Biplane fighter aces


Mayor Rafael Peña Dugo

1906 – 1980 (?)

Rafael Peña Dugo was born at Fuentecarreteros, in Córdoba, in 1906.

Conscripted in 1927, he joined the Aviación Militar at the Escuela de Mecánicos at Cuatro Vientos, from which he graduated in February 1927.

In August 1929 he was promoted to cabo mecanico and took a flying course the following year, graduating in October 1930.

In January 1933, he qualified as an ametrallador bombardero (air gunner/bombardier) at the Escuela de Tiro y Bombardeo in Los Alcázares.

On 9 March 1932, Peña’s Ni-H.52, coded ‘3-37’, collided on take-off with ‘3-56’ of cabo Máximo Ricote Juanas. Both pilots were unhurt, but their aircraft were seriously damaged. The accident was the subject of an inquiry, one result of which might have been Peña’s failure to pass his examination for promotion to sargento in May of that year.
Later in the civil war, however, Juanas became a capitán and commanded a Tupolev SB Katiuska bomber escuadrilla.

Upon the outbreak of war in Spain, he was posted as a cabo piloto to the 2a Escuadrilla of the Grupo de Caza No 11, Escuadra No 1 at Getafe, flying Ni-H.52s. His fighter patrulla was led by sargento Andrés García La Calle while the third pilot in the patrulla was cabo Roberto Alonso Santamaría.
Remaining loyal to the government and opposing the military uprising, his first sorties were flown over the Sierra in Madrid. He was impetuous and fired on friendly aircraft during the early days of the conflict, when both Republican and Nationalist air forces displayed similar markings on their machines. On one occasion Peña opened fire on a Republican Breguet XIX, killing the observer, alférez Luis González Celma.

On 6 August, cabo Peña Dugo of the Grupo de Caza No 11 (Ni-H.52) attacked friendly Ni-H.52s that had taken off from Barajas. Sargento Andrés García La Calle suffered a buttock wound, but escuadrilla CO, capitán José Méndez Iriarte, crashed in enemy-held territory and was killed.

In August, sargento Andrés García La Calle’s fighter patrulla, made up of a Hawker Spanish Fury and two Nieuport Ni-H.52s flown by cabos Roberto Alonso Santamaría and Peña, moved to the Herrera del Duque and Don Benito airfields at Extremadura. The unit was commanded by teniente Ramón Puparelli Francia.
Later in the month the unit was sent to Talavera de la Reina airfield, in Toledo.

On 31 August, sargento Andrés García 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 de la Reina. The two Ni-H.52s were flown by cabos Roberto Alonso Santamaría and wingman Peña.
Over Talavera de la Reina, southwest of Madrid, La Calle shot down a CR.32 while Alonso Santamaría and Peña shot down a second CR.32.
Both Roberto Alonso Santamaría and Peña were promoted to alférez after this success.

On one occasion (in September 1936?) the Ni-H.52 pair of sargentos Roberto Alonso Santamaría and Peña engaged a He 51 flown by teniente Julio Salvador Díaz-Benjumea. Although they believed they had downed the Heinkel fighter, Salvador managed to reach his airfield.

On 26 September, Nationalist Ju 52/3m “22-64” from 2-E-22 flown by capitán Eustaquio Ruiz de Alda was shot down over Toledo and surviving crewmen murdered and their bodies mutilated.
Some authors have attributed this victory to French pilot Jean Dary. According to Andrés García La Calle, alférez Peña, who had by now distinguished himself as a fine shot, downed the tri-motor. Everything seems to point to the conclusion that Dary, who also claimed two Ju 52/3ms in head-on attacks, was a member of the attacking Republican patrulla, however. The victory should, therefore, have been attributed jointly to the entire D.372 patrulla.
It also seems that while flying Hawker Spanish Fury ‘4-1’ from Talavera de la Reina, alférez Andrés García La Calle of Escuadrilla Mixta claimed a Ju 52/3m during the day but this is perhaps a share in the above aircraft.

During alférez Peña’s (Grupo de Caza No 11) second sortie on 27 September 1936, six Republican fighters escorting a Potez 540 were attacked by five CR.32s led by capitán Ángel Salas Larrazábal, who chased the bomber. Sergente Manlio Vivarelli shot down the D.372 flown by alférez Peña, who bailed out with a leg wound. It is possible that British pilots Vincent Doherty and Eric Griffiths were also wounded during the same combat, although both managed to fly their D.372s back to Getafe airfield.
Peña was initially treated at the hospital in Toledo, before being evacuated to Madrid just prior to the provincial capital falling into enemy hands. His wound eventually became gangrenous and his leg had to be amputated.

Peña was promoted to teniente and then capitán during his long period of convalescence in Alicante, where he remained until March 1937.

Recovered from the worst of his wounds, and with a prosthetic leg, he was posted to France as inspector of one of the schools training Spanish Republican pilots.
A letter mentioned in his personal records puts him in Paris on 31 October 1937.

In January 1938, capitán Peña was appointed Jefe de Estado Mayor (Chief of Staff) of the Agrupación de Defensa de Costas.

In March 1938, capitán Peña became commander of Puigcerdá airfield.

In May, capitán Peña was posted to the staff of Grupo No 71 of the Fuerzas Aéreas.

Peña’s service record notes that he logged 54 flying hours in June, July and August 1938, despite having only one leg.

He was subsequently promoted to mayor (major).

Peña ended the war with 3 shared biplane victories.

At the end of the war Peña crossed the French border, and in January 1940 he was ordered to return to Spain, but went to the Soviet Union instead. Pena remained there during World War 2, although his handicapped condition barred him playing an active role in the conflict as an aviator.

In the 1970s he was living in Dnepropetrovsk, and although no date of death is available, it seems likely Peña passed away in late 1980 or early 1981 - his death was reported in the Boletín informativo of the Asociación de Aviadores de la República issue No 13, January-February 1981.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  31/08/36   1/2 CR.32 Shared destroyed Ni-H.52   Talavera de la Reina Escuadrilla Mixta
  ??/09/36   1/2 He 51 (a) Shared destroyed Ni-H.52     Escuadrilla Mixta
  26/09/36   1/2 Ju 52/3m (b) Shared destroyed D.372   Toledo area Grupo de Caza No 11

Biplane victories: 2 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 3 shared destroyed.
(a) Possibly teniente Julio Salvador Díaz-Benjumea, who made it back to his airfield.
(b) Ju 52/3m “22-64” from 2-E-22 shot down and crew KIA.

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
Spanish Republican Aces – Rafael A Permuy López, 2012 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-668-4
Additional information kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso and Ondrej Repka.

Last modified 08 June 2019