Picture courtesy of Ioan Marinciu
Adj. av. Ioan Marinciu
This interview was taken by Claudiu Stumer in 2003 in Bucharest.
Claudiu Stumer: Sir, please start give me a short account of how your
career in the ARR evolved, from where did you get the passion for flying?
Ioan Marinciu: I was born in 1916 at Bacau, but grew up in the Cadrilater
[Southern Dobruja] near Balcic, where my father had received a piece of land for his service
during WWI. When I was a teenager and I knew that I would join the military, I wanted to
go to the Navy, I could visit places, learn something ... I hated land! Balcic had an
airfield and I went to aerial meetings. I even made a flight and started to like it, even
more than the Navy.
But my father wanted me to make a career in agriculture. After several adventures I made
it to Bucharest, where I went to ARPIA [acronym for Romanian Association for the History
and Propaganda of Aviation] for information. One of the conditions was the parents'
approval. My relative who supported me in Bucharest asked me if I did, so I took the train
to Brasov, where I was admitted in the local air club. Of the 250 who got in (out of 500
candidates), only 71-73 remained after the medical examination. I was among the first and
went to the civilian flight school at Ghimbav. I liked it very much. We had an Italian
instructor, a very nice and good pilot. He had flown on seaplanes before. When he landed,
one could hear the grass ... he was that good. With the ones he had noticed that were
feeling comfortable in the airplane he used to execute loopings, without seatbelts. Done
correctly, one does not need a seatbelt, because of the centrifugal force. I enjoyed it!
After I finished, I went to the Military Flight School at Zilistea, near Buzau. I
had a good record and didn't have problems being assigned to the fighters. As a side note,
I used to "nail" a few moments of aerobatics far away from the airfield. But I was caught
once doing a roll and slapped 2 times. The characterization the instructor (Sendrea) made
me sounded like this: He will be a good fighter pilot, but needs to be watched carefully!
Probably because of the unathorized roll.
I graduated in the spring 1942. Then came a period of training with the Germans at
Galati, where I passed from the PZL to the IAR-80. In the summer of 1943, after Galati, I
went to Tiraspol, again with German instructors. At the end of that summer I was sent on
the front, to the 7th Fighter Group, in the squadron of cpt. av. Dan Scurtu [the 58th].
Bâzu [Cantacuzino] was also there. The missions were generally bomber or assault escorts.
Very rarely free hunting. But if we had enough fuel after we brought the bombers back, we
would return to the front.
Claudiu Stumer: How was the Bf-109G?
Ioan Marinciu: The 109 was a good airplane. I don't remember encountering
formations of less than 10 Soviet fighters. We were two or four, but we managed.
In Russia the distances were huge. If one asked a local ist it far to that or that city,
they replied "A little! Some 70-100 km!" The Soviet night bombings
were interesting. The Po-2s came, launched small bombs or flares and buzzed away. Their task
was mainly to disturb us. One night I was in my room with adj. av. Dârjan and we were trying
to cover the windows with blankets, so that we could keep the lights on during the night. I
was beating the nails in with the hammer, when a Po-2 appeared and the bombs started to
fall. Dârjan yelled: Bimbi! The Bomb!. But he didn't get to finish and I was already
on my belly, under the table! Another time we were heading towards
the messhall at night, when the Po-2s attacked. There were ditches all around and everybody
jumped for cover, where we could. Ion Ionita could not take shelter entirely and his feet
remained outside the ditch and were engulfed in an explosion. He started yelling: That's
it! My feet are gone! Actually he was fine.
Ioan Marinciu holding a photo of him jumping out of a Bf-109
What I admired most at the Germans was their organization. We were included in their
supply system. We had special rations for airmen and sailors. We didn't lack anything. If
one had a problem at the aircraft, one landed and it was fixed.
Once I was at Nikolayev with Dârjan in a flea market. While walking around suddenly
two girls appeared and took us by the arms. Usually one had to be careful what kind of
girls they were if they did this. But we soon realized what was happening. The Germans had
surrounded the market and where taking people away for different labors, especially young
people. We got them out. The Germans didn't ask us anything because we were wearing Romanian
uniforms. We stayed friends with the girls afterwards... We were viewed better than the
Germans in the East and better than the Russians in the West. In Miskolc [Hungary] we
lived in the house of two women (mother and daughter). One night I awoke to see two Russians
in my room. I never locked the door. Later, after I moved to Bucharest I learned that is
better to do it. When they saw the uniform, the Soviets left and there were no problems.
The only thing that was missing the next day was a "Maresal Antonescu" cigarette pack.
Claudiu Stumer: Where they fans of the marshal?
Ioan Marinciu: Probably. Anyway the host was pretty upset that I hadn't
locked the door.
Then our Squadron returned to Romania [at the end of October 1943] and was located on
the Pipera airfield, near Bucharest, assigned to air defense duties. The Americans came...
My first mission was on 4 April , when they did a lot of damage. I lived at the
Chibrit Square, near the railway station. When I returned home that day I was able to see
the disaster. I stumbled upon an unescorted bomber and I managed to set one of its engines
on fire [on 11 June 1944]. I then followed him to the Bulgarian border. It was loosing
altitude and I pitied him. I waved my wings and left.
Picture courtesy of Mrs. Balta
Bf-109G and mechanics
Because of their losses, the Americans came with escorts. There were usually two levels
of fighters above the bombers and it was hard to get close to them. To achieve some results
we fired in the bomber formation and, if we got lucky, we managed to hit something. Our
goal was to make them drop their bombs before they reached the target. If a bomber was hit
and left the formation, it became easy prey, that is if we managed to evade the USAAF
fighters. But even then it wasn't a walk in the park. One problem with the Americans was
that they kept firing at you after you had been hit and smoke was coming out of the
Claudiu Stumer: Did they fire in parachutes?
Ioan Marinciu: In the parachute or in the man hanging on it. This was
to confirm their kill. Probably to be sure that the gun-camera photographed the victory they
fired several shots afterwards. I heard that the Bulgarians got so upset, that they stated
that if the Americans kept shooting at the parachutes, they would burn the prisoners alive.
I don't know if they did it or if it had any results though.
On 15 June 1944 we flew a more special mission against the Americans. We joined the
Germans at Mizil airfield, where they mounted external fuel tanks on our airplanes. About
30 Bf-109Gs headed towards northwest to the Carpathians, then we followed the mountains
and crossed the Danube near Turnu Severin and entered Yugoslavia at 6000-6500 m between
Nis and Belgrade. There we met about 30 Mustangs and engaged them. Everyone dropped the
fuel tanks and the 60 fighters formed a large swarm. The Mustangs were more maneuverable
and faster. I heard cpt. av. Toma Lucian on the radio: We achieve nothing like this! Gain
altitude and attack them from a more favorable position. Only a few of us left the
swarm and started to climb. I was the captain's wingman and kept formation on his right,
100 m behind him. Suddenly a Mustang passes in front of me to the left and got behind
Toma Lucian and was preparing to fire. This was a very good situation for me. I maneuvered,
aimed and fired all the weapons. I should have seen him fall. But in the same time another
Mustang fired at me and I felt the bullets hitting the fuselage. Being damaged I tried to
escape. I made a short turn underneath him and dived. I didn't know if he followed me.
Claudiu Stumer: Didn't you use the mirrors?
Ioan Marinciu: Yes, but it could have been a dead angle. I didn't see him
so I made a lot of evading maneuvers to get away.
Claudiu Stumer: Where you hit?
Ioan Marinciu: I, personally, no. The airplane was.
Claudiu Stumer: In the engine?
Ioan Marinciu: No, in the fuselage. The radio and the compass were knocked
out. I dived and, because of the speed, the windows were covered by ice and I couldn't see.
I was afraid to use the window cleaning system, because I didn't know where I had been hit
and I could have been on fire and the cleaning system used gasoline. But after a while the
ice disappeared. It was nice and sunny outside and there was peace and quiet behind me. I
watched the fuel indicator carefully to see if I was losing any. I couldn't tell, but I was
anyway out of action so I headed for Romania. The compass and the radio did not function, so
I used the sun (knowing the hour) to get to the nearest airfield (Turnu Severin). But there
I saw that I had enough fuel so I went to Rosiorii de Vede. I observed the aircraft and saw
the two holes in the fuselage and realized that the fuel tank was intact. I met someone I
knew, Ciocârlan, who had picked some mushrooms, so I joined him for some fried mushrooms.
I then refueled and headed for base. There I found out that adj. av. Hapaianu was killed.
Cpt. av Toma Lucian didn't know anything about a Mustang that attacked him, so I managed
to hit it before it got to fire. Its fate is unknown to me. Maybe it was damaged like me
and headed home.
After 23 August I shot down a Stuka and forced a Fi-156 Storch to land in a corn field,
but I didn't manage to hit him, because of its superior maneuverability. On 22 August we
were on Ciora-Doicesti airfield. The next day we went to Popesti-Leordeni, which was
occupied by the Germans. As we approached the base the AAA fired on us until they realized
who we were. Then we defended the capital from the Luftwaffe bombers. At the beginning
of September we left to Turnisor, near Sibiu, and flew missions from there. Then we moved
to Turkeve. But we three aircraft remained behind at Sibiu and after a week three of us
were sent back to get them. It had rained and the runaway was in a poor condition and we
stayed a couple of days at Sibiu. The three were Butuca Negreanu, Constantin Ilie and I.
Finally we were able to take off, but because of the fog we couldn't go westwards and had
to go to Cluj to the Someseni airfield. The runaway was "occupied" by a heard of cattle. We
made several low passes over them, but the cows didn't move, so we could not land. We were
low on fuel, especially me, who took off first. We went to Blaj and landed there. My engine
stopped a few moments after. The soldiers there requested our papers, which we did not have.
But after a few phone calls we cleared things up.
I flew a lot with Bâzu Cantacuzino, as his wingman. On 23 December 1944, I had to escort
several Stukas. The previous day my airplane had mulfunctioned and was still under repairs.
But lt. av. Mircea Senchea gave me Constantin Fotescu's Bf-109. We found the dive bombers
at the rendezvous point and we escorted them to the objective. Suddenly two 109s appeared
and attacked the Stukas. I tried to contact lt. Senchea, but the radio wasn't working. I
attacked the German fighters, firing to intimidate them. They gave up on the Ju-87s and
came after me. I got on the tail of one of them and the other got behind me. There were some
windmills nearby. The Stukas finished their mission and went home. I should have done the
same, but the fighter spirit prevented me to do it. I saw another two 109s closing in on
me from a 90 degrees angle. I didn't take any evasive maneuvers, since I didn't consider
them a threat from that position. They fired and amazingly they hit me. The controls were
cut off and I entered a spin on my left. At 3000 m I tried to take it out and I managed to
immediately. I didn't know what happened, but I could only fly in a strait line. The four
were behind me and were taking turns at firing at me. I was looking for a proper place to
put it down, as close to our lines as possible. I was wounded, but I finally managed to
crash land the aircraft. Smoke started to come out of the engine and I jumped out fearing
that the ammunition would explode, noticing happily that by legs "functioned".
Claudiu Stumer: Where your legs hit?
Ioan Marinciu: A little both, my left hand and the nose. Not by
bullets or splinters, but by pieces of glass from the instruments.
Claudiu Stumer: And what did the Germans do?
Ioan Marinciu: They passed over me and then disappeared. They did not
I reached to my nose and threw down a big blood clot. I thought I lost the tip of my
nose. A Soviet 23 ton truck came and they had a first aid kit. They bandaged my wounds
and took me to a hospital. But there were no anesthetics and I was taken to another one,
where two nurses held me while the doctor took out the pieces of glass "live". A few days
after, Bâzu came to see me. He wanted to kiss me, but couldn't, because my entire face was
covered with bandages...
[comments are mine - Victor Nitu]