Joaquin Garcia-Morato - Best Ace of Spanish Civil War.

Written by Mihail Zhirohov.

Born in Melilla in 1904. At 19 he was called up and posted to the Infantry. In April 1925 he enrolled in the civil flying school, and on 6th August received his F.A.I. pilot's licence. Subsequently he took a course on the Avro 504 biplane and obtained the corresponding military qualification, on completion of which he was sent to a reconnaissance and bombing unit equipped with the DH9A. When the unit was sent to Morocco he took part in actions against the insurgents. He volunteered for the Bristol fighter squadron at Nador (Melilla), where in 57 missions he logged over 100 hours' flying, for which he was commended.After that he was posted to the floatplane base at Mar Chica, and later transferred to a reconnaissance group at Getafe.

In 1929 he was appointed flying instructor at the pilot Conversion School. He qualified as an observer, and in 1930 as a wireless telegraphist. He learned to fly multi-engined aircraft, fighters and floatplanes, and he was an outstanding aerobatic pilot. In 1932 he added aircraft mechanic to his other qualifications. He took part in many aerobatic competitions, winning several. Among other aircraft he flew a Consolidated Fleet 2. In 1934 he saw action in the Asturias campaign.He taught blind flying at the Aereo-Club of Madrid. In 1935 Morato organised the air section of the General Directorate of Safety.

The Civil War found him on holiday (vacation) in Great Britain, from where he flew across France to Burgos and Cordoba. His part in the war started with the defence of Cordoba. Over that city on 3rd August, at the controls of a Nieuport 52, he threw an enemy formation into total confusion and forced it to withdraw. On the 12th Morato had his first victory when he shot down a Vickers Vildebeest bomber over Antequera.

Garcia-Morato was one of the first Spanish pilots to fly the He-51 biplanes when they became available, and on 18th August he shot down a Potez 54 and a Nieuport while flying one. He shot down another Nieuport on 2nd September. He also piloted Ju-52s on bombing missions.

When the Fiat CR-32 fighters arrived in Spain he was the first Spanish pilot to try them out, having been posted with two comrades to one of the Italian units. On 11th September he scored his fifth victory, and his first with the CR-32, achieving three more by the end of the month. He shot down three more aircraft in October, and in November he tangled over Madrid with Russian-made I-15 aircraft, shooting down three of them - and a Potez 54 into the bargain.

In December the Nationalist air force had sufficient Fiats to constitute an independent group, whose command went to Garcia-Morato. Dubbed Blue Patrol, it operated in the south flying cover for the Nationalist Breguets. The Cordoba zone was being targetted by Soviet SB-2 bombers, modern, fast and hard to intercept. On 3rd January 1937, attacking from high altitude, he pounced on a pair of them and shot them down. In February he returned to the Madrid front to support the Jarama offensive.

On the 18th, acting with other Italian CR-32 fighters, the Blue Patrol took off on a sortie to escort Ju-52 bombers. Because of losses they had sustained the Italians were forbidden to cross the front line. When the bombers crossed the front line with no escort a large number of enemy fighters pounced on them. Morato and his comrades Salvador and Berm?dez de Castro gave fight, which persuaded the Italians to disobey orders and join them. That day, at the cost of the loss of one of their own aircraft, the Nationalist flyers inflicted several losses on the enemy and redressed the balance of mastery of the air in the sector.

On 17 th May, 1937 he was decorated with the Cruz Laureada de San Fernando for his actions until 18 th February, 1937. Until the latter date he had made 150 sorties and participated in 46 combats, achieving 18 victories.

Blue Patrol was upgraded to a full suqadron and later a group of two squadrons, designated 2G3. In September 1937, with a total of 27 victories, Garcia-Morato was sent to Italy, from where he returned in December that year. He was appointed Commander of the Hispana Air Brigade, embracing all air units in the north. In July 1938 he was given command of a new fighter group, 3G3, in which he increased his tally of victories to 35.

On 3 rd October neither Salvador not Morato returned to base: the former had been shot down and taken prisoner and Garc?a-Morato, shot up by Third "Mosca" Squadron's Lt. Luis Sirvent Cerrillo, had made a forced landing.

On 24th December his unit, Fontllonga, 20 km. north of Balaguer (Lerida), shot down nine enemy R-5 bombers, three of which were attributed to Morato. Of the 9 Natashas, 3 returned to their own side's airfields, (2 to La Garriga and 1 to Vic). Six were shot down, of which 3 were lost, while the remainder managed to land with varying fortune inside their own lines.

Overall the Natasha squadron suffered 3 dead, 8 wounded and 2 taken prisoner. Garcha Morato's unit suffered the shooting down and taking prisoner of captain Rafael de Mendiz?bal Am?zaga, while another Fiat had to land because of damage at Almenar (Lerida). His last victory, number 40, was an I-15 shot down on 19th January 1939.

At the end of the war he was Chief of Operations of the Nationalist fighter force. His log book showed 1,012 hours flown on 511 sorties, of which 56 were in aerial combat, with 40 aircraft shot down.

On 4th April 1939 he was putting his Fiat CR-32 (3-51) through various manoeuvres over Gri??n airfield when, during low-level inverted flight, the engine failed. The aircraft crashed, killing the pilot. He was posthumously awarded the Individual Medal and promoted to substantive major for meritorious war service.

In 1950 he was given the noble title of Count of the Jarama, also posthumously.

Morato's emblem is currently worn by Ala de Caza No 11 (No 11 Fighter Wing), based at Mor?n de la Frontera and equipped with the F-18. This will be the first Spanish unit to receive the Eurofighter. This Air Force unit has inherited the weapons and ancient tradition of Spanish fighter aviation which belonged to Ala 11 (11 Wing) based at Manises, Valencia until its disbandment in 1999.


List of victories

No Date Enemy a\c
1 12_08 Vikkers Vildeebest
2 18_08 Nieport 52
3 18_08 Potez 54
4 02_09 Nieport 52
5 11_09 Nieport 52
6 16_09 Potez 54
7 20_09 Hawker Fury
8 25_09 Brege XIX
9 16_10 Luar 46
10 18_10 Brege XIX
11 18_10 Brege XIX
12 05_11 I-15
13 05_11 Potez 54
14 09_11 I-15
15 13_11 I-15
16 03_01 SB-2
17 03_01 SB-2
18 18_02 I-15
19 04_06 I-16
20 12_06 R-5
21 14_06 I-15
22 14_07 R-Z
23 14_07 R-Z
24 15_07 I-16
25 15_07 I-16
26 18_07 R-Z
27 02_09 I-15
28 04_12 I-15
29 12_03 I-15
30 12_03 I-15
31 25_06 R-Z
32 25_06 R-Z
33 01_08 I-15
34 14_08 I-16
35 (36?) 22_09 I-15
36 (35?) ????? 20_09 ? 03_10 I-16
37 24_12 R-Z
38 24_12 R-Z
39 24_12 R-Z
40 19_01 I-15


2003.09.07, WW II Ace Stories.