Biplane fighter aces

Spain

Teniente José Larios y Fernández Villavicencio

In September 1938, teniente José Larios y Fernández Villavicencio served in Escuadrilla 6-E-3 of Grupo 3-G-3.

On 20 September, a series of daily battles began, culminating in fierce combats on 2 and 3 October. Groups 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 fought jointly in all these battles, achieving a total of 25 victories (17 by 2-G-3).
During the day, Grupo 3-G-3 escorted bombers over the Manzanera front. Polikarpov fighters were encountered, and a probable kill was claimed by teniente Larios y Fernández from Escuadrilla 6-E-3. He later recalled:

“A large formation of Ratas suddenly appeared above us, flying high in the blue sky as if they had just come out of the sun. Pilots from our escuadrilla above us waved to signal the alarm, after which we all flew directly at the enemy at full throttle in an attempt to prevent them from reaching our bombers. I desperately tried to position my section above the Ratas before attacking them but I did not succeed, as they fell on us like an avalanche and we had little choice other than to defend ourselves.
Four Ratas in formation dived like lightning straight towards me in a frontal attack. I rapidly raised the nose of my “Fiat” and pointed it directly at the leading Rata. I had just enough time to fire a couple of bursts before the “Red” aeroplane dived straight down towards the ground and the others passed by at high speed over our heads, before banking around tightly so as to attack us from the rear.
Things now took a turn for the worse, as they held all the advantages - a superior number of aircraft, height and greater speed with which to manoeuvre. I had no option but to turn as tightly as possible. The enemy seemed to be everywhere, and again I could hear the classic chatter of gunfire behind my shoulders. Instinctively, I threw my aeroplane into a sharp spin towards the River Ebro, knowing this to be my sole chance of survival. It worked, as the Ratas immediately gave up chasing me, probably thinking that I was on my way to the other world. I recovered from the violent dive upon seeing that I wasn’t being chased and started to climb once again with my engine flat out, attentively observing the sky in all directions. I was impatient to regain height and rejoin the battle.
On reaching 13,000 ft I felt secure once more. I could see that fierce fighting was still going on. A lonely Rata crossed the brilliant sky some 700 ft above me. I was in his blind spot, and it flew on without attempting to take any evasive action. Seizing my opportunity, I was able to fire several bursts right into its belly - one of the Rata’s most vulnerable spots. The fighter trembled with the impact and appeared to swing for a second, before dropping on a wing, lowering its nose and entering a spin. I followed for a while, stuck to the Rata’s tail, still firing. Climbing back up again, I lost sight of the aircraft as if it had been swallowed up by the uneven ground. I never did find out whether the Rata had indeed hit the ground or not. It remained another combat uncertainty.
I turned towards our lines low on fuel. On landing, Rossi and I examined the aeroplane and could count a good number of bullet holes in the fuselage - fortunately no vital parts had been hit. The Fiat was strong and could take great punishment. It would soon be parked, fully serviced and prepared to take off again as part of the next flight.”

On 24 December and 20 km north of Balaguer, 18 CR.32s from comandante Joaquín García Morato’s Spanish units intercepted a formation of nine R-Z light bombers from 2a Escuadrilla of Grupo No 30, escorted at a distance by 19 I-16s from the 6a and 7a Escuadrillas of No Grupo 21, near Fontllonga. Initially diving head-on at the bombers, the CR.32s then made a second attacking pass from the rear before the escort fighters could intervene. The Spaniards claimed nine R-Zs destroyed, three of which (plus a probable) were attributed to Morato, two to teniente Joaquín Velasco (7-E-3) and one each to teniente Larios y Fernández (6-E-3), José Andrés Lacour Macia, Ruibal and José Recasens.
Of the nine R-Z, three returned to their own side's airfields (two to La Garriga and one to Vic). Six were shot down, of which three were lost, while the remainder managed to land with varying damaged inside their own lines. Overall, the R-Z escuadrilla suffered three dead, eight wounded and two taken prisoner. I-16s from 6a Capitán Amézaga took to his parachute and landed near Camarasa, where he was soon captured. Following six weeks in captivity, Amézaga was executed. Another Fiat had to land because of damage at Almenar.

Between 24 March and 24 December 1938, Larios y Fernández was credited with six individual victories and five more unconfirmed.

Larios y Fernández ended the war with 6 biplane victories.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1938                
1 ??/??/38   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed CR.32   Spain 6-E-3
2 ??/??/38   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed CR.32   Spain 6-E-3
3 ??/??/38   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed CR.32   Spain 6-E-3
4 ??/??/38   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed CR.32   Spain 6-E-3
5 ??/??/38   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed CR.32   Spain 6-E-3
  ??/??/38   1 Enemy aircraft Probably destroyed CR.32   Spain 6-E-3
  ??/??/38   1 Enemy aircraft Probably destroyed CR.32   Spain 6-E-3
  ??/??/38   1 Enemy aircraft Probably destroyed CR.32   Spain 6-E-3
  ??/??/38   1 Enemy aircraft Probably destroyed CR.32   Spain 6-E-3
  20/08/38   1 I-16 Probably destroyed CR.32   Manzanera front 6-E-3
6 24/12/38   1 R-Z (a) Destroyed CR.32   near Fontllonga 6-E-3

Biplane victories: 6 destroyed, 5 probably destroyed.
TOTAL: 6 destroyed, 5 probably destroyed.
(q) Claimed in combat with R-Zs from 2a/30, which lost 6 R-Z against Nationalist claims for 9.

Sources:
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




Last modified 16 August 2016