Lieutenant General Andrés García La Calle
Andrés García La Calle was born in Sestao (Biscay) on 4 February 1909.
His real name was in fact García Calle, but when he joined the armed forces an old sergeant told him to say La Calle instead of Calle so people might think he was related to an assistant minister of the times and that is how he became García La Calle.
He gained a private pilot’s licence at the Madrid Aero Club in 1929, flying the Avro 504. In October of that year he was admitted to the Escuela de Vuelo y Combate at Alcalá de Henares.
He later attended the Escuela de Transformación (Transitional School) at Guadalajara, from which he graduated as a military pilot.
García La Calle was initially posted to Auamara, in Larache, then to the Escuela de Observadores at Cuatro Vientos and, finally, to the Escuela de Tiro y Bombardeo at Los Alcázares. There, he flew DH 9s, before moving in 1932 to Loring R-III-equipped Grupo de Reconocimiento No 22 in Seville.
He was promoted to sargento piloto in 1934.
When the civil war commenced he was a member of the 2a Escuadrilla of the Grupo de Caza No 11, which flew Ni-H.52s from Getafe. La Calle flew early combat missions with his fighter patrulla and the other two pilots in this patrulla were cabos Roberto Alonso Santamaría and Rafael Peña Dugo
La Calle distinguished himself in the early engagements over the Sierra de Madrid by shooting down several Nationalist aircraft and logging an impressive 82 flying hours in the second half of July alone.
During this time the future ace flew Ni-H.52s, D.372s and Loire 46 C1s with the government’s Aviación Militar.
Later, Garcia La Calle was detached to Herrera del Duque and Don Benito airfields on the Extremadura front.
On 21 July 1936, La Calle (Ni-H.52) claimed a damaged Breguet XIX.
According to some sources, this claim was credited to him as a destroyed.
On 31 July, both the Nationalist and Republican sides operated over Somosierra and two Nieuport Ni.52s fought with each other inconclusively at 08:30. La Calle reported:
"On a surveillance flight over the south side of Somosierra, i.e. quite inside our territory, I caught a Nieuport by surprise, flying much lower than me...he didn't even see me. I calmly aimed, pulled the trigger and...no result...I aimed again, made a "mortal" pass but the machineguns kept on jammed. The other Nieuport, unperturbed despite his critical situation, kept on turning and climbing, always a perfect target...my opponent did not realise he should be "dead" by now and kept on climbing towards me...it came to my mind that I was unarmed but he was not...so, before giving him a chance to shoot at me... I turned away in a violent dive."La Calle's opponent must have been capitán Ángel Salas Larrazábal, who wrote in his logbook:
"I fought another Nieuport, which fled as I reached his height."
On 6 August, cabo Rafael Peña Dugo of the Grupo de Caza No 11 (Ni-H.52) attacked friendly Ni-H.52s that had taken off from Barajas. Sargento La Calle suffered a buttock wound, but escuadrilla CO, capitán José Méndez Iriarte, crashed in enemy-held territory and was killed.
On 31 August, sargento La Calle (Hawker Spanish Fury '4-1') lead a fighter patrulla of two Ni-H.52 from capitán Juan Quintana y Ladrón de Guevara’s Escuadrilla Mixta, based at Talavera. The two Ni-H.52s were flown by cabos Roberto Alonso Santamaría and wingman Rafael Peña Dugo.
Over Talavera de la Reina, southwest of Madrid, La Calle shot down a CR.32 flown by Tenente Ernesto Monico of the Aviación del Tercio while Roberto Alonso Santamaría and Rafael Peña Dugo shot down a second CR.32 flown by Sergente Maggiore Castellani. The latter force-landed his Fiat fighter near Villanueva de la Serena and returned to friendly territory on foot. Monico, however, was captured by militants retreating towards Talavera. According to Republican sources he was subsequently shot dead while trying to escape, although this was refuted by the Aviación del Tercio, who claimed that Monico was executed despite declaring his nationality and requesting to see the Italian ambassador in Madrid.
Once Tenente Monico’s body was found, Fascist propaganda went mad, claiming that the slain aviator was a legendary 35-victory ace, when in reality he had never actually shot down an aircraft in combat. Tenente Monico was posthumously awarded Italy's highest military decoration, the Medaglia d’oro al valor militare.
Monico was the first Italian pilot to lose his life in action during the Spanish Civil War. When his fate became known some days later, the inscription MONICO ! PRESENTER was applied to all the CR.32s flown by both Aviación del Tercio fighter units.
His record in the Talavera battles was outstanding, and he was promoted to alférez on 3 September 1936.
In November, the Soviet I-15 escuadrilla (1a/Gr.26) led by kapitan Pavel Rychagov at Alcalá de Henares, in Madrid, included tenientes La Calle (he was promoted to teniente during November), Roberto Alonso Santamaría, López Trinidad, Galera Macías, Cuartero Pozo, Guaza Marín, Roig Villalta, Jesús García Herguido, Jiménez Bruguet, Manuel Aguirre López and Robledano Ruiz. The escuadrilla fought on the Madrid front.
La Calle had continued flying the last remaining fighters available in Madrid until 28 October, when he left for Barcelona on leave. Posted to the Soviet I-15 Escuadrilla, he flew combat missions from 6 November over Madrid initially as a wingman in the patrulla led by Soviet pilot kapitan Ivan Kopets. Later, La Calle became patrulla CO after Kopets assumed command of the Escuadrilla Rychagov when Rychagov was removed from frontline duties. Soviet sources credit La Calle with an aerial victory during this period.
He seems to have claimed a He 51 flying the Polikarpov I-15 before 9 December 1936.
By February 1937, capitán Ramón Puparelli Francia was well enough (he had been wounded in combat on 21 October 1936) to be given command of the first two Spanish I-15 escuadrillas. The short-lived grupo was named Grupo de Caza No 16 but both escuadrillas were to operate virtually independently.
La Calle was put in command of the 1a Escuadrilla. Initially it comprised three elements. The 1a Patrulla consisted of La Calle, José Calderón, Ramón Castañeda di Campo and Ben Leider, the 2a Patrulla comprised of Jim Allison, Frank Tinker, Harold Dahl and José ‘Chang’ Sellés and the 3a Patrulla was made up of Luis Bercial, Esteban Ortiz, José Riverola Grúas and Gerardo Gil Sánchez (who joined the unit on 10 February).
Capitán Roberto Alonso Santamaría took command of the new second Spanish I-15 escuadrilla, the 2a Escuadrilla, which was established at Los Alcázares and San Javier. From there they moved to El Soto airfield, again on the Madrid front. The new escuadrilla comprised tenientes Rafael Robledano Ruiz, Juan Comas Borrás (posted in late February), Antonio Blanch Latorre, Ricardo Rubio Gómez, Mariano Palacios Menéndez, Ángel Álvarez Pacheco, Justo García Esteban and Hipólito Barbeito Ramos, sargentos Manuel García Gascón, Alfonso Calvo Ortiz, Cándido Palomar Agraz and Rafael Magriña Vidal and Uruguayan teniente Luis Tuya.
On 7 February, the 1a Escuadrilla moved to the old Hispano-Suiza aerodrome in Guadalajara. They began operations at El Jarama, where their activities were outstanding, but their losses heavy; José Calderón, Ben Leider and Luis Bercial were killed, while Jim Allison and Harold Dahl were shot down but survived.
Following enemy air raids on the power stations in Catalonia, the Jefatura de Operaciones of the Fuerzas Aereas ordered capitán Alonso Santamaría’s I-15-equipped 2a Escuadrilla to the airfield at Lerida on 20 February. The eight-strong I-15 escuadrilla moved to Lérida the following day, with capitán Ramón Puparelli Francia (CO of the Grupo de Caza No 16, which comprised both Spanish I-15 escuadrillas) leading them. Its mission was a simple one - protect the Tremp and Camarasa power stations.
At the same time La Calle’s 1a Escuadrilla remained on the Madrid front.
During February, La Calle was promoted to capitán.
On 10 February, he claimed a CR.32 over Araganda in the Getafe area.
In the early morning on 18 February, two Nationalist Ro.37s (flown by Spanish pilots) took off, followed by three Ju 52/3ms escorted by the Spanish Patrulla Azul and the Italian Fiat Group (totally 25 CR.32 including the Spanish). When they arrived over the front at Jarama, the CR.32s turned so that they were patrolling parallel to the front, while a large formation of Polikarpov fighters waited on the other side. When the Ro.37s and Ju 52/3ms were safe and returning, capitán Joaquín García Morato broke formation and, followed by teniente Julio Salvador Díaz-Benjumea and capitán Narciso Bermúdes de Castro, launched himself into Soviet fighters near Arganda. Disregarding recent orders restricting them from engaging superior numbers of enemy aircraft, Italian pilots Tenente Corrado Ricci, Tenente Enrico Degli Incerti, Capitano Guido Nobili and Fiacchino went to the assistance of their Spanish comrades by leading their respective flights against the large Republican formation of Polikarpov fighters. Finally, the entire group took part in the battle, fighting a reportedly 21 I-15s and 18 I-16s, and the Italians claimed for four 'Curtiss fighters' destroyed and five probables, as well as six Ratas destroyed and two probables. One I-16 and two probable I-15s were claimed by Tenente Enrico Degli Incerti while Sergente Maggiore Silvio Costigliolo claimed an I-15 in the Arganda area. Sergente Maggiore Guido Presel claimed two I-15s and a probable and Sergente Maggiore Brunetto di Montegnacco claimed two I-16s. Among the Spaniards, Capitán Morato, who returned with damage to his fighter, was credited with an I-15 and another as a probable while teniente Salvador was credited with and I-16 and a second fighter as a probable.
The Italians suffered no losses during this action, and only a solitary pilot was forced to make an emergency landing after he was wounded; the damage to his CR.32 was quickly repaired.
Tenente Degli Incerti described the combat:
“We were on the return leg of an escort mission, and having made sure that our bombers were safe, we had the airfield in sight and prepared to land. It was at that very moment that the three Spanish CR.32 pilots following us, but still flying over enemy territory, decided to take on a large Soviet formation. Although the enemy aircraft were still some distance away, we performed a hasty 180-degree turn at full throttle and joined the fray. All the Italian fighter flights following suit, despite us having orders only to intervene following provocation – our duty was to fight as courageously as possible to the end.This battle was fought against at least the I-15s of the Escuadrilla La Calle and Escuadrilla José (the Escuadrilla led by Ivan Kopets) and the I-16s from Escuadrilla Kolesnikov. The Republican pilots reported being engaged by 85 (!) Heinkel He 51s over the front. Immediately the Escuadrilla went into a tight horizontal circle (”Lufbery circle”). The first enemy aircraft fired randomly at the I-15s as they dived past the Escuadrilla’s defensive pattern. Unwillingly to challenge the Republican fighters, the remainder of the Nationalist pilots followed suit, executing a single strafing pass, and then flying lazily below the I-15s in hopes of enticing a few green Republican pilots away of the defensive protection. Ben Leider took the bait and started down after one of the easy-looking targets, only to attract three enemy fighters on his tail. As Frank Tinker peered over his shoulder during the swirling melee of aircraft, he saw Leider’s I-15 to shudder as the CR.32s flashed past. Tinker’s heart sank as he noticed Leider veer toward friendly territory in a shallow dive. Twice, Leider tried to land his fighter in a small field before slamming into the side of a hill, killing him.
Once we had engaged the enemy, both sides formed a long line of aircraft, and this was turning, banking and circling. The fighters alternated in this single file trail, with two or three “Reds” for every Nationalist. It was as if this formation had been planned. Many tracer rounds flashed through the sky from the aircraft, turning the dogfight into an infernal ballet. Smoke trails of death suddenly appeared, and the long line broke into smaller rows.
The battle threw up numerous small skirmishes that ended inconclusively. Despite being outnumbered, we legionnaires stood together, compact, protecting each other. All of a sudden in the centre of the melee an aircraft caught fire and a parachute opened. The former fell away and crashed to the ground, while the latter floated away to safety. A “Red” had been shot down. Four of his comrades, fearing that we'd shoot at the pilot, circled him for his protection. Two CR.32s engaged them. This turn of events split the battle into two groups, within which fierce fighting continued.
The “Curtiss fighter” section then broke off their attack, unable to defeat our concentrated gunfire. They tried to escape, but this move failed and two of the stubby fighters fell in flames.
Thirty minutes into the battle, thousands of bullets had crossed the sky over Villaconejos. By now the revolving aircraft and chatter of the guns had diminished. The fighting faded slowly away, and within a short time we remained as the sole masters of the sky over the Jarama front.”
According to Frank Tinker, by the time the Jarama battle ended on 27 February, La Calle had been credited with 11 victories. The American ace rated him a good CO, but future ace Francisco Tarazona Torán and veteran fighter leader Juan Sayós Estivill, both of whom later came under his command, did not share this opinion.
Capitán La Calle’s 1a Escuadrilla participated in the battle of Guadalajara in March, during which “Escuadrilla La Calle” suffered the loss of teniente piloto Antonio Blanch Latorre of the Aeronautica Naval. Guatemalan pilot Manuel García Granados was also shot down on 20 March.
On 13 March, he claimed a damaged S.81.
On 20 March 1937, the 1a Escuadrilla (”Escuadrilla La Calle”) took part in the last aerial combat during the battle of Guadaljara. They took off in four patrols, led by La Calle, Harold Dahl, Frank Tinker (CA-056) and the Guatemalan pilot Miguel García Granados, and were soon involved with three bombers and 20 Fiats. Granados patrol was jumped by the Fiats, which had been patrolling in a higher altitude, and in the first hail of bullets Granados was shot down. Tinker gained his second victory (M. Scala KIA?), and from the two squadrons of fighters taking part five Fiats were destroyed.
The Italians reported that a patrol of four Fiat fighters under the command of Capitano Mario Viola had taken off from El Burgo de Osma in the afternoon and subsequently bounced two I-15s flying at low altitude in the vicinity of Almadrones. Sergente Maggiore Brunetto di Montegnacco shot one of the aircraft down in flames in spite of his opponent’s violent evasive action, the pilot taking to his parachute and being captured. Montegnacco’s victim was Miguel Garcia Granados, who suffered burns to his face and one hand and he was captured (he later returned in a prison exchange).
Granados (1896-1968) was a former Colonel in the Guatemalan Air Force who had done a famous goodwill flight in 1929 from Washington DC to Guatemala. He had previously commanded the Guatemalan air force, with the rank of colonel, between 1930 and 1933. He had also served with the Paraguayan Air Force in the Gran Chaco War.
Capitán La Calle’s 1a Escuadrilla fought on the Teruel front from early April through to 24 May.
In May a second group of Soviet volunteers arrived with another batch of 31 Chatos arrived from the Soviet Union, taking the total number supplied to the Republicans to 116. These new fighters greatly enhanced the strength of the I-15 Grupo.
Initially, these new aircraft were used to fly patrols over the Mediterranean coastal zone from Cartagena and Elche to Alicante, protecting Republican warships and cargo vessels. This mission had initially been performed by the I-16s, but following the redeployment of the latter type to the north, and the poor quality of the latest batch of Polikarpov fighters to reach Spain, the I-15 Grupo was given the task of coastal patrolling. The pilots assigned this role formed the backbone of the 1a Escuadrilla, which had been placed under Kapitan Ivan Yeremenko’s command while La Calle was to undergo further training in the Soviet Union.
On 20 June, capitán La Calle went to the Soviet Union as an accompanying instructor for the second pilots’ course. The party crossed into France at Port Bou and sailed for the USSR aboard the French ship SS Téophile Gautier.
Following hospital treatment for a minor heart ailment once in the Soviet Union, La Calle was sent to No 20 Pilots’ School, which had been established to train Spanish aviators at Kirovabad (now Ganja) in the northern Caucasus. He commanded it jointly with a Soviet officer.
Capitán 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.
On 22 December, during the battle of Catalonia, mayor Isidoro Jiménez García handed over command of the Escuadra de Caza No 11 to mayor La Calle and returned to the Escuela de Alta Velocidadat El Carmolí as Jefatura (CO) where he remained until the end of the war.
During the war, La Calle claimed 11 biplane victories.
On 6 February 1939, he evaded from the Vilajuiga airfield to France (Toulouse-Francazal) in his last I-16 fighter. He stayed in a refugee camp in the area of Argeles-sur-mer in Perpignan, France, until he escaped to the Dominican Republic.
He was expelled from the Dominican Republic after a visit to Franco’s Spain by the Dictator Rafael Trujillo. He moved to Chile and some years later, he moved to Mexico.
Two years before his death, he moved back to Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) where he passed away in 1980.
His two sons, one of them a famous actor in Mexico TV- Andres García – and a daughter, survived him.
|Kill no.||Date||Time||Number||Type||Result||Plane type||Serial no.||Locality||Unit|
|21/07/36||1||Breguet XIX (a)||Damaged|
|1||31/08/36||1||CR.32 (b)||Destroyed||Fury||4-1||Talavera de la Reina||Escuadrilla Mixta|
|?||10/02/37||1||CR.32||Destroyed||I-15||Araganda||Escuadrilla de La Calle|
|?||18/02/37||morning||1||CR.32 (c)||Destroyed||I-15||Jarama area||Escuadrilla de La Calle|
|13/03/37||1||S.81||Damaged||I-15||Escuadrilla de La Calle|
Biplane victories: 11 destroyed, 2 damaged.
TOTAL: 11 destroyed, 2 damaged.
(a) According to some sources, this claim was credited to him as a destroyed.
(b) Tenente Ernesto Monico of the Aviación del Tercio shot down.
(c) The CR.32s claimed 5 and 6 probable I-15s and 7 and 3 probable I-16s shot down with 2 CR.32s damaged. Republican pilots claimed 7 enemy aircraft for the loss of 6 aircraft.
Airmen without a portfolio: U.S. mercenaries in civil war Spain - John Carver Edwards, 2003 Global Book Publisher, ISBN 1-59457-175-9
Air War over Spain - Jesus Salas Larrazabal, 1974 Ian Allan Ltd, Shepperton, Surrey, ISBN 0-7110-0521-4
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
Fighter Pilots Of The Spanish Republic (Vol. 1) - Rafael A. Permuy López, Historica 36/39 no. 1, ISBN 84-87314-89-9
Legionaire Ace – Julius R. Gaal, 1972, Aero Album Volume 5 Number 1 Spring 1972
Några leva än - F. G. Tinker, 1939 T. V. Scheutz Bokförlag AB, Stockholm
Polikarpov I-15, I-16 and I-153 Aces - Mikhail Maslov, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-981-2
Spanish Republican Aces – Rafael A. Permuy López, 2012 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-668-4
Wings Over Spain - Emiliani Ghergo, 1997 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milano
Additional information kindly provided by Simon Buckley, Eugenio Costigliolo, Santiago Flores, Stefano Lazzaro, Jose M. Paliza and Ondrej Repka.