Biplane fighter aces


Teniente Antonio Manrique Garrido

On 16 June 1938, the pilots of the first fighter course held in the Nationalist zone were graduated. The large number of accidents caused by new and inexperienced Fiat pilots in December and January had showed that it was essential to set up a school of this type.
Gallur was chosen as the aerodrome and Maggiore Guido Nobili and teniente Ramón Senra Àlvarez (from Group 2-G-3), were posted there as instructors.
The first fighter course lasted for two months and was attended by 22 pupils. Of these, six were sent to 2-G-3 (José Luis Bernal de Mérida, José M.a Etayo Elizondo, Luis Alcocer Moreno Abellá, Antonio Manrique Garrido, Abundio Cesteros García and Diego Vigueras), eight to 3-G-3 (Heraclio Gautier Larrainzar, Enrique Munaiz de Brea, Fernando Arrechea Belzunce, Carracido, Acuña, Alonso Fariña, P. Téllez Rivas and Epelde), and of the remainder four were posted to fly He 51s, three to the He 45s and one to the Aero 101s.

On 1 August, near Fayón, a group of Spanish pilots led by comandante Joaquín García Morato (3-G-3) engaged a formation of I-15s. Although CR.32 (3-100) pilot Enrique Munaiz de Brea (4-E-3) lost his life during the action, the Spaniards claimed seven ‘Curtiss fighters’ destroyed. Two of these aircraft were the first successes for alférez Manrique (1-E-3) - one I-15 was seen to fall in flames near Mequinenza, while the pilot of the second machine escaped by parachute. The other kills were individually credited to comandante Morato, capitán Julio Salvador (1-E-3), teniente Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal (1-E-3), teniente Joaquín Velasco Fernández Nespral (7-E-3) and teniente Emelio O’Connor Valdivielso (4-E-3).

In the morning on 14 August, Grupos 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 attacked a formation of Ratas, which were pursuing some He 111s over Gandesa. Other Chatos and Ratas later joined in the battle. Totally the Spanish pilots reported 52 I-16s and 28 I-15s (!).This massive formation of Polikarpovs was also targeted by ten Bf 109s.
Group 2-G-3 claimed three Ratas (teniente Miguel García Pardo (2-E-3), teniente Carlos Bayo (2-E-3) and teniente de Hemricourt (2-E-3)) and 3-G-3 claimed two more (comandante Joaquín García Morato and teniente Emelio O’Connor Valdivielso (4-E-3)). 2-G-3s record of operations described the combat:

García Pardo attacked some Ratas which were pursuing an He 111, shooting down one of the which fell near to Mora de Ebro … Teniente Bayo attacked three Ratas and succeeded in destroying one which fell on the edge of the Blanerías mountains. Later he attacked a Chato, but was unable to ascertain whether it was destroyed as damage to his engine forced him to land at Horta…
Teniente de Hemricourt fired at one Rata without any result; and then attacked some Ratas engaged with other Fiats, hitting one which fell in a wood to the north of Reus.”
The Bf 109s of J/88 claimed seven I-16s. Unteroffizier Willibald Hein (3.J/88) and Unteroffizier Willhelm Szuggar (1.J/88) claimed two each while Leutnant Otto Bertram (1.J/88), Hauptmann Wolfgang Schellmann ((1.J/88) and Leutnant Wolfgang Lippert (3.J/88) claimed one each.
The Republican side reported that 1a, 3a and 4a Escuadrillas fought against 90 enemy aircraft, which included seven Bf 109s and 27 He 111s, and claimed the destruction of three Fiats and one He 111. They lost one Rata from 4a Escuadrilla and two more pilots were injured. Republican pilot Francisco Meroño also managed to get a Rata back to base with half of the elevator shot away. According to Nationalist records no bomb fell on this day, and the only Fiat to be lost was that of alférez José Mesía Lesseps (2-E-3) (3-75) which did not return to base. Teniente Bayo (3-127) had to make a forced landing at Horta de San Juan and alférez Alonso Fariña (3-139) was wounded and landed at Puig Moreno. Alférez Manrique’s Fiat was hit 30 times, but he managed to get back to base at Escatrón. Johann Krug’s He 51 was also badly mauled by enemy fire, but he too got back to base at Mas de las Matas.

On 23 January 1939, capitanes Miguel Guerrero García and Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal (CR.32 NC 931/3-118) and Maggiore Guido Nobili (detached from the Nationalist Escuela de Caza) were leading seven CR.32s of Grupo 2-G-3 on a bomber escort mission when enemy fighters were engaged. Capitán Vázquez, together with his wingmen teniente Manrique (1-E-3) (CR.32 NC 939/3-123) and Vigueras, chased after the aircraft while the remaining seven CR.32s stayed with the bombers. The three Fiat fighters then ran into a much larger formation of I-15s belonging to Escuadrillas 2a and 3a of Grupo No26 near Hinojosa del Dunque. Manrique was credited with shooting down a ‘Curtiss fighter’ and Vigueras scored a probable before returning to base in his battle-damaged fighter.
Vázquez, however, was badly wounded in the stomach by an I-15 and forced to bail out of his stricken CR.32. He was quickly captured by Republican troops and taken to a hospital in Pozoblanco, where he passed away before he was able to identify himself to his captors. Vázquez was carrying a cigarette case given to him by Joaquín García Morato, which was inscribed with his commander’s initials. Moreover, Vázquez bore a resemblance to Morato, and the Republicans duly announced the death of the ‘Separatist air force’s “ace of aces”’.

On 9 February, five I-15s were claimed by Spanish pilots near Peñarroya, in Andalusia. Two were credited to capitán Arístides García López (8-E-3), taking his overall tally to 17, and one each to Juan Frutos Rubio, teniente Manrique (1-E-3) and teniente Luis Alcocer - the latter two pilots each ‘made ace’ with these successes.
This was the last aerial combat for the CR.32 in Spain

Manrique ended the Spanish Civil War with 5 victories and 1 probable.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 01/08/38   1 I-15 Destroyed CR.32   near Fayón 1-E-3
2 01/08/38   1 I-15 Destroyed CR.32   near Fayón 1-E-3
3 ??/??/38   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed CR.32     1-E-3
4 23/01/39   1 I-15 (a) Destroyed CR.32 NC 939/3-123 near Hinojosa del Dunque 1-E-3
5 09/02/39   1 I-15 (b) Destroyed CR.32   near Peñarroya 1-E-3
  ??/??/3?   1 Enemy aircraft Probably destroyed CR.32     1-E-3

Biplane victories: 5 destroyed, 1 probably destroyed.
TOTAL: 5 destroyed, 1 probably destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with I-15s from Escuadrillas 2a and 3a of Grupo No 26.
(b) Five I-15s were claimed by Spanish pilots. These were the last CR.32 claims in Spain.

Air Aces - Christopher Shores, 1983 Presidio Press, Greenwich, ISBN 0-89141-166-6
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
Joaquin Garcia-Morato - Best Ace of Spanish Civil War (WWII Ace Stories) - Mihail Zhirohov, 2003
Wings Over Spain - Emiliani Ghergo, 1997 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milano
Additional information kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso and Ondrej Repka.

Last modified 19 May 2017