Giovanni Sabelli
Tenente Giovanni Sabelli was an Italian World War I flying ace
Flying ace
A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down several enemy aircraft during aerial combat. The actual number of aerial victories required to officially qualify as an "ace" has varied, but is usually considered to be five or more...

 credited with five aerial victories. At the start of World War I, he was already an experienced combat pilot.

Early life

Giovanni Sabelli was born into a wealthy family. He studied engineering in New York. Sabelli was a pilot even before World War I, having learned to fly at Brooklands
Brooklands was a motor racing circuit and aerodrome built near Weybridge in Surrey, England. It opened in 1907, and was the world's first purpose-built motorsport venue, as well as one of Britain's first airfields...

, England in 1912. He was awarded his pilot's certificate by the Royal Aero Club
Royal Aero Club
The Royal Aero Club is the national co-ordinating body for Air Sport in the United Kingdom.The Aero Club was founded in 1901 by Frank Hedges Butler, his daughter Vera and the Hon Charles Rolls , partly inspired by the Aero Club of France...

 on 30 January 1912. During the First Balkan War
First Balkan War
The First Balkan War, which lasted from October 1912 to May 1913, pitted the Balkan League against the Ottoman Empire. The combined armies of the Balkan states overcame the numerically inferior and strategically disadvantaged Ottoman armies and achieved rapid success...

, he volunteered to fly combat for the Bulgarians against the Turks.

Flying career

He joined the Italian air service when Italy entered World War I. Although already a licensed pilot and a combat veteran, he had to pass new flying examinations to fly for his country. He "snapped in" with the Adriatic Defense Flight before being sent to France to train on 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....

s on 15 October 1915. He returned to Italy to fly combat for a while, being posted on 1 February 1916 to 2a Squadriglia Caccia, but without scoring any aerial victories, but winning a Silver Medal of Military Valor. He then served as a Nieuport test pilot for a short spell. His next assignment was command of a Nieuport Defence Section in Albania. Being eager to score victories, he wished to return to the fighting in Italy; he mentioned this to Francesco Baracca
Francesco Baracca
Count Francesco Baracca was Italy's top fighter ace of World War I. He was credited with 34 aerial victories.-Before World War I:...

. On 23 March 1917, Baracca alerted Sabelli that his return to Italy was imminent. When the orders came through in April, Sabelli managed a return surface journey from Albania to Italy in only 22 hours. He rejoined his old unit, now denoted as 71a Squadriglia. He would spend only a few days there.

On 9 May 1917, he was assigned to 91a Squadriglia at the request of Baracca, who was amassing a squadron of the best Italian fighter pilots. Sabelli had an insignia of a ladder painted on his Spad
Société Pour L'Aviation et ses Dérivés
SPAD was a French aircraft manufacturer between 1911 and 1921. Its SPAD S.XIII biplane was the most popular French fighter airplane in World War I.-Deperdussin:...

. In company with Michele Allasia
Michele Allasia
Sottotenente Michele Allasia was a World War I fighter ace credited with five aerial victories.Allasia was a lathe operator in civilian life. In 1913, he was accepted into the Battaglione Squadriglie Aviatori because of his profession. When the war began, he enrolled in flying school. On 22 May...

, Sabelli scored his first victory on 10 August 1917, shooting down a 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:* ....

 trailing leader's streamers. On 6 September, Sabelli launched such an impetuous attack on a Hansa-Brandenburg C.I that he nearly collided with Barraca; the Austro-Hungarian plane crashlanded with the observer dead and the pilot wounded, for Sabelli's second triumph. On 17 September, he singlehandedly shot down another C.I. On 23 September, his best friend 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...

 joined him in killing an Austro-Hungarian crew from Flik 35. On 29 September, he finished his string of five, joining 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:...

 and Cosimo Rizzotto
Cosimo Rizzotto
Sergente Cosimo Rizzotto was a World War I flying ace credited with six aerial victories.-World War I:Rizzotto was a prewar aviator before volunteering for pilot training. He was assigned to be a Nieuport pilot with 77a Squadriglia...

 in killing another Austro-Hungarian air crew. He was awarded another Silver Medal.

Death in action

On 25 October 1917, he was flying as a wingman to Pier Piccio near the Battle of Caporetto
Battle of Caporetto
The Battle of Caporetto , took place from 24 October to 19 November 1917, near the town of Kobarid , on the Austro-Italian front of World War I...

 when Piccio attacked an enemy two-seater. Piccio's guns jammed, and Sabelli took his place as the shooter. An enemy patrol surprised Sabelli from behind and shot him down trailing smoke. Sabelli's body was never found. Ferruccio Ranza adopted Sabelli's ladder insignia, having it painted on his own Spad VII in remembrance of his friend.
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