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Pilot profiles
cpt. av. Horia Agarici
lt. av. Florin Alexiu
lt. av. Tudor Andrei
lt. av. Titus Axente
lt. av. Mircea "Gicu" Badulescu
lt. cdor. av. Corneliu Batacui
slt. av. Constantin Balta
adj. av. Mihai Belcin
lt. av. Emil Boian
lt. av. Romulus Bucsa
cpt. av. (r) Constantin "Bâzu" Cantacuzino
adj. av. Dumitru Chera
lt. av. Serghei Ciachir
lt. av. Ioan Cioroiu
slt. av. Vasile Claru
adj. av. Nicolae Cojocaru
cpt. av. Petre Coles
lt. av. Decebal "Desi" Constantinescu
cdor. av. George Davidescu
adj. av. Traian Dârjan
cpt. av. Dumitru Deica
cpt. av. (r) Ioan Dicezare
lt. av. Ion Dobran
lt. av. Gheorghe Dobrescu
lt. av. Constantin Dragomir
cpt. av. Boris Ferderber
adj. sef av. Spridon Focsaneanu
lt. av. Ioan Galea
lt. av. Vasile Gavriliu
slt. av. Rene Gânescu
slt. av. Costin Georgescu
lt. av. Emil Georgescu
lt. av. Gheorghe "Gâga" Georgescu
cpt. av. Marin Ghica
lt. av. Teodor Greceanu
lt. av. Eusebie Hladiuc
adj. maj. av. Dumitru Ilie
lt. av. Gabriel Ionescu
adj. maj. av. Petre Ionescu-Conta
adj. stg. av. Aurelian Livovschi
of. ec. cls. III Ioan Maga
lt. av. Tanase Mancu
cpt. av. Alexandru Manoliu
adj. av. Ioan Marinciu
cpt. av. Eugen "Matra" Marinescu
slt. av. Nicolae Sixtus Maxim
of. echip. cls. III av. Ion Milu
lt. av. Gheorghe Mociornita
lt. av. Lazar Munteanu
slt. av. Vasile Nasturas
lt. av. Traian "Ciocan" Nicolae
slt. av. Dumitru Pasare
adj. maj. av. (r) Vasile Pascu
lt. av. Alexandru Paun
lt. av. (r) Nicolae Polizu-Micsunesti
lt. av. Horia Pop
cpt. av. Gheorghe Popescu-Ciocanel
adj. av. Victor Popescu
lt. cdor. av. Alexandru "Popicu" Popisteanu
cpt. av. Eusebie Popovici
cpt. av. Traian Popteanu
cpt. av. Ion Profir
adj. sef av. Stefan "Grecu" Pucas
cpt. av. Craciun "Sbilt" Salajan
cpt. cdor. av. Ioan Sandu
cpt. av. Wilhelm Schmaltz
cpt. av. Dorin Sculi
adj. stg. av. (r) Niculae Sculy Logotheti
cpt. av. Alexandru Serbanescu
adj. sef av. Nicolae Stan
lt. av. Virgil "Ghinghi" Stanculescu
lt. av. Dragos Stinghe
lt. av. Dan Stoian
cpt. av. Gheorghe Stroici
cpt. av. Virgil Trandafirescu
slt. av. (r) Sorin Tulea
slt. av. Florin Vasilovschi
adj. av. (r) Tiberiu Vinca
cpt. av. Dan Vizanti
slt. av. Ion Vonica
slt. av. (r) Sorin Tulea

Bomber Pilot

Born: 11 October 1915, Roman


  • 22 June - 15 December 1941: 5th Bomber Group
  • 1 January 1943 - 7 May 1944: 78th Bomber Squadron

Combat missions: 60

Victories: -


  • Virtutea Aeronautica Order Gold Cross class with two bars
  • Eiserne Kreuz 2nd class
  • Coroana Romaniei Knight class with Virtute Militara ribbon

Died: 7 September 2005, Bucharest


Picture courtesy of Mr. Serban Dutescu

Slt. av. (r) Sorin Tulea on his motorcycle

Sorin Tulea was born on 11 October 1915 in Roman. However, he grew up in Bucharest. His mother remarried when he was only 7 years old with Constantin Matasaru, who eventually became the board chairman of the Steaua Romana Oil Company in the 30s. Needless to say his family enjoyed a very good material situation. His stepfather also turned out to be a strong character and "made a man" out of Sorin Tulea, as the pilot wrote in his memoirs many years later.

His first contact with aviation, which planted the seeds of his future passion, was in 1926 when the young Tulea saw the film Wings. The following year he made his first flight as passenger onboard a Farman Titan piloted by cpt. av. Romeo Popescu, during a public action to familiarize schoolchildren with airplanes.

In 1936, Sorin Tulea entered the Mircea Cantacuzino Flight School, where many other famous Romanian pilots learned to fly. A good example would be the top scoring ace of WWII: Constantin Cantacuzino. He had as flight instructor adj. sef av. Virgil Chifulescu, who he would later meet while serving with the 1st Bomber Flotilla.

Besides flying, Sorin Tulea also had several other "extreme" hobbies like skiing or climbing. He was part of the team that laid out the first level 5 (very difficult) climbing track in Romania: "Trei Surplombe" on the Galbinele Valley in the Bucegi Mountains. Together with him in this endeavor were Nicolae Baticu (who was also a pilot and served in an observation squadron during WWII), George Niculescu and the legendary Emilian Cristea.

After graduating from the prestigious "Gheorghe Lazar" High-School in Bucharest, he was admitted in the Politechnical School, Aviation section. His studies were interrupted by the mobilization. In 1939, he then went through a military aviation training course at Otopeni and was licensed as war pilot on the Potez XXV biplane, receiving the rank of sublocotenent (2nd lt.) in the reserves.

In 1940 slt. av. (r) Sorin Tulea was mobilized once again and dispatched to the 1st Bomber Flotilla in Brasov. There he met once again adj. sef. av. Virgil Chifulescu, who this time taught him how to fly two-engine aircraft. He was then assigned to the 4th Bomber Group, as the officer responsible with coding and decoding messages and as the commander's aid. He usually made liaison flights with the Fw-58 no. 14, which he had just learned how to master. In July he underwent another training course, this time an official one at the Two-Engine Aircraft Flight School.

Thus, in August 1940, just as the relations have gotten more tense between Romania and Hungary, he returned to the 4th Bomber Group, which was deployed in the Blaj airfield, as a licensed bomber pilot. As the crisis was developing, the P.37s were moved closer to the frontier, at Campia Turzii. At one moment, they were even prepared to fly a bombing mission against a target in Budapest. At the end of August, when Northwestern Transylvania was given up, the group returned to Brasov. It then moved to Targsor and for bombing exercises at Mamaia. In October 1940, Sorin Tulea was released from duty and attended the autumn exams for the fourth year of the Polytechnic School.

He was again mobilized on 1 June 1941, but to his surprise, he and his good friend Nicolae Baticu were assigned as climbing instructors to the 4th Mountain Battalion. The order was revoked ten days later and the two returned to their flight duties. Because of five P.37s had been lost in accidents in 1940 and there were more crews than neccessary, slt. av. (r) Sorin Tulea and several other pilots were sent to the 5th Bomber Group equipped with He-111H-3s. He was now part of the 78th Bomber Squadron, under the command of cpt. av. Nicolae Nanu.

On 17 June 1941, the group moved to the Zilistea airfield. The 1st Bomber Flotilla was gearing up for war. Before the start of the hostilities, however, Sorin Tulea barely had the time to accumulate 9 hours and 5 minutes on the He-111H-3, too little to fully master the aircraft in war operations.

On 22 June 1941, his crew and the He-111H-3 no. 5 were kept in reserve. So, slt. av. (r) Tulea put his other hobby in value and asked the group commander, lt. cdor. av. Paul Landman, if he good go on the raid as photographer and obtained the approval. Thus he took part in the first mission of the 5th Bomber Group in WWII as flight crew, not pilot. The Heinkel no. 5 had to wait until 25 June to take part in the fighting. That day, the objective was the Basarabeasca Railway Station. Onboard as bombardier/observer was lt. Marcel Luca and serg. Ciubotarev and serg. Dumitru Florea were the machine-gunners. No. 5 was going to fly on the right of the leading airplane. Basarabesca was an important railroad hub in Bessarbaia and had a considerable AA defence. Two He-111H-3s were lost during this mission, one shot down by AAA and the other probably by VVS fighters.

Other missions then followed, mainly attacks on the railroad infrastructure in Bessarabia and the Ovidiopol port, used by the retreating Soviet 9th Army. On one such occasion, slt. av. (r) Sorin Tulea, with slt. av. (r) Radu Eugen, another climbing friend, had the special task of lagging behind the formation to photograph the results. On 24 July, the 5th Bomber Group attacked the port of Bugaz. According to the claims of the Romanian bomber crews, the objective was ravaged. There were many trucks with ammunitions retreating through Bugaz and the explosion on their cargo amplified the effect of the raid. This mission brought another first in the flying activity of Sorin Tulea: his first night landing.

At the beginning of August, the 5th Bomber Group made a special low altitude attack on Soviet positions in the Grigoriopol area, on the Eastern bank of the Dnister River. As usual, Tulea was in the first patrulă (Romanian for Schwarm). They came in very low and achieved complete surprise, catching the Soviet infantry off guard. They dropped the 50 kg bombs over the trenches and continued through a small valley to the Malaesti-Polskaya area where Soviet cavalry was stationed. There, again, they caught the enemy by surprise and dropped the remaining four 225 kg bombs (for each airplane) over a building complex, demolishing it completely. Amazingly, the He-111H-3 no. 5 returned to Zilistea unscratched. The bombers from the other two patrule, however, were covered by bullet holes, because the Soviets had recovered quickly from the surprise and returned fire. They were not serviceable for several days afterwards.

Because the military operations had moved to the vicinity of Odessa, the group was relocated to Bessarabia on the airfield near Leipzig, a former German colony. The new location was much closer to the front. There he teamed up with slt. av. (r) Radu Boldur as bombardier/observer. The missions flown in the new theatre of operations were again mainly attacks on railroad stations, but this time the Romanian pilots met the formidable AA artillery concentrated at Odessa and several new losses occurred. The 5th Bomber Group also intervened in support of the Romanian 4th Army's left wing, which was in a difficult situation following the Soviet landings East of Odessa in late September 1941. During one of these missions, Sorin Tulea was involved in an accident with his He-111. During a "friendly" low pass over the base of the 8th Fighter group, he hit an antenna pole with one of the wings and destroyed the fighter group's radio station. Eventually the case was solved amiably and there were no repercusions.

On 27 September, six He-111H-3s of the 78th Squadron attacked Zastava, in the vicinity of Odessa. Because of the powerful AAA in the area, the bombing was executed from an altitude of 4,000 m, without much effect. On their way back, four I-16s attacked the formation, but the Heinkels entered the clouds and escaped. Other Ratas were engaged by the IAR-80s of the 8th Fghter Group. As they exited the clouds, the four I-16s jumped them again , but the machine-gunners kept them at distance and they couldn't fire effectively. Soon after that, Sorin Tulea was awarded the Virtutea Aeronautica Order Gold Cross class with two bars and the Coroana Romaniei Order Knight class with Virtute Militara ribbon and was discharged, as the exams at the faculty were closing in. Thus he didn't get to see the end of the fighting around Odessa and returned to Bucharest. After the fall of Odessa, the 5th Bomber Group came back to Brasov. That is where Tulea found it on 15 November when he finished the exams.

In December 1941, he teamed up with Unteroff. Heinz Schubert, a German war reporter, for a trip to the front in Crimea. He obtained a Klemm 35 from the cdor. Alexandru Demetrescu, the director of the Aripi Romanesti magazine and on 4 December they left. From Bucharest, the small trainer aircraft took them to Tiraspol, Nikolaev and then Sarabuz, immediately South of Simferopol, in Crimea. From there, they were only allowed to fly to an area close to the front near Sevastopol, where fighting was still going on. The return journey was made on the same route and after a week he was back at the 1st Bomber Flotilla in Brasov.

Picture courtesy of Mr. Serban Dutescu

Sorin Tulea near a trainer aircraft (probably a Klemm 35)

On 15 December Sorin Tulea was discharged for active duty, as were the rest of the reservists. He remained in Brasov though, at IAR where he was hired by his friend eng. Alexandru "Dudu" Frim, one of the top factory test pilots. 1942 was a quiet year for him, spent between test flights with the new aircraft rolling out the production lines and sky or climbing in the nearby mountains. It was in this period that he took most of the famous color photographs of IAR-80s in flight, which had been published in many works and can be encountered on practically every webpage dealing with this aircraft. He was again mobilized on 1 January 1943 and returned to the 78th Bomber Squadron. The unit had remained home during the 1942/43 Stalingrad campaign of the 5th Bomber Group because it had been reequipped with He-111H-6 torpedo-bombers.

On 14 March 1943, Sorin Tulea was injured during a sky contest and had to stay away from flying for several months. When he was back on his feet in July, the squadron was already deployed on the Seaside, at Mamaia airfield. The activity was without major events: endless patrols above the Black Sea in search of possible Soviet surface ships on board his He-111H-6 no. 48, lying on the beach, swimming and chasing girls in Constanta. As the front line was approaching the Romanian borders, the 78th Bomber Squadron was redeployed to the Ciocarlia airfield, a little further inland, but still close to the sea.

In April 1944, while taking a SET-7K liaison aircraft to IAR Brasov for overhauling, the engine stopped over the Bucegi Mountains. Together with Sorin Tulea in the airplane was also cpt. av .Stefan Pintilescu, the squadron CO. He managed with difficulty to put it down in a meadow, but crashed it into a house. Fortunately, both escaped unscratched.

The same month, the 78th Bomber Squadron was joined by the 76th, which was equipped with the old P.37s, and formed the 4th Bomber Group. The front needed all available aircraft, no matter how obsolete they were. The new group was based at Ianca airfield, in the middle of the Romanian plain. The war had returned to the men of the 78th Squadron, who have lived a relatively quiet life for more than a year. Only a part of the crews were veterans of the 1941 or 1942 campaigns. Slt. av. (r) Sorin Tulea teamed up with Mihai Viteazul Order recipient lt. Mihai Oncioiu. It was arguably the best crew of the 78th Squadron.

From the first mission, at Kol Parkany, on the Dnister River, he observed the increase in effectiveness of the Soviet AAA. Several of the six He-111H-6s that participated were hit by splinters. The beginning of May 1944 brought the Soviet offensive in the Targu Frumos region and the Romanian bombers were called in for support. There were days when slt. av. (r) Sorin Tulea would make three sorties.

On 7 May 1944, the 78th Bomber Squadron had to make an attack a tank concentration in a forest North of the Valea Seaca village in Moldavia. As usual, two patrule were organized and he was part of the second one. A heavy rain seemed to postpone the mission, but the sky cleared quickly. Unfortunately, the He-111 of Virgil Stanculescu got stuck in a mud pit and the second patrulă led by cpt. av. Matei Ghica took off ten minutes later than the first one. Thus they would miss the rendezvous with the fighter escort. Nevertheless they arrived unopposed above the target. The AAA started to fire. The explosions were extremely close, but luckily they weren't hit. After the bombs were released, the three He-111H-6s turned back and dived. A formation of 5 P-39s in the area was, however, already on their tail. The He-111H-6 no. 48, flown by slt. av. (r) Sorin Tulea, was singled out by the VVS fighters and received many hits in the wings. The machine-gun of the radio operator jammed and only the two machine-guns on the He-111s no. 54 and 55 remained to keep the Airacobras at bay. The Soviets took advantage of the situation and closed in. A long burst hit the cockpit and wounded lt. Mihai Oncioiu in the right hip and arm. Soon after that they lost one engine and lagged behind the formation. Fortunately, the Soviets were engaged by Bf-109s and the severely-damaged no. 48 could reach Roman. The crew had to bail out. Lt. av. Sorin Tulea jumped the last. The air current directed him into the tail stabilizers and he broke both his legs. As if that wasn't enough, after he hit the ground he was attacked by peasants who thought he was a Soviet pilot or spy. They hit him with clubs and almost killed him. Two German soldiers appeared in the area and saved him from the mob. He was taken to the field hospital at Trifesti, some 3 km away. The others had a similar "reception" from the locals, but got away, with the exception of lt. Mihai Oncioiu, who was shot and killed while hanging in the harness of his parachute by the P-39s. Eleven bullets had passed through his body.

The doctor in Trifesti was a skiing friend and took good care of him and then sent him to Roman. From there, with a Fi-156 he was taken to Bacau and then to Bucharest with a Ju-52. He was interned in the "Antoniu" Sanatory, but because of the American and British aerial bombardment of the capital, Sorin Tulea was evacuated to the Interior Zone Hospital No. 367 in Sinaia. He remained interned in military hospitals until 1946 and was operated 18 times! Most of the medical treatment was done by dr. Sandu Popovici, who was responsible for making him able to walk and even climb and sky again.

Picture courtesy of Mr. Serban Dutescu

Sorin Tulea on the hospital bed

In the spring of 1947 he restarted flying with a weather squadron at Baneasa airfield. His discontent with the direction Romania was heading (i. e. Communism) made him a "public enemy" in the eyes of the regime installed in 1948 and he was simply arrested on 24 July 1948 in Brasov, without explanations. He was taken to Mailmaison, then Jilava prison. Sorin Tulea was put on "trial" at the Military Tribunal and then sent back to Jilava, Vacaresti and finally to the infamous Aiud prison, where he executed most of his 15-year long sentence. He was lucky that because of technical knowledge he was selected on 2 January 1950 to work in the prison's factory. This took gave him better living conditions than other political prisoners and, more importantly, gave him an occupation and the opportunity to use his mind. Sorin Tulea was responsible for more than 40 projects, which included a motorcycle (designed together with two other engineers) in the summer of 1955. The factory closed in 1957 and he was transferred to Gherla, where he remained only for a couple of months before returning to Aiud. Only in April 1960, did he return to the factory, however.

He was freed in July 1963 and forced to live in the Latesti village in the middle of the Romanian Plain. It was a settlement inhabited by deportees from the Banat and other "enemies of the state", like the wife of Marshal Antonescu. He was allowed to be visited and saw his family and friends after long time. In November 1963 he was arrested again for "treason" and taken to Malmaison, because he apparently had fled the country, while being at Aiud. Things were cleared up and he was released in February 1964.

From this moment on, Sorin Tulea's life returned to normal. He married in October with Nela Seitan, a old friend. They did not have any children together, but she had a boy from a prior marriage, Serban, who he adopted and treated like his own. They made many trips around the country and he continued his climbing activity. His wife passed away in 1989. Sixteen years later, Sorin Tulea followed her.

Picture courtesy of Mr. Serban Dutescu

Always with the camera in his hands...

Author: Victor Nitu
Tulea S. Amintiri din razboaie neterminate, Semne, 2003
User Comments Add Comment
LUCIAN PETRESCU  (23 January 2010)
I met mr.Sorin Tulea at IPCM(institute for Machine Building Industry)in 1977.He was an excellent engineer and a very good comrade.Because he spent 16 years in political prison he had to work,much after he was 60 years old,before to retire.I will remember him,for ever!