Capitano Ugo Drago

Italian Ace, Ugo Drago

There are 600 limited edition prints in this series. Print Size 12×18″

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Limited Edition, Signed by the Ace. $65.00

All signatures by both the Aviator and the Artist is done in soft graphic pencil.

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Poster Print $14.95

Poster prints are autographed by the artist only.

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Capitano Ugo Drago

By Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

Ugo Drago was born on March 3, 1915 in Arborio, Italy. He attained his civilian pilot’s license on May 11, 1938 through the Capodichino flight school in Naples, Italy. In 1938 he began his military flying career with the Regia Aeronautica, and in 1939 was assigned to the 363a Squadriglia, 150 Gruppo Autonomo Caccia Terrestre.

Lieutenant Drago scored his first aerial victory on November 2, 1940, serving with 363a Squadriglia, 150o Gruppo flying a Fiat CR 42. Drago was on a bomber escort mission to Salonicco, when the air group was attacked by Greek flown Polish built PZL fighters. The enemy aircraft was a PZL24 that Drago downed. Drago later served as the commander (Commandante) of the 363a Squadriglia. Drago would remain with the group until the Armistice.

On November 14th two more Polish fighters were shot down by Drago over Koritza. His next victory was on February 13, 1941 when he claimed a twin engine Blenheim bomber. When the Greek campaign ended Drago’s unit was equipped with MC.200 fighters. The Group stayed in the Balkans and defended the new axis territories. In December 1941, the group was transferred to North Africa . Here combat and escort missions were almost daily and based on the weather. However aerial combat was not fruitful.

The unit was then transferred to Sicily in the spring of 1943. Here the group upgraded to the new Messerschmitt Bf-109G’s. It took a few extra hours of training but the bugs were worked out of the fighter formulization and the Italian pilots grew to love the Messerschmitt. Ugo told me that it was here with the German pilots that he learned aerial combat techniques that were not taught in the Italian Air Force. One was to lead your target and use a gun site that would help you track and calculate your attack. In the Italian Air Force the pilot was trained to get behind the enemy and blast his butt off. That was it! Nothing more. Ugo’s scoring went up with this new knowledge and his new fighter.

The example of Bf-109G-6 I chose to illustrate was flown by Drago in May of 1943 in Sicily. The fighter was equipped with 20mm cannon wing mounted gondolas.

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Number “7” was the lucky number always carried by Drago. The 150 Gruppo adopted the Gigi Tre Osei” badge as depicted behind the canopy. This was done in tribute to Luigi “Gigi” Caneppele, a pre-war Olympic glider pilot who died in action over North Africa, the “Tre Osei” (3 birds) representative of his 3rd class glider badge.

On June 9, 1943 while intercepting USAAF B-25’s over Pantelleria with lucky “7”, Drago was able to shoot down two escorting Spitfires of the 31st Fighter Group. The Italians flying fourteen MC.202’s and four Bf-109’s attacked fifty Spitfires and P-38 Lightings. After the combat ended Drago flew along scouting the sky. Seeing a small dot closing on his tail, Drago mistakenly believed this to be his wingman, from whom he had become separated during the battle. The dot turned out to be an opposing Spitfire, which opened fire on Drago, ripping the wing off and causing the plane to enter an uncontrollable spin. Miraculously, Drago was able to escape from the crippled aircraft and parachuted to safety. Drago returned to Sicily on the last flight leaving the besieged island of Pantelleria.

Drago served with the Regia Aeronautica 150 Gruppo from 1940-1943 in Greece, North Africa and Sicily. During this period, he amassed 6 confirmed kills, 2 Spitfires and 4 PZLs. Drago also flew the Macchi 200 and 202 during the North African campaign.

Following the September 1943 Armistice, Ugo Drago served as the commander of the 1a Squadriglia (later 4a Squadriglia), II Gruppo Caccia of the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (ANR) flying the Bf 109G. This group also employed the “Gigi Tre Osei” Insignia. Interestingly, Drago was the first ANR pilot to fly the K model of the Bf109, equipped with a 30mm canon.

Drago ended the war as one of the ANR leading fighter aces with 11 confirmed kills, this tally made up of 1 P-38, 4 P-47s, 2 P-51s, 1 B-24, 1 B-25, 1 RAF Boston, and 1 RAF Marauder. Recently released United Statesand Italian records indicate that Captain Drago may have as many as 25 confirmed aerial victories.

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Among his numerous decorations, Ugo received 3 Medaglie d Argento al Valor Militare (Silver Medals for Military Valor) and the Croce di Guerra al Valor Militare (War Cross for Military Valor). A fourth silver medal was never awarded due to the confusion surrounding the armistice. He was also awarded 2 German Iron Crosses, and was promoted to the rank of Captain based on his war merits. In total, Drago flew over 400 missions and scored 17 confirmed aerial victories in both services making him Italy’s 9th ranking ace.

In addition to these decorations and honors, perhaps of greater importance was the inspiration and courage that Drago provided to his combat group. As a testament to Drago’s leadership and achievements, the German high command was so impressed with the results of Drago’s 4a Squadriglia that the group had been chosen for transition to the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.

Following the war, Drago became a test pilot for Fiat and later assisted the Argentine Air Force in role of technical advisor, test pilot and flight instructor. Captain Drago served from 1953-1973 as a pilot for Alitalia, functioning also as a check pilot for that airline.  During this time he flew such aircraft as the DC-4, DC-6, DC-8, Viscount, Caravelle and the Boeing 747.

All limited Edition prints are signed by both the artist and Drago.

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Ugo Drago and his Bf-109G.

Ugo and the other Italian pilots that joined the Luftwaffe wore the German uniforms.

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This was my first attempt at painting Drago’s Messerschmitt. I chose to paint it again. I am glad I did.

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Ugo signs the prints.

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Ugo Drago and Artist in Roma Italy

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Countess Caproni, Ugo Drago and me in Roma.

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This is a rare photo of Drago’s #7. Great photo of this noble steed.

Drago’s unit was scheduled to fly the Messerschmitt Me-262 if the war had lasted a few more months. This fact proves that the Luftwaffe had airplanes but no pilots.

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I took this photo of Ugo Drago at a aircraft museum that was located by a lake inside a volcano crater in Italy.

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If you are interested in reading more about Ugo then please consider one of our prints or one of our up coming books. Thank you.

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Italian Royal Coat of Arms