Francesco Baracca

Count Francesco Baracca (May 9, 1888–June 19, 1918) was Italy's top fighter ace of World War I.

Biography

Baracca was born in Lugo di Romagna on May 8 1888.

He entered the Modena military academy in 1907 and became a cavalryman upon commissioning. Baracca became interested in aviation and learned to fly in France in 1912, leading to assignment as a flight instructor during the early part of WWI.

After Italy's entry into the war on the Allied side, Baracca flew operational missions in a variety of aircraft during 1915. The next year he converted to Nieuport two-seaters and then the Nieuport 11 in 1916. On April 7, he scored his first victory, also the first for Italy in the war. Fact|date=June 2008 By year's end, he was an ace.

In 1917, Baracca became commander of the "91a Squadriglia", known as the "Squadron of the Aces", which included fellow aces Prince Fulco Ruffo di Calabria and Count Pier Ruggiero Piccio. Count Baracca would later be known by an all yellow plane and rampant horse emblem, prompting some to call to him, "The Cavalier of the Skies". Flying Nieuports and SPADs, he raised his score to 30 at the end of the year. Baracca saw little action in 1918, but he added more victories, for a total of 34, before failing to return from an attack mission on June 19.

His body, found a few days later, 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. [http://www.firstworldwar.com/bio/baracca.htm firstworldwar.com] 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, who was flying a low-altitude strafing mission, was hit by ground-fire.

Many roads in Italy are named after him. The airport of Bolzano, a city in the Alto Adige region previously belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Roma-Centocelle Italian Air Force base, and the Lugo di Romagna air field are all named after Baracca.

In later years, Baracca's father presented Baracca's prancing stallion emblem to Enzo Ferrari. The rearing horse has been the official symbol of Scuderia Ferrari racing team since 1929, and of Ferrari automobiles since they began manufacture.

Quotes

"I aim at the plane, not the pilot"

References

http://robert.krogshave.dk/formel1/

External links

* [http://www.finn.it/regia/html/grande_guerra.htm Regia Aeronautica Italiana - Entry on Francesco Baracca]
* [http://www.museobaracca.it Francesco Baracca Museum in Lugo di Romagna]


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