Biplane fighter aces


J. Vela Díaz

In January 1938, J. Vela Díaz served in the 2a Escuadrilla of the Grupo de Caza No 26, which was equipped with Polikarpov I-15s.

On 17 January 1938, there were three clashes between Republic and Nationalist aircraft. In the last combat two groups of I-15s (32 fighters) were out to strafe in the Teruel area, escorted by eight I-16s. Over the target they clashed with a formation of 15 He 111s and 40 Fiat CR.32s. Two I-15s were quickly shot down when Leitenant Aleksandr Osipov (patrulla CO 1a/26 in I-15 CA 007) was shot down by fighters but managed to parachute and land in friendly territory. The second was Kapitan Yevgeniy Stepanov of the Grupo No 26, who was shot down by AA fire over the town of Ojos Negros but managed to bale out. He was taken prisoner and spent the next six months in various prisons (Zaragoza, Salamanca and San Sebastian). One I-16 was shot down and the pilot killed. A third I-15 made a “taran” and the pilot, Romulo Negrin Mijoilar (the son of the prime minister of the Republic of Spain), who served in the 4a/26, was wounded. He had attacked some Fiats, which were attacking Stepanov hanging in his parachute, bringing one of the CR.32 down together with his own fighter; the Italian pilot was killed. Two more I-15s were damaged in forced landing due to lack of fuel and five more returned with battle damage.
Teniente Leopoldo Morquillas Rubio, CO 2a/26 claimed a CR.32 shot down during the day in the Teruel area as did Vela and C. Zuazo Garre from the same unit.
The Republican side claimed four Fiat CR.32s and one bomber. Two more CR.32s were claimed as damaged or probably destroyed.
The Italians from VI Gruppo claimed 11 ‘Curtiss fighters’ but lost two pilots when Maresciallo Bruno Cesna, (33a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Angelo Boetti (Staff of VI Gruppo) were killed while Sergente Benassi was wounded. One Spanish pilot was also shot down when Pedro Gil Escosin was shot down in his Fiat CR.32 and parachuted. In one of the He 111, one of the crew members, T. Martner, was so badly wounded that he died the next day in hospital.
While as prisoner Stepanov was taken out to be shot on three occasions. The Republican government eventually managed to exchange him via the International Red Cross for some German PoWs.

He was later transferred to 1a/26.

The 1a/26 (I-15) claimed three and three shared CR.32s on 1 November when Jaime Torn Roca (CO) claimed one and one shared, J. Bastida Porres claimed one, L. Población Cuenca one, A. Vallés Gateu one shared and Vela one shared.

Vela ended the Spanish Civil War with 1 biplane victory.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 17/01/38   1 CR.32 (a) Destroyed I-15   Teruel area 2a/26
  01/11/38   1/2 CR.32 Shared destroyed I-15     1a/26

Biplane victories: 1 and 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 and 1 shared destroyed.
(a) Republican pilots totally claimed 4 and 2 damaged CR.32s and 1 bomber while losing 2 I-15s, 1 I-16 and getting 2 I-15s damaged. VI Gruppo claimed 11 I-15s while losing 3 CR.32s (2 pilots KIA). 1 He 111 was damaged.

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
Soviet airmen in the Spanish civil war 1936-1939 - Paul Whelan, 2014 Schiffer Publishing Ltd, ISBN 978-0-7643-0
Spanish Republican Aces – Rafael A Permuy López, 2012 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-668-4

Last modified 17 February 2017