Born: 1913, Visina Veche, Olt county
- 22 June 1941 - 1942: 8th Fighter Group
- 1942 - 1944: 6th Fighter Group
Combat missions: over 120
Victories: 13 + 7 probable
- Virtutea Aeronautica Order Officer class
- Eiserne Kreuz 2nd class
Died: 15 July 1968
Dumitru Ilie was born in 1913 in the Oltenia region. At the beginning of the war he was an NCO in the 6th Fighter Group. In January and February of 1941 he was one of the 9 pilots from his unit to attend the fighter aviation courses organized by the German Military Mission in Romania. At the end of February, a new fighter unit, the 8th Fighter Group, was formed and it was the first one to be equipped with the Romanian built IAR-80 fighter. Adj. av. Dumitru Ilie was assigned to the 60th Fighter Squadron, part of this new group. In the four months to the beginning of military operations against the Soviet Union, the pilots strove to master the new aircraft and its weapons.
The first days of war were not very fruitful for adj. av. Dumitru Ilie and his colleagues, as the VVS fighters usually avoided dogfight and preferred to use hit and run tactics against the IAR-80s. Furthermore, on 23 June he had an accident at takeoff, when the IAR-80 no. 50 he was flying hit some sheep with the left undercarriage. He then had to land the aircraft on the belly.
It was only four days later, on 27 June, during a bomber escort mission that the formation adj. av. Dumitru Ilie was part of engaged in a bloody dogfight with Soviets I-16s. Four kills were claimed by the Romanian pilots, but one IAR-80 and his pilot were lost and adj. av. Dumitru Ilie was wounded. He managed to make another belly landing, this time with the IAR-80 no. 58, after he ran out of gas. The exact reason for this is not known, but the fuel gauges on the early IAR-80s were reported to often malfunction.
The wound did not keep him away from the front line for long. On 14 August, IAR-80s of the 8th Fighter Group strafed the seaplane base on the Khadzhibey Estuary, Northwest of Odessa. Adj. av. Dumitru Ilie was part of the patrula led by slt. av. Vasile Fortu. They came in from the sun at an altitude of 400 m. Slt. av. Fortu chose a group of 3 MBR-2 seaplanes floating close to each other and fired on them joined by adj. av. Dumitru Ilie. Following their pass, two of the three seaplanes were left burning.
He scored his first air to air kill on 23 August 1941, when a formation of 10 IAR-80s of the 8th Fighter Group was patrolling the area West of Odessa. They stumbled on a VVS bomber formation made up of 5 DB-3s escorted by 12 I-16s. The bombers dropped their load into the Black Sea and turned back towards Odessa. While the other IAR-80s engaged the I-16s, adj. av. Dumitru Ilie followed the DB-3s. He dived to an altitude below them and targeted the airplane on the left of the formation. The first burst he fired didn't have any apparent effect. After another longer burst and the left wing caught fire. The DB-3 leaned on a side and went down, eventually crashing into sea.
Three days later, on 26 August 1941, he shot down an I-16 fighter North of Odessa, while protecting a formation of the Romanian 2nd Bomber Group and on 30 August bagged another VVS bomber, a SB-2, South of Odessa. It crashed in the Romanian lines. Only one crew member survived and was taken prisoner.
Picture courtesy of mr. Cristian Teodorescu
Adj. av. Dumitru Ilie
As the siege of Odessa continued through September, so did the missions of the 8th Fighter Group in the area. On 15 September, adj. av. Dumitru Ilie was part of a bomber escort. Six VVS fighters approached the bombers. The IAR-80s were above and slt. av. Florin Mihailescu, the leader of the patrula, ordered the attack. As they dived, adj. av. Dumitru Ilie and his wingman, serg. av. Romulus Raica, opened fire on two I-16s, which tried to disengage the bombers, but were followed by the bursts of the Romanian fighters and were shot down. Each were credited with a kill.
The Odessa campaign ended in October. Adj. av. Dumitru Ilie received directly the Knight class of the Virtutea Aeronautica Order, skipping over the lower Gold Cross class. He had flown 104 missions on the front, had five confirmed kills and one probable, was wounded twice and had performed 8 ground attacks. No info has been published regarding his fifth confirmed kill or the probable one. It could be one of the seaplanes destroyed on the water, but could also be a further unknown kill.
In 1942, adj. av. Dumitru Ilie was transferred back to the 6th Fighter Group, which had changed from flying the PZL P.24E to the IAR-81, the fighter bomber version of the IAR-80. He was assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron. In September, the group began its journey to the front near Stalingrad. On the first leg of the journey, on 4 September, while adj. av. Dumitru Ilie was landing his IAR-81 no. 163 on Gorlovka airfield near Odessa, the right wheel jammed and the undercarriage broke. The nose hit the ground and the propeller was damaged. Eventually, on 9 September, the 6th Fighter Group reached the Tussov airfield near Stalingrad. Five days later, on 14 September, adj. av. Dumitru Ilie scored his first and only kills of the 1942 campaign. A patrula of IAR-80s led by. cpt. av. Ioan Cara was assigned to escort a Luftwaffe Ju-87 formation over Stalingrad. They took off at 0750 hours and met up with the bombers. Over the city they encountered a number of Yak-1s and engaged them in order to keep them away from the Stukas. In the ensuing dogfight, adj. av. Dumitru Ilie shot down two fighters, which fell east of Stalingrad. Another two were claimed by cpt. av. Cara and by slt. av. Dumitrescu.
Following the difficult Stalingrad campaign of 1942, the 62nd Fighter Squadron swallowed the remnants of the 61st, including adj. av. Dumitru Ilie. In March 1943, the squadron was stationed near Bucharest, on the Pipera airfield. It was equipped with the IAR-80B aircraft, armed with 13.2 mm heavy machine-guns. These, however, proved to be ineffective against the B-24 bombers that attacked Ploiesti on 1 August 1943, during Operation Tidal Wave. The 6th Fighter Group raised 12 fighters that intercepted a bomber formation North of Bucharest, forcing it to change course. Adj. av. Dumitru Ilie damaged two B-24s and followed them to Rosiorii de Vede, before returning to base. They were obviously considered only probable kills.
The lessons learned during this first major American raid over Romania, led to the equipping of the 6th Fighter Group with the IAR-81C, which had as main armament two 20 mm cannons. In the same time, the group was brought back up to nominal strength and Dumitru Ilie was back in the 61st Fighter Squadron. He was also promoted to the rank of adjutant major.
Starting with April 1944, the 15th US Air Force regularly bombed Romania and the 6th Fighter Group was in the front line of the defense. 10 June 1944 was the pinnacle of its operational record. 23 IAR-81Cs clashed with the P-38s of the 71st Fighter Squadron (1st Fighter Group) at low altitude, resulting in the shooting down of 14 American fighters, for the loss of 4 IAR-81Cs, two of which from a mid-air maneuver during the attack. Adj. maj. av. Dumitru Ilie claimed two P-38s shot down that day. They were his last confirmed kills of the war. Thirteen days later, during an attack on a formation of B-17s, adj. maj. av. Dumitru Ilie was wounded. However, he managed to bring his aircraft back to the airfield.
For his impressive military record, he was awarded the Officer class of the Virtutea Militara Order in 1946, a distinction only given to 25 pilots during WWII.
In 1947 he fled the country with an airplane, flying low-level along the Danube from Corabia and then across the Black Sea to Istanbul, possibly transporting a group of fugitives from the Communist regime that was taking over Romania. He eventually ended up in Cleveland, Ohio. He returned for visits in 1966 and then in 1968, when he passed away in his native village at the age of 55.