Biplane fighter aces

Spain

Teniente José Redondo Martín

– 1998

José Redondo Martín was the son of Socialist leader and mayor of Madrid Cayetano Redondo Aceña.

He applied for pilot training and, in December 1936, was one of 50 Spaniards posted to a civilian flying school in France as part of an agreement between the two nations. Redondo enrolled at the Hanriot School at Bourges, where he flew Potez Po.25s and Hanriot H.172s, H.182s and H.437s in order to gain a French pilot’s licence.

Upon his return from flying school in France to Spain in April 1937, Redondo took a further course at La Ribera on Breguet XIXs and graduated as a sargento the following month.

At the start of the Brunete offensive in July 1937, the Republicans had 50+ combat- ready I-15s and I-16s at their disposal.
Only one Spanish fighter unit was committed to the campaign - the 2a Escuadrilla of the Grupo No 26 (I-15), commanded by the in July newly appointed CO teniente Chindasvinto González García. The unit successively moved to the airfields at Azuqueca de Henares, Caspe, Alcañiz and El Toro.
Sargento Redondo was posted to the unit in July. Sargento Vicente Castillo Monzó joined the unit on 8 July when he joined the unit at Archena airfield, in Murcia. As a member of this unit he moved to Chozas de la Sierra and took part in air combat over Brunete.

In the early morning on 7 July, Kapitan Ivan Yeremenko was ordered to take his escuadrilla and fly towards Madrid to join with Lakeyev's Escuadrilla in the air. Meanwhile the escuadrilla of Aleksandr Minayev was flying over the front line. The antiaircraft defence opened fire upon the Republican fighters over the Delicias railroad station. Fiat CR.32s appeared from the Princess Bridge side. Dogfights began over the Delicias railroad station, Andalusia Bridge, and Tobacco Manufacture. A group of Ju 52/3ms and Do 17s appeared from the western side and Minayev's escuadrilla flew to intercept the bombers but Fiats attacked the I-15s and dispersed them.
Sargento Redondo, the Spanish pilot of one of the I-15s, was wounded and Leonid Rybkin shielded him, but both were forced to fight nine Fiats. One Fiat collided with another and was set on fire. Rybkin and Redondo joined with M. Petrov and I. Karpov whom had flown to help. At that moment Leytenant Mikhail Yakushin, Kapitan Yeremenko, and Starshiy Leytenant Anatoly Serov of the 1a Escuadrilla attacked the leading group of Fiats from above. One Fiat was shot down and the pilot bailed out (claimed as a shared between Yakushin, Yeremenko, and Serov). Pilots of I-15s and I-16s had seen four Bf 109s in the area, but they did not attack the Republican fighter.
The I-15 of the Austrian Walter Koraus was attacked by a Fiat and was shot down. Immediately Yakushin attacked this Fiat and destroyed it in the air.
Starshiy Leytenant Serov claimed two CR.32 during this day.
It seems that three I-15s from the 1a Escuadrilla were lost, with Karpov killed, Shalhiganov wounded and Austrian Walter Koraus surviving unscathed. Flight leader Serov and his wingman Yakushin managed to nurse their badly damaged biplanes back to base. Dhyakonov, who was leading an I-16 flight, suffered serious wounds in combat possibly from Capitano Degli Incerti’s gunfire, and he died later that day after landing in Republican territory.
The Aviazione Legionaria reported that during the morning between Madrid and Brunete, 14 CR.32s of 19a and 20a Squadriglie, led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti (CO XXIII Gruppo), encountered nine I-15s and eight I-16s that were escorting nine R-Zs. The Republican aircraft were joined by other flights from a formation of 20 I-16s as they flew over Madrid. Italian pilots were credited with shooting down seven ‘Curtiss fighters’ during the clash, one of which was claimed by Maggiore Zotti. Three ’Ratas’ were also destroyed, one of which was credited to Capitano Enrico Degli Incerti (CO 19a Squadriglia), while Sergente Maggiore Alfonso Mattei downed an R-Z but was then forced to take to his parachute after his CR.32 was hit by return fire from the R-Z. He landed in Nationalist territory near Pozuelo de Alarcón.
After claiming his I-15, Zotti shared the destruction of a second I-15 with his two wingmen. Ten minutes later, however, his CR.32 was shot up by an I-16, the Italian being wounded in the thigh. His engine was also hit, and as it began to overheat Zotti was forced to land at nearby Griñon airfield. Sergente Maggiore Gino Passeri (19a Squadriglia) protected his CO until he was safely down, only to then be bounced by another I-16 upon re-joining the battle and killed. Sergente Giuseppe Ruzzin (19a Squadriglia) (CR.32 “3-12” no. 435) claimed an I-15 (”Curtiss”) but was then attacked by an I-16. He was saved by his leader Capitano Degli Incerti, who damaged the Rata, which quickly broke off. Sergente Giuseppe Mottet (20a Squadriglia) claimed an I-15.
Totally after this confusing and slightly contradicting battle it seems that the Republican pilots at least claimed five CR.32s while losing three I-15s and getting several damaged. The Aviazione Legionaria claimed seven I-15s, three I-16s and one R-Z for the loss of two CR.32s.

In the morning on 26 August, the CR.32s escorted 19 bombers to Villamajor. Close to the bombers was the 20a Squadriglia, while the 18a and 19a Squadriglie stayed above them. The weather was far from ideal and soon a layer of cloud separated the two higher flying Squadriglie from the rest. The minutes slowly ticked away as the formation moved toward the target area. Suddenly the clouds broke and Capitano Enrico Degli Incerti noticed a swarm of enemy aircraft below. Followed by his wingmen, he dived through the tattered clouds and found himself in perfect position behind an I-15. Five short bursts and the fighter began to fall. Degli Incerti followed his victim and saw it crashing into the Ebro River.
In order to gain altitude, he pulled the stick back – only to discover five I-15s at 3,000 feet, coming straight for him. His wingmen were nowhere in sight. The Republican leader, as he soon found out, was a very able pilot. He attacked the Italian at once, and while he engaged his adversary, the four other I-15s flew around them and sent bursts toward the CR.32 at close range. Bullets smashed the windscreen, tore into the parachute pack and holed the fuselage, but Degli Incerti's luck held. He threw the Fiat into a steep dive, but his foe clung to him. Bullets broke instruments on the panel and one bullet tore the belt off his waist without wounding him. Degli Incerti didn’t even try to aim anymore. He just shot wildly in the direction where a winged shadow appeared. Only three minutes went by, yet they seemed an eternity. Using all the tricks he had ever learned or heard of, he somehow managed to evade the fire of his adversaries. Then suddenly, the Republican leader’s tail came into sight. His fighter instinct made him aim and fire, but at the same second, another I-15 sent a burst into the Fiat. There was no pain, but the warmth of blood rolling down his leg made him realize that he was wounded. In desperation, he opened the throttle full, but the crippled machine didn’t respond. Glancing back, he saw a thin streak of smoke trailing him. The engine’s revolutions dropped from 2900 to 1000 and it seemed a miracle that the CR.32 was still airborne. The I-15s attacked with renewed fury and the Fiat descended more rapidly while the Republican leader closed in for the coup de grace. A hail of bullets hit the aircraft but it continued to fly. Degli Incerti noted with some relief that he had just crossed into Nationalist territory. But the attacks of his pursuers became more determined as they tried to finish him off. The I-15s opened up again and he put the Fiat’s nose down. Somehow, he managed to pull the machine out and found himself alone. He smelled smoke then felt the rapidly increasing heat of the burning fuselage. To add to his troubles, the engine suddenly stopped. Luckily, however, the ground was only a few meters below, so he switched the fuel off and landed the fighter. The burning Fiat’s tail rose into the air and then luckily fell back to the ground. Paralyzing pain knifed into his wounded leg as he tried to get out of the cockpit. However, the will for survival made his muscles move and set his body into motion out of the burning aircraft.
The 20a Squadriglia lost two pilots when Tenente Gilberto Caselli and Sottotenente Enrico Schievano were shot down over Villamajor and killed (Caselli was shot down wounded and captured but died of his wounds in hospital). Both pilots later received a posthumous Medaglia d’oro al valor militare.
It seems that at least some of the bombers escorted by the 20a Squadriglia were He 46s from 3-G-11 led by the unit’s CO commandante José Pérez Pardo, who was shot down and killed together with his observer Salvador Blanco. They had possibly been intercepted by I-15s from 1a/26 led by Kapitan Anatoly Serov and it seems that they claimed three destroyed He 46s, one of them claimed by Kapitan Evgeni Antonov.
It also seems that 2a/26 (I-15) took part in this combat and while flying from Alcañiz during the Belchite offensive, sargento Vicente Castillo Monzó claimed one CR.32 over Fuentes de Ebro and a Ro.37 over Caspe.
The CO of the unit, teniente Chindasvinto González García claimed two CR.32s shot down.
Sargento Redondo was mentioned in dispatches as follows:

“A major air battle over the Aragon front near Saragossa this morning ended in complete success for the Republican air force, which managed to shoot down five enemy aeroplanes - four Fiats and a Romeo - without loss to our escuadrillas. Worthy of mention in this combat is the conduct of a recently graduated sargento, José Redondo, son of the former mayor of Madrid, Cayetano Redondo. In combat with a Fiat, Redondo shot it down, despite numerous machine gun hits to his own aircraft, several of which damaged its port wing. After shooting down the Fiat Redondo flew his aircraft the considerable distance back to his airfield. The groundcrew found it hard to understand how Redondo had managed to make it to their airfield with such damage to his fighter aircraft and a serious leg wound.
The Minister of National Defence congratulated the heroic pilot, and in the presence of all the personnel of the fighter escuadrillas at the airfield, promoted him to teniente. Several captured enemy airmen stated that our offensive in Aragon had occupied a great deal of the aviation forces operating on the Santander fronts. One of the captured airmen, comandante Pérez Pardo, has a serious stomach wound and is in hospital.”

Redondo’s promotion to teniente was confirmed on 13 September.

The autumn of 1937 saw the establishment of the Grupo No 26 (I-15) and on 9 October 1937, capitán Juan José Armario Álvarez was appointed CO of the Grupo, which initially comprised three escuadrillas with 15 aircraft each.
The Soviet 1a Escuadrilla was led by Kapitan Evgeni Antonov and operated from Sagunto and Sabadel airfields, while teniente Gerardo Gil Sánchez headed up the Spanish 2a Escuadrilla (capitán Chindasvinto González García had handed over command to his deputy, Gil, to act as an interim CO). Both operated on the Aragon front. The Spanish 3a Escuadrilla was formed at Figueras under the command of teniente Juan Comas Borrás, which initially flew defensive patrols over the Catalan coast. The unit’s initial cadre of pilots consisted of Leopoldo Morquillas Rubio, Miguel Zambudio Martínez, Juan Olmos, Redondo, Antonio Britz Martínez, Rafael Sanromá Daroca and Antonio Nieto Sandoval-Díaz. Later, they were joined by José María Campoamor Peláez, Elías Hernández Camisón, Francisco Montagut Ferrer, Jesús Pérez Pérez, Alfredo de Albert Porcar and José Puig. Many of them were surviving pilots from the Northern front and later in the month the unit operated from Reus airfield.
Capitán Armario initially flew with the Soviet patrulla of the staff flight of the Grupo No 26, often accompanying Starshii Leitenant Stepanov.

As a member of this unit, Redondo took part in the operations in Teruel and Aragon, before attending the Escuela de Alta Velocidad at El Carmolí to participate in an I-16 conversion course.

In May 1938, when teniente Redondo (temporary CO 3a/26) was sent on an I-16 Mosca course at the Escuela de Alta Velocidad at El Carmolí, teniente Miguel Zambudio Martínez was appointed CO of the unit. He led the unit during operations over Levante in May and June and also in the Ebro offensive.

Following capitán Eduardo Claudín Moncada’s (CO Grupo No 21) death on 5 July 1938, teniente Redondo (he had previously been CO of the I-15s in the 3a/26) was given command of the 1a/21 at Camporrobles airfield in mid-July.
It was at around this time that he was involved in a collision with a Bf 109 during an engagement over the Levante front, the Spaniard being forced to take to his parachute. Redondo reached friendly lines two days later.

On 9 August the 1a/21 (CO teniente Redondo) collected 12 brand new Type 10 Moscas (coded ‘CM-211’ to ‘CM-226’) from Celrá and took them to Vendrell airfield, where the unit was based for Ebro operations.

At 17:40 on 14 August, the 1a/21 (CO teniente Redondo) engaged a force of 12 He 111s and 30 CR.32s, and although the Republicans claimed several victories they lost two I-16s and sargentos Rubén Gómez Redondo and Sirio Martín González to landing accidents at Vendrell.

On 21 August the 1a/21 received reinforcements in the form of four new Moscas from the 3a Escuadrilla. The following day the unit was ordered to fly to the Central-South area, where its pilots operated from Liria airfield (known as Aeródromo 424) before moving to Almodóvar del Campo.

In the morning on 2 September, a formation of nine R-Zs, escorted by a similar number of I-15s, were attacked by 18 Spanish-flown CR.32s near Monterrubio de la Serena as they returned from a bombing mission. Minutes later nine SBs from 4a Escuadrilla of Grupo No 24, escorted at a distance by 11 I-16s Type 10, hove into view too. The CR.32s concentrated on the Tupolev bombers and their monoplane fighter escorts. In a single attack, capitán Ángel Salas (2-G-3) destroyed three Katiuskas, and then capped this by damaging the I-16 Type 10 flown by the leader of the 1a Escuadrilla Grupo de Moscas No 21 that was escorting them. This pilot, teniente Redondo, took to his parachute and was guarded by Salas until he had almost reached the ground. Salas, before flying away, raised an arm in the Fascist salute, and Redondo (I-16 ‘CM-214’) responded in a similar manner with a clenched fist.
Salas noted in his logbook:

“After 50 minutes on patrol I spotted nine “Martin bombers” that were a little higher than us heading in the direction of our lines. I gained height as I flew towards them, cutting off their escape route. As they returned after bombing Monterrubio, I attacked the bomber on the left in the first section, setting his left engine on fire. I then hit the left engine of the leader’s aircraft, setting it on fire too, and the third bomber suffered the same fate. Then I fired straight up at the leader of the second flight, and his aircraft started trailing white smoke. It was then that I noticed some Ratas, so I attacked one. After a long fight it also started to trail smoke, and the pilot took to his parachute. He landed close to his aircraft, north of Belalcázar. During his descent I saluted him and he saluted me back.”
Salas had shot down four aircraft in five minutes. A number of the crewmen from the downed bombers took to their parachutes, only to be killed as they floated down, or immediately after landing, by groundfire from Moroccan troops fighting in this area. Ricote, commander of 4a/24 and flying the SB damaged by Salas, force-landed his bomber on Almodóvar airfield after having one of his engines shot out. This event must have been well known in the Government zone, as it was reported from several sources.
In this combat 2-G-3 also claimed four more Ratas (teniente Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal (1-E-3), teniente Luis Alcocer, teniente Carlos Bayo (2-E-3) and teniente Esteban Ibarreche) and one more Katiuska (teniente Salvador Serra Alorda (1-E-3)).
The Katiuskas flown by Blas, Monzónis and Pavía were shot down. These were all from the 4a Escuadrilla of Grupo No 24 led by Ricote.
Teniente Redondo landed in Republican territory and Redondo returned to lead his unit.
When Salas landed at Mérida he received news that his brother, Ignacio, had just been killed in the Ebro sector where he was serving as an army officer, during an attack on Bot (near Gandesa) by Katiuska escuadrilla 2a/24.
The coronel in Charge of the Primera Brigada Aérea (1st Air Brigade) sent the following congratulations to Salas:
“The part played by the group under your command in today's operation has filled me with pride and it gives me great satisfaction to have people under my command who know how to make the best use of prevailing circumstances. It gives me great pleasure to congratulate you personally, and the whole of your unit, to whom I hope you will convey this message.”

The I-16s of 1a/21 (CO teniente Redondo) remained at Liria, then known as Aeródromo 424, until 9 September when 15 aircraft departed for Reus airfield for operations over the Ebro front.

On 1 November, the 1a/21 (I-16) scored a confirmed victory over a Nationalist CR.32 when teniente Redondo (CO) and teniente José María Cano Arnáiz of the 5a/21 (I-16 ‘CM-198’) were given shared credit for downing the Fiat fighter near Fatarella Hill, the machine crashing in flames.
J. Santamaría (1a/21) claimed a shared CR.32 during the day. This was possibly shared with P. Dosta Fossá (5a/21), who claimed a shared CR.32 during the day.

In November 1938, teniente Redondo handed over command of the 1a/21 to teniente Enrique Vilatela Soria.
Redondo was to remain without a command until war’s end.

On 28 December, teniente Redondo and J. Ramoneda Vilardaga of 1a/21 (I-16) claimed a shared Bf 109.

In early January 1939, capitan Redondo went on leave, accompanied by teniente Antonio Nieto Sandoval-Díaz. The pair stayed at a rest home operated by the Jefatura de Sanidad (Health Service) of the Fuerzas Aéreas in the city of Camprodon.

Redondo ended the war with 1 biplane victory.

At the end of the Civil War, Redondo escaped to France, where he was interned at Argelès-sur-Mer until he fled to Costa Rica. Subsequently working as a pilot for a local company, he eventually settled in Mexico and found employment as a factory manager.

In 1989 Redondo’s Spanish citizenship was restored and he was granted the status of a retired coronel in the Ejército del Aire.

He returned to Spain and died in Benidorm, Alicante, in 1998.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1937                
1 26/08/37 morning 1 CR.32 Destroyed I-15   near Saragossa 2a/26
  1938                
  01/11/38   1/2 CR.32 Shared destroyed I-16   near Fatarella Hill 1a/21
  28/12/38   1/2 Bf 109 Shared destroyed I-16     1a/21

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 and 2 shared destroyed.

Sources:
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 23 May 2017