Book Review
Spanish Republican Aces
Spanish Republican Aces * Aircraft of the Aces 106
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Spanish Republican Aces
Series & number: Aircraft of the Aces 106
Author: Rafael A López Permuy
Illustrator: Julio López Caeiro
Pages: 96
Item: ISBN: 9781849086684

Considered a precursor to the Second World War the Spanish Civil War was exploited by the Fascists, Nazis and Soviets as a laboratory for their military equipment and doctrines. Spanish Republican Aces details the exploits of those pilots who remained loyal to the Spanish government. Flying obsolete Nieuport-Delages, Dewoitines, Hawkers, and many other types as well as modern Soviet fighters, the loyalists did their best against modern Fiat CR.32s, Heinkel He 51s and Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Author Rafael A López Permuy draws upon his experience as a journalist, columnist, and officer in the Spanish Army to piece together the limited availability of incomplete documentation of Spanish Republican Aces. These sources include interviews with, and personal letters from, surviving pilots.

Spanish Republican Aces tells the fragmentary story of loyalists pilots who fought against the combined might of the growing western fascists.

If you are seeking stick-and-rudder “there I was” stories, you will be disappointed. The dearth of archival source material limits air combat recounts to excerpts from newspapers and operational reports. You will gain no insight to, say, how a He 51 performed against an I-15.

Assigning personal score is tricky as usually kills were awarded to the entire Grupo instead of pilots. The author picked through documents to find mention of individuals credited with shooting down aircraft. He occasionally comments about propaganda bias in a cited report. The appendices of personal scores is full of qualifiers of which kills were confirmed, and that many more kills are suspected, yet unsubstantiated.

To the extent possible, he explores the lives of the aviators before, during, and after the war. An ace’s reputation is often recounted. Ace Chindasvinto Gonzálas García had a mixed reputation. Recognized as an exceptional pilot and recommended by his instructors to fly fighters, as a commander his pilots said of him;

    'He was a big, aggressive man. He was authoritarian and did not like his orders being questioned. He gave us instructions about our conduct over the front as if we had never been there before or as though we used to turn tail and run. We were flying a strafing mission over the Sarrion area when we noticed three or four enemy aeroplanes far in the distance. We warned the capitan about the presence of these aircraft and, although there were nine of us, he ordered us to return to base immediately. After we landed we asked him why we had not attacked those fighters. He angrily asked if we had realised that there were 15 or 20 of them. It was obvious that fear had made him see what hadn't actually been there, and that his shouts and his aggressive behaviour was just a mask to hide his cowardice.

While many loyalists stayed in Spain to various fates, many fled to other countries. France, Mexico, South America, and the Soviet Union were popular. Several stayed in Russia, like ace Leopoldo Morquillas Rubio, who rose to command and flew with the Red Air Force against the Nazis, retired in 1948 and lived out his life in the USSR. Too many disappeared without a trace, such as José Riverola Grúas, of whom nothing is known after he lead of group of Chatos and Grumman Delfins to Oran rather than surrender.

Accounts of some interesting combat exploits are related, two of which concern Jesus Garcia Herguido and Juan Comas Borrás. Jesus Garcia Herguido strafed Huesca airfield, then landed and taunted Nationalists charging to capture him before leaving them in his propwash! Juan Comas Borrás hearkened back to the legendary “knights of the air”;
    On 17 April Comas participated in a fierce battle between 15 Chatos and three He 51 escuadrillas. He damaged the enemy biplane flown by Alferez Javier Allende but chivalrously escorted it until the pilot was able to make a forced-landing in Nationalist-held territory.

Comas survived the war but was court-martialed by the Nationalists and imprisoned. In the 1980s he was elected mayor of Tordera, Barcelona.

We know the names of some of the victors and vanquished. Andres Rodriguez Panadero was killed on 28 September 1937 by Oberleutnant Harro Harder of Legion Condor 1.J/88;
    'At 1100 hrs enemy aircraft were detected heading towards Gijon. Four monoplanes and four biplanes were scrambled, which prevented the bombers from reaching Gijon. A combat ensued with the enemy escort monoplanes, several of which were driven off but others arrived, which our aircraft continued to repel. This combat lasted for an hour. The monoplane flown by the teniente Jefe of the Escuadrilla, Andres Rodriguez Panadero, was shot down in flames. The pilot was killed and the aircraft completely wrecked.'

Nightfighter ace Jose Falco San Martin ended his war in a big way;
    ”Falco fought to the end in Catalonia, and during his last sortie, on 6 February 1939, he shot down two Bf 109Es over Vilajuiga airfield, in Gerona. These victories, over Hans Nirminger (6-96) and Heinrich Windemuth (6-98), were followed by promotion to capitan. Falco fled to France four days later… .”

Furthermore, the author names the Spanish COs of both Grupo Nº 26 Chato escuadrillas and Grupo Nº 21 Mosca escuadrillas, featuring the commanders of each Escuadrilla.

That is what you will find in Spanish Republican Aces. The story is brought to you through 96 pages in 11 chapters and sections:

    • Introduction
    • Republican Fighter Force 1936-37
    • Republican Escuadra de Caza nº 11
    • Republican Fighter Force in the North
    • I-15 Chato Grupo nº 26
    • I-16 Mosca Grupo nº 21
    • Republican Nightfighter Force
    • Appendices

      -Color Plates

Included is the List of Top Scoring Pilots in the Spanish Republican Aviation. However, another list advertised on the Osprey website, Technical specification and performance tables for all fighter types serving in Spain, is not in my book.
Photographs, Graphics and Artwork
Dozens of black-and-white photographs support the text. They vary from professional portraits to amateur “grab shots”. Several are obviously re-reproductions from print media, with the resulting fuzzy look. Happily, many seem to be reproductions from photos or negatives. Some seem too dark. Regardless, enthusiasts and historians of pilots, aircraft, vehicles, and equipment can find a wealth of source material for models and research. There are several group shots of pilots and other personnel, in posed and informal settings.

Graphics are limited to tables of individual pilots and reported kills, and lists of enemy planes shot claimed by units, by type, and by accredited pilot. Again, the tables of technical specifications and performance of fighter types serving in Spain are missing. Also missing is my personal request – a map to help the reader visually orient oneself to the operational arena of the book subject.

Full color aircraft profiles and planforms are a highlight of the Aircraft of the Aces series. More than 30 by artist Julio López Caeiro are this title. The roundel and tail flash of the Second Spanish Republic was a rich red, yellow, and murrey. Early Republican fighters also sported a large red fuselage band. Whether the subject aircraft is in silver dope or camouflaged, loyalist fighters were striking to behold. While most of the profiles are Soviet Chatos and Moscas, the reader will delight in a host of little-known ‘golden age’ fighters from America, Britain, and France: Boeings, Dewoitines, Hawkers, Loires, and Nieuports. Sadly, no Curtiss, Grumman nor Martinsydes are depicted. Each aircraft has a write-up commentary in the appendices. Finally, the dramatic cover art is by perennial artist Mark Postlethwaite.
I know few specifics about the Spanish Civil War. Most of what I read about is the air war, thanks to Martin Caidin’s inspirational book The Ragged Rugged Warriors. I found Spanish Republican Aces to be an interesting title that educated me; it will fill in gaps for historians and enthusiasts of the Spanish Civil War. Major Permuy has done a commendable job bringing together the story of the loyalist pilots. The book is full of valuable photographs and wonderful color aircraft artwork. I appreciate the tables and lists of pilots and credits.

Disappointing is the lack of the advertised table of aircraft performance, and my personal desire for a map.

Osprey offers several titles about the Spanish Civil War and this book should be interesting to enthusiasts, historians, modelers, and students of the subject. I recommend it.


All quotes and images from Spanish Republican Aces courtesy of Osprey; used with permission.

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Highs: The book is full of valuable photographs and wonderful color aircraft artwork. I appreciate the tables and lists of pilots and credits.
Lows: Disappointing is the lack of the advertised table of aircraft performance, and my personal desire for a map.
Verdict: Osprey offers several titles about the Spanish Civil War and this book should be interesting to enthusiasts, historians, modelers, and students of the subject.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN: 9781849086684
  Suggested Retail: $22.95
  Related Link: Spanish Civil War Titles
  PUBLISHED: Sep 28, 2012
  NATIONALITY: Spain / España

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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