Picture from "Pumnul tarii - Grupul 5 Bombardament greu" by Dan Stoian, MODELISM, 1999
Slt. av. Dan Stoian
This interview was taken by Victor Nitu and Claudiu Stumer in June 2002
Claudiu Stumer: Present yourself, please!
Dan Stoian: I am cdor. av. Dan Stoian, former Ju-88 pilot during the war. I was born in Iasi, on 13 November 1919. I went to school first at Iasi, then to the Military High School in Cernauti and again at Iasi. My passion for aviation began when I was 9 years old. My step-father, col. Nicolae Raducanescu went to the Flight School in Tecuci in 1920-21. He then met my mother and when he asked her to marry him she made him choose between her and the airplanes. So he renounced and transferred back to the infantry, but his love of flying remained.
At Iasi there was an aviation flotilla and he took me with him when he went to visit his former colleagues. I was 9 or 10 years old. It was 10 May [Romania's national day during the monarchy] and there was suppose to be a parade. They invited my father to fly with them and then I seized the opportunity and started to say: "Take me with you! Take me with you!". He didn't want to first, but the pilot insisted and so he accepted. Of course the flying suit and helmet did not fit me. I had a peakless cap. My mother knew that we left for the airfield and she told my father: "Nicule, don't you take him in the airplane!". But we ignored this, I flew and I loved it. When we got out of the aircraft, my father told me: "Don't tell your mother about this!" "Sure, father!". At home, mother: "So, what did you do?" Father: "I flew in formation over Iasi etc, etc", but then she saw that the edge of the peakless cap was torn: "What did you do to it?" "Well, mom, there was a very strong wind!" "What wind? There was no wind today! You flew!" I was holding the cap in order not to lose it.
Later, my mother was very glad that being so passionate about aviation and air-modelism I was not out playing football or chasing girls when I got older. I seldom played football. But I preferred to build models, of which some could even fly.
I finished the Military High School, where I had a scholarship, so the accommodation, meals, books etc. were free, and I had the obligation to go to a military school. When I told my mother that I wanted to become a pilot, she almost had a crisis: "It would have been better to kill you when you were little. After raising you all these years and now you want to die in an airplane!?" "One doesn't die just like that, mom!". But she just did not want to let me. However, during the debate she said that she would let me go anywhere else. So I seized the opportunity and told her: "Then I will join the Navy", which was my second favorite. "Very well, I will sign the consent". In that period, the full age was at 21 and since I was 19 or 20, I needed the consent of the parents. And I went alone to Constanta for the exam, because after so many military high school years I could manage myself. They left on vacation. I had money and I haven't seen Constanta. I stayed there a few days and didn't present myself at the exams. I returned thinner, because I spent most of my money at the beach, having fun. "Well, what did you accomplish?" "I failed the medical tests". My mother, satisfied: "See! And you wanted to join the Air Force!". After 2-3 weeks, my parents received a note from the high school: "Since you son did not present himself to any military school, you must pay the difference between the scholarship and his pay". Which was over 100 000 lei, the equivalent of a house! "Where are we going to get that much money?". I knew that always there was a second exam in the autumn at the aviation school, because the available positions were not occupied. "Don't worry! I will pass the exam in autumn". Of course she had no option, but to sign the consent. So I presented myself at the exam and passed it. From here on comes the aviation period.
So, in 1939 I finished the Military High School and was admitted in the Air Force Officer School in Bucharest, in the Cotroceni neighborhood. The building was demolished one or two years ago. First we had theory classes and in the spring of 1940 we started to fly from the Otopeni airfield. The first airplane I flew was the excellent Fleet F-10G, which was easy to fly, but of course at the beginning I thought that I will never be able to do it. We done all the aerobatics on it and then we received our war pilot license, but on an old wreck: the Potez XXV, which was going to be phased out of service. Anyway, I got my license in 1941. We finished the school on 10 May and we all received the rank of sublocotenent [2nd lt.]. Then came the Piloting Improvement School at Brasov where we flew again on single engine aircraft: the IAR-27, a light transition airplane, and then the Nardi FN-305, a very good aerobatic airplane. The selection for the different branches (fighters bombers, recce etc.) was done on the latter. It consisted of a strict aerobatic program over the airfield where the commission was situated. It included a fast roll, with the condition to end it on the same direction without losing altitude. The Nardi was very maneuverable and one had to give the command to stop the roll with a quarter of a rotation before. And probably I was a little late and didn't get out on the same direction. So I returned and made another two passes and this time I got it right. When I landed, the guys on the airfield told me: "Sucker, why did you make another two? The commission was not even watching you anymore." The commission then asked me the exact same thing. "Well, the first I didn't make quite right and I wanted to make it perfectly" "Good, your conscientious! To the bombers!" Although I would have liked to become a fighter pilot, I ended up at the bombers. However, this did not bother me later, because a bomber pilot is required to have ample technical knowledge.
In September we began the bomber classes. The twin-engine flight school was also at Brasov and was under the command of cpt. av. Mihail Pavloschi. So I started flying on the Fw-58, a gentle airplane, I would say, which had all the modern equipment for that time: retractable landing gear, flaps, auto-pilot, radio-guided navigation etc. This formed us as beginners. However it was not a warplane, but a school plane. It reached only 200-220 km/h. Then came the real bombers: JRS-79Bs on Zilistea-Buzau airfield and in the winter of 1942 I received the bomber pilot license on the Savoia. The no-visibility flight school at Popesti-Leordeni followed. We flew on Fw-58s and He-111s which had the proper equipment, unlike the Savoias. I finished this one in the spring of 1943 and was declared ready for the front.
We were sent to a dive bomber school at Odessa, which had German instructors and airplanes: Ju-88A-4s. My first impression when I climbed in, was that, in comparison with the Savoia, which was a big "warehouse", in which one could walk from one end to the other, this airplane was too narrow. After I started flying it, I fell in love. It fit me like a glove. The cockpit was very well thought, the instruments were grouped on categories: engines, navigation, etc, but narrow and the four of us were very crowded. I was in the left seat, the observer was in the right one and back-to-back with me was the radio operator, who also had a machine-gun. On the right side, in the back there was another machine-gun which was operated by the observer, in case of necessity. The gunner sat on his belly, underneath us.
A funny side note would be regarding the powerful engines the Ju-88 possessed. Each had 1250 HP, so 2500 HP. Both propellers were spinning in the same direction and a very powerful torque effect was born and the airplane had the tendency to go left. The two throttle sticks (one for each engine) were situated on the left side of the pilot. The take-off technique was to push the left stick at maximum and the right one at 50%. As the airplane was picking up speed and one could use the rudder, one started to slowly push the right stick forward. This trick was not completely understood by one of our comrades, who probably was not so well suited for this type of aircraft: Gheorghe Stanculescu, "nea Fane" as we called him. He can "brag" that he broke 3 airplanes in 24 hours!
The Ju-88A-4 did not have dual control. One just climbed in with the instructor and he made one or two demonstrations. I, for example, sat in the observers place. The instructor, again, emphasized how to correctly employ the throttle sticks, took off and circled the airfield a couple of times and landed. He then asked me if I understood and got out of the airplane and left me all alone. The only one that "suffered" together with me was a mechanic, whose task was to manually lower the landing gear in case it didn't come out. This was done with a hydraulic pump (about 200 pushes). He told me: "You, sir, die on your own fault, but what do I have to do with this?!". The instructor told me: "Go ahead" and, feeling confident in myself, I took off, made all the necessary maneuvers and landed. When nea Fane's turn came, he did not take the correct actions, probably being very excited, and at about 150 km/h he quit the runaway. The airplane was damaged. We ran to the site with firemen and ambulances. Nea Fane, with a red face, had already managed to get out of the airplane through the emergency exit. The German: "What happened?" "I did not maneuver the sticks correctly!". We came back to the hangar, he took another aircraft, started to take off, but went out in the same place. In the meanwhile the other had been taken away for repairs. "Did you figure out what happened?" "Yes" "The mistake it's not yours, because you are a good pilot since you got so far, but mine because I did not realize that you were too excited after the first accident. Go a take a good night sleep and tomorrow morning you take off at the first flight." The next day, he got in the Ju-88 and the exact same thing happened.
Later, during Ceausescu's time, we were asked to write some funny stories. And I wrote an article with the title "How nea Fane Stanculescu sabotaged the German war machine". My mistake was that I did not consult him first. The article was good, but he was very upset because of this.
Victor Nitu: Is he still alive?
Dan Stoian: No. And he did not speak to me after that.
After we started to feel comfortable with the Ju-88s controls we made the actual dives (it was a dive bomber school). These were done semi-automatically. There was a button on the left side of the pilot's seat, which gave the command to enter the dive. The tail planes moved and got a negative angle and the airplane entered 70 degree dive. To pull out of it one had to press the button on the stick which launched the bombs and moved the tail planes back. The pull out was very unpleasant. One was pushed into his seat by the tremendous force and had to get a good hold on the stick, because if it slipped put of the pilot's hands there was no chance to grab it again. Some say that they temporarily lost their sight, but this did not happen to me. When the plane dived, also automatically, the dive-brakes were lowered. To raise them, one had to push a button which was identical with the first one and was situated near it. This was the cause for a terrible accident. We were in the school at Odessa. Nicolae Sārghie was the pilot and together with him was another comrade, Mircea Vasiliu. He dived and pulled out. In the pull out the Ju-88 lost about 800 m. We dived from 3-4000 m to 1500 m. So about 7-800 m remained. We guessed that he accidentally pushed the dive button instead of the other one and the plane dived again. He did not have the time to do anything and hit the ground. He was my room-mate and after the accident I ran to the crash site, which was close to the airfield. The airplane simply entered the ground. I could no longer see the engines, and the wings were clipped. They only managed to find a finger or an ear.
Cdor. av. Dan Stoian, his awards and a model of a Romanian Ju-88A-4
During the night I had a dream and they were in it. They told me: "Come with us! It is nice up here!" "Go to Hell! I'm not coming!" The next day I was troubled by this dream, but nevertheless I flew again. I made two dives and, during the third, the right engine malfunctioned and I had to stop it and pull out of the dive. During the all the excitement I forgot to raise the dive-brakes. The airplane could theoretically fly with only one engine without problems, but I was very intrigued why I had such low speed: 220-230 km/h. So I desperately came to land, but from the opposite direction. In the same time a Ju-52 was also landing, but from the correct direction, so flight control fired the red flare, which ordered me to try again. I pushed the left throttle to maximum and with my eyes mostly on the instruments I carefully turned and came in for the landing with 180 km/h. The speed was so low that the airplane stopped quickly on the runaway. Then I looked and saw that the indicators for the dive-brakes were raised and figured it out: "God, what a foolish thing I did!" There was also the mechanic who by now was breathing with difficulty because of all the excitement.
I raised the dive-brakes, restarted the engines and went in the hangar. There the instructor: "Why did you leave the dive-brakes lowered?" "I forgot" "Do you realize that you could have died?" "Yes" "I must punish you for this, but I also must congratulate you. you are the only pilot I know, who landed the Ju-88 with the dive-brakes lowered and only one engine! You already handle the airplane well enough!" And that was the dive bomber school. I must mention the fact that because of the haste to send us to the front we did not launch any live bombs or practiced formation flying, which was essential for defense against the fighters.
We started to fight in the 6th Bomber Group. I remember my first mission perfectly. We had to bomb the Azov port. The weather was very good. We could clearly see the port and the ships. For bombing we had some red stripes on the Plexiglas beneath our feet, which indicated when to start the dive. Then I lowered the bombing sight which had a glowing stripe (called "the faith line"), a reticulated circle and the so-called "tie", which in fact were two head-to-head arrows. When the tie was on the objective, I just had to launch the bombs. In the meantime, the observer was telling me the altitude. We dived and, at 1500 m, we launched, pulled out and, because photography was my passion, I wanted to take pictures of the results. A fighter came after me. The pilot was Bazu Cantacuzino [Romanian top ranking ace of WWII] and drew my attention to the fact that it was dangerous to wander off the formation. This was my first bombing. others came after this. I have in total 136 bomber missions [+11 long range reconnaissance missions] and at 2 ton cargo, you can say that I launched over 250 t of bombs, both on the eastern and on the western front. I settled them all.
I sometimes had bad feelings about the next mission, especially at 25, 50 and 75 missions. Eventually I realized that I was really going to make it.
But I lost many comrades. You can imagine what I felt when I was in a mission in Russia, at Balshoy Tokmak, a very well defended target, when an airplane in the formation in front of me simply exploded in mid air. Just pulverized!
Victor Nitu: The Dem Ben Cārāc incident?
Dan Stoian: Yes. I haven't seen the AAA firing, but it was either that or a malfunction of the electrical fuse on one of the bombs. In that moment I froze! There was a rumor going that the Russians had a "death ray", some antennas which caused the bombs to explode inside the airplanes. So now I just looked around and wondered who was going to be next. But of course nothing else happened.
When we had to bomb objectives deep behind enemy lines, the fighters couldn't escort us all the way. They generally just went over the lines and returned. That is where they or others were waiting for us when we came back. Before we reached the target, the Soviet fighters attacked us. We closed up with each other and the crews started to fire. Then they left us as the AAA opened fire on us. This was the critical moment, because I had to fly perfectly leveled and with a constant speed, until I entered the dive. The Soviet AAA use this time very well generally, since we were sitting ducks. After we entered the dive, it generally lost its effectiveness. I saw explosions to the left and to the right, launched and pulled out. When we were too far for the AAA, the Soviet fighters returned.
Claudiu Stumer: Was your airplane ever hit?
Dan Stoian: I was hit both by AAA and by fighters, but nothing serious. About 8-10 times, of which 4 times I came back with only one engine, but landed and saved the aircraft and the crew.
Claudiu Stumer: Did you ever lose an airplane?
Dan Stoian: Not totally. I was hit in the right undercarriage. Always after being under fire all the crew checked if the main parts of the aircraft were OK. I approached the airfield and lowered the landing gear. The green light, which indicated if the landing gear was out, was flaring. We were at 200 m. I asked the machine-gunner, which was underneath the airplane and could see it, if it was alright and he answered that it was. I thought that the bulbe probably didn't make contact well. We touched the ground and, from 180 to 150 km/h when the wings were still sustaining the bomber, everything was OK. It then leaned to the right and there was nothing I could do. The wing was deformed, but nothing which couldn't be fixed. The important thing was that we were all alive.
Another important thing was luck. I was in a mission and we were under attack from behind and the observer moved near the radio-operator in the back. Suddenly a fighter turned and attacked us from the front, something which rarely happened. Then I leaned to the machine-gun to my right and fired to scare him and stop him from firing accurately. Nothing happened, we got away and returned to the airfield. The mechanics came, as usual, to tell them what needed to be fixed. One them asked me: "Sir, aren't you wounded?" "No!" "Well, look!". My overalls had a hole just were my heart was. I stuck my hand underneath it and expected to pull it out full of blood, but nothing! After that I figured it out: leaning, the overalls stretched. I saw the bullet when it went through the window and stopped in the seat's armor plating. When I returned to my normal position, so did the overalls and the hole was near my heart. I took the bullet out and kept it.
Claudiu Stumer: Do you still have it?
Dan Stoian: Yes, but I don't know exactly where it is. Probably in a drawer.
Victor Nitu: I know that your crew shot down an airplane.
Dan Stoian: It was hard to establish who really shot it down, because all the formation was firing. But it seems that my observer and radio-operator hit that one and our claim was confirmed.
Claudiu Stumer: What airplane was it?
Dan Stoian: Yak-7 if I remember correctly.
Victor Nitu: What did you think of the German fighters?
Dan Stoian: We were a Romanian unit, but in some missions we were escorted by German fighters, who we thought were very efficient
Victor Nitu: What can you tell us about 23 August?
Dan Stoian: Before 23 August there was an unnatural situation. My father was on the front, as battalion commander in the 13th Infantry Regiment [14th Infantry Division] at Orhei. We bombed the area several times in April when the Russian offensive was stopped. but we were getting close to 23 August and from one month we haven't flown any missions. It was as if nothing happened on the front. My father sent me messages all the time: "The Russians are massing troops and tanks and you do nothing. What's happening?". I guess that, for one month before, the coup was under prepare, because we favored the Soviet concentration of forces by not bombing them.
On 20 August, the offensive started. It was such a huge mass of tanks and trucks that the dust columns raised so high that we could no longer see the objectives. We bombed on 20, 21 and 22, but the ground troops were on the retreat. On 23 August, the last mission against the Russians was against tank columns at Negresti, near Vaslui. We landed at Ivesti. We received the order to take whatever we can and move to Tandarei. We refueled and loaded the mechanics and their tools and left to Tandarei. There came also the German liaison officer who tried to convince us to fight on beside them. We replied that we followed the orders of His Majesty the King and of the Romanian High Command and that we can't do that. A little angry he returned to his airplane and left. You realize that we were friends and that we knew each other for months. We have flown together. He took off and two idiots fired a machine-gun after him, but did not hit him. I told them: "Wise guys, do you realize that if he has bombs he can kill us all?!" The German gained altitude, came over us and dived a little. In that moment we froze, because we thought that he was going to launch the bombs. He didn't launch anything. Just waved his wings good-bye and left.
Victor Nitu: What about the Western Front?
Dan Stoian: There we fought mostly for Transylvania, but we were very annoyed by the Russians' attitude and very concerned. They stole our cars. The trucks were then driving with machine-guns on the hood, so that the soldiers could fire in case they were stopped by the Soviets. So we flew missions then from Miskolc (present-day Hungary), Zwolen (Czechoslovakia) and 9 May reached us at Piestany. Everybody was celebrating, the AAA and the small arms were firing. With a friend, Craciun Salajan, who is in the USA now, I took shelter so that we don't die in the first day of peace!
The next day, on 10 May, we were called back to the airfield because we had to fly more missions and bomb the Vlasov army, which kept fighting until 12. Some managed to reach the Americans and got away. So for us, the war was over on 12 May.
We returned home and in 1947 I was frown out of the army because I fought against the Russians and didn't approve with the annexation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina. I was practically on the streets. I finally managed to get a job as a tractor driver...
[Unfortunately, this is where the batteries on our camera died "in the line of duty"...]
[comments are mine - Victor Nitu]
Check out Dan Stoian's profile in the pilots section. Here