Notable Aviators of the
Italian Front

Gabriele D'Annunzio
Shameless self-promoter D'Annunzio spent most of the post-Caporetto period in the air frequently displaying his undeniable physical courage and flair. He took command of the First Air Torpedo Squadron in March and also helped organize the San Marco Squadron that bombed Pola. On August 9th: D'Annunzio flew over Vienna, dropping 400,000 propaganda pamphlets written in Italian and German language. For this exploit he was promoted to officer of Savoy Military Order. During the Vittorio Veneto offensive he flew support mission, earned a promotion to Colonel and decorations for his effort.

Gottfried Banfield
Leading aviator of the Austrian Navy, Banfield gained all his nine victories from flying boats. Participating in hundreds of missions, he was the first Austro-Hungarian airman to score a victory at night Led bombing raids against Northern Italy and once engaged Baracca in an indecisive encounter while commander of the Naval air station at Trieste.

Francesco Baracca
In April 1912, Baracca with other cavalry officers was ordered to Reims, France for flight training. By the time the Kingdom of Italy declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire on 24 May 1915, Baracca was an experienced pilot and instructor. With a Nieuport 11, he scored the first Italian victory of the war on 7 April 1916, forcing down an Austrian Aviatik with an accurate burst of machine gun fire. His final victory, an Austrian Albatros D.III, came just three days prior to his death. Shot down and killed while strafing enemy lines, his body was recovered a few days later near the burnt out wreckage of his SPAD S.VII. When found, Baracca was holding a pistol in his hand and had a bullet hole in his forehead. On the ground and in the air, Baracca's aircraft were easily recognized by the prancing black horse painted on the fuselage. In 1923, Baracca's mother, Countess Paolina, suggested Enzo Ferrari use her son's emblem on his now famous line of automobiles. [From the Great War Flying Museum]

Billy Barker
Barker joined the Canadian Mounted Rifles in December 1914. He spent a year in the trenches before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in April 1916. After starting out as a mechanic, he qualified as an observer in August 1916 and shot down his first enemy aircraft from the rear seat of a B.E.2d. Posted to England in November 1916, he soloed after 55 minutes of dual instruction and received a pilot's certificate in January 1917. In November 1917, his squadron was reassigned to Italy where Barker's Sopwith Camel became the single most successful fighter aircraft of the war. Logging more than 379 hours of flight time, Barker shot down 46 enemy aircraft before Camel #B6313 was retired from service and dismantled on 2 October 1918. That month, he assumed command of the British air combat school at Hounslow and eventually returned to service in France.

Godwin Brumowski
Brumowski was the Austro-Hungarian Empire's highest scoring ace. When war was declared, he was serving as an officer in an artillery regiment. After distinguishing himself in combat on the Russian front, he transferred to the air service in July 1915. Posted to Flik 1, he frequently flew missions as Otto Jindra's observer before becoming a pilot on 3 July 1916. In November 1916, Brumowski joined Flik 12 on the Italian front. Scoring five victories in less than two months, he was one of the few Austro-Hungarian pilots to receive the Gold Bravery Medal. In March 1917, after studying German fighter tactics with Jasta 24 on the Western Front, he assumed command of Flik 41J, the first true Austro-Hungarian fighter squadron. Though he continued to favor the Hansa-Brandenburg D.I, Brumowski began flying the Albatross D.III in the summer of 1917, scoring his first victory with this aircraft on 17 August. By October 1917, his Albatross had been painted red, and when airborne, his squadron was easily identified by the macabre insignia Brumowski designed: a white skull on a black background. Having been recognized as an extraordinary leader, he was given command of all Austro-Hungarian fighter squadrons of the Isonzo on 11 October 1918. [From the Aerodrome]

Fulco Ruffo di Calabria
On 22 November 1904, Ruffo di Calibria joined the 11th Foggia Light Cavalry Regiment. After serving in Africa, he returned to Italy and transferred to aviation in 1914. Flying the Nieuport 11, Nieuport 17 and SPAD S.VII, he engaged in 53 aerial combats and was credited with 20 victories. Upon the death of Francesco Baracca, Ruffo di Calibria assumed command of 91a Squadriglia but was later relieved by Ferruccio Ranza when he suffered a nervous breakdown. Returning to duty, he assumed command of 10th Gruppo on 23 October 1918 but less than a week later, he was shot down by artillery fire at Marano near Trieste. He survived and lived until 1946.[From the Aerodrome]

John Lansing Callan
United States
"Lanny," as he was known to his friends, was a pilot with the Curtiss Aeroplane Co., Hammondsport, N.Y. from 1911 to 1917. During World War I he commanded 3 NAS in Europe, directing the trainng of naval flying in Italy, France and England, and commanded all U.S. Naval Air Forces in Italy. Following service in Washington and Pensacola, he served as attache to several European countries. In World War II he was chief staff officer in Italy and was retired as Rear Admiral in May, 1948. He held many awards, ribbons and medals for conspicuous military service, and likewise received decorations from Italy, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Mexico and Greece. From obituary. [Early Birds of Aviation website.]

Charles Hazeltine Hammann
United States
Charles H. Hammann was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on 16 March 1892. He was appointed an Ensign in the Naval Reserve Flying Corps during World War I. On 21 August 1918, while piloting a Navy seaplane near Pola, he landed on the Adriatic Sea to rescue Ensign George H. Ludlow, whose aircraft had been shot down by Austro-Hungarian forces. Though Hammann's plane was not designed for two persons, and despite the risk of enemy attack, he successfully completed the rescue and returned to the base at Porto Corsini, Italy. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for this exploit. Ensign Hammann lost his life while serving on active duty at Langley Field, Virginia, on 14 June 1919. USS Hammann (DD-412) and USS Hammann (DE-131) were named in his honor. [From USN Website]

Stefan Fejes
The leading Hungarian Ace on the Italian Front is something of a mystery. All sources agree that he served with Flik [Squadron] 19 and Jasta 51, that he had 16 confirmed victories plus four unconfirmed and that he was born on 30 August 1891 in Raab, Hungary. That, however, is all that is known about him.

Walter Carl Simon
United States (RFC)
The first American pilot credited with five victories in a single engagement, Simon joined the Royal Flying Corps in March 1918. Posted to 139 Squadron under Billy Barker, he was flying the Bristol Fighter on the Italian Front when he and his observer shot down five enemy aircraft on the morning of 30 July 1918. [Courtesy of the Aerodrome website.]
Thanks to Aviation Historian Noel Shirley for advising on the selections and to the various WWI websites for the information.

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