Francesco Baracca Was Italy’s Number One Fighter Ace!
Francesco Baracca, the son of an Italian nobleman, was born on 9 May 1888 in Lugo di Romagna, and entered the Scuola Militare at Modena in October 1907.
He joined the Italian Army in 1909 and within a year was an officer in the Royal Piedmont Cavalry, and transferred to the Corpo Aeronautico Militare (CAM) in April, 1912.
He spent the immediate pre-war months when Italy was still a declared neutral, in training and as an instructor.
Barracca’s First Kill
His first victory came on 7 April 1916 when he successfully brought down an Austro-Hungarian aircraft.
Operating exclusively on the Italian Front, Baracca notched up an impressive tally of thirty four enemy aircraft, becoming his country’s most successful airman of the war.
The Dancing Horse
Once established as an accredited ace, Baracca painted an image of a prancing horse on his aircraft, an image that has been used since 1923 by Ferrari on its racing cars.
How Baracca Died
While strafing enemy lines on 19th June, 1918 in his Spad S.VII, Baracca was shot down by ground-fire.
He was later found holding a pistol and had a bullet hole in the forehead.
Forensic tests were not carried out and so it is not known whether he was killed by an enemy soldier or had committed suicide to avoid being burnt to death in his cockpit, or being taken prisoner.