Hermes' Wings

History, Writing and Personal Musings

Tarantola

Nicknamed “Banana” because he was once a young fruit seller, hawking his wares on a street cart at the Piazza Cavour in downtown Rome, Ennio Tarantola (19 January 1915-30 July 2001), joined the Regia Aeronautica as a Sergeant Pilot in September 1936. He saw action as a fighter pilot in Spain against the Republican forces and stayed on in the air force afterwards. By when Italy declared war against Britain, however, he was a pilot in Stukas. Shot down on 30 June 1941, he spent the next 18 hours in a dinghy in the sea. It was a sobering experience. He wisely returned to a fighter unit soon after. In early-1942, his unit deployed to Sicily to operate against Malta. Flying as a wingman to his squadron commander, Capitan Furio Niclot Doglio, the Doglio-Tarantola team became responsible for the destruction of several RAF Spitfires over Malta. Doglio got five, Tarantola three, with another two shared destroyed between the pair. It was a remarkable feat, but then Doglio was shot down and killed on 27 July 1942, by the Canadian ace George Beurling. Tarantola survived Malta and after being withdrawn to the Italian mainland in 1943, shot down three American P-38 Lightnings. When Italy surrendered in September, instead of joining the Allies, Tarantola chose the pro-German, Italian National Republican Air Force (ANR). He eventually met his match in combat against American P-47 Thunderbolts in 1944 and bailed out, badly burned in the legs. He never flew in combat again.

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