Giuseppe Cenni

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Giuseppe Cenni
Giuseppe Cenni.jpg
Giuseppe Cenni
Born (1915-02-27)February 27, 1915
Casola Valsenio (Ravenna)
Died September 4, 1943(1943-09-04) (aged 28)
Aspromonte (Reggio Calabria)
Buried Parma
Allegiance Kingdom of Italy
Service/branch Regia Aeronautica
Years of service 1935–1943
Rank Major (pilot)
Unit 5º Stormo Tuffatori,
102º Gruppo,
239ª Squadriglia
Commands held Stormo
Battles/wars Spanish Civil War
Second World War
Awards 1 Gold Medal of Military Valor
6 Silver Medals of Military Valor
1 Iron Cross 2nd Class
2 promotions by merit of war

Giuseppe Cenni (Casola Valsenio, 27 February 1915 – Aspromonte, 4 September 1943) was an Italian officer and aviator. A Major in the Regia Aeronautica (Royal Air Force), he was a war hero[1] of the Second World War and was awarded the Gold Medal of Military Valor posthumously.

Junkers Ju 87 Stuka, nicknamed "picchiatelli", in service with the Regia Aeronautica.


Giuseppe Cenni developed a passion for aeronautics as a young man, building gliders while attending the Regio Istituto d'Arte (Institute of Fine Arts) in Parma. On 19 June 1935 he enlisted in the Regia Aeronautica as an auxiliary officer cadet. He obtained his wings on 20 November, flying a Fiat CR.20. In 1936 he volunteered for the Spanish Civil War under the nom de guerre of "Vittorio Stella". He bailed out of his aircraft after a series of collisions in fog and was taken prisoner, but was released in an exchange of prisoners.[1][2]

Returning to Italy from Spain, Cenni was decorated, returned to the Air Force as a regular officer, and was first assigned to the 6th Stormo, then to the 51st Stormo. At the same time, he qualified as an aerobatic instructor. At the outbreak of the Second World War, Cenni asked to be brought back from Romania, where he was taking courses for fighter pilots, and was sent to attend courses to qualify to fly the dive bombing plane Junkers Ju 87, or Stuka. Cenni was also promoted to captain and given command of the 239th Squadriglia of autonomous dive-bombers on 24 November 1940. Based at Lecce Galatina Airport, he participated in dive bombing attacks in Greece and Yugoslavia. Cenni may have sank the Greek transport SS Ioanna of 1,192 GRT on 21 April 1941 in Patras harbour.[3]

In the months between May and October 1941 the Stukas, called "Picchiatelli" by the Italians, were redeployed to North Africa, where they continued missions against land and naval targets in the Mediterranean Sea. Cenni was once again confirmed to be a pilot with excellent flying skills, so much so that he developed a technique of dive bombing called "skip bombing", ending with a short dive in level flight. The bomb dropped and bounced on the water, hitting the side of the ship under attack and maximizing the damage.[4] For his actions he was awarded two Silver Medals of Military Valor.

The growing technique disparity of Ju 87 aircraft against Allied fighters led Cenni to develop techniques for dive bombing at night. In the course of these actions, the Stuka operated by then-Captain Cenni inflicted much damage on British ships. Cenni was decorated with his sixth Silver Medal of Military Valor and promoted to major on the merits of war.

Shooting activities with the 5º Stormo at Crotone Airport replaced the Stuka with the Reggiane Re.2002. The squadron was made operational in July 1943 and Cenni was faced with the contemporary Allied invasion of Sicily. On 11, 12 and 13 July, dive bombing missions were made in the bay of Augusta, which led to the decimation of the crews. On 13 July, Allied bombers attacked Crotone Airport, destroying almost the entire Stormo and killing six other pilots. Cenni retreated with planes and crew survivors to the airport in Manduria in Apulia.

On 3 and 4 September, a few days before the announcement of the armistice, which had already been signed in secret, Cenni was ordered to fight the Allied landing at Reggio Calabria. He did not return to base. Major Giuseppe Cenni was seen by witnesses on Aspromonte alone while being pursued by many Spitfires. He was shot down, died and was decorated with the Gold Medal of Military Valor.[1][2]

Personal life[edit]

Cenni was married with a daughter.[2]


Military decorations
Gold Medal of Military Valor
"Skilled pilot of fighters and dive bombers, cut short his brief youth for the greatness of the Country. Always and everywhere shone his illustrious spiritual and professional virtues; always the first into action and into danger he knew, in two wars he fought hard to earn six silver medals and two promotions by merit of war. In the memorable days of July 10 to 19, followed by the absolute dedication of the soldiers, the invaders countered with aggressive tireless persistence, overcoming human limitations and boldness in fierce combat with enemy fighters three times could disengage their followers attacked by overwhelming numbers of enemy fighters. During action of dive bombers into the hell of fire and sword of the landing area of the Strait of Messina he disappeared overwhelmed by the number. Imperishable example of elite military virtues, sublime patriotism, self-sacrifice and heroic devotion to duty." Cielo del Mediterraneo, 10 July – 4 September 1943.
Silver Medal of Military Valor
Silver Medal of Military Valor
Silver Medal of Military Valor
Silver Medal of Military Valor
Silver Medal of Military Valor
Silver Medal of Military Valor
Iron Cross 2nd Class


  • The 5º Stormo of the Italian Air Force is dedicated to Major Giuseppe Cenni. The Stormo is stationed on the air base of Cervia-Pisignano (Ravenna).
  • In the early sixties, Cenni's native municipality, Casola Valsenio (Ravenna), dedicated a street to him.
  • The municipality of Parma, a city where Cenni moved as a child, has dedicated a street to him in the Citadel district.
  • The municipality of Fiumicino has dedicated a street to Cenni near the Leonardo da Vinci Airport.
  • The municipality of Varsi (Parma) has dedicated a street to Cenni.
  • The town of Manduria (Taranto) has dedicated a street to Cenni.
  • A monument in Reggio Calabria commemorates Cenni.
  • The Piazzale within the military airport of Rimini is named for Cenni.


  • At the beginning of his dive-bomber missions, Cenni began to use a radio signal to all pilots of the squadron to indicate the attack. The phrase was "valzer ragazzi!" ("Waltz guys!") Over the years the phrase became famous and characteristic of the squadron. Since 1993, the phrase has been written on the empennage of the aircraft of the 102º Gruppo.


  • Smith, Peter C (2011). The Junkers Ju 87 Stuka: A Complete History. London: Crecy Publishing Limited. ISBN 978-0-85979-156-4
  1. ^ a b c Gustavsson, Håkan (22 October 2012). "Maggiore Giuseppe Cenni Medaglia d'oro al valore militare". Håkan Gustavsson. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Azzolin, Col. Roberto (4 September 2001). "Cerimonia consegna libretti di volo Magg. Pilota Giuseppe Cenni" (in Italian). Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  3. ^ Smith 2011, p. 218.
  4. ^ Baumgartner, Rob (29 August 2005). "Ju 87 in Foreign Service book review by Rob Baumgartner (Mushroom Model Magazine Special)". Rob Baumgartner. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 

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