Milu, Ion.

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Milu, Ion, 1902 in Brašov,  at the age of eighteen began studying at the pilot school in Tecua and entered active service in 1922 as an air force sergeant. Ion also worked as a flight instructor, test pilot for various aircraft manufacturers and a member of various military commissions. Among other things, he flew the IAR-80 Type 0 (prototype) in the experimental squadron at Piper. In 1940, Major Ion Milu was assigned to the 7th fighter group, which was armed with new Messerschmitts Bf 109 E.  

The Kingdom of Romania, under the rule of King Carol II, was initially a neutral country in World War II. However, Fascist political forces, especially the Iron Guard, rose in popularity and power, urging an alliance with Nazi Germany and its allies. As the military fortunes of Romania’s two main guarantors of territorial integrity—France and Britain—crumbled in the Fall of France (May to June, 1940), the government of Romania turned to Germany in hopes of a similar guarantee, unaware that the then-dominant European power had already granted its blessing to Soviet claims on Romanian territory, in a secret protocol of 1939’s MolotovRibbentrop Pact.

Milu participated in the 1941 campaign and managed to shoot down 3 Soviet aircraft. The 7th fighter group returned to Romania, like most of the Romanian units. They reached the front, in the Stalingrad area, in September 1942. After the start of the Soviet offensive, they were surrounded, but they managed to escape under dramatic circumstances. After reorganization, in the spring of 1943 they fought against the Soviets again, as part of JG 3 “Udet  under command of Major Kurt Brändle, on April 10, 10 Romanian Messerschmitts Bf 109G attacked the Soviet airfield north of Voroshilovgrad. They destroyed 5 Pe-2 machines on the ground. While the Germans claimed all the victories, the Romanians only conceded two, leaving Ion Mila, Nicolae Burileanu and Tiberia Vinca one victory each, due to bureaucrats who were never at the front. On 13-03-1944, age 27, Vinca’s luck ran out. It was his second mission that day. He spotted a bomber formation and went in for a closer look. They were German He-111s. But the German machine-gunners opened fire. Tiberiu Vinca’s airplane was hit, entered a spin and crashed into the ground. The pilot’s body was thrown out of the cockpit.

Milu was shot down by Pe-2 and Il-2 in one month and achieved 5 victories. He on 06-03-1943 caught the jackpot: 3 Soviet planes in an epic air battle. At 3:45 he took off together with Gheorghe Firu, right next to Milu, each with 200 kg of bombs. Their task was to bombard an artillery battery. At an altitude of 2000 meters, they spotted a large formation of the Soviet Air Force (18x Il-2 and 20x La-5) heading towards the landing area. They hurried to their destination to drop off their cargo and head back. Attacking from below, Mila forced the enemy to abort the landing, allowing his comrades to take off and join the fight. He shot down one La-5, but 10 enemies headed for him. He broke off the fight at 4:20 a.m. after shooting down two more La-5s. He was running low on fuel because a 20mm shell had blown a hole in his fuel tank.

At the time, he was serving with the 57th Airlift Wing (7th Battle Group) as a warrant officer third class, a rank comparable to that of second lieutenant, a very rare honor for a noncommissioned officer. This squadron was under the command of Air Force Captain Alexander “Alecu” Serbanescu and included Lieutenant Teodor Greceanu, Second Lieutenant Constantin Rozariu and Petty Officer Ion Mucenica,  some of the best pilots of the ARR/Royal Romanian Air Force , (these guys had a total of around 120 victories by the end of the war).

Romanian aces awarded in August 1943 by “Mihai Viteazul” Order: Cantacuzino, Dicezare, Greceanu, Şerbănescu en Milu.

On July 6, a formation under the command of Commander Romanesco took off, their task was a ground attack. But at a height of approximately 600 m, the commander’s machine caught fire. His cabin was quickly engulfed in smoke so he couldn’t see anything. He tried to jump down, but he was too low. Milu joined him and guided him until they landed. Commander Romanescu fainted from the shock and the smoke. Lieutenant Colonel Milu landed near him and pulled him out of the plane.

German General Otto Dessloch, commander of the 4th Air Fleet ( It was the Luftflotte 4, that was responsible for the bombing campaign of Stalingrad, where ca. 40,000 civilians died), awarded Milu the Iron Cross of the First Class.  Ten days later, he received Romania’s highest military honor: the Order of Mihai Viteazu, third class. In October 1943, the 9th fighter group replaced the seventh fighter group at the front. However, some pilots remained. Ion Milu was among them. After the reorganization of the group, he was in the 56th fighter squadron.With the arrival of spring 1944, the war reached the Romanian border and the 9th Fighter Group had to fight harder because now much more was at stake. On April 15, one DB-3 shot down Mila and on April 17, one Il-2.

On May 24, Milu won his 30th victory. A flying DB-3 took off from the Tecuci airport at an altitude of 6500 m. He shot him down. When he reached the crash site with a liaison plane to confirm the shootdown claim, they found the gunner from the downed plane surrendering to them without resistance. The 31st victory came six days later, on May 30. Captain Serbanescu, Milu and Mucenica accompanied the Romanian Ju 88. They were attacked by 6 P-39s. Fighters intervened and Ion Milu returned Soviet fire. Even Mucenic managed to get one, although after a difficult maneuver.

From June 6, the 9th Fighter Group flew missions against USAAF raids. On June 11, they succeeded in shooting down five B-17s. Milu was one of the winners. It was his first American. The second came on July 15, again a B-17, the third was a P-38 on July 31.

Another battle with the USAAF’s  overwhelming superiority took place on August 8. Captain Constantin Cantacuzino led the 18 planes of the 9th fighter group that were sent against the invaders. They attacked the bomber twice. Milu managed to shoot down one P-38. Just then he spotted a formation of 40 Mustangs heading towards his group. He alerted the others and tried to avoid the Americans, but it was too late. His steering stopped responding. He dislocated his shoulder while opening the cockpit. He managed to jump out and open the parachute. A little later on the same day, he was found and taken to the hospital in Doicesti. Captain Constantin Cantacuzino survived the war and died on 26-05-1958, age 52.

Milu was decorated on 06-10-1944 “for the courage and gallantry shown in dogfights with enemy fighters, succeeding in shooting down 4 Soviet aircraft, performing 83 combat missions” with the Order of War Aeronautical Virtue with swords Knight class with 2 barrettes. He returned to the front in February 1945 with the 1st Fighter Group, but by the end of the war he had not scored another victory. After the war, several Romanian pilots reportedly took part in a major air show in Wiener-Neustadt organized by the Allies on 01-06-1945. These pilots were asked to demonstrate German technology and equipment, including the Bf 109 G-6, and a comparison with the latest types of American and Soviet aircraft. On his return to Miskolc, Milu flew with Lieutenant Dumitru Baciu.-01-hey encountered several P-51Ds over Hungary and flapped their wings in salute. The Mustangs swung their wings as the Romanian planes flew by. A few minutes later, a formation of Soviet Il-2s accompanied by Yak-3s passed by. The Romanians flapped their wings again, the Soviets did not salute and continued flying in the opposite direction. The last two Jaks suddenly broke out of formation and challenged the two Romanians on the Bf-109 Gustav. Milu had had enough of the war (after 5 years) and decided not to respond to the attack. Lieutenant Dumitru Baciu pulled up the fuse and turned into a tight dive. Apparently, the Romanian Air Force lieutenant shot down one of the Soviet planes and only returned home with 16 holes in the plane.He was promoted to the rank of crew officer cl. II on 23-01-1946 In May 1946 he received the Order of Mihai Viteazu with swords class II. In 1949 he was already a captain and again worked as a test pilot for IAR (now the tractor factory “Sovromtractor”). On 12-5-1940, it took off for the first time with an IAR-811 prototype. In 1950 he tested the IAR-813.

Death and burial ground of Ion Milu.

Senior Dean of the Royal Aeronautics in WW2, Ion Milu continued to link his name to aviation after 1945, between 1945-1947 he worked as a reception pilot of the Ministry of Aviation at IAR Brașov and between 1947-1952 he was an officer on various assignments at Flotilla 3 Assault Brasov, Reg. 7 Brașov  Hunting and the 68th Assault Division.Irreplaceable teacher for several generations of military pilots, Ion Milu permanently competed for the national aerobatics title. With more than 600 flights against the enemy, rated with the third number of victories in direct engagements (40 + 5 aircraft destroyed on the ground), aviator Ion Milu is an emblematic figure of aviation.Milu died on 18-09-1982, age 80, in the city where he was born 72 years ago, Brasov, and was buried in the cemetery Sf. Treime Schei in Brasov. He was the third best Romanian air ace of World War II with 45 confirmed victories and 6 probable victories.

My friend Vlad Daniel from Pitesti (Argeș county) in Romania was so kind to sent me the grave photo’s with thanks.

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