Biplane fighter aces

Spain

Lieutenant-General Julio Salvador Díaz-Benjumea

20 May 1910 –

Julio Salvador Díaz-Benjumea was born on 20 May 1910 in Cadiz.

He entered the military academy at the age of 15.

In 1930, Salvador attained the rank of teniente after graduating top of his class in the 4a Promoción (4th promotion) course for the Aviación Militar.

In 1931 he was assigned as a fighter pilot to 2a Escuadra Aérea, based at Seville-Tablada. He also received the title of air mechanic. Salvador had logged 550 flying hours by the time he and most of his fellow officers at the base backed the Nationalist cause on the night of 18 July 1936 and occupied Seville-Tablada airfield.

He showed exceptional ability from early days and was first posted to the Seville Nieuport 52 Squadron and later to the group at Granada.

In July 1936, he was sent to Gancedo’s squadron, at Tablada, and moved with them to Algeciras and Malaga on the morning on 18 July.

He then began flying in Nieuport 52s, and quickly moved to Burgos with Ramón Alvarez Senra.

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 Salvador, Miguel Guerrero García, Martín Campos and Ramón Alvarez Senra, tenientes Miguel García Pardo and Ramiro Pasual, and occasionally capitán Ángel Salas.

On the morning on 21 July, teniente Salvador 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 Ángel Salas Larrazábal, had to extend his journey to Tetuan, which brought him the unexpected satisfaction of meeting Franco sooner than he had hoped.

On 28 July, after the arrival at Burgos of two Nationalist fighters from Tablada airfield, Seville, there was the first combat between Ni-H.52s from both sides of the conflict, over the Sierra de Guadarrama. Aircraft 3-43, flown by teniente Salvador, hit another aircraft with machinegun fire and the republican aircraft fled, conspicuously hit, towards the Santillana dam.
Teniente Salvador’s aircraft, suffering from a faulty engine, had to land at the airfield of Los Negredos.
It is possible that Salvador’s victim was teniente Francisco Márques Yanguas Benavides, who according to an official order of the republican Subsecretaría de la Aviación was killed on this day. Márques Yanguas was a fighter pilot of the former Grupo No 12 at Granada and he had flown to Getafe with capitán Méndez Iriarte's Escuadrilla. On 5 May 1938, Márques Yanguas was posthumously promoted to mayor de Caballeria.

When Heinkel He 51s arrived in Seville he, like Joaquín García Morato, joined the Rambaud Escuadrilla.

SS Usaramo with the first contingent of German volunteers arrived at the roadstead off Cádiz on 6 August before docking the next day. They were sent by train to Seville. Hannes Trautloft recalled:

“The next morning we found ourselves at Seville airfield [Tablada], a frequent target for “Red” airmen. On 9 August we started the job of rebuilding our six He 51s - a real piece of teamwork involving pilots and ground personnel. The Spanish personnel were quite surprised to witness us work with such energy, but we really were getting quite impatient and wanted to get our machines into the air as soon as possible.”
Conditions at Tablada were rudimentary. Oberleutnant Herwig Knüppel recorded of this initial period:
“Our single-seaters had to be put together rapidly, as we wanted to strike out as soon as possible to the Front. Breaking open crates, raising aircraft fuselages, attaching wings, fixing bracing struts - that was our first occupation. In doing so, we established friendships with the Spanish pilots [Joaquín García] Morato, [Julio] Salvador, [Luis] Rambaud and others, and with the Spanish mechanics. Many beads of sweat flowed.”
On 10 August, the first He 51 was fully assembled and ready for operations.
The German pilots at Tablada were able to put on a display patrol to both test the re-assembled Heinkels and to impress their Spanish comrades with the performance of their aircraft. In accordance with their instructions they were not authorised to enter combat, and so the first few days were spent training five rebel Spaniards selected from the first group of 18 fighter pilots to join the Nationalist side; capitán Luis Rambaud and Joaquín García Morato and teniente Miguel García Pardo, Ramiro Pascual and Salvador.
Eventually, the German pilots requested that they be allowed to engage in combat operations, and this permission was granted by general Alfredo Kindelán y Duany, the commander of what was now viewed as the ’Nationalist’ air forces. Of this time Herwig Knüppel recorded:
“After some seven days of strenuous work, with our toothbrushes and shaving gear stashed in the stowage compartment of our He 51s, we flew via Salamanca and the Sierra de Gredos to our small combat airfield of Escalona del Prado, near Segovia.
There, on the northern perimeter of the Guadarrama hills, we were located together with an Escuadrilla de reconocimiento, with whom we soon established a warm friendship. The aircraft stood in the open, replacement parts, ammunition and fuel and oil laying protected from the sun under tarpaulins at the edge of the forest. We ourselves likewise lay to some extent protected from the full glare of the sun and slept when we were not flying, or else had language tuition with the Spanish crews.”
Wolf-Heinrich von Houwald also recorded his observations of early conditions in Spain:
“We arrived at Salamanca, the second stopping place on our way to Escalona - a small town close to the Madrid Front. Salamanca was the first combat airfield I saw. We took a big chance in actually finding it because everything, including the aircraft, was very well camouflaged. We refuelled and took off for Escalona, an airfield that we heard was incredibly small and hard to find. It lay so close to the front that it was quite probable that we would engage the enemy. Nevertheless, we found it after half-an-hour and landed. The airfield was so poor that we were worried whether our Spanish comrades would be able to fly our aircraft from there.
Next day I had a most annoying experience. Full of enthusiasm and idealism, five Spaniards proudly climbed into our aircraft. They did not want foreigners to fight for them while they had to stay on the ground with nothing to do. But as they returned, my aircraft crashed on landing. Fortunately, the other Heinkels managed to land safely. From now on, without an aircraft, I had to stay on the ground while the others each shot down two or three enemy in short order. I had nothing better to do than to wait for new aircraft to come from home. I kept thinking that they would arrive too late because the “Rojos” would be forced to surrender in front of Franco’s massive offensive.”
The small cadre of Spanish pilots working with the Germans had formed themselves loosely into what they called the Escuadrilla Rambaud. After the losses suffered on 23 August, the Escuadrilla was disbanded in the end of the month.

On 17 August, he claimed his first victory when he claimed a Potez 54 over Santa Cruz de Mudela.

Next day, on 18 August, he claimed one Ni.52 and two Breguet XIXs over Merida.

On 27 August, Captain Ángel 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 He 51 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 Salvador.

During the second week of September, capitán Ángel Salas and 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 20 September, Ángel Salas and Salvador joined the forces in Cáceres, where they continued to operate with the Fiat squadron.

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, Ángel Salas and Salvador, being alternated with Fiats.

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

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 Ángel Salas and 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.

On 13 November, 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. Purov 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 Ángel 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 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.”

At the end of December 1936, when five CR.32s were handed over to the Nationalist air force, capitán Morato formed and commanded an autonomous Spanish patrol in Córdoba, together with his wingmen teniente Salvador and capitán Narciso Bermúdes de Castro, and they were joined shortly afterwards by Miguel García Pardo.
The unit was named the Patrulla Azul (“Blue Patrol”).

In the early morning on 18 February, two Nationalist Ro.37s (flown by Spanish pilots) took off, followed by three Ju 52/3ms escorted by the Spanish Patrulla Azul and the Italian Fiat Group (totally 25 CR.32 including the Spanish). When they arrived over the front at Jarama, the CR.32s turned so that they were patrolling parallel to the front, while a large formation of Polikarpov fighters waited on the other side. When the Ro.37s and Ju 52/3ms were safe and returning, capitán Joaquín García Morato broke formation and, followed by teniente Salvador and capitán Narciso Bermúdes de Castro, launched himself into Soviet fighters near Arganda. Disregarding recent orders restricting them from engaging superior numbers of enemy aircraft, Italian pilots Tenente Corrado Ricci, Tenente Enrico Degli Incerti, Capitano Guido Nobili and Fiacchino went to the assistance of their Spanish comrades by leading their respective flights against the large Republican formation of Polikarpov fighters. Finally, the entire group took part in the battle, fighting a reportedly 21 I-15s and 18 I-16s, and the Italians claimed for four 'Curtiss fighters' destroyed and five probables, as well as six Ratas destroyed and two probables. One I-16 and two probable I-15s were claimed by Tenente Enrico Degli Incerti while Sergente Maggiore Silvio Costigliolo claimed an I-15 in the Arganda area. Sergente Maggiore Guido Presel claimed two I-15s and a probable and Sergente Maggiore Brunetto di Montegnacco claimed two I-16s. Among the Spaniards, Capitán Morato, who returned with damage to his fighter, was credited with an I-15 and another as a probable while teniente Salvador was credited with and I-16 and a second fighter as a probable.
The Italians suffered no losses during this action, and only a solitary pilot was forced to make an emergency landing after he was wounded; the damage to his CR.32 was quickly repaired.
Tenente Degli Incerti described the combat:

“We were on the return leg of an escort mission, and having made sure that our bombers were safe, we had the airfield in sight and prepared to land. It was at that very moment that the three Spanish CR.32 pilots following us, but still flying over enemy territory, decided to take on a large Soviet formation. Although the enemy aircraft were still some distance away, we performed a hasty 180-degree turn at full throttle and joined the fray. All the Italian fighter flights following suit, despite us having orders only to intervene following provocation – our duty was to fight as courageously as possible to the end.
Once we had engaged the enemy, both sides formed a long line of aircraft, and this was turning, banking and circling. The fighters alternated in this single file trail, with two or three “Reds” for every Nationalist. It was as if this formation had been planned. Many tracer rounds flashed through the sky from the aircraft, turning the dogfight into an infernal ballet. Smoke trails of death suddenly appeared, and the long line broke into smaller rows.
The battle threw up numerous small skirmishes that ended inconclusively. Despite being outnumbered, we legionnaires stood together, compact, protecting each other. All of a sudden in the centre of the melee an aircraft caught fire and a parachute opened. The former fell away and crashed to the ground, while the latter floated away to safety. A “Red” had been shot down. Four of his comrades, fearing that we'd shoot at the pilot, circled him for his protection. Two CR.32s engaged them. This turn of events split the battle into two groups, within which fierce fighting continued.
The “Curtiss fighter” section then broke off their attack, unable to defeat our concentrated gunfire. They tried to escape, but this move failed and two of the stubby fighters fell in flames.
Thirty minutes into the battle, thousands of bullets had crossed the sky over Villaconejos. By now the revolving aircraft and chatter of the guns had diminished. The fighting faded slowly away, and within a short time we remained as the sole masters of the sky over the Jarama front.”
This battle was fought against at least the I-15s of the Escuadrilla La Calle and Escuadrilla José (the Escuadrilla led by Ivan Kopets) and the I-16s from Escuadrilla Kolesnikov. The Republican pilots reported being engaged by 85 (!) Heinkel He 51s over the front. Immediately the Escuadrilla went into a tight horizontal circle (”Lufbery circle”). The first enemy aircraft fired randomly at the I-15s as they dived past the Escuadrilla’s defensive pattern. Unwillingly to challenge the Republican fighters, the remainder of the Nationalist pilots followed suit, executing a single strafing pass, and then flying lazily below the I-15s in hopes of enticing a few green Republican pilots away of the defensive protection. Ben Leider took the bait and started down after one of the easy-looking targets, only to attract three enemy fighters on his tail. As Frank Tinker peered over his shoulder during the swirling melee of aircraft, he saw Leider’s I-15 to shudder as the CR.32s flashed past. Tinker’s heart sank as he noticed Leider veer toward friendly territory in a shallow dive. Twice, Leider tried to land his fighter in a small field before slamming into the side of a hill, killing him.
The Escuadrilla leader Andrés García La Calle’s version of Leider’s end differed markedly from Tinker’s perspective. As Leider dived, breaking away from the ”Lufbery circle” to attack a “Heinkel” below, an enemy fighter locked on his tail. La Calle pulled behind Leider’s pursuer and frightened him away with his machineguns. Repeatedly La Calle then tried to herd Leider’s intended victim back away from Nationalist lines so that the American could down the enemy fighter. La Calle wanted Leider to destroy the enemy fighter as a morale boost for the Escuadrilla and to appease Leider’s Communist backers. When the Nationalist pilot made a third attempt to cross his lines, La Calle shot him down. Irritated by the turn of events and Leider’s seeming inability to shoot down his adversary, the Spanish Commander signalled Leider to head for home. During the flight back to base, Leider flew just behind the Escuadrille leader’s wing. Halfway home, La Calle glanced around only to discover that Leider was gone. Having landed he learned that no one knew of the American’s whereabouts: his comrades saw him rejoin their homebound group and never again. There was no other news until Leider’s ”Chato” was located.
Evidence from the crash site gave Leider’s fellow pilots a clue as to his final seconds on earth. During the dogfight, three rounds penetrated his cockpit, one passing through his leg. Instinctively he loosened his seat belt and harness. As Leider prepared to bale out, he had second thoughts about giving up his I-15, so he decided to attempt to set down his aircraft. His loss of blood caused him to faint at the controls.
Jim Allison and Harold Dahl followed Leider down after the Nationalist fighters. Allison shot down his intended victim before three enemy fighters reached him. Allison’s I-15 gave a jerk, then it executed a perfect Immelmann and headed back to base but he was forced to make an emergency landing. Allison had received a serious leg wound during the combat. Dahl prepared to trip his guns on a careless adversary when he noticed the same three enemy fighters flash past. Almost simultaneously, he became aware that his machine was not answering the controls. A glance back revealed that the entire tail of his fighter had been shot away.
The remaining I-15s of the Escuadrilla La Calle maintained the ”Lufbery circle” when another Escuadrilla of I-15s appeared piloted by Russian volunteers (probably from Escuadrilla José). Fighting their way through the curtain of enemy fighters, the Soviets joined La Calle’s men in the wheel formation until the two Escuadrillas were rescued by a third Escuadrilla of I-16s (probably Escuadrilla Kolesnikov).
Totally, the Republican pilots claimed seven enemy fighters for the loss of six aircraft - three from Escuadrilla La Calle, two from Escuadrilla José and one from Escuadrilla Kolesnikov. Leytenant Ugrovatov from Escuadrilla Jose parachuted to safety over friendly territory from his stricken I-15 while Leytenant Filip Zamashanskiy, patrol leader of the I-16-equipped Escuadrilla Kolesnikov, was killed trying to crash-land his fighter after it had been shot up. Both Allison and Dahl rejoined their unit the next day.
Allison’s leg wound was serious and he went to the American Hospital in Neuilly, where the doctors saved his leg.
After the battle, Morato thanked Tenente Corrado Ricci for coming to his aid, as he knew that he owed him his life following the Italian pilots’ timely intervention. General Kindelán recommended that Morato be awarded the Cruz Laureada de San Fernando; Spain’s highest military honour for bravery while Salvador was proposed for the Military Medal. The Nationalist Government also exploited the success of this fight against the odds to lobby Italy for additional CR.32s.

In the evening on the same day, two I-16s were shot down. Capitano Guido Nobili and Sergente Maggiore Vittorino Daffara shared one between them and teniente Salvador was credited with the second.

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 Ángel Salas (2-E-3). Morato assumed command of the Grupo, and 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 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 Ángel 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

Between 11 and 16 July, he claimed two R-5s, one I-16, a A-101 and an additional enemy aircraft.

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 Ángel Salas Larrazábal (CO 2-E-3) and teniente Salvador (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.

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

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 Ángel 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 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 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 on 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 Starshii Leitenant Bela Ignat’evich 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. 18 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.

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 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 Ángel 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.

During a second sortie of the day on 19 June, ten Fiats of 2-G-3 took off at 18:00 led by capitán Ángel 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 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.

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 Antonio Manrique Garrido (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 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).

On 25 August, 2-G-3 shot down two Chatos (Ángel Salas and 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.

During the morning on 3 October, comandante Joaquín García Morato led 24 CR.32s from Grupos 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 on an escort mission for Ro.37s on the Ebro front. They encountered 28 I-16s escorting 24 I-15s that had been undertaking strafing attacks, comandante Morato and 12 fighters from 3-G-3 attacking the biplane fighters at low level, two of which were claimed shot down by Tenientes Medizabal and Emelio O’Connor Valdivielso (4-E-3). Twelve other fighters from 2-G-3 tackled the I-16s at a higher altitude, but they soon found themselves badly outnumbered.
As the I-15 escuadrillas withdrew towards Republican lines, Morato and his pilots broke off their attacks and gained height in order to aid their compatriots in the struggle against the I-16s. Morato attacked a Rata from the rear, quickly setting it on fire, but at the same time another CR.32 pilot targeted the same I-16 from an acute angle. A 12.7 mm bullet fired by the second Fiat hit the engine of Morato’s fighter, knocking it out. Still some 12 miles behind enemy lines, but at medium altitude, he used all his skills to glide the engineless CR.32 to within sight of the frontline, before he was forced to perform a dead-stick landing in a vineyard. His aircraft suffered no further damage when he landed. This was the only time that Morato was shot down in combat, albeit not through enemy action but accidentally by his wingman during the heat of battle (according to other sources, Morato was shot down by teniente Sirvent Cerrillo).
The fighter shot down by Morato (although not credited to him) was an I-16 Type 10 from 3a Escuadrilla, and it was seen to explode in mid-air. Another I-16 (CM-061), this time from 7a Escuadrilla was destroyed over Corbera by teniente de Hemricourt (2-E-3), de Hemricourt seeing its pilot bail out over Republican territory. A third I-16 Type 10 was hit in the propeller and main-wheel doors by bullets from a CR.32 and its pilot crash-landed near Reus, from where it was recovered.
Republican pilots, in return, claimed nine CR.32s shot down, although in actual fact only one had been lost. However, the pilot downed was none other than the commander of Escuadrilla 1-E-3, capitán Salvador (CR.32ter NC 753/3-69), who was shot down after claiming two enemy aircraft. According to Republican witnesses, his CR.32 had been hit near Fayón early on in the engagement with the I-16s. Salvador’s opponent was the second-in-command of Grupo No 21, José Maria Bravo Fernández (according to other sources, Salvador was shot down by teniente Francisco Meroño Pellicer, CO 6a/21, who claimed a CR.32 during the day). The nationalist pilot was taken prisoner by soldiers of the 46th Division of the Popular Army, commanded by the famous communist leader Valentin Gonzalez.
Salvador was eventually set free in France along with other pilot detainees held by the Republicans after four months in prison.
The I-15s of Grupo No 26 claimed four CR.32s (three by 1a/26 and one by 3a/26) during the day while the I-16s of Grupo No 21 claimed nine CR.32s (three by 4a/21, two by 7a/21, three by 1a/21 and one by 6a/21).
I-16s CM-261 and CM-263 (both from 3a/21) were destroyed during the day.

During the war, Salvador claimed 24 biplane victories and 1 balloon.
During the Spanish Civil War, he accumulated 1,066 flying hours in 567 operational sorties. With the Fiat CR.32 alone, he flew 515 sorties totalling 893 hours. Among his claims were 13 I-15s.

When the war ended, he was sent to the 22nd Fighter Regiment (Tablada) and was later named as leader of the Fighter School, which had been moved from Villanubla to Reus and then to Morón, where it remained until it was disbanded in 1953.

He relieved Salas in Command of the expeditionary squadron in Russia, where he remained from March to November 1942.

In the afternoon on 22 August, the Bf 109F-2s of 15. (Span)/JG 51 were involved in combat with Soviet LaGG-3s.
At 17:25, they made two claims when Salvador claimed one and Manuel Bengoechea Menchaco (4th and last claim) a second.

On 29 October, Salvador claimed a LaGG-3.
15. (Span)/JG 51 made one additional clam this day when capitán Carlos Serra Pablo-Romero claimed another LaGG-3 at 12:25, at 600 meters south-east of Kislino (he also claimed an additional LaGG-3 as a probable during the day).

He returned to Morón, remaining there until he was named as Air Attaché in Washington.

During the Spanish Civil War, Salvador claimed 24 and four shared victories (the latter including the destruction of an airship and a balloon) and four probables.
During the war, he had accumulated 1,066 flying hours in 567 operational sorties and 50 aerial combats. With the Fiat CR.32 alone, he flew 515 sorties totalling 893 hours. Among his claims were 13 I-15s.

In 1940, he led the Spanish air force’s Escuela de Caza at Reus, in Catalonia.

He was promoted to comandante.

Later, he was Director of the Academia General del Aire, Chief of Staff for the Straits Air Region, leader of the Defensive Air Forces and second in command of the Alto Esládo Mayor.

He continued to fly until April 1976, by then he had totalled 7906 flying hours.

In November 1969, he was named Air Minister (until 1974) and in 1970 was promoted to Lieutenant-General.

Salvador finally retired from military service in 1980, after which he served as President of the Reserve of the Ejercito del Aire until his death.

Salvador passed away on 22 June 1987.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1936                
  28/07/36   1 Ni-H.52 (a) Damaged Ni-H.52 3-43 Sierra de Madrid  
1 17/08/36   1 Potez 54 Destroyed He 51   Santa Cruz de Mudela Rambaud Squadron
2 18/08/36   1 Ni-H.52 Destroyed He 51   Merida Rambaud Squadron
3 18/08/36   1 Breguet XIX Destroyed He 51     Rambaud Squadron
4 18/08/36   1 Breguet XIX Destroyed He 51   Merida Rambaud Squadron
5 13/11/36   1 I-15 (b) Destroyed CR.32   Paseo de Rosales 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
  1937                
6 18/02/37 morning 1 I-16 (c) Destroyed CR.32   Jarama area Patrulla Azul
  18/02/37 morning 1 I-16 (c) Probably destroyed CR.32   Jarama area Patrulla Azul
7 18/02/37 evening 1 I-16 Destroyed CR.32   Jarama area Patrulla Azul
8 11/07/37   1 R-5 Destroyed CR.32     1-E-3
9 11/07/37   1 R-5 Destroyed CR.32     1-E-3
10 11/07/37   1 I-16 Destroyed CR.32     1-E-3
11 11/07/37   1 A-101 Destroyed CR.32     1-E-3
12 11/07/37   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed CR.32     1-E-3
13 02/09/37   1 I-15 (d) Destroyed CR.32   Belchite area 1-E-3
14 02/09/37   1 I-15 (d) Destroyed CR.32   Belchite area 1-E-3
15 ??/12/37   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed CR.32     1-E-3
  1938                
  12/03/38 afternoon 1 I-15 (e) Damaged CR.32   Híjar 1-E-3
16 31/05/38 morning 1 I-15 (f) Destroyed CR.32   La Puebla de Valverde area 1-E-3
17 31/05/38   1 I-15 (f) Destroyed CR.32   La Puebla de Valverde area 1-E-3
18 31/05/38   1 I-15 (g) Destroyed CR.32   Sarrion airfield 1-E-3
19 31/05/38   1 I-16 (f) Destroyed CR.32   La Puebla de Valverde area 1-E-3
20 19/06/38 18:00- 1 I-15 (h) Destroyed CR.32   Puebla de Valverde area 1-E-3
21 19/06/38 18:00- 1 I-15 (h) Destroyed CR.32   Puebla de Valverde area 1-E-3
? 01/08/38   1 I-15 (i) Destroyed CR.32   near Fayón 1-E-3
22 25/08/38   1 I-15 Destroyed CR.32   Zújar area 1-E-3
23 03/10/38 morning 1 Enemy aircraft (j) Destroyed CR.32ter NC 753/3-69 Ebro area 1-E-3
24 03/10/38 morning 1 Enemy aircraft (j) Destroyed CR.32ter NC 753/3-69 Ebro area 1-E-3
  1942                
25 22/08/42 17:25 1 LaGG-3 Destroyed Bf 109F-2   Russia 15. (Span)/JG 51
26 29/10/42   1 LaGG-3 Destroyed Bf 109F-2   Russia 15. (Span)/JG 51

Biplane victories: 24 and 2 shared destroyed, 4 probably destroyed, 2 damaged, 1 balloon and 1 airship shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 26 and 2 shared destroyed, 4 probably destroyed, 2 damaged, 1 balloon and 1 airship shared destroyed.
(a) Possibly teniente Francisco Márques Yanguas Benavides, who was KIA on this day.
(b) 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).
(c) The CR.32s claimed 5 and 6 probable I-15s and 7 and 3 probable I-16s shot down with 2 CR.32s damaged. Republican pilots claimed 7 enemy aircraft for the loss of 6 aircraft.
(d) 2-G-3 claimed 7 I-15s. Only known Republican loss is Emilio Herrera Aguilera KIA.
(e) 2-G-3 claimed 7 I-15s, 1 probable and 1 damaged and 1 SB destroyed without losses. Republican losses is not known.
(f) 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 claimed 8 I-15s and 2 I-16 without losses. The Legion Condor didn’t claim nor lost anything. The Republicans claimed 12 Italian and German aircraft for the loss of 5 aircraft (4 wounded pilots).
(g) Teniente Juan Sayós Estivill of 1a Escuadrilla made an emergency landing and the aircraft subsequently strafed until destroyed by fire.
(h) Probably I-15s from the 3a Escuadrilla; both pilots WIA.
(i) Perhaps a probable.
(j) Republican pilots claimed at least 13 CR.32s during the day (on all fronts) while losing at least 3 I-16s. Grupos 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 claimed 5 enemy aircraft while losing 1 CR.32.

Sources:
Aces of the Legion Condor – Robert Forsyth, 2011 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-347-8
Air Aces Home Page - Jan Safarik
Airmen without a portfolio: U.S. mercenaries in civil war Spain - John Carver Edwards, 2003 Global Book Publisher, ISBN 1-59457-175-9
Air War over Spain - Jesus Salas Larrazabal, 1974 Ian Allan Ltd, Shepperton, Surrey, ISBN 0-7110-0521-4
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
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
Legionaire Ace – Julius R. Gaal, 1972, Aero Album Volume 5 Number 1 Spring 1972
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
Wings Over Spain - Emiliani Ghergo, 1997 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milano
Additional information kindly provided by Eugenio Costigliolo, Stefano Lazzaro, Ondrej Repka and Jan Safarik.




Last modified 14 February 2017