cpt. av. Alexandru Serbanescu


Fighter Pilot

Born: 17 May 1912, Colonesti


Combat missions: 590

Victories: 47 confirmed + 8 probable


Died: 18 August 1944, Romania (KIA)


Picture from "Rumanian Air Force, the prime decade 1938-1947" by Dénes Bernád, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1999

Cpt. av. Alexandru Serbanescu is the second from the right in this photo.

Alexandru Serbanescu is one of the leading aces of Aeronautica Regala Româna (ARR) in WWII. He was born in 1912. In 1933 he graduated the Infantry Officer School and was assigned to the 3rd Mountain Battalion, near Brasov. He was very appreciated by his superiors and in 1938 he was promoted to the rank of locotenent (1st lt.). After the School of Aerial Observers in 1939 he was admitted in the School of Air Force Officers, where, after graduation, he served as infantry training instructor. After the beginning of "Barbarossa", Serbanescu requested a transfer to the Fighter Pilot School near Rosiorii de Vede.

On 22 August 1942 he was assigned to the 7th Fighter Group, equipped with Bf-109Es, which was deployed on the front at Stalingrad. He flew his first war mission on 2 September 1942. His first kill was a Yak on 17 September and the second came on 25 September.

He distinguished himself during the retreat from Stalingrad's airfields in a dramatic battle. When Soviets broke the German and Romanian defense in November 1942 and appeared near the Karpovka airfield, where the 7th Fighter Group was stationed, Serbanescu organized very well the defense of the airbase. His infantry experience was in that case very useful. Serbanescu had only limited resources: two AAA batteries (one of 37 mm Rheinmetall guns and one of 75 mm VIckers-Resita guns), the 20 mm guns on teh Bf-109Es and a company of ill-equipped and trained soldiers. The Romanian camouflaged positions and well led defense stopped teh Russian tank attacks on the airfield during next the 2 days. Using the Bf 109's 20 mm guns like antitank weapons on the ground (by lifting the airpalne's tail on barrels) was a unique case of airplane-tank duel. On 23 November 1942 the Romanians evacuated 8 Bf-109E (another 3 were lost because they had to take off under fire and were hit). Each airplane carried two or three people. They left behind many of the soldiers that kept fighting to the last minute and important quantities of ammo (1785 bombs, 341500 7.92 mm shells and 6860 20 mm shells). Next they were stationed on the Morozovskaya and Tachinskaya airfields.

Profile courtesy of Bogdan Patrascu

This Bf-109E was apparently used by lt. av. Alexandru Serbanescu in the 7th Fighter Group during 1942. Note the six victory bars on it.

He shot down a Hurricane on 20 January near Kudrief. At the end of February, the Mixed Group (elements of the 5th Bomber Group and of the 7th Fighter Group) under the command of lt. cdor. av. Nicolae Iosifescu was in a poor state. The men and the equipment were in badly need of rest. It was retreated in Romania to be rebuilt. On 6 March 1943, Alexandru Serbanescu was promoted to the rank of capitan (captain). The Group received the new Bf-109G, which was a major imrpovement over the old Emil. On 29 March, the group was assigned to the JG 3 Udet and cpt. av. Serbanescu was given the command of the 57th Squadron. Until 1 June, when the Group was reassigned to the Romanian Air Corps, Serbanescu scored another 4 kills (2 Yak-7s and 2 La-5s).

On 26 June, Serbanescu and other 3 comrades were patrolling in the Kirpischevo-Rumianky sector. They were attacked by 20-22 Spitfires. In the following dogfight, cpt. av. Serbanescu, adj. av. Mucenica and adj. av. Chirvasuta got one each. Adj. av. Laurentiu Catana went to the ground together with the Soviet he had clashed with, after shooting down another two Spitfires.

On 13 July, the best Romanian patrula (ROmanian for Schwarm) at that time (Serbanescu, Milu and Mucenica) was protecting a Romanian Ju-88A4 formation. They were attacked by 10 Soviet fighters. Serbanescu fired upon a Russian that was on Milu's tail, but he got away. Then another one suddenly appeared in front of him and he shot it down. He then found the first plane he attacked and this time he didn't miss.

On 17 and 18 July, cpt. av. Serbanescu shot down 6 planes. On 18, he was on patrol with another 3 airplanes in the Kuybashev area. After 5-6 min they saw about 10-12 Soviet fighters and engaged them. It didn't take long and two Yak-1s were going down in flames, both claimed by Serbanescu. He took off on another patrol in the same area. They soon found a large formation of Il-2s (18-20) escorted by 10-12 fighters. He and his wingman, adj. av. Mucenica, attacked the Sturmoviks, while the others protected them. Serbanescu fired three times and finally the Soviet went down, right in front the the positions he was supposed to attack. The enemy fighters forced the ace to defend himself. Even so he managed to attack another Il-2, which left a trail of smoke behind it as it was heading to base.

Profile courtesy of Bogdan Patrascu

Cpt. av. Serbanescu is standing near the Bf-109G2 he used in the summer of 1943.

He continued to shoot planes down in August (in total he scored ten). Thus he was rewarded the Eiserne Kreuz 1st class on 17 August. On 20 August he was wounded in the face, but superficially, and on 30 August he received the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class, the highest Romanian military honor, together with cpt. av. Constantin Cantacuzino, lt. av. Teodor Greceanu, slt. av. Ion Dicezare and Of. echip. cls. III Ioan Milu. They were the best Romanian officer fighter pilots at the time, which by that date had shot down more than 100 Soviet planes.

On 10 October, cpt. av. Alexandru Serbanescu was on patrol with other 3 pilots (Muresan, Nicoara and Neacsu) after they had escorted some Ju-88A4s. They spotted Il-2s and were getting ready to jump them, when they were themselves surprised by Soviet fighters. Muresan was the first shot down. Nicoara "landed" in the Azov Sea, which is very shallow and he simply stood on his airplane and the water was only at his waist. He was later picked up by a German boat. Serbanescu, in flames and with five Soviets on his tail, managed to reach the lines of the Romanian 4th Mountain Division and crash landed. That evening he was already at the 7th Fighter Group's airfield. The Soviet radio announced that the ROmanian unit was destroyed. The second day, a Romanian pilot managed to get through to a Soviet airbase and drop a message that invited them to see that the Group was still there. Obviously none showed up.

On 23 October, the 9th Fighter Group replaced the tired 7th Fighter Group, but Serbanescu and the other aces remained. He kept fighting and shooting down airplanes and on 13 February 1944 he was named the Group's commander. The Soviets were now in Romania and had already occupied northern Bessarabia and Moldavia, but they were stopped after some fierce fighting, in which the pilots had a very important role. On 22 May, after escorting 12 bombers, Serbanescu came to the aid of cpt. av. Popescu-Ciocanel and his wingmen, which were under attack by Yaks and Aircobras. He managed to shoot down 2 P-39s and reached the number of 40 victories.

On 11 June, Serbanescu shot down his first American airplane: a B-17, his 45th victory. It was followed by 2 Mustangs on 31 July and on 4 August, which were his last kills.

On 18 August 1944, Alexandru Serbanescu took off for his last mission. In that day he and his 12 wingmen, together with 12 other planes from the 7th Fighter Group, attacked a swarm of Mustangs and Lightnings. When lt. av. Dobran and adj. av. Dârjan tried to clear his tail it was to late. His last words were: "I'm going down...". Apparently his radio wasn't functioning properly and he could not hear his wingmen's warnings.

After the death of Serbanescu, all the fighters were retreated in front of the Americans until a new strategy will be adopted. Five days later, on 23 August 1944, Romania signed the armistice with the Allies.

Serbanescu died in the line of duty like a real hero. He had 47 confirmed victories and 8 probable. He is on the second position in the Romanian fighter pilots hierarchy after prince Constantin Cantacuzino (56 confirmed victories). Today a boulevard in Bucharest bears his name and passes very close to the Baneasa airfield. Each year, on 18 August, veterans, air force officers and aviation enthusiasts gather at his tomb to commemorate him.

Bibliography: Vasile Tudor, "Un nume de legenda - Cpt. av. erou Alexandru Serbanescu", Editura MODELISM, 1998.

The tomb of Alexandru Serbanescu
The text reads: Hero cpt. av. fighter Alexandru Serbanescu fallen for the motherland on 18 August 1944, in battle with the American bombers - Knight of the "Mihai Viteazul" Order

Soldiers of the 30th Guard Regiment by his tomb during the ceremony comemorating 60 years since he was killed in aciton


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