History of the 2º Stormo

Second tour in North Africa

In April 1942 the Stormo leadership passed from Colonel Umberto to Major Athos Ghelardi and the following month it moved first to Martuba and then to Ain Gazzale: the 8º Gruppo deployed to Abu Haggag (Fuka) while the 13º Gruppo was based in Bu Amud. The two Squadrons could count, at the end of December, thirteen MC200 and three MC202: all these aircraft kept operating in Libya with the 13º Gruppo, while the 8º Gruppo was sent back in Italy to reorganize.

During this cycle of operations in North Africa, the 2nd MC 200s of the 2º Stormo flew 4800 combat missions totalling almost 9000 flight hours; they were employed in day and night bombing missions, strafing, fighter escort, air patrols and ground alert missions. Particularly brilliant was the behavior of the 13º Gruppo on 14 September 1942 when it thwarted an English attempt to land in the Tobruk area.

At the end of the year the Unit concluded one of the most difficult period in its history: the fighters flown by the 2º Stormo were no match for the allied fighters and they were even inferior to the types distributed to other Units in the same period (like the MC202). The 8º Gruppo returned to Italy without any aircraft; then, using some surplus MC200s from other Units, it deployed to Sarzana and was tasked to protect the La Spezia harbour and escort the ships in the area: the old MC200s, called to scramble after the allied bombers could barely reach the same altitude and usually their fire was ineffective; moreover the attacking formation were usually formed by 50 and up to 100 or more aircraft, while the 8º Gruppo could only count on a handful of fighters.

The 13º Gruppo was into deep water as well: operating from the dispersed airfields in Tunisia with few worn-out airplanes, it was about to take part in the Tunisi campaign. In this phase the pilots sustained fierce fights in the first months of 1943 flying the old MC200 armed with 15 Kg bombs: on 10 January 1943, for example, seventeen fighters attacked Tanner and a motorized column nearby: of these, twelve were heavily damaged by the antiaircraft artillery and one was shot down; the next day three MC200s made another sortie against the same target, but they were attacked, on the way back home, by a flight of Curtiss P-40 and two Italian aircraft were shot down.

The last pilot of the 13º Gruppo killed in action in North Africa was Lieutenant Savoia, flying a MC202 on 22 January 1943 during a fighter escort mission. The surviving pilots were sent back to Italy and the remaining five serviceable aircraft were transferred to other Gruppi.

Once in Italy the 13º Gruppo was based at Caselle Torinese (Commander was Lt.Col. Vincenzo Dequal), but the pilots were left idle up to July 1943 when they received about ten MC202. Few weeks later the Gruppo received the order to deploy to Sicily: they promptly moved to the new destination, but as soon as they landed in Sicily all the aircraft were destroyed by an Allied air raid.

The survivors were sent to Metato (Pisa) where they flew the few Dewoitine D-520 captured on the French airports. In August, eventually, the 2º Stormo was inactivated, a sad epilogue for such a distinguished Unit. Its two Gruppi became autonomous, the 8º Gruppo remaining in Sarzana (La Spezia) and the 13º Gruppo transferred to Venafiorita airfield, Sardinia.

During the first seven months of 1943 the 2º Stormo totalled 1520 flight hours, 19 enemy engagements, eight aircraft downed and five destroyed on ground.

A year of wandering (1941)
After the Armistice (1943-1945)