Francesco Baracca
Count Francesco Baracca (9 May 1888 – 19 June 1918) was Italy's top fighter ace
Fighter Ace
Fighter Ace was a massively multiplayer online computer game in which one flies World War II fighter and bomber planes in combat against other players and virtual pilots...

 of World War I. He was credited with 34 aerial victories.

Before World War I

Baracca was born in Lugo di Romagna. He was the son of a wealthy landowner. The younger Baracca initially studied at a private school in Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 before entering the Military Academy of Modena in October 1907. As he had become a passionate equestrian as an antidote to classroom boredom, he became a cavalryman with the prestigious Piemonte Reale Cavalleria Regiment upon his commissioning in 1910. His first duty station allowed him to attend concerts and opera in Rome, as well as pursuing hunting and equestrian competitions; he gained some fame in the latter. This little idyll was spoiled by orders to a small town in central Italy. Baracca then became interested in aviation and learned to fly at Rheims, France, receiving his pilot's license on 9 July 1912. He then served with the Battaglione Aviatori and in 1914 with the 5th and 6th Squadriglie.

World War I

During the months between the outbreak of World War I and Italy's entry into the war, there was intense political controversy in Italy between pro-war and pro-peace factions. Baracca remained aloofly neutral, but ready to serve his nation. After Italy's entry into the war on the Allied side in May 1915, he was sent to Paris to convert to Nieuport two-seaters. Upon his return in July, he was assigned to the 8a Squadriglia Nieuport. The Nieuport 10
Nieuport 10
|-See also:- External links :* *...

s that equipped this squadron were almost useless against Austro-Hungarian raids; they were too slow, with too slow a rate of climb, to bring the intruders to battle with any regularity. The frustrated Italian pilots even resorted to leaving their observers ground-bound in attempts to improve performance, to little avail. On those rare occasions when battle was joined, the Nieuports' guns usually jammed. Renaming the unit to 1a Squadriglia Caccia on 1 December 1915 did nothing to solve the problems.

The Nieuport 11
Nieuport 11
|-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Angelucci, Enzio, ed. The Rand McNally Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft. New York: The Military Press, 1983. ISBN 0-517-41021-4....

 single seat fighter with Lewis gun
Lewis Gun
The Lewis Gun is a World War I–era light machine gun of American design that was perfected and widely used by the British Empire. It was first used in combat in World War I, and continued in service with a number of armed forces through to the end of the Korean War...

s entered service in April 1916, and on 7 April, flying this new fighter, Baracca scored his first victory, holing the fuel tank of an Austrian Hansa-Brandenburg C.I
Hansa-Brandenburg C.I
-See also:-References:# Munson, Kenneth - Bombers, Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft 1914 - 1919 ISBN 0 7537 0918 X# # # -External links:* ....

 and wounding its two-man crew. This was also Italy's first aerial victory in the war. This first victory featured his favorite maneuver, which was to zoom in unseen behind and below an enemy and fire his machine gun from pistol range.

It was around this time that Baracca adopted as a personal emblem a black prancing horse on his Nieuport 17, in tribute to his former cavalry regiment. This prompted some to call him, "The Cavalier of the Skies". Flying the Nieuport 17
Nieuport 17
|-Specifications :-See also:-Bibliography:* Bruce, Jack. "Those Classic Nieuports". Air Enthusiast Quarterly. Number Two, 1976. Bromley, UK:Pilot Press. pp. 137–153....

 and then, from March 1917, the SPAD VII, he scored both individually, and in combination with other Italian aces.

Baracca's second victory was an Austrian Lohner over Gorizia
Gorizia is a town and comune in northeastern Italy, in the autonomous region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. It is located at the foot of the Julian Alps, bordering Slovenia. It is the capital of the Province of Gorizia, and it is a local center of tourism, industry, and commerce. Since 1947, a twin...

 on 23 April 1916. After his third victory, he transferred to 70a Squadriglia. Promoted to Capitano, Baracca remained with the unit until, with 9 victories, he transferred to the newly formed 91st Squadriglia, known as the "Squadron of the Aces", in 1 May 1917. By that time, his ever increasing list of victories had made him nationally famous. While he initially dodged the responsibilities and paperwork that went with command, he finally settled into heading the squadron.

Baracca's friend Fulco Ruffo di Calabria
Fulco Ruffo di Calabria
Fulco VIII, Prince Ruffo di Calabria, 6th Duke of Guardia Lombarda was an Italian World War I flying ace, and posthumous father-in-law of King Albert II of the Belgians.-Background:...

 nearly ended Baracca's career—and life—in June 1917. Ruffo di Calabria burst out of a cloud firing in a head-on pass at an enemy airplane, and barely missed Baracca. Later, on the ground, Baracca assured his companion, "Dear Fulco, next time, if you want to shoot me down, aim a couple of meters to the right. Now let's go for a drink and not talk of it any more!"

Baracca temporarily upgraded to a Spad XIII in October 1917, using it to achieve a couple of victories on the 22nd, and on a win scored on a joint sortie with Pier Piccio on the 25th. That night he wrote: "I had my SPAD shot up and its longeron
In aircraft construction, a longeron or stringer or stiffener is a thin strip of wood, metal or carbon fiber, to which the skin of the aircraft is fastened. In the fuselage, longerons are attached to formers and run the longitudinal direction of the aircraft...

 broken into pieces by enemy machine gun fire in an aerial dogfight." As a result, Baracca returned to the more maneuverable Spad VII, remarking, "It doesn't matter if the VII is equipped with a single gun. Provided you are a good fighter, a single gun is just enough." Nevertheless, after repair, he sometimes returned to the Spad XIII.

A dedicated fighter pilot, Baracca found life away from the front unbearable and remained as much as possible with the 91st Squadriglia, even after being promoted to Maggiore in November 1917. Baracca remained a modest, sensitive man conscious of his duty and compassionate to both his squadron comrades and to his defeated enemies. He would try to visit his victims in hospital afterwards, to pay his respects, or he would place a wreath on the grave of those he killed. He had raised his score to 30 by the end of 1917.

Soon afterwards, Baracca, Piccio, and Ruffo di Calabria were tasked with evaluating the new Ansaldo A.1 Balilla
Ansaldo A.1 Balilla
-See also:...

 fighter. Baracca was personally decorated by King Victor Emmanuel III at La Scala
La Scala
La Scala , is a world renowned opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the New Royal-Ducal Theatre at La Scala...

 at this time. It was March 1918 before Baracca convinced his superiors that he belonged back at the front. He was not long back before he found himself in a situation similar to the previous late October: his squadron was forced to withdraw by enemy advances on 27 April. It was about this time that he adopted the griffin
The griffin, griffon, or gryphon is a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle...

 as an insignia for the planes in his unit. Most of his pilots adopted it, though some still flaunted the prancing stallion as a gesture of respect for their commander.


Baracca saw little action in 1918, but he added more victories, for a total of 34, before failing to return from a strafing mission on the Montello
-Companies:* Montello Private Finance, a real estate bridging finance company based in London.-Places:Australia*Montello, Tasmania, the home ground of Burnie United FCItaly*Montello, Lombardy, a comune in the Province of Bergamo...

 hill area on 19 June.
The Italians were taking advantage of their air supremacy to fly treetop ground attack missions into a storm of small arms fire. In the 0630 troop support mission, Baracca and rookie pilot Tenente Franco Osnago were hit by ground fire and split from one another. A few minutes later, both Baracca's home airfield and Osnago saw a burning airplane fall. According to other sources, Baracca had left Osnago to provide him with top cover as he dived on the enemy trenches. Osnago lost sight of his commander, then he saw something burning in a nearby valley.
Some days later, on 24 June, after an Austro-Hungarian retreat, Baracca's remains were recovered from where they lay, four meters from the burnt remnants of his Spad XIII. A monument in his memory was later built on the site. Osnago, Ferruccio Ranza
Ferruccio Ranza
Brigadier General Ferruccio Ranza began his military career as a World War I flying ace credited with seventeen confirmed victories and eight unconfirmed ones. Postwar, he rose to command of several area commands of the resurgent Italian air force...

, and a journalist named Garinei retrieved his body for the large funeral that was held in his home town of Lugo.
His body, when found, reportedly bore the marks of a bullet to the head. In his hand, he held a pistol, leading to suspicions that he elected to take his own life rather than die in a crash or be taken prisoner. An Austrian pilot reportedly claimed to have shot him down in combat. Both these theories are unsupported by firm evidence and the most accepted version is that Baracca was hit by ground-fire. It should, however, be noted that research in Austro-Hungarian records indicates that he was killed by the gunner of an Austrian two-seater while attacking from above and behind.
Ltn Arnold Barwig in Phönix C.I
Phönix C.I

 121.17, piloted by Zgsf Max Kauer, claimed to have shot down the Italian ace.


Baracca's total of 34 victory claims can largely be verified from known Austro-Hungarian losses and surviving military records, establishing the Italian as one of the highest scoring Allied pilots during the conflict.

Many roads in Italy are named after Baracca. The airport of Bolzano, a city in the province of South Tyrol
South Tyrol
South Tyrol , also known by its Italian name Alto Adige, is an autonomous province in northern Italy. It is one of the two autonomous provinces that make up the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. The province has an area of and a total population of more than 500,000 inhabitants...

, the Roma-Centocelle Italian Air Force base, and the Lugo di Romagna air field are all named after Baracca.

In later years, Baracca's mother presented his prancing stallion emblem, the Cavallino Rampante, to Enzo Ferrari
Enzo Ferrari
Enzo Anselmo Ferrari Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI was an Italian race car driver and entrepreneur, the founder of the Scuderia Ferrari Grand Prix motor racing team, and subsequently of the Ferrari car manufacturer...

. The prancing horse has been the official symbol of the Scuderia Ferrari
Scuderia Ferrari
Scuderia Ferrari is the racing team division of the Ferrari automobile marque. The team currently only races in Formula One but has competed in numerous classes of motorsport since its formation in 1929, including sportscar racing....

 racing team since 1929, and of Ferrari
Ferrari S.p.A. is an Italian sports car manufacturer based in Maranello, Italy. Founded by Enzo Ferrari in 1929, as Scuderia Ferrari, the company sponsored drivers and manufactured race cars before moving into production of street-legal vehicles as Ferrari S.p.A. in 1947...

 automobiles since they began manufacture.

See also

  • Luigi Olivari
    Luigi Olivari
    Tenente Luigi Olivari was a World War I flying ace who claimed 19 aerial victories. His Spad VII stalled into a fatal crash on 13 October 1917. Posthumously, he was awarded credit for eight aerial victories.-Reference:...

  • Giovanni Sabelli
    Giovanni Sabelli
    Tenente Giovanni Sabelli was an Italian World War I flying ace credited with five aerial victories. At the start of World War I, he was already an experienced combat pilot.-Early life:...

  • Flavio Baracchini
    Flavio Baracchini
    Tenente Flavio Torello Baracchini was an Italian World War I fighter ace credited with 21 confirmed and nine unconfirmed aerial victories. His confirmed victory total ranked him fourth among Italian aces of the war....

  • Guido Nardini
    Guido Nardini
    Sergente Guido Nardini was a World War I flying ace credited with six aerial victories.Nardini opened his victory skein flying a Nieuport 10 on 27 June 1916, when he, Alessandro Buzio, and a couple of other pilots shot down an enemy airplane over Verona. He would not score again for a year; he then...

  • Giorgio Pessi
    Giorgio Pessi
    Tenente Giorgio Pessi was a World War I flying ace born in Austro-Hungary who chose to fly for Italy. He was credited with six aerial victories.-Reference:...

  • Attilio Imolesi
    Attilio Imolesi
    Sergente Attilio Imolesi was a World War I flying ace credited with six aerial victories.-References:...

  • Gastone Novelli
    Gastone Novelli
    Tenente Gastone Novelli was a World War I flying ace credited with eight aerial victories.-Reference:...

  • Pier Ruggero Piccio
    Pier Ruggero Piccio
    Lieutenant General Count Pier Ruggero Piccio , Order of the Crown of Italy, Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, Medal of Military Valor, was an Italian aviator and the founding Chief of Staff of the Italian Air Force...

External links

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