Roberto Alonso Santamaría and Rafael Robledano Ruiz.

In November, the Soviet I-15 escuadrilla (1a/Gr.26) led by kapitan Pavel Rychagov at Alcalá de Henares, in Madrid, included tenientes Andrés García La Calle (he was promoted to teniente during November), Roberto Alonso Santamaría, López Trinidad, Galera Macías, Cuartero Pozo, Guaza Marín, Roig Villalta, Herguido, Alfonso Jiménez Bruguet, Manuel Aguirre López and Robledano Ruiz. The escuadrilla fought on the Madrid front.

On 17 December, while attached to the Soviet 2a Patrulla of the I-15 escuadrilla under Soviet capitán Pavel Rychagov (Escuadrilla Palancar), teniente Herguido suffered a knee wound in a combat over the Madrid front. He managed to land his Chato behind friendly lines and was admitted to hospital in Barcelona, where he remained for some days.

Upon recovering from his wounds, Herguido rejoined his unit.

On 6 January 1937, 14 Ju 52/3ms from K/88 operated against Madrid escorted by He 51s from J/88. They were intercepted by I-16 and the He 51s of Hauptmann Jürgen Roth’s 3.J/88 found themselves in trouble when, during an aerial battle over Madrid, Leutnant Hans-Peter von Gallera and his wingman, Unteroffizier Kurt Kneiding, were shot down and killed. Unteroffizier Walter Leyerer was forced to land in open countryside where his aircraft turned over, his aircraft having been hit 12 times.
It seems that the German pilots accounted for themselves since teniente Herguido of the 2a Patrulla (Escuadrilla Palancar) was shot down and killed in combat with Legion Condor He 51s over the Madrid. Herguido’s friend Andrés García La Calle reported:

“In the other Russian escuadrilla my friend and comrade Jesús García Herguido, who had just joined because I had called him in, was killed when shot down. According to the commissar, Herguido shot down a Heinkel, which practically crashed on Barajas airfield, but his aeroplane was so close to the Heinkel that he did not have time to recover from a steep dive before he too crashed.”

Jesús García Herguido was posthumously promoted to the rank of capitán effective from the date of his death, 6 January 1937.

Herguido ended the war with 2 biplane victories.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 04/08/36   1 Breguet XIX (a) Destroyed Ni-H.52   La Zaida area Escuadrilla Mixta
2 06/01/37   1 He 51 (b) Destroyed I-15   Barajas airfield Escuadrilla Palancar

Biplane victories: 2 destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 destroyed.
(a) Breguet XIX flown by capitán Eduardo Prado Castro, CO of an escuadrilla of Grupo No 23. The aircraft made a forced-landing and both crewmen escaped unhurt.
(b) Claimed in combat with He 51s from 3.J/88, which lost three fighters.

Condor: The Luftwaffe in Spain 1936-1939 - Patrick Laureau, 2000 Hikoki Publications, Ottringham, ISBN 1-902109-10-4
Fighter Pilots Of The Spanish Republic (Vol. 1) - Rafael A. Permuy López, Historica 36/39 no. 1, ISBN 84-87314-89-9
Spanish Republican Aces – Rafael A Permuy López, 2012 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-668-4

Last modified 22 May 2019