cpt. av. Petre Coles

Recon Observer

Born: 27 September 1912, Pietrosita, Dambovita


  • 22 June - 16 October 1941: 21st Observation Squadron
  • 1942 - 23 August 1944: Photo Section of the 1st Information Flotilla
  • 24 August 1944 - 12 May 1945: Special Squadron of the 6th Information Flotilla

Combat missions: N/A

Victories: -


  • Virtutea Aeronautica Order Gold Cross class
  • Eiserne Kreuz 2nd class

War episode:

On 6 July 1941, the crew under the command of lt. av. Petre Coles was assigned an observation mission near Gerca. The pilot, slt. av. Gheorghe Cherciu, climbed to 1500 m and set course to the objective, which they reached after more than an hour. Lt. av. Coles noted all the Soviet troops movements they managed to spot, as well as the front line situation. The IAR-39 returned safely to the airfield. However, the squadron's CO asked for volunteers for another mission, in the Hotin area, in order to determine if the town had been taken by Romanian troops or not. Slt. Cherciu wanted badly to fly and lt. av. Coles agreed to volunteer. They took off and climbed to 1000 m. The mission was going well and it seemed that there would be no problems. Suddenly the pilot's cockpit was hit by several bullets. Lt. av. Coles thought that the friendly AAA was firing at them and ordered the machine-gunner, serg. Petre Neamtu, to fire a flare, but as he turned back, he saw slt. av. Cherciu, who was wounded, telling him to take over the controls. He took the extra stick and installed it. In the meantime the machine-gunner started to fire at the I-16 which had attacked them, but he was also wounded and could not continue. Left practically alone and defenseless, lt. av. Petre Coles headed back towards the river Prut at treetop height, to limit the fighter's attack possibilities. When the I-16 got on his tail and started to fire, he used his superior maneuverability to avoid the bullets. Then the fighter again took an attack position and so on. Finally the Soviet came very close, within several meters on his right and watched. Then he increased the throttle and made a turn in front of the damaged IAR-39 and left. Lt. av. Coles had managed to reach the Prut. But his troubles were not over, as the aircraft was experiencing serious engine and structural problems. He found a field and managed to put it down with difficulty (the observer did not have a brake). The biplane capsized. He managed to break the window and get out. With the help of a peasant lt. Coles took out the body of slt. av. Cherciu and the wounded serg. Neamtu, who died the next day in a hospital.

He is presently living in Bucharest


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