Şerbănescu, Alexandru “Alecu”

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Şerbănescu, Alexandru, born 17-05-1912 in Coloneşti, Olt County was a leading Romanian fighter pilot and flying ace in World War II. In the spring of 1942 he was assigned as a pilot to the 7th Fighter Group , which fought with the German forces against the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front, including Stalingrad.

He flew mostly IAR-80  and Messerchmitt Bf-109  fighters.

He graduated from the Military College at Târgovişte and the Infantry Officers School at Sibiu in 1933 and was soon appointed the commander of the 3rd Mountain Troops battalion, located at Braşov. In 1942, he joined the Air Force Flight School in Ghimbav and became soon a fighter pilot within the 7th Fighter Group.

The 7th Fighter Group was detached in 1942 to the Stalingrad front. Şerbănescu distinguished himself in the fierce battles during the retreat from the airfields around Stalingrad. When Soviets broke the German and Romanian defences in November 1942 and approached the Romanian airfield where the 7th Fighter Group was stationed, Şerbănescu successfully organized the defence of the airbase against the Allied forces, helped by his infantry experience. He had at his disposal only two anti-aircraft guns, the 20mm guns on the Bf-109Es and a company of ill-equipped and trained soldiers. The Romanians’ camouflaged positions and well-led defence stopped the Soviet tanks attacking the airfield for two days. The Bf 109’s 20 mm guns were used as antitank weapons on the ground (by lifting the airplane’s tail on barrels), this being a unique case of airplane-tank duel. On 23-11-1942 the Romanians evacuated eight Bf-109E (another 3 were lost while they tried to take off under fire). Each airplane carried two or three people in the cockpit. After this, what remained of Şerbănescu’s unit was stationed on the Morozovskaya airfield and was soon withdrawn to Romania for rest and recuperation.

On 29-03-1943, Şerbănescu was appointed commander of the 57th Fighter Squadron , equipped with the new Messerschmitt Bf-109G, and promoted to the rank of Captain. Between June and August 1943 he shot down 28 Allied aircraft, and received the highest Romanian military decoration, Order of Michael the Brave, 3rd Class. On October 23, the 9th Fighter Group replaced the battle-exhausted 7th Fighter Group, but Şerbănescu and the other aces remained.  He kept fighting and shooting down airplanes of the Allies and, as a result, he was named the Group’s commander on 13-02-1944. In May 1944 the Red Army entered Romania and occupied northern Bessarabia and northern Moldavia, but they were stopped after some fierce fighting, in which the pilots also played a very important role. On June 11, Şerbănescu shot down his first USAAF aircraft, a B-17 Flying Fortress, his 45th victory. This was followed by two Allied P-51 Mustangs shot down on July 31 and on August 4 respectively, which were his last kills.

Death and burial ground of Şerbănescu, Alexandru “Alecu”.

On 18-08-1944, age 32, Alexandru Şerbănescu took off on his last mission. On that day, he and his twelve wingmen, together with twelve other fighters from the 9th Fighter Group, attacked a swarm of Mustangs and Lightnings over Ruşavăţ, Buzău County. When Lieutenant Dobran and Adjutant Dârjan tried to clear his tail, it was too late. His last words were: “My boys, I’m going down…”. Apparently his radio wasn’t functioning properly and he could not hear his wingmen’s warnings. Following Şerbănescu’s death, all Romanian fighters were issued orders to refrain from engaging the Americans until a new strategy would be adopted. Five days later, on 23-08-1944, a coup d’état led by King Michael of Romania

  deposed Marshal Ion Antonescu and Romania switched to the Allied side. King Michael is born 25-10-1921 ( now age 93)

During his entire piloting career, he was credited with 47 confirmed victories (and 8 probable) in aerial combat which, with eight unconfirmed, yielded 55 points in the Romanian scoring system, second only to Constantin Cantacuzino with 69. Şerbănescu, Alexandru “Alecu” is buried on the cemetery Coloneşti, Olt County.

 

 

 

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