Biplane fighter aces


Capitan General Ángel Salas Larrazábal

10 October 1906 – 19 July 1994

Ángel Salas Larrazábal was born on 10 October 1906 in Orduna, Viscaya, Spain.

He joined the army in 1921 and in 1926, he was an artillery teniente.
In 1927, he joined the Aviación Militar, graduating as an aerial observer in 1928. In 1929 he undertook pilot training to receive his pilot wings in 1930, topping the graduation list of the 2a Promoción (4th promotion) course for the Aviación Militar.

Because of ability displayed at the Fighter School he was sent to the Escuadrilla Martinsyde at Madrid-Getafe.

At the end of 1930, as the result of an uprising in Cuatro Vientos, led by Ramón Franco and Hidalgo de Cisneros, the Air Force Arm was disbanded and its personnel were returned to their original Arm or Corps, temporarily detached from the Air Force. Shortly afterwards he went to Africa, where he remained until the Uprising, serving first in Tetuan, and later at Cabo Juby and Ifni.

He was promoted to capitán in February 1936, and in July he was with the Fokker VII Squadron at Cabo Juby.
By the time of the start of the Spanish Civil War, Salas had a total of 1625 flying hours in his logbook.

He learned of the Uprising at Melilla where he was staying with his parents and his brothers at their summer residence, and decided, together with Escribano, to cross to Spain immediately, each traveling independently. Salas crossed from Getafe to Pamplona on 18 July, leading a patrol of three Breguet XIXs, with Tasso and Pardo Pimentel.
Salas and his companions were imprisoned in Pamplona until released by Nationalist forces (Pamplona was captured by the rebels on 19 July).

His first war mission was to liaise between General Mola and General Franco.

On his return, he began flying a de Havilland Dragon Rapide transport aircraft, which Juan de la Cierva had acquired from the Airways Company in England.
General Mola was continually asking for fighters, but the Southern Zone was unable to supply him with them immediately. In view of this deficiency, Captain Salas decided to mount a machine-gun on the Dragon Rapide. Salas relied on the help of an old friend, Captain Del Monte of the artillery arsenal in Burgos, for installation of the gun. It was mounted within the fuselage, so that the pilot could have direct access to it, and an aperture cut in the fuselage covering the muzzle of the machine-gun. In this way a civil aircraft, which had first been turned into a bomber, became the first fighter-bomber to see service in the war.

On the morning on 21 July, teniente Julio Salvador Díaz-Benjumea intercepted a Breguet XIX with a Getafe serial number. This aircraft from Pamplona, which had landed at Burgos, had been sent by general Mola to liaise with general Franco. The pilot, capitán Salas, had to extend his journey to Tetuan, which brought him the unexpected satisfaction of meeting Franco sooner than he had hoped.

During the first advance on Villareal on 22 July, a single Breguet flown by Salas succeeded in disrupting a counter-attack by Government troops.

The first aerial combat in the North involved Salas. Over Somosierra on 27 July, he had to fight off a Nieuport 52 attacking the Breguet 19s he was escorting. His Dragon Rapide received two direct hits, but Salas continued to fly this machine until the middle of August, when a mixed Dragon-Fokker group was formed.

On 31 July 1936, both the Nationalist and Republican sides operated over Somosierra and two Nieuport Ni.52s fought with each other inconclusively at 08:30. Andrés García 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 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 opponent did not realise he should be "dead" by now and kept on climbing towards came to my mind that I was unarmed but he was, before giving him a chance to shoot at me... I turned away in a violent dive."
García La Calle's opponent must have been capitán Salas, who wrote in his logbook:
"I fought another Nieuport, which fled as I reached his height."

A small fighter squadron was formed in Burgos and for a brief period it was under the command of capitán Chamorro, although he soon went on to pilot Dragon Rapides and an Airspeed Envoy, in which he was killed whilst escorting General Mola. Pilots who flew with this squadron included Julio Salvador, Miguel Guerrero García, Martín Campos and Ramón Alvarez Senra, tenientes Miguel García Pardo and Ramiro Pasual, and occasionally capitán Salas.

In the middle of August, he collected the only Fokker XII to arrive in Vitoria, and ferried this to the Dragon-Fokker Group in Burgos.
He then flew to Saragossa with a Nieuport 52.

During the succeeding days Salas operated at Teruel and Ramón Alvarez Senra at Huesca.

On 23 August over the Teruel front Salas attacked and destroyed a light aircraft.
This was his first victory during the war.

The following day he was admitted to hospital suffering from exhaustion, after completing 50 operational sorties totalling 116 flying hours (a figure which was bettered only by Ureña with 180 hours, 24 combat sorties and 101 transport missions), which had been amassed within four weeks.

On 27 August, Captain Salas took off from Aragon in a Nieuport aircraft, eventually arriving at Olmedo. He had written to Joaquín García Morato, from Saragossa hospital, asking if he could occupy the vacant place in the He51 squadron. Morato had replied to the effect that the situation, so far as the He 51s were concerned, was not very hopeful, but that he had heard some Fiat fighters were due to arrive in Seville, and suggested that it might be better for him to try to get one of these machines allocated to him.
In fact, Salas went to Cáceres, where for some days he acted as a machine-gunner in Ricardo Guerrero's squadron of Ju 52s, and from there he went to Seville in company with Julio Salvador.

On 3 September, he was hospitalized due to exhaustion, having flown 50 operational sorties totalling 116 hours in just 27 days. On leaving hospital on 11 September, Salas was sent to Seville-Tablada.

During the second week of September, capitán Salas and Julio Salvador arrived at Tablada, offering to serve with the Italians in the Aviación del Tercio on recommendation from capitán Joaquín García Morato who was at this time already serving in the 1a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio.
Initially they were unwilling to accept them, but after Salas had given them a demonstration of his flying ability, including some manoeuvres, which even the Italians, had not attempted in the Fiats, they were finally convinced.
By this time, Capitano Vincenzo Dequal commanded both Escuadrillas of the Aviación del Tercio and capitán Salas was accepted into the 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio

On 15 September, capitán Salas led his first war sortie in a Fiat CR.32. This was to strafe Andújar aerodrome, which had been the base for the first bombing attack on Santuario de la Cabeza. According to the Nationalist communiqué three aircraft were damaged by fire, one was destroyed and eight more holed by machine-gun fire. The Air Force bulletin announced only the destruction of two Breguet XIXs by the Fiats.

On 20 September, Salas and Julio Salvador Díaz-Benjumea joined the forces in Cáceres, where they continued to operate with the Fiat squadron.

On 25 September, the squadron moved from Cáceres to Talavera (Gamonal aerodrome) to be better located to participate in the advance on Toledo.
During the day, Sergente GianLino Baschirotto claimed a shared Potez 540 together with capitán Salas near Barciencie and Villamiel. The Potez crashed vertically into the ground near Rielves, killing the crew of seven.
The Republican aircraft, a Potez 540 c/n 4219, which was named ’Aqui le espero’ (I will wait for you here), was flown by capitán Joaquín Mellado Pasqual (CO of the Grupo Potez) and Lieutenant Moreno (who had been involved in the assassination of Calvo Sotelo). It had taken off from Getafe (Madrid) on an attack mission near Toledo.
This aircraft had gained some distinction three days before when it bombed the Canarias in Galician waters. It had also been involved in incidents across the whole of Spain from Asturias to Málaga. Mellado had, from the very beginning, been the most active pilot on his side, performing outstanding service at Seville, Madrid and in the Sierra.
Potez 540 c/n 4219 had been flown from Toulouse-Montaudran to Barcelona on 8 August 1936.

Potez 540 (c/n 4219) claimed by Salas and GianLino Baschirotto on 25 September 1936.
Photo kindly provided by AEROPORTO di GORIZIA "il QUARTO STORMO ed i PILOTI".

At the end of September, nine Heinkel He 51 fighters arrived. This was a second batch He 51s and the Germans then handed over to the Nationalists the three He 51s from the first batch that were still operationally serviceable. These three aircraft were flown for some days by Joaquín García Morato, Salas and Julio Salvador, being alternated with Fiats.

On 22 October 1936, fighter patrols ranged over the outskirts of Madrid. During the last patrol of the day Joaquín García Morato, Salas and Tenente Giuseppe Cenni flew a protection cruise over Navalcarnero. Before returning to Talavera they headed towards Madrid and in the Casa de Campo area they spotted two barrage ballons. They attacked and Cenni destroyed one, which burst into flames. Salas destroyed the second.

On 29 October, the SB bombers were over the front in the first large counter-attack of the Ejército Popular against the so-called Columnas del Sur (Southern Columns), with the main push towards Seseña-Esquivias-Illescas, and the secondary at Humanes-Griñón, Parla-Torrejón de la Calzada and Pinto-Torrejón de Velasco.
A Fiat patrulla from the 1a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercioled by capitán Salas with Terenzi and Sergente Achille Buffali as wingmen over Valdemoro, 26 km south of Madrid reportedly met “four extremely fast bomber aircraft”. Capitán Salas managed to climb above the four SBs and made three attacks, first “in the tail, later in an almost vertical dive and finally in the tail again, until I ran out of ammunition.” One of the aircraft lagged behind the others, flying lower. Salas added: ”Terenci was firing at him as I was.”
It was later reported from ground positions that the SB was seen crashing in flames. Bonomi, in his memoirs, recalls that a Katiuska fell over enemy lines.
On this day it was confirmed that the SBs had higher horizontal speed than the CR.32s, something which had been anticipated on the previous days, when the fighters could not chase the twins that bombed Tablada.

In the morning on 5 November came the first big aerial battle of the war. Nine Fiats from Torrijones, led by Capitano Carlo Alberto Maccagno (newly appointed CO 1a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio) (the pilots included capitán Joaquín García Morato, capitán Salas and Julio Salvador) was escorting three Ro.37s when they met about 15 Chatos and some Potez aircraft between Leganés and Madrid. Without waiting for the support of five additional Fiats from Talavera, Capitano Maccagno led them in to attack, relying on superior performance to compensate for lack of numbers. Morato shot down a Chato, and then damaged the engine of a Potez, forcing it to land (on the Republican side). Salas shot down a Chato, which crashed in flames, and 5 km south-east of Barajas he scored hits on two more Chatos. He, in turn, came under attack, but put his aircraft into a steep dive and made good his escape at treetop level. Salvador chased a Chato as far as Barajas and attacked two Potez machines without success.
The Nationalist bulletin claimed seven fighters and one Potez destroyed and admitted the loss of one Fiat, that of Captain Maccagno (’Alfredo Pecori’), leader of the escuadrilla. The Government bulletin claimed that one Fiat, number 384 (flown by Maccagno), and four other aircraft had been destroyed. On his first operational mission, the badly wounded Maccagno was captured and hospitalised. Despite receiving medical treatment, he had to have his right leg amputated. Maccagno eventually returned to Italy following a prisoner exchange.
Salas noted in his logbook:

“Fiat number 278, 1 hour 40 minutes, Torrijos-Madrid (surveillance).
Our nine Fiats met about 15 “Curtiss” fighters. I took one by surprise and shot him down, the aircraft falling some five kilometres south-southeast of Barajas and bursting into flames on impact. I then fired at one head on and later fired at another, before being attacked by two. I managed to shake them off by diving vertically.”
In reality, only two I-15s had been destroyed. Leitenant Petr Aleksandrovich Mitrofanov of Escuadrilla Palancar, was shot down over enemy territory in his I-15 and even if he managed to bail out of his burning aircraft he was killed, thus becoming the first Russian pilot killed in Spain. Although the other I-15 was a write-off, its pilot survived his forced landing on the tree-lined avenue of Paseo de la Castellana. Several other I-15s returned to their base at Campo Soto, near Algete, with varying degrees of battle damage.

Two air battles took place on 6 November, at 10:00 and 14:00. In the latter, five Fiats led by Salas attacked seven ”Chatos” and claimed four victories even if only two claims could be confirmed by ground observers. Salas was thought to have destroyed one machine from a patrol of three, this aircraft trailing smoke as it veered into a cloud and disappeared from sight. Sottotenente Giuseppe Cenni, Tenente Vittor Ugo Ceccherelli and Sottotenente Bernardino Serafini claimed an I-15 each over the Madrid area.
One of the aircraft destroyed was the I-15 flown by leitenant Voronov, who died two days later in hospital from injuries suffered when he crash-landed upon his return to base.
The Nationalist bulletin claimed two aircraft destroyed, while the Government bulletin, which referred only to the earlier engagement, claimed the destruction of two Heinkels, these two most probably claimed by starshiy leitenant Pavel Rychagov, who claimed two enemy aircraft during the day, but it also possible that one of them was claimed by Karp Kovtun (3a Escuadrilla) who seem to have claimed a victory during the day (according to some sources this was claimed by ramming and thus probably on 13 November when he was killed).
Bonomi confirmed that the Fiats had shot down two fighters, and this was also confirmed by the Air Force communiqué, which admitted the loss of a Fiat and a Junkers. This latter machine was probably flown by Captain Larrauri, who managed to reach Talavera with one engine out of action, the other developing only restricted power, and his aircraft riddled with bullet holes. Von Morau, leader of the Pablos y Pedros squadron, also had to force-land near Madrid at this time.

On 13 November 1936, 14 Fiat CR.32s escorted five ”Junkers” and three ”Romeos”. Over the Paseo de Rosales (Madrid) they were surprised by 16 I-15s led by Starshiy Leytenant Pavel Rychagov, which dived on them from above out of the sun. Despite immediately being on the defensive, the Fiat pilots managed to protect the bombers as the air battle broke up into a series of individual combats.
The Soviet pilots claimed six victories (three of them fell in Republican territory) while two I-15s were lost when Karp Kovtun and Petr A. Purtov were shot down by Fiats and killed. Kovtun’s death was witnessed by Starshiy Leytenant Georgiy Zakharov, who also took part in this combat.
On their return flight, the Nationalist pilots encountered five Katiuskas, bombing Getafe and Cuatro Vientos from a height of 5000m. Capitán Salas damaged one so severely that the crew had to take to their parachutes, and capitán Joaquín García Morato damaged three others.
Totally the CR.32 pilots were credited with ten victories (nine “Curtisses” and one SB). Sergente GianLino Baschirotto (who reported that the I-15 was seen falling out of the sky smoking) and Corrado Ricci were among the Italians to be awarded a “Curtiss” each while Capitano Guido Nobili was credited with a probable. A Soviet fighter, whose pilot escaped by parachute, was shot down by Capitano Goliardo Mosca. The latter was in turn badly wounded in his right thigh and forced to limp back to Talavera, where he crash-landed. Capitano Mariotti force-landed outside the airfield at Getafe, but without damaging his aircraft. Capitán Morato claimed one I-15 (plus three damaged SBs), capitán Salas damaged three I-15s (plus one SB destroyed) and Julio Salvador claimed another I-15.
Capitán Morato recounted:

“Fiat Squadriglia. Bomber escort. “Junkers” and “Romeos” bombing Rosales (Madrid) clashed with 13 “Curtiss fighters”. I shot down one that caught fire in the air, and then machine gunned three “Sophias” till my ammunition ran out. Saw Anti-aircraft fire.
Total flying time 1 hour 30 minutes.”
Capitán Salas recalled:
“Fiat number 128. 1 hour 30 minutes.
Torrijos to Madrid, escorting five Junkers. Fourteen Fiats attacked 13 “Curtiss fighters” – three combats, one frontal, fired on the second while banking, and on the third from behind. Noticed several hits on the fuselage of one aircraft, but could not follow him due to the presence of others. Remained alone throughout, and eventually saw five “Martin bombers” attacking Getafe and Cuatro Vientos from 5000 metres. I fired at them twice until my guns stopped. On landing, Noreña, Celier and Betancour told me that one of the bombers I had attacked lost a wing and fell to the ground, its crew escaping by parachute.”

In the afternoon on 19 November, four S.81s, 12 Ro.37s and 18 Ju 52/3ms dropped about 40 tons of bombs on Madrid. Escorting nine He 51s and 16 Fiats fought against a large number of ’Ratas’ and ’Chatos’ (reportedly 33 Republican fighters were counted).
One Ju 52/3m was lost although its Spanish crew survived. Seven Soviet fighters were claimed as destroyed. Capitán Salas fired off practically all his ammunition against one I-16, which was last seen in a dive behind its own lines (credited as a damaged). Tenente Corrado Ricci of the 3a Escuadrilla claimed an I-16. Capitano Guido Nobili and Sergente Maggiore Vittorino Daffara claimed two I-15s each.
The Republicans claimed four aircraft destroyed (three fighters and one Ju 52/3m) with two more damaged Ju 52/3ms for the loss of two fighters. Sargento Fernando Roig Vilalta was shot down and killed in an I-15s as was Kapitan Dimitriy I. Zedanov, who crashed to his death in his heavily damaged I-16 two kilometres short of his airfield.
Zedanov, who was leading a section of I-16s, was probably shot down between Madrid and Barajas by Tenente Ricci.

During the final weeks of 1936, following the appearance of increasing numbers of Soviet fighters on the Madrid front, the Spanish capitanes Joaquín García Morato and Salas did not consider that the Italian commander, Maggiore Tarcisio Fagnani, was sufficiently aggressive, and as they sought continually to have their own way the situation daily became tenser. The Italian leader had ordered that on a particular occasion they were not to penetrate into enemy territory. Salas, who was leading the patrol, defied the order. Fagnani attempted to have him arrested when he returned to base, but Morato intervened violently and protested that in Spain nobody was arrested for displaying courage. The outcome of ensuing discussions between Morato and Salas was a decision to try to form their own independent squadrons.
On 22 December, Morato flew to Seville. Salas and Miguel García Pardo remained in the Italian squadrons for a while, but on 9 January, they also moved to the south.

In the middle of February, the Cóndor Legion realized they could no longer avoid the obvious fact that the He 51 was completely outclassed by the Government fighters. It was essential that the Bf 109 should replace them. This meant that the 4th Squadron was disbanded, and with the equipment from this squadron, the 2nd Squadron and the He 51s, which had been rebuilt, the Spanish Squadrons were formed, each with seven aircraft. They were led by Manrique Montero, Salas and Martín Campos, and began to operate during late February in Aragón, Asturias and Pozoblanco. The squadron numbers 1-E-2, 2-E-2 and 3-E-2, were allocated to them, the terminal numeral 2 indicating the type of aircraft (He 51).

On 5 March, the day before the beginning of the Nationalist offensive on Pozoblanco, the 2nd squadron of He 51s (2-E-2), led by Salas, was transferred to León since it was felt that they would be of more value there. In fact, when they reached León there was little need for them and at the end of the month they moved to Navia aerodrome, the home base of the He46s, and remained there until 10 April.

In April, all three He 51 squadrons moved to Saragossa.

One occasion during the operations at Carrascal and Santa Quiteria Salas after completing a reconnaissance sortie reported one of their own positions was surrounded by a large number of the enemy. He immediately took of again leading Squadron 2-E-2 and eight He 46s to attack the enemy troops. They remained in the air above their hard-pressed infantry, providing machine-gun fire against enemy positions for 2 hrs 8 min, by which time their ammunition was exhausted. Salas then handed over to Squadrons 1-E-2 and 3-E-2 the task of maintaining the attack. By the time that another 1 hr 45 min had elapsed the enemy forces were in retreat.
In due course Government bulletins acknowledged four hundred casualties, and complained that their own aircraft did not take a part in driving of the Nationalist squadrons.

At Teruel on 16 April, capitán Salas’ and Montero’s escuadrillas (2-E-2 and 3-E-2) attempted to bring to combat a twin-engined low-wing monoplane, but were unable to get within range as it was flying at a much higher altitude.
Later, when Salas was returning to Saragossa aerodrome in company with two other He 51s, they spotted seven Chatos overhead and climbed to attack them. One went into a dive and was followed down by Salas until it was near the ground, where it crashed and burst into flames. The combat ended after ten minutes when more Government aircraft arrived and the Nationalist aircraft escaped by diving away.
The Government aircraft were from the 2a/16, which lost Uruguayan teniente Luis Tuya while claiming one Heinkel.

On 17 April, the three Nationalist He 51 escuadrillas operated over the Teruel front with a total of 17 fighters.
2-E-2, with five He 51s, saw an enemy bomber but was unable to close with it. Shortly after they were joined by another He 51, flown by teniente Jaime Palmero Palmeta, and caught sight of ten I-15s patrolling well above their own altitude of 4,000m. They climbed to attack, determined to break off at the moment of interception, but teniente Palmero was unable to evade one I-15 that was coming down very fast in a dive, and the two machines collided. The ensuing combat ranged all over the sky, and ten more I-15s and a third fighter squadron soon joined the battle against the five remaining aircraft of 2-E-2. Capitán Salas made attacks on four aircraft but didn’t claim anything and arrived at Calamocha with his petrol tanks almost dry and with 18 bullet holes in the fuselage and wings. He had remained in the combat area until all the Republican fighters had disappeared. Alferéz Jorge Muntadas Claramunt, alferéz Rafael Mazarredo Trenor and alferéz Joaquín Ansaldo Vejarano had already landed at Calamocha, and only Ansaldo’s aircraft was free from damage. The fifth pilot, alférez Javier Allende Isasi was shot down by alferéz Juan Comas Borrás of 2a/16. Allende’s fighter was seriously damaged and chivalrously escorted by Comas it until Allende was able to make a forced-landing in Nationalist-held territory.
2-E-2 had alone been involved in this combat, the other two He 51 escuadrillas were unaware of the action and were patrolling peacefully over their own lines.
Nationalist observers on the ground saw seven aircraft fall, and if one discounts the two He 51s flown by Palmero and Allende, this gives the destruction of five I-15s, but the Nationalist communiqué claimed a total of seven aircraft destroyed.
It seems that 18-21 I-15s were involved since it’s known that three escuadrillas took part in the combat; 1a/16 (Escuadrilla La Calle), 2a/16 and Escuadrilla Kazakov (the two last escuadrillas operated from the same airfield near Sarrion) and five claims are known. The 2a/16 was first to engage, followed by Escuadrilla Kazakov and finally by the 1a/16.
Additional to Comas’ claim of Allende, Albert Baumler (Escuadrilla Kazakov) reported that on his second mission of the day, his group intercepted a formation of Heinkel He 51 pursuits. Giving chase to the enemy, Baumler crippled a Heinkel; as he did not see it crash, he was awarded with only a probable victory. He did, however, obtain credit for a subsequent "kill" in this same combat. Aleksandr Osadchiy, CO of Escuadrilla Kazakov claimed two He 51 while Frank Tinker from the 1a/16 claimed a He 51while flying in I-15 CA-058.
The I-15 that collided with teniente Palmero was flown by Alfonso Calvo Ortíz of the 2a/16, who also was killed.
It seems that Manuel Aguirre Lopez of Escuadrilla Kazakov also took part in this combat but without claiming anything.

He claimed an additional victory during April.

2-E-2 flew actively until 20 April and by this date they only had four aircraft left flying. On 21 April these where handed over to 1-E-2. The 2-E-2 pilots were flown to Seville on 22 April in Haya’s old DC-2, piloted by Navarro.
In Seville, on 26 April, aerobatic classes for fighter pilots began, Bücker Jungmeisters being used for training, and on the 30th more Fiat machines arrived, and were used to form the 2nd escuadrilla of this type, which was given the designation 2-E-3.

The second all-Spanish CR.32 escuadrilla, 2-E-3, as formed on 30 April with capitán Salas as CO.

The all-Spanish Fiat Grupo, with the designation 2-G-3, was formed in Cordoba on 4 May from the escuadrillas led by capitán Joaquín García Morato and capitán Salas (2-E-3). Morato assumed command of the Grupo, and Julio Salvador took over leadership of Morato’s old escuadrilla (1-E-3).
This had been made possible after a further consignment of eight CR.32s had been passed on to the Nationalist air force in April 1937, and they joined the five previously handed over four months earlier to form the basis of the first Spanish grupo equipped with Fiat fighters. Grupo 2-G-3 consisted of 13 aircraft and 15 pilots, which were divided into two escuadrillas of six fighters each. The final CR.32 was Morato’s personal (3-51).
Of the pilots assigned to its escuadrillas, two of them had previously served as wingmen in the Patrulla Azul, while the remaining 12 were chosen according to their experience in fighters.

Escuadrilla 1-E-3
Teniente Julio Salvador (CO)
Teniente Miguel Guerrero García
Alférez Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal
Alférez Arístides García López Rengel
Alférez Rafael Mazarredo Trenor
Alférez Jesús Rubio Paz
Brigada Ramón Senra Àlvarez

Escuadrilla 2-E-3
Capitán Salas
Capitán Narciso Bermúdes de Castro
Capitán Javier Murcia Rubio
Teniente Miguel García Pardo
Alférez Javier Allende Isasi
Alférez Joaquín Ansaldo Vejarano
Alférez Jorge Muntadas Claramunt

On 2 September, 2-G-3 surprised a formation of about 15 ’Chatos’ in the Belchite area, of which they destroyed seven. These victories were scored by capitán Salas (CO 2-E-3) and teniente Julio Salvador Díaz-Benjumea (CO 1-E-3) (two each) and by capitán Joaquín García Morato (CO 2-G-3), alférez Javier Allende Isasi (2-E-3) and José Careaga Urigüen.
The only known Government loss in this area during the day is Emilio Herrera Aguilera, who was killed in combat during the day.

These claims can’t be verified with Government records.

Capitán Joaquín García Morato continued to lead Grupo 2-G-3 until September, when he was sent on an eight-week-long technical mission to Italy at the end of the month. Capitán Salas took over the command of Grupo 2-G-3 and capitán Miguel García Pardo took over after Salas as leader of 2-E-3.

The Grupo moved to Leon aerodrome on 10 September to support the offensive, which General Aranda had begun on the 9th.

On his return, capitán Morato was named as chief of operations for the 1st Air Brigade, an appointment which he held until the end of June 1938, and Salas replaced him officially as Commander of Grupo 2-G-3.

On 19 December, the Group moved to Alfamén.

In March 1938, the Group took part in Aragón offensive.

In the afternoon on 12 March, 2-G-3 encountered enemy aircraft attempting to stop the sweeping advance in the Aragon offensive. During the afternoon 18 Fiats, led by capitán Salas (CO) and capitán Joaquín García Morato, escorted Ju 52/3ms on a raid, and having completed this task made a sweep of the front as far as Híjar, where they encountered 19 Chatos that were escorting 11 SBs. In the ensuing dogfights, capitán Salas claimed one probable I-15, capitán Morato claimed two I-15s while teniente Miguel García Pardo (2-E-3) destroyed one I-15, which fell near Híjar. Teniente Miguel Guerrero García (1-E-3) set fire to another I-15, whose pilot took to his parachute from a very low height. Teniente Julio Salvador (CO 1-E-3) attacked another machine, which began to trail smoke, but he was unable to continue his attack as his Fiat was almost out of fuel; unable to return to his base at Tauste, he had to land at Saragossa. Teniente Carlos Serra Pablo-Romero, teniente Carlos Bayo (2-E-3) and teniente Rodolphe de Hemricourt (2-E-3) each were successful in shooting down an I-15. Teniente Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal (1-E-3) attacked three SBs claiming one of them that crashed while attempting to land near Escatrón. No CR.32s were lost in this combat.
The I-15 shot down by teniente García Pardo was from 1a/26 and was flown by Soviet pilot starshiy leitenant Bela Arady, who bailed out badly burned and landed in Republican lines. The wreckage of this machine (I-15 CA-057) was recovered subsequently, and a piece of it was retained, on which ensuing victories of 2-G-3 were recorded, as well as the names of all those in the group who were killed.

After a short pause, the attack to the north of the River Ebro was resumed on the 22 March. Eighteen Fiats from 2-G-3 supported the Navarre Army Corps as they entered the Huesca sector.
The next day 2-G-3 carried out five sorties in this sector, two by the entire group, one with two squadrons and two with patrols. At 13:15, Salas and Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal took off to locate a battery, which was firing at the pontoon bridge in Quinto. During the course of this patrol, they spotted twelve Chatos flying above them and immediately climbed to attack. Salas and Vázquez both made a number of passes at the enemy without registering any vital hits, and just before the Chatos withdrew Vázquez’s machine-guns jammed. Salas returned to base and Vázquez continued on a reconnaissance of his own. He spotted a battery of three guns, which were being dismantled and loaded on to lorries. When he returned to the airfield the group had already taken off, under Miguel García Pardo’s leadership, which meant that only Salas, Julio Salvador and Vázquez were available to mount an attack against the enemy battery. Only minutes elapsed before all three were in the air, and so fast had been their action that the battery was still in the same position. Low-level attacks soon had five lorries in flames, one of which carried the battery's ammunition, and which exploded spectacularly.

Around midday on 24 March, 18 Fiats from all six Spanish CR.32 escuadrillas led by capitán Salas provided escort for the He 51s and SM.79s attacking Quinto. Between Quinto and Farlete they encountered eleven Ratas and 30 Chatos. In the ensuing combats four Chatos were claimed; capitán Salas, alférez Arístides García López Rengel (1-E-3), brigada Ramón Senra Àlvarez (1-E-3) and Rúiz Jiménez each claiming one. Teniente José Jurado González (3-E-3), flying Fiat No 3-104, was killed in action when Republican fighters shot him down between Caspe and Quinto.
Legion Condor Bf 109s also joined the fray, while He 51s flown by Spanish pilots performed ground attack missions below the swirling dogfight and one of the He 51s were destroyed, although its pilot survived.
At the end of this air battle, Salas almost succeeded in capturing a Chato. He had attacked one of the enemies and, although unable to destroy the machine, he so clearly held the upper hand that the Chato pilot descended to a low altitude and was making for Nationalist lines, with Salas in close attendance. Just as the Chato was about to land, it was attacked by a Bf 109B (No 51) flown by Oberleutnant Wolfgang Schellmann, staffelkapitän of 1.J/88, and destroyed, prompting Salas to lodge a formal complaint with the Legion Condor.
The German Bf 109s from 1.J/88 claimed two more I-15s in this combat when Leutnant Fritz Awe and Unteroffizier Alfred Stark claimed one I-15 each.
Totally the CR.32 pilots claimed four I-15s and five probable and the Bf 109s were credited with three I-15s.
In this battle Government aircraft Nos. CA-006, CA-032, CA-037 and CA-052, piloted respectively by Antonio Sánchez, Benigno Domingo Hueso, Jesús Pérez Pérez and Fernando Villins León, were destroyed and the pilots KIA; teniente Francisco Viñals Guarro and Elías Hernández flying machines Nos. CC-030 and CC-027 collided; and Alfredo Dealbert, aircraft No. CA-038 force-landed outside the airfield.
Teniente Viñals of the 2a/26 had sortied from Pomar de Cinca airfield and he bailed out and landed between Pina and Osera.
The Government Air Force had not previously lost so many aircraft in a single battle. The Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed four CR.32s and one Bf 109 with one CR.32 and one He 51 as probably destroyed.

On 25 March, the Group destroyed five lorries in the morning and a similar number in the afternoon. As this second sortie was ending, capitán Salas saw three Government light aircraft landing on the aerodrome at Mas de las Matas, which was about to be occupied by the land forces. Salas landed alongside these light aircraft, while his group maintained air cover. The enemy aircraft were soon captured, but the land forces tried to include Salas among the prisoners. These aircraft, which belonged to the School at Reus, were en route from Celrá to Valencia, under the leadership of Lieutenant Momblona; the pilot of a fourth machine, who was still airborne, realized what had happened and made good his escape.

On 8 April, after escorting Ju 52s and He 45s to the Morella front, capitán Salas' Fiat was hit while he was strafing enemy troops. The bullet had severed an oil pipe, and with oil pressure falling rapidly he had only seconds to choose a suitable area for the in evitable forced-landing.
The terrain to the north of Morella was all hill country, an extremely difficult area for a landing. Salas was preparing to bale out when he caught sight of a clear patch of ground that seemed to offer a fair chance of getting his aircraft down safely, and immediately he circled to make an approach, putting the Fiat down with such skill that only the landing gear and the under surface of the port wing was damaged. The site of this manoeuvre was within half a 1 km of general Aranda’s Command Post. Aranda watched the landing with great interest, and lost no time in recovering both pilot and aircraft.
This aircraft was No. 3-61 (Factory No. 111), which was flown by Salas for the first time in September-October 1937 when he became CO of 2-G-3 and he flew it until his forced-landing at Morella on 8 April 1938. He regained possession of 3-61 on 3 July 1938, following repairs, and continued with it until 12 November, when he suffered a serious accident. After being repaired again the Fiat came back into the possession of Salas in January 1939, remaining with him until the end of the war. He continued to fly this machine from Getafe for a considerable time after the war’s end, until it was completely destroyed in an accident. This aircraft retained the two Breda-Safat 7.7mm machine-guns throughout its service life. Later machines of this type had two 12.7mm machine-guns of the same make, but the Spanish pilots normally preferred a combination of one 7.7mm and one 12.7mm machine-gun.

On 11 April Salas, in company with the entire Group, was able to celebrate a double event; his escape unharmed from the difficult forced-landing near Morella, and his promotion to Commander, which had been authorized on 4 April. The news of this did not reach him until 11 April, hence the date of the Group’s celebration in Saragossa.

From December 1937 to Apri1 1938 Group 2-G-3 destroyed 40 Government aircraft, which together with those shot down previously, made a total of 82 victories.

On 4 May, Commander Salas of 2-G-3 had his fuel and water tanks holed by machine-gun fire from the ground, forcing him to make an emergency landing at Aguilar aerodrome, which had been occupied only days before. During the same sortie the Fiats flown by Carlos Bayo, Jorge Muntadas Claramunt and de Hemricourt all received damage from ground fire.

While operating over Teruel on 30 May, capitán Salas, teniente Miguel García Pardo and teniente Carlos Serra Pablo-Romero, all received damage to their aircraft.

Eight CR.32s from 2-G-3 and six from 3-G-3 took off in the morning on 31 May. Their task was to escort a number of Ju 52/3ms and Ro.37s over the La Puebla de Valverde sector.
On arrival, they encountered 22 Chatos and 22 Ratas. A 90-minute clash began immediately but the Nationalist crews were successful in protecting the bombers, which, their task completed, made good their escape.
Eight I-15s and two I-16s were claimed shot down without losses. The successful pilots were teniente de Hemricourt (2-E-3) (I-15), teniente Julio Salvador (CO 1-E-3) (three I-15s and one I-16), teniente Rafael Simón García (2-G-3) (I-15), teniente Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal (1-E-3) (I-15), capitán Javier Murcia Rubio (3-E-3) (two I-15s) and Muerza (I-16).
Teniente Salvador’s first I-15 was seen falling close to La Puebla, the pilot of the second escaped by parachute into Republican territory and the third, flown by teniente Juan Sayós Estivill of 1a Escuadrilla, made an emergency landing at the Republican airfield of Sarrión with a damaged engine. Estivill quickly abandoned his fighter, which was strafed by Salvador until it caught fire and burnt out. A few minutes later the Spanish ace destroyed an I-16. Teniente de Hemricourt shot down another I-15 near La Puebla, the Belgian watching his opponent take to his parachute and land in the Republican zone.
During this combat, capitán Salas was attacking a Chato when three enemy fighters in turn attacked him. His Fiat was hit several times before he managed to break away from the attack, but his machine was vibrating so badly that he had to return to base.
Bf 109s escorting Legion Condor bombers also engaged some of the I-16s.
The Republican bulletin issued the following day acknowledged the loss of five aeroplanes that crashed within its own lines, with four wounded pilots and one uninjured. The Polikarpov units had claimed the destruction of 12 Italian and German aircraft in return, although not a single Nationalist aircraft had actually been lost in combat. The Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed ten CR.32s and it seems that Vladimir Bobrov of the 1a/21 (I-16) claimed one of the CR.32s.

On 18 June, ten pilots from 2-G-3 rescued a pilot of a He 51, who had fallen between the lines. The pilot, Alegría from 1-G-2 (a former member of 3-G-3) was shot down by when his group was harassing enemy forces on the Crementala slopes. Salas later wrote:

‘When I saw the pilot of a He 51 take to his parachute and land between the lines, I went down low to prevent his capture. After watching the situation for a while, I fired at the Red trenches, forcing the enemy to flee. At that moment two or three of our own men came out and picked up the pilot.’

During a second sortie of the day on 19 June, ten Fiats of 2-G-3 took off at 18:00 led by capitán Salas, to escort Ju 52/3ms bombing La Puebla de Valverde. They encountered a formation of 18 Chatos, which they chased as far as Alcublas, where nine Ratas joined the fray. Capitán Salas dived over the Chatos to attack, but was unable to fire his guns because a leak had emptied his compressed air bottle. Despite this, he continued to make dummy attacks, being hit five times by the Ratas, one bullet puncturing the coolant radiator. Teniente Julio Salvador (CO 1-E-3) enjoyed better luck, bouncing two Chatos from above near La Puebla, one of which exploded in the air, the other following in flames. It seems that these come from the 3a Escuadrilla and both pilots survived with wounds. Salvador then had to retire with an overheating engine. Teniente Miguel García Pardo (2-E-3) effectively removed a Rata from the tail of alférez Arístides García López Rengel’s (1-E-3) Fiat by shooting it down. Teniente de Hemricourt (2-E-3) downed a Chato near Alcublas, then a Rata to the north of Villar del Arzobispo, and saw a Chato turn somersault as it attempted to land at its aerodrome. Teniente Esteban Ibarreche fired at a Chato close to the ground, and this separated from the rest of the formation and fell near to Hiruerela. Alférez Joaquín Ansaldo Vejarano (2-E-3) had to return to base when an engine cowling parted company from his Fiat.
No CR.32s were lost in this combat.

During the period 10 to 18 July the two Spanish Fiat groups operated jointly under Joaquín García Morato’s command, as Salas took advantage of the arrival of his old friend and leader to make a short break from operations.

On 18 July the fighter Groups 2-G-3 (Salas) and 3-G-3 (Joaquín García Morato) moved to Mérida and remained there, in oppressive heat, until the 28 July when they returned to Escatrón.

The six Spanish CR.32 escuadrillas consisting of Grupos 2-G-3 (led by capitán Salas) and 3-G-3 (led by comandante Joaquín García Morato) were at the Ebro front in the beginning of August.

On 25 August, to contain the Government counter-offensive in the bend of the Zújar, fighter Groups 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 returned to Mérida, where they remained until 18 September.

On the 25 August, 2-G-3 shot down two Chatos (Salas and Julio Salvador) and lost José M.a Etayo Elizondo (2-E-3), who died of injuries after trying to land his burning Fiat (3-63) at Campanario. It seems that Elizondo possibly was credited with one victory at the time of his death.

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 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 José Redondo Martín (the son of the former mayor of Madrid, Cayetano Redondo Aceña), 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 José Redondo Martín landed in Republican territory and Redondo returned to lead his unit (he had previously been CO of the I-15s in the 3a/26).
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.”

Miguel García Pardo was in temporary command of the group until Salas arrived back on 7 September.
Between the middle of July and the middle of September, Group 2-G-3 had destroyed 34 aircraft and 3-G-3 ten more. Salas topped individual scores with five victories and he now had 15 victories.

Groups 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 returned to Escatrón on 18 September, taking over the equipment which had belonged to the Italian group Gamba di Ferro, which had then been disbanded.

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 twenty-five victories (17 by 2-G-3). Salas claimed one of these victories.

On 15 October 1938, four squadrons of Fiats made a combined sortie, three from 2-G-3, and one from 3-G-3. They succeeded in destroying two Ratas (Carlos Bayo and González Guzmán), one for each group. Capitán Salas, Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal and Bayo each damaged another.

During the battles over the Ebro he claimed one shared destroyed on an unknown date.

On 12 November, eighteen Fiats of 2-G-3 and six from 3-G-3 took of under the leadership of Salas, to escort Ju 52s and He70s in the Segre sector. Six Katiuskas were encountered, escorted by two formations of Ratas. de Hemricourt succeeded in destroying one Rata, and one Katiuska was shot down by the combined attack of about five machines.
As the Fiats landed back at base from this sortie - one, which had been damaged in combat, collided with machine No 3-61, Salas’ aircraft, damaging the lower wings. This latter machine, one of the first to serve with the group, was repaired by the middle of January and Salas finished the war in it.
This combat marked the end of air operations in support of the battle of the Ebro, which ended on 16 November with the retreat of the XV Army Corps.

While making a routine patrol on 27 November, Salas suffered a sudden hernia and was taken immediately to hospital for an operation. He was discharged from hospital in the middle of January 1939.

Miguel Guerrero García led Grupo 2-G-3 temporarily until 13 January, when Salas returned from hospital.
Salas, in his new rank of comandante, reassumed leadership of Grupo 2-G-3, which was still based at Escatrón. The unit remained here until 17 January when they moved, together with 3-G-3, to Balaguer aerodrome (Lérida).

On 15 February, the nine Fiats from 2-G-3 flew from Escatrón to Posadas, led by Commander Salas. The independent Squadron 8-E-3 remained at the same aerodrome, but on 13 March they became part of Group 2-G-3, forming its fourth squadron.

The advance on Pozoblanco by the Moroccan and Andalusian Armv Corps began on 26 March. On that day 2-G-3, made three sorties; the first led by Salas and the other two by Miguel Guerrero García. There was practically no resistance and Salas moved to Grinon, so that he could be one of the first to enter Madrid, where his father was in hiding in an embassy.

On 27 March a reconnaissance sortie was carried out, and this was 2-G-3’s last operational sortie of the war.

On 19 May, a final victory parade was held in Madrid. Salas, who had taken command of both Fiat groups following Joaquín García Morato’s death, led the formation that triumphantly spelled out the word FRANCO, high above the enthusiastic and cheering crowds that celebrated the return of peace.

On 25 July, he was married in Oviedo.

After the end of the war, he was decorated with the Military Medal and promoted for his services during the war. The medal was however not presented to him until 1941, by which time he was involved in a new war!

Salas had flown for 1625 hours when the Uprising began. During the war he made 618 sorties, accumulating a total of 1215 flying hours, and during which he was involved in 49 aerial combats, figures which were not achieved by any other pilot. He flew an average of 20 sorties and 40 hours per month, discounting the two months spent in hospital at the end of 1938. He was shot down four times and his aircraft was damaged 117 times in combats fought during the war. He destroyed 48 land vehicles and 16 enemy aircraft, plus one other claimed jointly with another pilot.

At the end of the war, he assumed command of the 21st Fighter Regiment and, simultaneously, of the 4th Staff Section. He went to the Advanced Flying School.

He volunteered for combat in Russia and was designated as the commander of the 1a Escuadrilla Azul, (Escuadrilla Expedicionaria) which was formed with 17 pilots. Some of them were veterans of the Spanish Civil War and had a combined score of 79 aerial victories.

The unit crossed into France on 24 July 1941, later arriving in Germany in late part of the month.

They were assigned to training at the Jagdfliegerrschule 1 at Werneuchen near Berlin.

After completing their training on Bf 109 Es, the 1a Escuadrilla left for Russia on 26 September.
At first the Spanish pilots were worried that they would arrive late to see any action, since they were kept informed of the progress of the German advance towards Moscow.

Azul Escuadrilla is welcomed on the East Front at Moschna airfield in September 1941.

The 1a Escuadrilla received a total of 12 Bf 109 E-4s and –7s and they were assigned to JG 27, VIII FliegerKorps of LuftFlotte 2. They were known as the “15 Spanische Staffel”, and they started to fly their first combat operations on 2 October. Escorting German bombers and reconnaissance aircraft, they operated from 12 different airfields.
Already on the first day, 2 October, they suffered their first pilot causality, when Luis Alcocer (Bf 109 E-7 WNr. 1390) was shot down and killed in air combat with MiG-1s, I-16s and Il-4s 6 kilometres north of Moschna.

On 4 October, the Escuadrilla Azul score its first aerial victories, when Commendante Salas destroyed one I-16 fighter and a Pe-2. He described this in his after combat report:

“I saw 6 Pe-2 coming and I went after them, cutting the distance between us I found myself below. I opened fire from 150 meters with my small machinegun and much closer with my canons. I saw pieces jump from the aircraft after the second burst, it occupant taking to his parachute. Later I continue towards Cholm to join up with the group and saw a “Rata”. I attacked him in a turn while he’s trying to flee in a fast dive that rips his left wing and he crashes near the confluence between Dnieper and Wjasna. Later I attack twice another “Rata” with no effects.”

On 7 October, the Escuadrilla undertook 42 sorties and in the course of the day, Commendante Salas shot down an “I-18” for his third personal and unit victory while Captain Carlos Bayo Alessandri claimed a damaged MiG-3.

On 14 October, Salas in the company with three other pilots in a “free hunt” near Kalinin surprised three DB-3 bombers. In the resulting combat Salas claimed two, while Captain Carlos Bayo destroyed the third DB-3, but during the heat of the combat Salas and Bayo collided resulting in Salas Bf 109’s rudder being partially destroyed but he made it back to base.
These victories meant that Salas became the first Spanish pilot to become an “Ace” in the skies of Russia.

On 25 October, Salas together with two other pilots destroyed three “I-18” Soviet fighters on the ground at the airfield of Klin.

During a combat between five Spanish pilot and reportedly ten “I-18” fighters on 27 October, Salas shot down another DB-3 bomber for his sixth personal and the 10th victory for the Spanish squadron.

Salas claimed an I-16 on 3 November.

On 4 November and after taking off from Staritza, Salas was forced to make an emergency landing between German and Russian lines at a place called ”Ksussowa” after an aerial combat with I-16s. During this mission he was flying Bf 109 E Wnr. 3293 (M + ?).
He was rescued the next day by German troops and returned to the squadron.

In the later part of November Salas reportedly claimed a Russian biplane on the ground.
This was the last claim for the 1a Escuadrilla Azul. For the remainder of their stay in Russia, they continued fighting, flying escort mission, ground attacks etc. but didn’t claim anything only sustaining losses to it pilots.

The 1a Escuadrilla Azul received the orders to return to Spain on 6 January 1942.
During their time in Russia the unit flew a total of 460 missions, were engaged in 94 aerial combats and destroyed 10 enemy aircraft plus four on the ground, for the loss of 5 pilots (one KIFA, three MIA and one KIA) plus one wounded in action. Of the three missing in action, one is reported to have been taken POW by the Russians but stayed in Russia and married a Russian woman and reportedly was living south of Moscow.

For his service in Russia Salas was decorated with the German Iron Cross.

In Russia Salas made 70 operational sorties, during which he destroyed 7 enemy aircraft. These, together with the 16 in Spain, brought his total to 23.

Salas ended the war with 16 biplane victories and a total of 23.

He was later sent as the Air Attaché to Rome, Berlin, Lisboa and Paris. In 1956 he converted to turbine powered aircraft and was named Commander of the Fuerjas Aereas de la Defensa with the rank of Colonel.

When he was promoted to Divisional General, he became Commander of the Canaries Air Zone and later Director of studies at the Centro Superior de Estudios de la Defensa. He was promoted to Lieutenant General in 1966 and was named as Commander of the Aviación Táctica and the Straits Air Region (later named the 2nd Air Region).

Salas retired from the Air Force in 1972 with the rank of Capitan General.

He passed away on 19 July 1994.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 23/08/36   1 Light aircraft Destroyed Ni-H.52   Teruel front  
2 25/09/36   1 Potez 540 (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Barciencie-Villamiel 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
  22/10/36   1 Barrage balloon Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Casa de Campo area 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
  29/10/36   1 SB (b) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Valdemoro area 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
3 05/11/36 morning 1 I-15 (c) Destroyed Fiat CR.32 278 Leganés-Madrid 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
  05/11/36 morning 1 I-15 (c) Damaged Fiat CR.32 278 5 km SE Barajas 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
  05/11/36 morning 1 I-15 (c) Damaged Fiat CR.32 278 5 km SE Barajas 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
4 06/11/36 14:00 1 I-15 (d) Destroyed Fiat CR.32     2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
  13/11/36   1 I-15 (e) Damaged Fiat CR.32 128 Paseo de Rosales 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
  13/11/36   1 I-15 (e) Damaged Fiat CR.32 128 Paseo de Rosales 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
  13/11/36   1 I-15 (e) Damaged Fiat CR.32 128 Paseo de Rosales 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
5 13/11/36   1 SB (e) Destroyed Fiat CR.32 128 Getafe-Cuatro Vientos 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
  19/11/36 afternoon 1 I-16 (f) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Madrid area 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
6 16/04/37   1 I-15 (g) Destroyed He 51   Saragossa area 2-E-2
7 ??/04/37   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed He 51     2-E-2
8 02/09/37   1 I-15 (h) Destroyed Fiat CR.32 3-61 Belchite area 2-G-3
9 02/09/37   1 I-15 (h) Destroyed Fiat CR.32 3-61 Belchite area 2-G-3
  12/03/38 afternoon 1 I-15 (i) Probable Fiat CR.32 3-61 Híjar area 2-G-3
10 24/03/38 midday 1 I-15 (j) Destroyed Fiat CR.32 3-61 Quinto area 2-G-3
11 25/08/38   1 I-15 Destroyed Fiat CR.32 3-61 Zújar area 2-G-3
12 02/09/38 morning 1 SB (k) Destroyed Fiat CR.32 3-61 Zújar area 2-G-3
13 02/09/38 morning 1 SB (k) Destroyed Fiat CR.32 3-61 Zújar area 2-G-3
14 02/09/38 morning 1 SB (k) Destroyed Fiat CR.32 3-61 Zújar area 2-G-3
14 02/09/38 morning 1 SB (k) Damaged Fiat CR.32 3-61 Zújar area 2-G-3
15 02/09/38 morning 1 I-16 (l) Destroyed Fiat CR.32 3-61 Zújar area 2-G-3
16 ??/09-10/38   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed Fiat CR.32 3-61   2-G-3
  15/10/38   1 I-16 Damaged Fiat CR.32 3-61   2-G-3
  ??/??/38   1 Enemy aircraft Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32 3-61   2-G-3
17 04/10/41   1 Pe-2 Destroyed Bf 109 E   Russia 1a Escuadrilla Azul
18 04/10/41   1 I-16 Destroyed Bf 109 E   Dnieper - Wjasna 1a Escuadrilla Azul
19 07/10/41   1 I-18 (m) Destroyed Bf 109 E   Russia 1a Escuadrilla Azul
20 14/10/41   1 DB-3 (n) Destroyed Bf 109 E   Kalinin area 1a Escuadrilla Azul
21 14/10/41   1 DB-3 Destroyed Bf 109 E   Kalinin area 1a Escuadrilla Azul
  25/10/41   1 I-18 Destroyed on the ground Bf 109 E   Klin airfield 1a Escuadrilla Azul
22 27/10/41   1 DB-3 Destroyed Bf 109 E   Russia 1a Escuadrilla Azul
23 03/11/41   1 I-16 Destroyed Bf 109 E   Russia 1a Escuadrilla Azul
  ??/11/41   1 Biplane Destroyed on the ground Bf 109 E   Russia 1a Escuadrilla Azul

Biplane victories: 16 and 1 shared destroyed, 1 probable, 9 damaged, 1 barrage balloon.
TOTAL: 23 and 1 shared destroyed, 1 probable, 9 damaged, 2 destroyed on the ground, 1 barrage balloon.
(a) Actually, a shared together with GianLino Baschirotto. Potez 540 c/n 4219 shot down killing the crew including capitán Joaquín Mellado Pasqual (CO of the Grupo Potez) and Lieutenant Moreno.
(b) Last seen from the ground falling in flames.
(c) Republican fighters claimed five CR.32 for the loss of two I-15 and several other damaged. Nationalist CR.32s claimed seven fighters and one bomber for the loss of one CR.32.
(d) Four I-15s were claimed but only two could be confirmed by ground observers.
(e) Nationalist forces claimed nine I-15s and 1 SB while losing 1 CR.32 and 1 force-landed. Republican forces claimed 6 CR.42 while losing 2 I-15s (Karp Kovtun and Petr A. Purov) and 1 SB (reportedly to AA fire).
(f) 7 fighters claimed shot down for the loss of 1 Ju 52/3m. The Republicans claimed 4 aircraft destroyed (3 fighters and 1 Ju 52/3m) with 2 more damaged Ju 52/3ms for the loss of 2 fighters.
(g) Claimed in combat with Escuadrilla Kosákov (2a/16), which lost Uruguayan teniente Luis Tuya while claiming one Heinkel.
(h) 2-G-3 claimed 7 I-15s. Only known Republican loss is Emilio Herrera Aguilera KIA.
(i) 2-G-3 claimed 7 I-15s, 1 probable and 1 damaged and 1 SB destroyed without losses. Republican losses is not known.
(j) The Nationalist side claimed seven I-15s (4 by Spanish CR.32s and 3 by 1.J/88) while losing one CR.32 and one He 51. The Government admitted the loss of 6 and 1 force-landed while the Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed four CR.32s and one Bf 109 with one CR.32 and one He 51 as probably destroyed. (k) Three SBs from the 4a/24 flown by Blas, Monzónis and Pavía shot down and one damaged. 2-G-3 claimed four SBs in this combat.
(l) Teniente José Redondo Martín, CO 1a/21, (I-16 ‘CM-214’) shot down. The pilot parachuted safely.
(m) According to German sources claimed on 6 October 1941.
(n) According to German sources this was claimed as an SB-3.

Air Aces Home Page - Jan Safarik
Air War over Spain - Jesus Salas Larrazabal, 1974 Ian Allan Ltd, Shepperton, Surrey, ISBN 0-7110-0521-4
Angel Salas Larrazabal - A Fighter Ace in Two Wars (WWII Ace Stories) - Santiago A. Flores, 2001
Crickets against Rats. Regia Aeronautica in the Spanish Civil War 1936-1937. Vol. 1 - Marek Sobski, 2014 Kagero, Lublin, ISBN 978-83-64596-16-2
Deutsche Luftwaffe Losses & Claims -series - Michael Balss
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
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
The Facile Fiat...Rosatelli's "Italian Fighter" - Air Enthusiast/Twenty-Two
The Legion Condor - Karl Ries and Hans Ring, 1992 Schiffer Publishing, ISBN 0-88740-339-5
Tupolev SB Katiuska in Spain (Vol. 1) – Jesús Salas Larrazábal and Rafael de Madariaga Fernández, Quirón Ediciones, ISBN 84-87314-99-6
Tupolev SB: Soviet High Speed Bomber - Mikhail Maslov, 2004 Icarus Aviation Press, Old Saybrook, ISBN 0-9724527-1-0
Wings Over Spain - Emiliani Ghergo, 1997 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milano
Additional information kindly provided by Miguel Ansede Fernández, Christer Bergström, Ondrej Repka, Tom Semenza and Mirek Wawrzynski.

Last modified 20 June 2023