Costantino Petrosellini

Italian Ace, Costantino Petrosellini; Macchi MC.202


There are 100 limited edition prints in this series. 12×18″

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

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Macchi MC.202 Painting by Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette This artwork has not been autographed by the pilot. It is available for sale for $1,800.00.

Macchi MC.202 “Greyhound”

By Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

Aeronautica Macchi designed and developed the next level of fighter advancement for Italy with the Macchi MC.202 and the MC.205. Powered by a 1,175hp Alfa Romeo RA1000 the fighter was quick and nimble. The inverted 12-clynder gave the 202 370mph while the 205 with a 1,475hp Fiat RA1050 achieving 399mph.

The MC.202 was lightly armored with two 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT in the cowling above the engine and two 7.7mm in the wings. Many of the MC.202’s in service never had wing guns. Marksmanship would be the key to becoming an ace. After interviewing two aces and reading the exploits of many others, the Italian fighter pilot was tenacious in combat. Relentless in their light-weight Italian hot rods. They would try to out maneuver their nemesis and get in close before firing. They got right on your tail.

The new fighter was flown for the first time on August 10, 1940 and delivered to the fighter units by July 1941. This fighter dominated the Hawker Hurricane and the American built P-40. The 202 and 205 could hold their own in a fight with a P-47, P-51 or a Spitfire, if the Italian was experienced. Many Italian pilots lost their lives when the aerial armada the Americans could bring forth started the march up the country in pursuit of the retreating German Army.

The Italians surrendered and the nation was split into a civil war. The armies and Air Force of Italy divided according to their beliefs. One pilot I worked with, Ugo Drago went north with the Aviazione Nazionale. Where as Costantino Petrosellini joined with the Co-Belligerent Air Force in the South of Italy. One day Petrosellini was shooting down a B-17, and then six months later he was escorting B-24’s to German targets.

Petrosellini flew the MC.202 during all of his combat missions against the Luftwaffe after the armistice. He claimed no more aerial victories but was credited with personally destroying three Junkers JU-52 transport aircraft on the ground at a Luftwaffe airfield that was about to fly German infantry and supplies back to Germany.

The graceful fighter had a wingspan of 34 feet 8 and a half inches and was 29 feet long. The retracting landing gear were positioned towards the outside giving the aircraft very stable take off and landings. From North Africa to the Defense of Rome the MC.202 served the Italian Air Force with pride.

The fighter simply was not equipped with enough firepower to defend the empire from Liberator and Fortress attacks. Yes several of these bombers were brought down by the best pilots like Drago who was credited with downing one B-24, one B-25 and a B-26 in a Bf-109G. Petrosellini brought down a B-17 with his MC.200. Tenente Orfeo Mazzitelli flying a MC.202 downed six four engine bombers in 1943. That was a feat. The MC.202 was a fighter to fighter platform not a heavily armored bomber interceptor.

I will add more to this page in the future.

Below is the story for the print and below that is extensive research by Garth Didlick.

Italian Ace, Costantino Petrosellini

This part is my story, Sir Hamilton

Costantino Petrosellini was born April 17th 1921 in Rome, Italy. After graduating from high school at the age of seventeen, he joined the Regia Aerinautica in 1938.

As a student officer attending flight schools at Pisa and Foligno Airports he earned his wings in the spring of 1940 with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He was assigned to the 63rd Gruppo, 41st Squadriglia at Udine Air Base in Northern Italy flying a Ro.37 reconnaissance aircraft.

In July 1941 he began training as a fighter pilot in the Macchi Mc.200 and was assigned to the 8th Gruppo, 92nd Squadriglia. His unit was deployed to North Africa, taking part in the battle of El Alamein. Petrosellini’s first aerial victory was an RAF Martin Maryland shot down near Tobruk. His second was during a ground attack against English transport vehicles. His flight was bounced by RAF Kittyhawks. Petrosellini was able to outmaneuver one of the P-40’s and shot it down, however his flight lost two aircraft.

In December 1942 the battered 8th Gruppo was transferred back to Italy and assigned to Sarzana Air Base to provide air defense for the Italian Naval Base at La Spezia along with convoy escort on the TirrenianSea. On June 21, 1943, while flying an air defense patrol, Petrosellini was ordered south to Livorno. English aircraft were attacking an Italian tanker. Upon arriving at the ship Petrosellini spotted two R.A.F. Beaufighter’s very low on the water trying to escape after their attack. Petrosellini shot down one of the medium English bombers.

On July 28th 1943 near Pisa he intercepted a RAF Martin Baltimore bomber. After a long fight Petrosellini was able to bring down the bomber in the sea near Livorno. His fifth and final victory in the MC.200 was on September 3rd 1943 while on patrol over La Spezia, he shot down a B-17. His fighter was severely damaged during this encounter.

After the truce of September 1943 Petrosellini sided with the Allies and joined the Aeronautica Co-Belligerante. 8 Gruppo was relocated to Lecce Air Base in Southern Italy. Petrosellini flew the Mc.200 until June 1944 when his Squadriglia received Macchi MC.202 fighters. Petrosellini was also promoted to Commander of number 94 squadriglia at this time. His personal MC.202 was painted dark green on top with a light gray bottom marked “94-1”. His unit flew mainly ground attack and bomber escort missions across the Adriatic into Yugoslavia and Albania.

In October 1944, one target for the American bombers was a bridge linking an important road for a German retreat. The B-24’s escorted by four MC.202’s led by Petrosellini arrived over the target at approximately 15,000 feet with no anti-aircraft artillery defense or Luftwaffe fighter resistance. The B-24’s released hundreds of bombs on the target.

Petrosellini remained over the target with his flight in order to review the damage to the bridge. As the cloud of dust dissipated with surprise Petrosellini noticed the bridge was undamaged and the small town of Alessio, just south of the bridge, had been destroyed. The following day two P-39 Italian air force fighters carrying one 500lb bomb each attacked the bridge at a very low altitude destroying the target.

In November 1944 Petrosellini led eight MC.202s to the Luftwaffe airfield at Berat, Albania. His group destroyed 28 Junkers Ju-52 transports. Petrosellini made three passes on the parked Junkers setting his target on fire each time personally destroying three Luftwaffe transports. Anti aircraft defense was intense. The Italians attacked like a swarm of angry hornets. All aircraft returned to base undamaged. Petrosellini received a personal commendation for bravery from General Foster for leading this attack.

Petrosellini ended the war with five air victories. He was awarded 3 silver medals for military gallantry, the war cross, and a promotion for gallantry. Added to his achievements, Petrosellini flew more than 20,000 hours in eighty different aircraft from bi-wing fighters to Boeing 747’s.

Research by Garth Didlick, Story text for print by Sir Hamilton

Below is the full story of Petrosellini as well as historical Italian facts by Garth Didlick.

Everybody please spend a few more minutes and Let Garth entertain you.

The armistice between Italy and the Allied armed forces was signed on September 3rd 1943 but not publicly declared until September 8th. Over 200 Italian warplanes flew South and landed at Allied airfields in the days immediately following. Most were worn out and obsolete, no longer useful for combat. Italian crews scrounged any parts that they could to keep their beloved aircraft flying against the Germans. The Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force (ICBAF) was formed in Southern Italy during October 1943 and the new Italian national markings were adopted, a three color roundel carried in the six standard positions, upper and lower wings and both sides of the fuselage. Operational areas were assigned covering the Balkans (Yugoslavia and Albania) supporting Italian troops and partisans. Great care was initiated in this assignment to prevent any possible encounter between Italian manned aircraft fighting on opposite sides. The Italians that sided with the Germans were known as the Aeronautica Nazionale Republicana (ANR). During the entire history of the ICBAF and ANR no such encounter or aerial combat was ever reported. The Italians in the South began flying transport, escort, reconnaissance, sea rescue and limited tactical ground support missions.

Petrosellini and 8 Gruppo’s odyssey South to the Allied airfields began on the morning of September 8th. They were ordered to fly from Sarzana Air Base to Littorio Airport (South of Rome) with mission orders to escort Italian Air Force torpedo bombers tasked with attacking the Allied fleet which was massing for landings at Salerno. A few hours after 8 Gruppo arrived, and just before the launching of the torpedo aircraft at 4 pm, radio Algiers broadcast the communication of the armistice between Allied and Italian Forces. All missions were immediately suspended. The next morning 8 Gruppo was ordered to Guidonia Airfield near Rome and assigned the task of protecting the landing of US paratroops. The paratroop drop was canceled and to avoid capture by German Forces 8 Gruppo flew to Castiglione del Lago airfield, near Perugia, on the afternoon of September 9th. With no orders and communications from the disbanded Air Staff the 8 Gruppo Commander, Major Mario Bacich, made the decision to move to Decimomannu, Sardinia. After two days, on the morning of September 13th, the Gruppo flew to Sciacca , Sicily(which was occupied by US Forces) to avoid once again capture by the Germans. The following day 8 Gruppo was ordered to fly to Agrigento Airfield and finally on to Korba Airfield, Tunisia. Here they remained until the first days of October when they were ordered to fly to Lecce Air Base, Southern Italy, to join the new Italian Co-Belligerent forces. December 1943 Petrosellini’s unit was ordered to Capoterra Airport, Sardinia, for the air defense of Cagliari Town against the threat of German bombers. Petrosellini commented; “We were still equipped with our old tired Mc.200 fighters, luckily no Germans flew over Sardinia !” In the Spring of 1944 he was promoted to Commander of the 94th Squadriglia with the rank of Lieutenant.

In June 1944, after just over 6 months of uneventful air defense duty over Sardinia, his squadron was ordered back to Lecce and re-equipped with the Macchi Mc.202. The 94th was immediately assigned to Campomarino Air Base (North of Gargano Cape) and started operations against German forces in Yugoslavia and Albania. At this time Petrosellini’s wife Adriana joined him after a very dangerous journey from Rome with their two little sons (Luigi and Alberto). During 1943-44 she had remained in Rome during the German occupation and the Allied bombings. She was secretly assisted by the Italian clandestine front that was operating behind German lines. She also has written a diary of that terrible period and the difficult journey South to be with her husband.

Ground attack and bomber escort missions were numerous over the Balkans. Petrosellini said that during this period American VHF radios were installed in their Mc.202s so they could communicate with the Allied bombers they were escorting. He chuckled at this and said; “We couldn’t speak English and they couldn’t speak Italian”. Also, “We never shared escort duties with USAAF fighters”. The German anti-aircraft fire was very accurate; “We averaged two aircraft shot down each day for the entire Raggruppamento Caccia formed by the three Stormo (Wings) of 4, 5, and 51, which were equipped with Macchi Mc.202, Mc.205, Spitfire Mk V, and the Bell P-39 Airacobra”.

October 1944, he was leading a formation of four Mc.202s escorting a squadron of USAAF B-24 Liberators to attack the Ponte de Alessio (bridge) in Albania. “The bridge was linking an important road of German retreat from Greek territory”. The B-24s arrived over target at 15000 feet and released their bombs. “There was no anti-aircraft fire at all!“ As ordered Petrosellini remained over the target with his flight to assess the damage and through the cloud of dust discovered that: “The bridge was undamaged! The small town of Alessio, just South of the bridge, was destroyed instead!” He reported his observation to the command post as soon as he landed. “Early the next morning two Italian flown P-39’s from Nuovo Airfield flew across the Adriaticand attacked at very low altitude and succeeded in destroying the bridge with two 500lb bombs!”

During November 1944, the 94th Squadriglia was assigned an armed reconnaissance mission to investigate the report of German transport aircraft at Berat Airport in Eastern Albania . Petrosellini was leading eight Mc.202 during this flight. Before takeoff he had a discussion with his wingman, 2nd Lt Lino Forchetti who was on his very first mission, Petrosellini recalled telling him; “Stay glued to my wing, shoot when I shoot”. Upon arrival at Berat he was amazed to see the airfield full of German Junkers Ju-52 transport aircraft. He immediately gave the order to attack. Petrosellini remembered that; “The Germans did not open fire until we began our strafing run, then all hell broke loose”. During three successive passes, East to West, West to East, and South to North, he succeeded in destroying three Ju-52s and damaging numerous others; “The other Ju-52s parked nearby the three I destroyed exploded for sympathy”. 26 German transport aircraft were destroyed by Petrosellini’s flight of eight Mc.202s during the attack on Berat airfield. During the fight and confusion of smoke and anti-aircraft fire young 2nd Lt Forchetti became separated and disappeared. Running low on fuel the remaining flight reformed and made a quick check for their lost member and then headed back to base. Upon landing Petrosellini headed to Base Ops to give his report when he was confronted by a British officer who began yelling at him that “You are Bloody crazy for attacking that airfield but most of all you lost an aircraft and one of your valuable pilots!” At that moment an Mc.202 flew over the field and dropped its gear and flaps and prepared to land. It was 2nd Lt Forchetti who had found his way back home after becoming separated at Berat. Miraculously none of the Mc.202s were hit by anti-aircraft fire and Petrosellini received a personal Commendation from General Foster, Commander of the Balkan theatre air forces. Petrosellini mentioned that; “During the entire time I flew with the Co-Belligerent Forces I never saw a German aircraft in the air, only on the ground”.

“My personal Mc.202 was painted overall dark green with gray undersurfaces. It was marked with ‘94 – 1’, since I was squadron commander the no. 1 was assigned to me, and the emblem known as the middle aged knight painted on the fin”.

“The end of the war (8 May 1945) was communicated by radio at the squadron, it was one news that I received with great happiness, of course!”

Costantino Petrosellini’s war medals and decorations included 3 Silver medals for heroism, 1 War Cross for heroism, a promotion for war merits, 4 Crosses for war merits.

After the war he was assigned to the Squadron of Italian Air Staff at Centocelle Airport Rome, equipped with the Douglas C-47 he flew numerous command staff all over Europe and the Mediterranean from June 1945 until September 1951. He then became a flight instructor at the jet school at Amendola Air Base near Foggia , flying the DeHavilland Vampire and Lockheed T-33. He was promoted to Captain and was the commanding officer of the Vampire squadron. At the end of 1953 he was assigned to the Italian Air Force Test Center and was transferred to the French Air Force Test Pilot School at Bretigny Airport near Paris. Here he qualified as a prototype Test Pilot. During this assignment he became the 2nd Italian Pilot to break the sound barrier, which he achieved in the Dassault Mystere IV aircraft. He also flew the B-26, Meteor, Ouragon, and Super Mystere B-1 in which he broke the sound barrier in level flight, being the first Italian Pilot to do so. At the beginning of 1955 Petrosellini returned to Italy and was involved with the development of Italy’s first supersonic fighter the Aerfer “Sagittario”. He joined the Aerfer flight test team at Pomigliano, Naples and spent all of 1955 in the production of the prototype. He made the first flight which took place on 19 May 1956 from the Pratica di Mare Airport near Rome. All flights were successful including a spectacular demonstration at the Italian Air Force Festival over Fiumicino Airport. He had previously flown the F-86 and had this to say about the comparison of these two aircraft; “The Sagittario was better than the Sabre, she was fast and beautiful”.

The flight test program ended and in December 1956 Petrosellini decided to leave the Air Force and enter the civilian world as a pilot for Alitalia Airlines. He became captain of the Convair 340/440 flying European and North African routes. In 1959 he became captain of the Douglas DC-6 and then the Sud Aviation Caravelle III in 1961. In 1966 he became captain on the Douglas DC-8/43 and DC-8/62 flying the Atlantic, Pacific, South Africa, Australia , Far East , and Polar routes. As a certified test pilot he was also asked to evaluate the Boeing 707 and the supersonic Concorde. In the Spring of 1972 he made captain on the Boeing 747 which he flew all over the world until his retirement from Alitalia in 1981.

He then spent two years as manager of flight school at Urbe Airport, Rome, and another two years was spent as a professor at the Aeronautical Institute of Rome before retiring fully. Since then he has chaired and been Vice-President of the Italian Airline Pilots Association, the International Federation of Airline Pilots, and the Italian Institute of Navigation. These duties kept him busy making speeches at conferences and meetings all around the world. He is also an honorary member of the Confederate Air Force and was made honorary Mayor of San Antonio Texas.

To say the least Lt Colonel Costantino Petrosellini has led a very interesting and exciting life in aviation. 45 years of continuous flight activity flying over 80 different types of aircraft and logging over 20,000 hours of flight time. His leadership, knowledge, and expert guidance have taught and molded hundreds of his fellow pilots and it can honestly be said that he has made a positive impact on what the aviation world is today.

I asked him to look back over his career and tell me what his favorite aircraft were. He said; “During the war my favorite was with no doubt the Macchi 202, but the best was the Spitfire Mk IX, which I flew after the war, much better performance and a pure interceptor to high altitude. The Super Mystere, DC-6, and of course the Boeing 747 are favorites also”.

He now spends his time with his beautiful wife Adriana and lives in the same building as his daughter Raffaella (born in 1949), her husband Francesco (they are both Architects) and their daughters Giulia (degree in Marketing/Publicity) and Claudia (Studying Civil Engineering at University of Rome ). The rest of his family are: first son Luigi (retired Alitalia Executive), wife Ambretta and two sons Costantino II and Andre. Second son Alberto (Doctor in London ), wife Elisabetta (Doctor) and daughter Chiara (Studying in London ). From his balcony he enjoys the beautiful view that overlooks the hill of Monteverde and the city of his proud family ancestry, “la Città Eterna, Roma”, The Eternal City, Rome.

Full research and text is by Garth Didlick.

All I can say is thank you Garth for this valuable historical research.

Any and all writings of the Italian involvement is essential to understand the Great War as a whole.