Sergente Maggiore Luigi Gorrini (D'Amico-Valentini archive)
12 July 1917 |
Aeronautica Militare Italiana
|Years of service||1933 – 1945|
|Unit||85ª Squadriglia, 18° Gruppo, 3° Stormo (RA); 1° Gruppo (ANR)|
|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, (born 12 July 1917) is a former 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. He is the highest ranking Italian ace still alive today, and the only surviving fighter pilot awarded the Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militare (Gold Medal of Military Valor).
North Africa and Greece
Flying a Fiat C.R.42, he attacked two of the first Bristol Beaufighters, just arrived in the Mediterranean Theater. He shot down one and damaged the other, shooting 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 Blenheims that managed to escape. Repatriated with his unit, he was trained to fly the new monoplane fighters, the Fiat G.50 and Macchi C.200. During winter 1941-42 he escorted convoys between Italy and Greece. Then during the winter retreat, 1942–43, flying a Macchi C. 202 he shot down a Curtiss P-40 west of Sirte, on 3 January 1943.
Nine days later, escorting with other pilots from 3° Stormo C. 200 fighter-bombers in action on British airfields in Uadi 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. "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". He returned to Italy in late March 1943. Initially grounded due to an irritating eye injury, Gorrini quickly made up for lost time.
Defence of Rome
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." Gorrini, who had, by February 1943 achieved four confirmed victories and one unconfirmed, was given, at the beginning of summer 1943, 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.
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, 85a Squadriglia 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."
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). 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.
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 3o 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, 85a Squadriglia 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, Luigi Gorrini had been involved in 132 air battles, was credited with 15 confirmed air victories, had been wounded twice, crash-landed and baled out once, had been mentioned on dispatches several times, awarded two times.
Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana
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."
On 23 December 1943, Gorrini joined the Italiana Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (ANR) where he was assigned to 1a Squadriglia, 1o Gruppo and continued to fly MC.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. He claimed a P-47 on 30 January 1944, followed by a P-38 the next day.
A B-17 was claimed on 11 March and another P-47 on 6 April thus reaching 19 victories. On 25 May he claimed a B-17 damaged. But on 15 June 1944 he was again shot down during a dogfight with P-47 Thunderbolts and seriously wounded. During his time with the A.N.R. he flew in combat with the Macchi C.205V and Fiat G.55. He did not fly again during World War II.
Gorrini was shot down four times and wounded twice during the war.
After the war, Gorrini enlisted in the newly formed Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana), but he was kept in the rank of warrant-officer. He was promoted Tenente only when he retired.
Gorrini currently lives in Alseno.
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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