Foreword 5

Chapter 1: Italian Job
Troubled Kingdom 7
Sparviero Comes to Yugoslavia 8
Taming the Tri-motors 17
On the Doorstep of War 29

Chapter 2: The April War
Bombing the Axis 35
Getaway 42
Blame Games 59

Chapter 3: Under the Allied Banner
With Red Stars on the Eastern Front 61
Far and Away 63
Back in Egypt 69

Chapter 4: Croat Hunchbacks
The Lone Bird 71
Return of the Sparviero 72

Chapter 5: Settantanove Over the Balkans
In Hostile Skies 75
Yugoslav Battleground 77
Torpedo Bombers 78
The Hijack 80

Chapter 6: Camouflage and Markings
Vazduhoplovstvo vojske Kraljevine Jugoslavije 83
Voyenno-vozdushnye sily 85
Royal Air Force 85
Zrakoplovstvo Nezavisne Države Hrvatske 86
Regia Aeronautica 86
Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana 86
Regia Aeronautica (post-war) 88

Endnotes 89

Appendix 1: Commanding Officers of VVKJ SM.79I Units 90

Appendix 2: SM.79I Italian Military Serial Numbers & Production Numbers 90

Appendix 3: VVKJ SM.79I Escadrille Numbers & MIlitary Serial Numbers 90

Appendix 4: Reconstruction of VVKJ SM.79I Combat Log 91

Appendix 5: VVKJ SM.79I Losses 97

Appendix 6: Approximate Comparison of Ranks 98

Abbreviations 99
Selected Bibliography 100
Selected Archival Sources and Documents 100
Selected Internet Sources 100

Savoia Marchetti SM.79 in Color 101


Beautiful and ugly, rugged and elegant, celebrated and underrated, Savoia Marchetti SM.79 was one of the greatest aircraft of it’s time. Sidelined by other, more famous and potent types, with a combat record unpretentious, it still left a colorful mark in Yugoslav military history. This book tells the story of the acquisition of the third modern bomber type in the inventory of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force, it’s peacetime service and the role it played during the April War in 1941. It uncovers in detail the fate of the Yugoslav tri-motors which escaped to the Soviet Union and Middle East, where they were pressed into service by their new owners and with new markings. It describes the operations of the few aircraft in the inventory of the air arm of the puppet Independent State of Croatia, used both as bombers against Partisans and transports in the final stages of the war. It chronicles the episodes played by the iconic aircraft with three different Italian air forces, beginning with incursions during the Greek campaign and the assault on Yugoslavia, long-range flights of torpedo bombers at the time of changed fortunes of war, and ending with bizarre defection in 1946. Illustrated with 22 aircraft profiles and 125 photographs, many of which are published for the first time, this book represents the result of decades of painstaking research. It is drawn from archival sources, interviews and personal recollections, as well as documents and artifacts from private collections in Serbia, Croatia, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Netherlands, Hungary, Slovenia and United Kingdom.


The drama of the conquest of the skies throughout the XX century is presented through 25 stories about men and machines from 1913 until 1999. Connecting the early flights of fragile aeroplanes, covered with canvas and braced with wires, to supersonic jet fighters, is the area of the former Yugoslavia. Although on the periphery of the main centres of aviation development, the richness of this heritage is amazing. Captured through the lenses of the diverse participants in these events, curious onlookers or professional photographers, preserved in private collections and public institutions around the globe, 219 authentic photographs, most of which are published for the first time, bring back to life the known and unknown airmen – from Serbia, Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, United States, Soviet Union, Israel and Yugoslavia – who left a unique, important and permanent impact on the history of aviation.

Depicted in the book are no less than 60 aircraft types: Blériot XI; Arsenal S8; Lohner Typ M, P, T & TL; Etrich A.II; Rumpler B.I; Hansa Brandenburg B.I & C.I; Nieuport XXI & XXIII; Spad VII, Phönix C.I & D.I; Aviatik Berg; Ufag C.I; Albatros D.III; FBA Tipo H; Aero A-15; Ikarus ŠM & IK-2; Dornier Do Wal, Do D & Do 17; SiM X & XII; Loire-Gourdou-Leseurre B3; Hawker Fury & Hurricane; Messerschmitt Bf 108; Fieseler Fi 156; Potez 25; Rogožarski R-100, PVT & IK-3; Zmaj R-1; Avia BH.33E; Fizir FN & FP-2; Spartan Cruiser; Breguet XIX; Caproni Ca.310; Henschel Hs 126; Bristol Blenheim; Junkers Ju 52; Cant Z.1007; Macchi C.205; Consolidated B-24; Yakovlyev Yak 1 & UYak 9; Ilyushin Il 2; Supermarine Spitfire; Lockheed T-33; Augusta-Bell AB-47; Republic F-84; McDonnell Douglas DC-9; Northrop F-5E; Mikoyan Gurevich MiG 21 & MiG 29.


Foreword          5

Abbrevations          6

Tricolor in the Sky          7

First markings on Serbian aircraft, 1913

Fledgling Eagle          8  

Seaplane pilot Dimitrije Konjović at Training Flying Station Cosada and Seaplane Station St. Catarina, 1915

From the Album of a Czech Airman          12  

Aviation mechanic Adolf Parýzek in 1st Aviation Resupply Company at Novi Sad, 1915

One of the Many          16

Fighter pilot Jean Nicolas in the Aeronautics of the Serbian Army on the Salonika Front, 1916-1917

An Ace with Many Names          20  

Military career of the fighter pilot Franz Wognar in three wars, four states and five air forces, 1913-1943 

Nobleman in a Seaplane          26

Military career of seaplane pilot Miroslav Federik Gogala Dominis, 1921-1940

Fighter Trainer          32  

Loire-Gourdou-Leseurre B3 in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes & Yugoslav Kingdom, 1926-1937

Fighters and Hacks at Borongaj          36

The 4th Fighter Regiment, 1939-1941  

Spoils of War at Zemun          42 

Yugoslav aircraft captured at Zemun aerodrome and ther fate, 1941

Dornier Do 17Ka-3, RAF Serial AX706          46

Ex- 3rd Bomber Regiment aircraft in RAF service, 1941

Supporting Prinz Eugen          48

Henschel Hs 126B-1 of Short Range Reconnaissance Escadrille Croatia in Operation ‘Black’, 1943

Daring Raid          52

Attack of the Partisan 1st Krajina Brigade on Rajlovac aerodrome, 10 August 1943

Cants over Montenegro          58

88th Group of the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force in air-drop supply missions, 1944-1945

The First Bomber at Vis          60

Forced landing of B-24G-5-NT s/n 42-78084 from the 450th Bomb Group at Vis island, 2 April 1944

Selby’s Hurricanes          62

RAF fighter ace and SOE operative John Beauchamp Selby, 1944-1945

Taming the Yaks          64

Transition of Yugoslav pilots on Yak 1 fighters, 1944-1945

Shturmoviks at Niš          68

Ilyushin Il-2s in 421st Ground Assault Regiment, 1945

Velvetta          72

Ferry flights of Spitfire LF Mk.IXs from Czechoslovakia to Israel, 1948

Jet Premiere          74

First delivery of Lockheed T-33A jets to the Yugoslav Air Force, 10 March 1953

Hunting Uranium          76

Augusta-Bell AB 47 Rangers in the Section for Aerial Prospection of the 27th & 783rd Helicopter Escadrille, 1960-1966

Hectic Day at Zemunik          78

Accidents of F-84G Thunderjet fighter-bombers of the 172nd Fighter-bomber (Training) Regiment, 18 August 1966

‘Niner’ in the Cornfield          82

Accident of DC-9-32 ‘YU-AJN’, 21 November 1974

‘L’s’ at Slatina          84

MiG 21M jet fighters in the 83rd Fighter Regiment, 1979

Eye of the Tiger          86

Flight tests of the Northrop RF-5E reconnaisance jet, 1980

The Pilot who Loved to Sail          90

Fighter pilot Zoran Radosavljević and 127th Fighter Escadrille in the war against NATO, 1999

Selected bibliography          95

Research and Private Archival Sources          95

Approximate Comparison of Ranks          96