Dukovac, Mato.

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Dukovac, Mato, born in 22-09-1918 in Surčin, Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, Kingdom of Hungary, Austria-Hungary (today Belgrade Region, Serbia), was an avid glider pilot before he entered the 67th class of the Royal Yugoslav Military Academy in Belgrade in 1937. Mato graduated on 01-04-1940 with the rank of second lieutenant, and commenced pilot training at the 1st Pilot School in Pančevo in October of that year. Mato enlisted in the Croatian Air Force soon after the country was declared independent in 1941 and became a puppet fascist state. After training he was posted to the Kuban front in Russia with the Croatian Legion, flying his first mission on 29-10-1942, age 24..

After scoring some early combat successes against the Soviet Air Force, his potential was recognised by Cvitan Galić, the leading Croatian ace at the time. Thereafter the two men partnered one another in a pair formation, known as a Rotte, together becoming the two most successful Croatian pilots. Cvitan Galić was killed by strafing Spitfire IXs of No.2 Squadron SAAF South African Air Force on 06-04-1944, age 34,  at Zalužani airfield near Banja Luka when a bomb hit his Morane-Saulnier M.S.406. He had just moments earlier landed after completing a patrol and was in the act of leaving the cockpit when the attack occurred. He was buried at Mirogoj Cemetery, but his grave was destroyed by the Partisans in 1945.

In February 1944 Dukovac flew his 250th mission, scoring his 37th confirmed kill, for which he was awarded the German Cross  in gold by Field Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen

in person. Later that year, during the Soviet offensive in the Crimea, his tally of kills rose to 44, making him the number one Croatian ace ahead of Galić.

In August 1944 he was promoted to the rank of Hauptmann and sent with a contingent of the Croatian Legion to Eichwalde in East Prussia. While training in the use of the latest models of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 at Flugplatz Eichwalde in Eastern Prussia he deserted to the Soviets on 29-09-1944.

He served as a time as a flight instructor with the Soviet Air Force before being sent with other Croats to Pančevo in Serbia in December 1944, also as a flying instructor. In February 1945, for his previous service with the Axis powers, he was supposed to be arrested. He escaped the arrest and flew to Italy on 08-08-1945 with a stolen de Havilland Tiger Moth, where he surrendered to the Americans. He was treated as a Luftwaffe prisoner of war.

In January 1946 he went to Syria and joined the Syrian Air Force. He fought in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War flying initial missions as part of the 1st Aerial Squadron, flying Canadian–built T-6 Harvard trainers, armed with two 0.303 Browning machine-guns, from al Mezze airfield near Damascus. His only aerial claim occurred on a reconnaissance mission, an Israeli scout aircraft thought to be a Fairchild 24.

In late 1948 he emigrated to Toronto in Canada and settled there, raising a family. He commenced a business career with IBM. In 1979 he attended a Luftwaffe anniversary in Munich. In Canada, Dukovac founded an association of Croatian Canadians called “United Canadian Croats”.

Death and burial ground of Dukovac, Mato.

Dukovac, Mato. died in Toronto, 46 years after D-Day on 06-06-1990, age 71, and is buried on the cemetery of Glenhaven, Kingston, in Ontario

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