Luigi Gorrini

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Luigi Gorrini
Gorrini 1.jpg
Sergente Maggiore Luigi Gorrini (D'Amico-Valentini archive)
Born(1917-07-12)12 July 1917
Alseno, Italy
Died8 November 2014(2014-11-08) (aged 97)
Alseno, Italy
Castelnuovo Fogliani
Allegiance Italy
Service/branch Regia Aeronautica
Aeronautica Militare Italiana
Years of service1933 1945
Rank Sergente Maggiore
Unit85ª Squadriglia, 18° Gruppo, 3° Stormo (RA); 1° Gruppo (ANR); 50°Stormo AMI
Battles/wars Second World War
Awards Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militare "a vivente"
Medaglia di Bronzo al Valor Militare
German Iron Cross first and second class

Luigi Gorrini, MOVM (12 July 1917 – 8 November 2014), was an Italian World War II fighter pilot in the Regia Aeronautica and in the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana. During the conflict he flew with the Corpo Aereo Italiano (CAI, Italian Air Corps) during the Battle of Britain, fought over Libya and Tunisia, and was involved in the defence of the Italian mainland. Gorrini was credited with 19 (24 according to some sources) enemy planes shot down plus 9 damaged, of several types: Curtiss P-40, Spitfire, P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt, B-17 "Flying Fortress" and B-24 Liberator. He claimed his air victories flying the biplane Fiat C.R.42 and monoplanes Macchi C.202 and C.205 Veltro. Gorrini was the top scoring C.205 pilot. With the Veltro he shot down 14 enemy planes and damaged six more. [1] He was the highest ranking Italian ace still alive until his death, and the only surviving fighter pilot awarded the Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militare (Gold Medal of Military Valor). [2]

Regia Aeronautica 1922-1943 air warfare branch of the Italian military

The Italian Royal Air Force was the name of the air force of the Kingdom of Italy. It was established as a service independent of the Royal Italian Army from 1923 until 1946. In 1946, the monarchy was abolished and the Kingdom of Italy became the Italian Republic, whereupon the name of the air force changed to Aeronautica Militare.

Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana 1943-1945 air warfare branch of the Italian Social Republic military

The National Republican Air Force was the air force of the Italian Social Republic during World War II, closely linked with the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) in northern Italy.

Corpo Aereo Italiano

The Corpo Aereo Italiano, or CAI, was an expeditionary force from the Italian Regia Aeronautica that participated in the Battle of Britain and the Blitz during the final months of 1940 during World War II. The CAI supported the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and flew against the British Royal Air Force (RAF). The CAI achieved limited success during its brief existence, but it was generally hampered by the inadequacy of its equipment.


North Africa and Greece

Bristol Beaufighter Mk 1, North Africa - The first aircraft shot down by Gorrini was one of the first Bristol Beaufighters arrived in North Africa Beaufighter252sqn.jpg
Bristol Beaufighter Mk 1, North Africa - The first aircraft shot down by Gorrini was one of the first Bristol Beaufighters arrived in North Africa

Gorrini came to North Africa as a member of 85aSquadriglia of 18° Gruppo C.T.. He shot down his first aircraft on 16 April 1941, over Derna, in Cyrenaica, Libya. [3]

Derna, Libya Place in Cyrenaica, Libya

Derna is a port city in eastern Libya. It has a population of 100,000–150,000. It was the seat of one of the wealthiest provinces in the Barbary States, and remains the capital of the Derna District, with a much smaller area. Derna has a unique environment among Libyan cities, as it lies between green mountains, the Mediterranean Sea, and the desert. The city is also home to people of mixed origins.

A Fiat CR.42 in Regia Aeronautica service. Flying this nimble biplane, Gorrini scored his first victory on 16 April 1941, over Derna, in Cyrenaica. Fiat CR.42.jpg
A Fiat CR.42 in Regia Aeronautica service. Flying this nimble biplane, Gorrini scored his first victory on 16 April 1941, over Derna, in Cyrenaica.

While flying alone a CR. 42, during a protection sortie, he intercepted two of the first Bristol Beaufighters, just arrived in the Mediterranean Theater. Gorrini opened fire, immediately before the two British aircraft reached the airstrip N 1 on Ftheja, were his 85ª Squadriglia was based. [4] He shot the leader aircraft from a distance of 700-800 meters, scoring hits on the right wingtip. While the second Beaufighter was taking evasive action, Gorrini closed to a distance of 250 meters hitting again the other Bristol. The British aircraft was by now on the Italian airstrip so Gorrini strafed it a third time and the Beaufighter crashed just south of the airstrip. [4] He was credited with a kill and a damaged. He shot 1,100 rounds. On 29 May, Gorrini intercepted two Blenheim bombers over Benghazi. He shot down one that fell just outside the city, and shot all the remaining rounds at the other Blenheim that managed to escape. [5] Repatriated with his unit, on 29 August he was on Caselle Torinese airfield to start the training on the new monoplane fighters, the Fiat G.50 and Macchi C.200. [6] Gorrini and the rest of 18° Gruppo moved lately on Mirafiori base and then to Ciampino Sud airfield, where the training on the G.50 and the C.200 came to an end on 10 December when his Gruppo flew with Macchi C.200s to Lecce and then to the new base of Araxos, in Greece. [7] During winter 1941-42 he escorted convoys between Italy and Greece. On 17 December, in the air space around Argostoli port, in Kefalonia island, intercepted two Bristol Blenheims, painted in black. He attacked the leading aircraft hitting it repeatedly and then strafed the second. The two aircraft disappeared in the clouds and Gorrini was credited with a "probable" and a "damaged". Gorrini had no other chance to clash with the enemy and he flew back to Italy with his Gruppo, on 25 April 1942. [8] Back in Italy, Gorrini and his fellow pilots were trained to fly the C.200 as a fighter-bomber until mid-July. On 23 July, the 18° joined the 23° Gruppo on Abu Haggag base, in North-Africa. [9] There, Gorrini flew protection sorties for Axis ships and ground-attack missions. When in October the 4° Stormo was moved back, it delivered his Macchi C. 202s to the 3°Stormo. [10] "At last, with the Macchi 202 we had a competitive plane. But when they threw over us, during Allied offensive, a whole host of P-40 and Spitfire, even this machine could not do that much. The Spit was a "very hard bone"... It carried a lot of machine guns, plus two 20 mm cannons and it was faster. The 202 was inferior in speed and armament". [11] On 2 January 1943, the whole 3° Stormo, now equipped with Macchi C.202s, took off to face two formations of Douglas DB.7 Boston and B-25 Mitchell, escorted by Spitfires and P-40s. In the ensuing dogfight, Gorrini shot down a R.A.F. Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawk, that fell west of Sirte. [12] Then he damaged a Spitfire that was attacking another Macchi. Gorrini shot 880 bullets but his aircraft had been hit: there were 12 holes in his fuselage. [13] Nine days later, the whole 18° Gruppo was escorting C.200 fighter-bombers in action on British airfields in Uadi (or Wadi) Tamet area. Gorrini shot down a 92 RAF Squadron Spitfire and he damaged another from the squadron of the British ace Flying Officer Neville Duke, [5] [14] shooting 688 12,7 mm bullets. [12] His Gruppo was often tasked to strafe the advancing Allied columns or to escort German bombers. On 26 February 1943, in the morning, he took off from El Hamma, to escort, with other pilots of his Squadriglia, Stukas attacking Allied armoured forces in Ksar Ghilane (an oasis of southern Tunisia located on the eastern limit of the Grand Erg Oriental), then he strafed the enemy troops. In the afternoon, on Kebili, with tenente Melis and two other fellow pilots, he intercepted four Allied aircraft. Gorrini claimed a Hawker Hurricane IID, armed with 40mm Vickers cannons. [15] But this was last air battle in Africa. His irritating eye injury was worsening and he was grounded and subsequently, at the end of February, hospitalized in Sfax. [16] He returned to Italy in late March 1943. [17]

Bristol Beaufighter heavy fighter aircraft

The Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter is a multi-role aircraft developed during the Second World War by the Bristol Aeroplane Company in the United Kingdom. It was originally conceived as a heavy fighter variant of the Bristol Beaufort bomber. Upon its entry to service, the Beaufighter proved to be well suited to the night fighter role, for which the Royal Air Force (RAF) initially deployed the type during the height of the Battle of Britain, in part due to its large size allowing it to accommodate both heavy armaments and early airborne interception radar without major performance penalties.

Bristol Blenheim British light bomber aircraft

The Bristol Blenheim is a British light bomber aircraft designed and built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company (Bristol) which was used extensively in the first two years and in some cases throughout the Second World War. The aircraft was developed as Type 142, a civil airliner, in response to a challenge from Lord Rothermere to produce the fastest commercial aircraft in Europe. The Type 142 first flew in April 1935, and the Air Ministry, impressed by its performance, ordered a modified design as the Type 142M for the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a bomber. Deliveries of the newly named Blenheim to RAF squadrons commenced on 10 March 1937.

Benghazi City in Cyrenaica, Libya

Benghazi is the second-most populous city in Libya and the largest in Cyrenaica.

Defence of Rome

When he recovered, was posted as a flying instructor in 3° Gruppo C (Complementare), based on Venaria Reale airfield. [18] Later Gorrini served as a ferry pilot to transfer captured French Dewoitine D.520 fighters from France to Italy, for Italian home defence. "I have collected several dozens Dewoitine from various French airfields and the Toulouse factory", he recalled later. "At the time, when we were still flying the Macchi C.200, it was a good, if not very good, machine. Compared to the Macchi 200, it was superior only in one point - its armament of the Hispano-Suiza HS 404 20mm cannon." [19] Gorrini, who had, by February 1943 achieved four confirmed victories and one unconfirmed, was given, at the beginning of summer 1943, [20] one of the three Macchi C.205 "Veltro" assigned to the 3° Stormo as a special favour (the other two were allotted to the ace Tenente Franco Bordoni Bisleri and to Maresciallo Guido Fibbia). During Summer 1943, in defence of Italy, he claimed 11 enemy aircraft. [21]

Venaria Reale Comune in Piedmont, Italy

Venaria Reale is a comune (municipality) in the Metropolitan City of Turin in the Italian region Piedmont, located about 8 kilometres (5 mi) northwest of Turin.

Dewoitine D.520 aircraft

The Dewoitine D.520 was a French fighter aircraft that entered service in early 1940, shortly after the beginning of the Second World War.

Toulouse Prefecture and commune in Occitanie, France

Toulouse is the capital of the French department of Haute-Garonne and of the region of Occitanie. The city is on the banks of the River Garonne, 150 kilometres from the Mediterranean Sea, 230 km (143 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean and 680 km (420 mi) from Paris. It is the fourth-largest city in France, with 466,297 inhabitants as of January 2014. In France, Toulouse is called the "Pink City".

Regia Aeronautica C.205V - Luigi Gorrini was the "Veltro" top scoring ace. Flying this outstanding dog-fighter, he destroyed 14 Allied aircraft and damaged six more - Here a C.205 with a North Africa dust filter Macchi MC.205.jpg
Regia Aeronautica C.205V - Luigi Gorrini was the "Veltro" top scoring ace. Flying this outstanding dog-fighter, he destroyed 14 Allied aircraft and damaged six more - Here a C.205 with a North Africa dust filter

On 19 July, during a single sortie west of Rome, Gorrini destroyed a four-engined Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber and a Lockheed P-38 Lightning (another P-38 was damaged). Next day, he claimed another P-38 destroyed and a P-38 damaged. On 25 July Benito Mussolini had been overthrown, but this had no decisive effect on the morale of the Regia Aeronautica. Gorrini recalled: "After 25 July, despite the arrest of Mussolini, the morale of my unit, 85aSquadriglia and my personal readiness for action remained high. Despite all the reverses that Italy had suffered by the time, our 3° Stormo was the only one still fully ready for combat: my section was detailed to defend Rome. The larger part of the Regia Aeronautica was uninterested in politic or parties, they were men infatuated with flying and determined to defend the land of their birth and to give their lives if necessary in the attempt to stop the bombing of Italian towns." [22]

Bomber Military aircraft for attack of ground targets with bombs or other heavy ordnance

A bomber is a combat aircraft designed to attack ground and naval targets by dropping air-to-ground weaponry, firing torpedoes and bullets, or deploying air-launched cruise missiles.

Benito Mussolini Duce and President of the Council of Ministers of Italy. Leader of the National Fascist Party and subsequent Republican Fascist Party

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician and journalist who was the leader of the National Fascist Party. He ruled Italy as Prime Minister from 1922 to 1943; he constitutionally led the country until 1925, when he dropped the pretense of democracy and established a dictatorship.

On 13 August Gorrini claimed a B-24 off the coast at Ostia, in the Lazio region, but he was also shot down by defensive fire from the bomber, bailing out safely. He claimed a Spitfire on 26 August. The next day, the whole Stormo scrambled to intercept four-engine bombers, which were attacking Cerveteri, on Latium coast, in central Italy. Gorrini, still flying a Veltro, shot down two Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses and a Lockheed P-38 Lightning, in a single engagement (according to other sources, Gorrini claimed two B-24s).[ citation needed ] One wing of his C.205 was damaged after an overheating cannon muzzle exploded. After running out of gasoline, he glided back to his base for a powerless landing. On 29 August, he claimed two P-38s destroyed and two more damaged.

Ostia (Rome) Frazione in Lazio, Italy

Ostia is a large neighbourhood in the X Municipio of the comune of Rome, Italy, near the ancient port of Rome, named Ostia, which is now a major archaeological site known as Ostia Antica. Ostia is also the only municipio or district of Rome on the Tyrrhenian Sea and many Romans spend the summer holidays there. With about 85,000 inhabitants, Ostia is the first or second-most populated frazione of Italy, depending on whether Mestre is counted.

Lazio Region of Italy

Lazio is one of the 20 administrative regions of Italy. Situated in the central peninsular section of the country, it has almost 5.9 million inhabitants – making it the second most populated region of Italy – and its GDP of more than 170 billion euros per annum means that it has the nation's second largest regional economy. The capital of Lazio is Rome, which is also Italy's capital and the country's largest city.

Cerveteri Comune in Lazio, Italy

Cerveteri is a town and comune of northern Lazio in the region of the Metropolitan City of Rome. Known by the ancient Romans as Caere, and previously by the Etruscans as Caisra or Cisra, and as Agylla by the Greeks, its modern name derives from Caere Vetus used in the 13th century to distinguish it from Caere Novum.

P-38s flying in formation - Gorrini scored several kills against this two-engined fighter, during the Defence of Rome, in summer 1943. 4 Lockheed P-38 Lightnings in formation.jpg
P-38s flying in formation - Gorrini scored several kills against this two-engined fighter, during the Defence of Rome, in summer 1943.

On 30 August Gorrini claimed another B-17 "Flying Fortress" over Frascati and the same day he was mentioned on Bollettino di Guerra: "Sergente Maggiore Luigi Gorrini da Alseno (Piacenza) of 3° Stormo Caccia has distinguished himself during the aerial battles of the 27th and 29th, during which he has shot down two four-engined bombers and a twin-engined fighter." On 31 August 85aSquadriglia, with Gorrini in a C.205V, took off from Palidoro airfield (Rome) at 12.00, flying in the direction of Naples to engage enemy bombers. At 8,500 meters the Squadriglia clashed with escorting Spitfires with 85a claiming three Spitfires destroyed and five damaged during this combat. Gorrini shot down one Spitfire (his 15th air victory) and damaged a P-38, but his aircraft was badly hit by machine gun fire and he made a forced landing away from his airfield at 12.50. Gorrini was seriously wounded and hospitalised. He was out of the fighting when Italy surrendered to the Allies on 8 September 1943. During three years of combat service Gorrini was involved in 132 air battles, was credited with 15 confirmed air victories, was wounded twice, crash-landed and baled out once, was mentioned on dispatches several times, and was awarded two times. [5] [23]

Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana

Republic P-47 in formation: under ANR insignia, Gorrini claimed several P-47s before being shot down and wounded in a dogfight with Republic fighters. Republic P-47N-5 three ship formation 061020-F-1234P-037.jpg
Republic P-47 in formation: under ANR insignia, Gorrini claimed several P-47s before being shot down and wounded in a dogfight with Republic fighters.

On 12 October 1943, the legendary Lt Col Ernesto Botto (who had lost a leg while serving as a fighter pilot in Spain, but had continued to fly operationally during 1940-43), the newly appointed Undersecretary of the New Republican Air Force, appealed over the radio for airmen to enlist, and Gorrini, together with 6,996 others, did not hesitate to rejoin in combat against the Anglo-American forces:

"After flying for three years side by side with the German pilots, on the English Channel, in North Africa, Greece, Egypt, Tunisia and finally over my own homeland, I had made friends with some of them, particularly from JG27… I did not want to hang my coat in the wind, so to speak, and perhaps fire on my German friends. Also, I wanted to protect the northern Italian towns from indiscriminate bombing as much as possible." [24]

On 23 December 1943 Gorrini joined the Italian Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (ANR) where he was assigned to 1aSquadriglia, 1° Gruppo Caccia and continued to fly C.205 fighters. At this time this unit was under the command of "Ace" Capitano Adriano Visconti and based at Lagnasco airfield (Cuneo). On this day Gorrini flew in a C.205V at 10.15 and was declared fit for combat. On 30 January 1944,1 ° Gruppo was scrambled to face a formation of USAF bombers escorted by P-47s. The C.205s intercepted the enemy aircraft off Grado. [25] Gorrini hit one of the Thunderbolts that had attacked sottotenente Re, and shot it down. Then he damaged a B-24 and rushed to intercept American aircraft that had attacked his base in Campoformido. When he arrived, a P-47 was on the tail of a Bf 109 from JG 27, that had intercepted the USAF raid on the Italian air base. Gorrini hit the P-47 that crashed near the airfield. [26] On the following day, he claimed a P-38.

A Fiat G.55 with ANR livery exhibited at the Museo storico dell'Aeronautica Militare di Vigna di Valle. Gorrini flew this outstanding dogfighter under ANR insigna. FIAT G-55 Centauro (1).jpg
A Fiat G.55 with ANR livery exhibited at the Museo storico dell'Aeronautica Militare di Vigna di Valle. Gorrini flew this outstanding dogfighter under ANR insigna.

A B-17 was claimed on 11 March and another P-47 on 6 April thus reaching 19 victories. On 24 May 1944, sergente maggiore Gorrini achieved his last air victory. He took off with tenente Vittorio Satta, to intercept a formation of B-24 flying between Parma and Fidenza. The two A.N.R. pilots intercepted the American bombers and their escort on Colorno. They selected the two last Liberators and attacked them. Gorrini put his B-24 on fire after his first pass, but two escorting P-47 bounced his leader and shot him down, killing Lt Satta. [27] On the following day, Gorrini claimed a B-17 damaged. But on 15 June 1944, in the sky of Modena-Reggio, Gorrini fought his last air battle. He suddenly found himself surrounded by four P-47 Thunderbolts. In the ensuing dogfight, his fighter was hit and Gorrini was forced to bale-out. He waited to open the parachute until he was close to the ground, fearing to be strafed by the American pilots. However, the harness was too loose and, when he opened it, he suffered a violent jerk and lost consciousness. When he woke up, he was in an infirmary. After being hospitalized, he was sent on leave. [28] During his time with the A.N.R. he flew in combat with the Macchi C.205V and Fiat G.55. [29] Wounded twice, he did not fly again during World War II. He summed up his career, with these words: "212 air combat, 24 solo air victories, 5 parachute jumps." [30]


After the war Gorrini enlisted in the newly formed Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana) but, due to Allied opposition, he was kept in the rank of warrant-officer. His last unit was the 50° Stormo. [30] He was promoted Tenente only when he retired. [5] [23] He died on November 8, 2014.


Gorrini has been awarded with a Medaglia d'oro al Valor Militare (in 1958), two of Bronzo , and German Iron Cross of First and Second Class. Gorrini is the only pilot who has served in the A.N.R. to be awarded with the Italian highest military award after the war for his accomplishments obtained before the Armistice of 8 September 1943.

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