|Axis Warplane Survivors, Axis Air Forces of Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Yugoslavia)
Axis Warplane Survivors,
Axis Air Forces of Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Yugoslavia
Data current to 24 Sep 2018.
The Axis powers also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was the alignment of nations that fought in the Second World War against the Allied forces. The alliance began in 1936 when Germany signed treaties with Italy and Japan. The “Rome-Berlin Axis” became a military alliance in 1939 under the Pact of Steel, with the Tripartite Pact of 1940 leading to the integration of the military aims of Germany and its two treaty-bound allies. At their zenith during the war, the Axis powers presided over empires that occupied large parts of Europe, Africa, East and Southeast Asia, and islands of the Pacific Ocean. The war ended in 1945 with the defeat of the Axis powers and the dissolution of the alliance. Like the Allies, membership of the Axis was fluid, with nations entering and leaving over the course of the war.
The “Axis powers” formally took the name after the Tripartite Pact was signed by Germany, Italy, and Japan on 27 September 1940, in Berlin. The pact was subsequently joined by Hungary (20 November 1940), Romania (23 November 1940), Slovakia (25 November 1940), Bulgaria (1 March 1941), and Yugoslavia (25 March 1941). Various other countries fought side by side with the Axis powers for a common cause. These countries were not signatories of the Tripartite Pact and thus not formal members of the Axis. These co-belligerents included Thailand, Finland, San Marino, and Iraq.
The Empire of Japan created a number of puppet states in the areas occupied by its military, beginning with the creation of Manchukuo (Manchuria) in 1932. These puppet states achieved varying degrees of international recognition. In addition to Manchuria, they included Mengjiang (Inner Mongolia), the Re-organized National Government of China, the Philippines (Second Republic), India (Provisional Government of Free India), Vietnam (Empire of Vietnam), Cambodia, Laos, and Burma (Baw Maw Regime).
The Italian Puppet States included Montenegro, Albania and Monaco. Germany’s Puppet Regimes included Slovakia (Tiso regime), the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Serbia, Italy (Italian Social Republic), Albania (under German control), Hungary (Szalasi regime), Norway (Quisling regime), Macedonia, Belarus, and the Province of Ljubljana. Joint German-Italian puppet states included the Independent State of Croatia and Greece. The Vichy France regime was a collaborator state. Various controversial agreements were made during the war years with Argentina, Denmark, the Soviet Union, Spain and Sweden.
This section focuses on the air forces and the combat aircraft in use by these nations and the locations of surviving airframes.
Axis Air Forces of Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Yugoslavia
The Bulgarian Air Force was obsolete at the beginning of the Second World War. It was armed with a lot of Polish-built equipment (PZL P.11s, P.24s, P.23s and P.46s) bought in 1938-39, some Italian aircraft bought in the 1930s, and Czech aircraft bought in 1939 after Germany took over (72 Avia B-534 fighters + 32 Avia B-71 (SB-2) bombers). Over the course of the war, Bulgaria received more equipment from Germany, including 10 Messerschmitt Bf 109Es and 11 Dornier Do 17M in 1940, and 120 Dewoitine D.520 and 48 Bf 109G in 1943.
At the beginning of the Second World War, the Bulgarian combat air fleet comprised 374 machines in various roles. In addition orders were placed for 10 Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 fighters, 11 Dornier Do 17M/P bombers, 6 Messerschmitt Bf 108 light liaison and utility aircraft, 24 Arado Ar 96B-2 and 14 Bücker Bü 131 Bestmann trainers.
The Air Force order of battle comprised the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Army Aviation Orlyaks (Army Air Groups or air regiments), each attached to the correspondingly-numbered field army. Each Orlyak had a fighter, a line bomber and two reconnaissance Yatos (Squadrons). There was also an Independent Aviation corps, which combined the 5th Bomber and 6th Fighter Regiments. The training units consisted of the “Junker” School Orlyak at Vrazhdebna airfield, the 2nd Training Orlyak at Telish airfield (called the Blind Flying Training School) and the 3rd Training Orlyak at Stara Zagora airfield. In 1940, the Bulgarian aviation industry provided the HMAT with 42 DAR-9, 45 KB-5 aircraft and the serial production of the KB-6 - Bulgaria‘s first twin-engined aircraft was scheduled to commence. At year’s end the Air Force had 595 aircraft (258 combat) and 10,287 personnel.
The Kingdom of Bulgaria entered the Second World War on 1 March 1941 as a German ally. Under the signed treaty Bulgaria allowed the use of its territory as a staging point for the invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece and some minor logistical support. Bulgaria’s fighter force at the time consisted of 91 machines, with just 10 of them being of the modern Bf 109E-4 type. In addition, 11 were of the outdated PZL.24B; the remaining numbers were of the Avia B.534 biplane types. The ground-based air defences were made up of only eight 88-mm (3.5 in) and six 20-mm (0.79 in) AA guns. To help its new ally the 12th Army of the Wehrmacht offered support with its air and air defense assets and 8 Freya-type radars dispersed throughout the country. A dispersed observation and reporting system was gradually developed.
Arado Ar 196A floatplane in Bulgarian Air Force markings, and her crew. (Bulgarian Air Force Photo)
Arado Ar 196A floatplane in Bulgarian Air Force markings, Bulgarian Museum of Aviation and the Air Force Plovdive, Bulgaria. (Gonzosft Photo)
The first air strike against Bulgarian targets was carried out by 4 Yugoslav Dornier Do.17Kb-1 on 6 April 1941 on the city of Kyustendil and its railway station killing 47 and injuring 95, mostly civilians. The air strikes intensifying following days; British Royal Air Force units based in Greece participated in the attacks as well. At the end of April the 2nd and 5th Bulgarian armies occupied Greek and Yugoslav territories according to an agreement with the Third Reich.
Bulgarian Dornier Do 17 bomber. (Bulgarian Air Force Photo)
As a part of the joint armed forces’ effort on 26 June 1941, six Avia B.71 and 9 Dornier Do 17M bombers were transferred to the Badem Chiflik airfield near Kavala (in modern Greece). They were tasked with ASW patrols and air support for Italian shipping over the adjacent area of the Aegean Sea. In addition 9 Letov Š.328s based in Badem Chiflik provided the ground troops with air reconnaissance. At the Black Sea shores the “Galata” Fighter Orlyak was established at NAS Chaika, Varna, with the 10 Bf 109E-4s and 6 Avia B.534s. The S.328s were also used for ASW patrols over the Black Sea, flying out of the Sarafovo and Balchik airfields. At the end of 1941 the inventory of His Majesty’s Air Troops consisted of 609 aircraft of 40 different types.
The Avia B-534 was a Czechoslovak biplane fighter produced during the Second World War. Bulgaria bought 78 B-534s in 1939, well after the partition. The last batch of these aircraft arrived in March 1942. On 1 August 1943, seven of these aircraft were able to make two passes at American Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers returning from the raid on Ploie?ti. Hits were scored but no B-24s were shot down and some of the B-534s that received damage in the combat, cracked up on landing. After the anti-German coup of 9 September 1944, Bulgaria switched sides overnight and its B-534s were often used in ground attacks against German units. On 10 September 1944, six B-534s were involved in a brief melee with six German Bf 109s at low altitude. One B-534 was lost, but the Germans quickly broke off, wary of the low altitude and the B-534’s manoeuvrability. 
Former French Dewoitine D.520 fighters captured by Germany and in service with the Bulgarian Air Force, ca 1943-1944. (Bulgarian Air Force Photos)
As German forces invaded Vichy’s so-called “free zone” in November 1942, they captured 246 Dewoitine D.520s. Of these, 96, or 120, were transferred to Vozdushni Voiski, the Bulgarian Air Force, for use in combat. The D.520s reached Bulgaria in August 1943, as the Bulgarian fighter pilots were still training on the type at Nancy with JG 107. The following month, the first 48 Dewoitines were taken over in a ceremony on Karlovo airfield. Two months later, on 24 November, the D.520s were used in combat, when 17 out of the 60 B-24s of 15th USAAF arrived in the Bulgarian sky to bomb the capital, Sofia. Twenty four Dewoitines took off from Vrashdebna base (along with 16 Bf 109G-2s from Bojourishte) and attacked the bombers and the 35 escorting P-38s. The Bulgarian pilots claimed four American aircraft for the loss of one fighter, three more aircraft had to force land. American bombers attacked Sofia again, on 10 December 1943. That day, 31 B-24 Liberators escorted by P-38s, were intercepted by six Dewoitines of II/6th Fighter regiment from Vrashdebna and 16 D.520s of I/6th Fighter regiment from Karlov (along with 17 Bf 109G-2s). The Americans claimed 11 D.520s for the loss on only one P-38. Later records showed only one Dewoitine was lost during that air battle.
The Vozdushni Voiski D.520s were again up in force, to face the massive Allied air raid of 30 March 1944. To intercept the 450 bombers (B-17s, B-24s and Handley Page Halifaxes) escorted by 150 P-38s, the Bulgarians scrambled 28 Dewoitines from I./6th at Karlovo, six D.520s from II/6th at Vrashdebna (together with 39 Bf 109G-6s and even Avia 135s). At least ten Allied aircraft (eight bombers and two P-38s) where shot down, while Vozdushni Voiski lost five fighters and three pilots. Two more Bulgarian aircraft had to force land.
Bulgarian Messerschmitt Bf 109G fighters. (Bulgarian Air Force Photos)
During the last Allied raid on Sofia, on 17 April, the II./6th fighter scrambled seven Dewoitines (plus 16 Bf 109s) against 350 B-17s and B-24s escorted by 100 P-51 Mustangs. Bulgarians pilots, that up to that time had encountered only P-38s, mistook the P-51s for their own Bf 109 and before they realized their mistake, seven Bf 109G-6s had been shot down. That day the Vozdushni Voiski suffered the heaviest losses since the beginning of the war: nine fighters shot down and three that had to crash land. Six pilots lost their lives. By 28 September 1944, twenty days after Bulgaria joined the Allies, Dewoitines still equipped a Orlyak (Group) of 6th Fighter regiment: I Group had a total of 17 D.520s, five in repair and 12 operational, for its three Jato (Squadrons). 
Dar 10 in Bulgarian Air Force service. (Bulgarian Air Force Photo)
Aviation Museums of Bulgaria
Muzej na Aviatsyata I VVS, Bulgarian Museum of Aviation, Krumovo, Plovdiv, 4112.
www.airmuseum-bg.com. (Arado Ar 196A3, No. 3)
Nationalen Istoricheski Muzei, National Historical Museum, 16 Vitosho Lale Str, Sofia.
Voenno Istoricheski Muzei, Military Historical Museum, 23 General Skobelev Blvd, Sofia. www.mod.bg/nvim/_bg/index.html.
Voenno Morski Musei, Naval Museum, 2 Primorski Blvd, Varna 9000. http://navalmuseum.dir.bg.
The present day Hungarian Air Force (Hungarian: Magyar Légier?) is the air force branch of the Hungarian Army. Following the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1918, a small air arm was established operating surviving aircraft from Hungarian factories and training schools. This air arm became the Hungarian Red Air Force under the short lived Hungarian Soviet Republic but was disbanded upon its downfall.
Under the Treaty of Trianon (1920), Hungary was forbidden from owning military aircraft. However, a secret air arm was gradually established under the cover of civilian flying clubs. During 1938, the existence of the Royal Hungarian Air Force was made known. The air arm was reorganized and expanded. On 1 January 1939, it became independent of the army. It subsequently participated in clashes with the newly established Slovak Republic and in the border confrontation with the Kingdom of Romania. In April 1941, operations were conducted in support of the German invasion of Yugoslavia and, on 27 June 1941, Hungary declared war on the Soviet Union. On 1 March 1942, the air force was returned to army control. In the summer of 1942, an air brigade was attached to the Luftwaffe’s VIII. /Fliegerkors on the Eastern Front. In March 1944, Allied bomber raids began on Hungary and progressively increased in intensity. Late in 1944 all efforts were redirected towards countering the advancing Red Army, but to no avail. All fighting in Hungary ended on 16 April 1945. Following the end of the war, a small air arm was organised along Soviet lines in 1947.[6
The Museum of Hungarian Aviation displays old military and civilian aircraft and aircraft engines in Szolnok, Hungary. It is located next to the “Lt. Ittebei Kiss József” Helicopter Base of the Hungarian Air Force. The museum started out as the aircraft and technical peripherals collection of the “Kilián György Flight Technical College” in 1973. This museum stores the remains of a number of Second World War warplanes shot down over Hungary and it plays a leading role in salvaging and conservation of such wrecks. As result of these efforts the museum recovered an Il-2, two Bf 109s and a LaGG-5.
During the war, Hungary produced 1,182 aircraft and 1,482 aircraft engines. Among the aircraft were 488 Bf 109s and 279 Me 210s. 158 of these aircraft were taken on strength of the RHAF. Aircraft used by the Royal Hungarian Air Force included the Arado Ar 96 trainer; Bücher Bü 131 flown as a courier aircraft; Caproni Ca 135bis bomber; Fiat CR 32; Dornier Do 215 bomber; Fiat CR.42; Fiat G.12 transport; Fieseler Fi 156 Storch; Focke-Wulf Fw 56 Weihe used as a courier/liaison aircraft; Focke-Wulf Fw 189 Uhu; and Focke-Wulf Fw 190F; Heinkel He 46; Heinkel He 112; Junkers Ju 86K-2 flown as a bomber; Junkers Ju 88A-4; Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6, Bf 109G-14 and Bf 109F-4; Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4; Messerschmitt Me 210Ca-1 (Licence-built in Hungary); Nardi FN 305 used as an advanced trainer; PZL P.11; Regianne Re.2000 Falco I (licence-built in Hungary as the Héja); and Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 bomber.[8
Royal Hungarian Air Force records claim 126 victories were achieved by the 101st Fighter Regiment/Battalion during the ten months between 14 June 1944 and 14 April 1945. On 4 May 1945, with the end of the war closing in on the them, the surviving staff of the regiment set the remaining aircraft (recorded as 47 by one source and 70 by another) on fire at Raffelding airport.[9
Aviation Museums in Hungary
A Szovjet Repuloter Titkai, Secrets of the Soviet Air Base, Berek tér, Berekfurdo, Hungary, 5309. www.soviet-airforce.com.
Kozlekedesi Muzeum, Transport Museum, 11 Varosliget korut, XIV Budapest. www.km.iif.hu.
Budapest Ferihegy Airport Museum, Ferihegy Repuloterre Vezeto Ut, Budapest Ferihegy Airport.
Pinter Muvek Military Museum, Military Technology park, Rakoczy F. Street, Kecel, H-6237 Hungary. www.pintermuvek.hu.
Repulomuzeum Szolnok, Szolnok Aviation Museum, Kilian Gyorgy utca 1, 5000 Szolnok. www.repulomuzeum.hu.
Haditechnikai Park, Route 71, H-8251 Zánka. www.zanka.hu/hirek.ws?id=294.
The Royal Romanian Air Force (Romanian: For?ele Aeriene Regale ale României, FARR), or simply For?ele Aeriene Române (Romanian Air Force) was the Air Arm of Royal Romanian forces in the Second World War. It provided support to land forces, carrying out reconnaissance and mounting air raids between other missions.
FARR flew aircraft from Germany and Italy, along with their own and other foreign aircraft, as well as a number of captured enemy aircraft. The Romanian Air Force fought against the Magyar Királyi Honvéd Légierö (Hungarian Air Force) during the Hungarian annexation of Transylvania. The most basic unit of their formations was the squadron (Grupp). The FARR fought alongside the Luftwaffe during the advance into the Ukraine and Crimea until the Battle of Stalingrad, when the Southern Luftwaffe Command was installed in Bucharest. It also carried out some reconnaissance and patrol missions over the Black Sea alongside Bulgarian units. The FARR was tasked with the air defence of the Ploie?ti oil installations, and also Bucharest against Allied air raids, and to protect Axis convoys in the Black Sea. These units fought against the USAAF and RAF during their raids against Romania.
The main models of aircraft flown by the FARR were the PZL P.11f (80 built in Romania), PZL P.24E (50 built in Romania), Hawker Hurricane, Heinkel He 112, Messerschmitt Bf 109E and Bf 109G (70 built in Romania) , Messerschmitt Bf 110 (for night defence), IAR 36 and IAR 80A fighters which were flown alongside other types of interceptors used by the Luftwaffe units in area. FARR bombers included 30 Heinkel He 111 and Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 (16 built in Romania under licence).
When the country was invaded by Soviet forces, King Mihai I (Michael) ordered Romanian forces to attack Axis forces, and the FARR was allied with Soviet Voenno-vozdushniye Sily against German and Hungarian forces in Transylvania and Slovakia, though some units continued to fight with the Axis in Luftwaffe volunteer units. One result f the Soviet Invasion of Poland was that a large number of Polish Air Force aircraft were interned in Romania. Also, a number of Soviet aircraft were captured during the war, as well as a few American Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers.
Romanian IAR 80. (Romanian Air Force Photo)
The IAR 80 was a Romanian low-wing, monoplane, all-metal monocoque fighter and ground-attack aircraft. When it first flew in 1939, it was comparable to contemporary designs such as the German Messerschmitt Bf 109E, the British Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, and the American Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk Mk. I and superior to the Dutch Fokker D.XXI and Polish PZL P.24. Romania joined the Axis in November 1940. Production problems and lack of available armament delayed entry of the IAR 80 into service until 1941. It remained in front-line use until 1944.
Romanian IAR 80 replica at the King Ferdinand National Military Museum in Bucharest. (David Holt Photo)
By 1944 the ARR fighter units included examples of 80A, B and C models, as well as 81A, B and Cs. In order to up-gun the earlier fighters as well as simplify logistics and maintenance, an upgrade program was started in mid-1944 to bring all existing airframes to the 81C armament suite of two MG 151/20s and four FN 7.92s. Various IAR.80s soldiered on in Romanian service until 1949, when they were replaced by La-9s and Il-10s. At that time the airframes with the lowest hours were modified by removing one of the fuel tanks in front of the cockpit and inserting another seat, resulting in a training aircraft called the IAR.80DC. These were used for only a short time before being replaced by Soviet Yakovlev Yak-11s and Yak-18s in late 1952.
After the Soviet occupation of Romania, within five years all remaining IAR 80s were scrapped and replaced with Soviet fighters. None of them is known to survive. An IAR 80 post war rebuilt after the fall of Communism and painted in its 1941–1944 original colors was shown at the Mihail Kog?lniceanu airshow, near Constan?a. An IAR 80 replica (No. 1) can be found at the Muzeul Aviatiei in Bucharest and another replica (No. 42) is on display in the Muzeul Militar National (National Military Museum) in Bucharest, which is a rebuild from IAR 80DC two-seat trainer parts. 
When Operation Barbarossa began, the IAR 80 equipped Esc. 41, 59 and 60 of Grupul 8 Vânátoare, part of the Grupul Aerian de Lupta (GAL), that were tasked to support the Romanian 3rd and 4th Armies deployed at the southern flank of the Eastern Front. These units took part in the Battle of Stalingrad. In the summer of 1943 the FARR’s IAR-80s were transferred to Romania for air defense duties, where they were used in combat against the USAAF. USAAF attacks were directed at the oil refinery installation at Ploie?ti, in particular. On 1 August 1943 the IAR 80 faced the B-24 Liberator for the first time. There were 178 B-24s from 9th USAAF, part of the Operation Tidal Wave. Romanian IAR 80Bs and IAR 80Cs joined together with Bf 109Gs and Bf 110s from the Romanian night fighter squadron, dived on the low-flying, four-engined bombers, belonging to five USAAF bomber groups (the 44th, 93rd, 98th, 376th and 389th). 51 Liberator bombers were lost either in combat or on the return leg of the mission. Only 89 reached their home bases, of which only 31 were serviceable for a mission the next day. The Romanians pilots claimed 25 certain and probable victories for just two losses, one IAR 80 B and one Bf 110C. According to Romanian statistics, IARs and Messerschmitts were confirmed as having shot down ten B-24s, with two probables. On 10 June 1944, IAR 80s took part in another major air battle when the USAAF attacked Ploie?ti, with 36 Lockheed P-38 Lightnings of the 82nd Fighter Group carrying one bomb each, escorted by 39 Lightnings of the 1st and 82 FGs. IAR 81Cs from Grupul 6, as well as German fighters from I./JG 53 and 2./JG 77, intercepted the large American formation. The USAAF lost 22 or 23 P-38s on that day. Eight were claimed by Grupul 6 and the remainder were claimed by the Luftwaffe and by anti-aircraft gunfire. The Americans claimed 23 victories, although the Romanians and Germans each reported only one aircraft lost on that day.
In 1944 USAAF aircraft appeared over Romania in more significant numbers. Many air battles took place and by the time of their last encounter with the USAAF on 3 July 1944, Romanian pilots of Grupul 6 vanatoare had submitted 87 confirmed (and ten not confirmed) claims. Casualties among the Romanian fighter pilots, However, quickly mounted as well. The three IAR 80/81 groups (the 1st, 2nd and 6th) in a period of less than four months – known as the “American Campaign” – had at least 32 IAR pilots killed in action, including 11 aces. These losses exceeded the number of casualties suffered in the previous two and a half years of fighting against the Soviets. Because of these heavy losses, all IAR 80/81 units were withdrawn from combat against the Americans in July 1944 and IAR pilots started to convert to the more modern Bf 109G-6s. 
Royal Romanian Air Force (FARR) units:
Grupul 3° Picaj, Corpul 2° Aerian, Luftflotte 4, South Russia Front, Winter of 1943-44.
Grupul 3° Picaj, Corpul 1° Aerian, Cioara, Dolcesti, Romania August 1944; under orders of Luftwaffe, Luftflotte Kommando 4 with commands in Debrecen, Hungary.
6th Fighter Group
7th Fighter Group
8th Fighter Group (1941–1943)
9th Fighter Group
5th Bomber Group
FARR equipped with the IAR 80 during the Second World War:
1st Fighter Group FARR received IAR-80Cs aircraft in October 1943.
2nd Fighter Group FARR operated IAR-80Cs aircraft.
3rd Fighter Group FARR received IAR-80As aircraft in August 1942.
4th Fighter Group FARR received IAR-80As aircraft in July 1942. In early 1943 this unit was re-equipped with IAR-80Cs.
45th Fighter Squadron FARR based at Cetatea Alba.
46th Fighter Squadron FARR based at Cetatea Alba.
49th Fighter Squadron FARR based at Targsor.
5th Fighter Group FARR operated IAR-81Cs aircraft.
51st Dive Bomber Squadron FARR
6th Fighter Group FARR started training on IAR-80s aircraft since 27 September 1941 and in January 1942 conversion to IAR-81 begun.
61st Dive Bomber Squadron FARR operated IAR-81s aircraft.
62nd Dive Bomber Squadron FARR operated IAR-81s aircraft.
7th Fighter Group FARR received IAR-81Cs aircraft in October 1943.
8th Fighter Group FARR received first IAR-80s aircraft in February 1941. In April 1943 was transformed into 8th Assault Group FARR and reequipped with Henschel Hs 129Bs.
42/52nd Fighter Squadron FARR received first IAR-80s aircraft in July 1941.
59th Fighter Squadron FARR received first six IAR-80s aircraft in September 1941.
60th Fighter Squadron FARR operated IAR-80s aircraft.
9th Fighter Group FARR was formed in April 1942 and received IAR-80As aircraft. In April 1943 unit was re-equipped with Bf 109Gs.
Aviation Museums of Bulgaria:
Muzeul Aviatiei, National Museum of Romanian Aviation, 2-4 Fabrica de Glucoz? Street, Sector 2, Bucharest. www.roaf.ro/en/muzeu_en.php.
Muzeul Militar National “Regele Ferdinand I”, National Military Museum, Mircea Vulcanescu Street 125-127, Bucharest. www.traseeromania.ro/muzeul-militar-national-regele-ferdinand-i-bucuresti/.
Grupul Scolar de Aeronautica Henri Coanda, B-dul Ficusului nr. 44, sector 1, Bucharest.
After the division of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany in 1939, Slovakia was left with a small air force composed primarily of Czechoslovakian combat aircraft. This force defended Slovakia against Hungary in 1939, and took part in the invasion of Poland in support of Germany. During the Second World War, the Slovak Air force was charged with the defence of Slovak airspace, and, after the invasion of Russia, provided air cover for Slovak forces fighting against the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front. While engaged on the Eastern Front, Slovakia’s 24 obsolete Avia B-534 biplane fighters were replaced with German combat aircraft, including the Messerschmitt Bf 109. The air force was sent back to Slovakia after combat fatigue and desertion had reduced the pilots’ effectiveness. Slovak air units took part in the Slovak National Uprising against Germany from late August 1944.
The Avia B-534 was a Czechoslovak biplane fighter produced during the Second World War. There are no real surviving airframes, but a B-534 replica is on display in the Prague Aviation Museum, Kbely, Czech Republic. A second replica is displayed at the Slovak Technical Museum at Košice International Airport, Slovakia. Both of these replicas use some original parts in their construction.
On 1 September 1938, less than a month before the Munich Agreement would cause Czechoslovakia to lose 30% of its territory and 34% of its population, 328 B-534 and Bk-534s equipped 21 fighter squadrons of the Czechoslovak Air Force, with other aircraft being assigned to reserve and training squadrons, and deliveries continuing of the final batch of fighters. On 14 March 1939, Germany forced the partition of Czechoslovakia, with Slovakia being declared as the nominally independent Slovak Republic with Germany annexing the remaining “Czech” part of Czechoslovakia as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia the next day. The Slovenské vzdušné zbrane (Slovak Air Force) was organised out of the units of the Czechoslovak Air Force that were based in Slovakia at the time of partition, and inherited about 71 B-534s and Bk-534s.
Slovakia quickly had to use its new formed air force, weakened by the departure of Czech pilots, to defend itself when Hungary invaded on 23 March 1939. Two B-534s were shot down by Hungarian anti-aircraft fire with four more being shot down by Hungarian Fiat CR-32 fighters and another Avia making a forced landing behind Hungarian lines, and being captured.
In September 1939, Slovakia participated in the German Invasion of Poland, with the aim of regaining territories lost to Poland at Munich. Two squadrons of B-534s supported the attack, escorting Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 87 bombers on eight missions, losing two B-534s while claiming a single Polish RWD-8 liaison aircraft shot down. The same squadrons served with the Germans in Ukraine during summer 1941, with one squadron returning in 1942 for anti-partisan duty. Obsolescence, lack of spare parts and the old Czechoslovak air force’s curious fuel mixture (BiBoLi, or some other mix of alcohol, benzol and petrol) finally relegated the surviving B-534s to training duties.
This would have been the last operational service of the B-534s in Slovak colors if not for the Slovak National Uprising of September–October 1944. The rest of the Slovak air assets did not turn-coat as expected and the leaders of the uprising were faced with using a rag-tag collection of leftover aircraft, including several B-534s at Tri Duby airfield. On 2 September 1944, Master Sergeant František Cyprich, just after testing a repaired B-534, downed a Junkers Ju 52 transport under Hungarian colours on its way to a base in occupied Poland. This was at once the first aerial victory for the Uprising and the last recorded biplane air-to-air victory. As the Slovak National Uprising was desperate for available aircraft, Sergeant Cyprich was derided by his colonel for not trying to force the Junkers Ju 52 to land and be captured instead. The last two B-534s at Tri Duby were burned as the base was evacuated on 25 October 1944.
Aviation Museums of Slovakia
Muzeum Letectva, Kosice Airport, 041 75. www.stm-ke.sk/vysunute/letectvo.htm.
Vojenske Historicke Muzeum, Zilinska 6545, Piestany, 921 01.
Dopravne Muzeum, Bardejovska, Presov.
On 25 March 1941, fearing that Yugoslavia would be invaded otherwise, Prince Paul signed the Tripartite Pact with significant reservations. Unlike other Axis powers, Yugoslavia was not obligated to provide military assistance, nor to provide its territory for Axis to move military forces during the war. Yugoslavia’s inclusion in the Axis was not openly welcomed; Italy did not desire Yugoslavia to be a partner in the Axis alliance because Italy had territorial aims on Yugoslavia. Germany, on the other hand, initially wanted Yugoslavia to participate in Germany’s then-planned Operation Marita in Greece by providing military access to German forces to travel from Germany through Yugoslavia to Greece.
Two days after signing the alliance in 1941, after demonstrations in the streets, Prince Paul was removed from office by a coup d’état. 17-year-old Prince Peter was proclaimed to be of age and was declared king. The new Yugoslavian government under King Peter II, still fearful of invasion, stated that it would remain bound by the Tripartite Pact. Hitler, however, suspected that the British were behind the coup against Prince Paul and vowed to invade the country.
The German invasion began on 6 April 1941. Yugoslavia was a country concocted by the Treaty of Versailles as multi-ethnic state, and was heavily dominated by peoples of the Eastern Orthodox religion. With unresolved questions of national identity, resistance to the Nazi occupation was not united until major resistance groups like the partisans and Chetniks formed and began making offensives in the Balkans. Resistance crumbled in less than two weeks and an unconditional surrender was signed in Belgrade on 17 April. King Peter II and much of the Yugoslavian government had left the country because they did not want to cooperate with the Axis.
While Yugoslavia was no longer capable of being a member of the Axis, several Axis-aligned puppet states emerged after the kingdom was dissolved. Local governments were set up in Serbia, Croatia, and Montenegro. The remainder of Yugoslavia was divided among the other Axis powers. Germany annexed parts of Drava Banovina. Italy annexed south-western Drava Banovina, coastal parts of Croatia (Dalmatia and the islands), and attached Kosovo to Albania (occupied since 1939). Hungary annexed several border territories of Vojvodina and Baranja. Bulgaria annexed Macedonia and parts of southern Serbia.
Aviation Museums of Yugoslavia
Aeronautical Museum – Belgrade, Internacional Airport “Nikola Tesla”, PO Box 35, 11271, Belgrade. http://www.aeronauticalmuseum.com/?jez=eng&id=1.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum_of_Aviation_(Belgrade). (Fieseler Fi 156C Storch (Wk Nr 9393), YU-COE 91, Focke-Wulf Fw 190F-8/R1 (Wk Nr 930838) 3, Junkers Ju 52/3m (Wk Nr 7208) 222, Junkers Ju 87B-2 (Wk Nr 9801) 0406, Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2 (Wk Nr 9663) 14792).