slt. av. Ion Vonica

Fighter Pilot

Born: 1918, Pui, Hunedoara county


  • 22 June 1941 - 27 August 1941: 8th Fighter Group

Combat missions: 41

Victories: 2 confirmed + 1 on the ground


  • Virtutea Aeronautica Gold Cross class with one bar

Died: 17 Seprember 1941, Bucharest (in hospital)


Ion Vonica was born in 1918 in the Pui village, Hunedoara county. In 1929 he was admitted the first into the Military High School in Targu Mures and kept this position throughout the eight years he attended it. He graduated with the maximum grade possible, something extremely rare in that period, and did not need to pass an exam to be admitted in the Air Force Officer School in Bucharest. He finished it in 1939 and received the rank of sublocotenent (2nd lt.).

Slt. av. Ion Vonica was assigned to the 13th Observation Squadron on Saulesti airfield. After one year, in October 1940, he was selected for the Fighter School at Ghimbav. In 1941, as Romania was gearing up for war, he joined the 41st Fighter Squadron, which was equipped with the new IAR-80s.

On 1 July his squadron joined the 8th Fighter Group on the front in Bessarabia and on 12 its first kills were scored. Soon, the former Romanian province was retaken on 26 July and the IAR-80s moved to the airfield near Comrat, in southern Besarabia, from where they supported the 4th Army's attack on Odessa.

On 14 August 1941, the 41st Fighter Squadron strafed the VVS-ChF seaplane base north of Odessa, at Hadjibey Liman. When he was returning from the mission he couldn't get the landing gear out. For 30 minutes he maneuvered desperately above the airfield, trying to make it come out, but without success. Vonica had to make a belly landing and damaged his IAR-80A no. 65 in the process.

On 25 August he was part of a formation, which protected several S-79Bs. They saw 8 I-16s climbing to meet the bombers and the IARs dived and attacked them. In the following dogfight, three Ratas were claimed shot down, one of which by slt. av. Ion Vonica. The same day, he took part in an attack on the Soviet seaplane base at Fomina Balka and destroyed one of them. It was a very good day for him, but his luck will soon run out.

Two days later, on 27 August, at 16:25 slt. av. Ion Vonica took off leading a patrula (Romanian for Schwarm) of IAR-80As in a free-hunt mission over the Dalnik-Vakarzhany area. They reportedly encountered 12 I-16s attacking the Romanian infantry. The four Romanian fighters engaged them without waiting for the other patrula. It seems that Vonica's radio wasn't functioning. Despite the numerical inferiority, he managed to shoot one I-16 down and adj. av. Teodor Zabava got another two. But the IAR-80A no. 73 flown by slt. av. Ion Vonica was hit in the fuel tank and caught fire. He had to abandon it and jump out, but suffered serious burns.

He was taken to a field hospital and then moved to Bucharest, where he died, despite the doctors efforts, on 17 September 1941. He was awarded the Virtutea Aeronautica Order Gold Cross class with one bar posthumously. He had taken part into 41 missions and 5 dogfights and shot down two aircraft and destroyed another one on the ground.

Author: Victor Nitu
Antoniu D., Cicos G. Vanatorul IAR-80, istoria unui erou necunoscut, Editura MODELISM, 2000

Berechete I. Aviatorul Vonica Ion, Aviatia No. 24/2000

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