Born: 5 February 1919, Valeni Podgoria
Combat missions: 340
Victories: 10 + 3 probable + 1 on the ground
He presently lives in Bucharest
Ion Dobran was born on 5 February 1919, in Valeni Podgoria. He finished the elementary school in Bucharest, the military high-school in Tārgu Mures and, on 10 May 1941, the School of Air Force Officers in Bucharest.
Until October 1941, slt. av. Ion Dobran was assigned to the Fighter School in Ghimbav and then sent to the 48th Squadron (9th Fighter Group), which was equipped with IAR-80s. After the first USAAF raid (Operation Halpro), the 9th Fighter Group was given the mission, along with other groups, to defend the territory. In March 1943, the IAR-80s are replaced by Bf-109Gs and, in August, the 9th Fighter Group started to gradually replace the 7th Fighter Group. In the first phase, 10 pilots were sent to the front (on 14 August) and then came the rest after a few months. Slt. av. Ion Dobran was among these men.
Profile courtesy of Bogdan Patrascu
Lt. av. Ion Dobran flew this IAR-80 during 1942, when the 9th Fighter Group was equipped with this type of aircraft.
His first mission was on 15 August (the second day) and with a little luck could have been also his first kill, even though they were 2 against 8 Yaks. But the day wasn't over. The Soviets attacked the airfield with Il-2s and Yaks, but without results. They came again during the night with Po-2s. These were called the "disturbing squadrons" by the Romanian pilots, because the bombs usually fell far from the base. They only disturbed their sleep. But after a while, Dobran got used to it.
His first kill came on 6 September 1943. It was an Il-2 from a formation that just had attacked the airfield. The second one came on 25 September. He was on an escort mission and the Stukas were attacked by Yaks. After the second burst of the 20 mm cannon, a part of the Soviet's wing fell off.
On 23 October, the 9th Fighter Group completely replaced the 7th Fighter Group, but 14 pilots remained in the new group. They were the best pilots Romania had then: Cantacuzino, Serbanescu, Milu, Greceanu, Mucenica and others.
Slt. av. Dobran's first kill in 1944 was on 26 February, when he was on patrol as Serbanescu's wingman. It was the third mission that day. Near Krivoirog they engaged 6 Yaks. Serbanescu missed one, but Dobran followed up and it took him only one burst of his 20 mm MG 151 gun to send him to the ground.
Profile courtesy of Bogdan Patrascu
Lt. av. Ion Dobran flew this Bf-109G4 when it was damaged on 1 October 1943. Dobran was part of the 7th Fighter Group
In March he was promoted to lieutenant and in April the 9th FG was on the Tecuci airfield, in Romania. During the summer of 1944, the flew missions against the Americans and the Soviets. On his first dogfight over national territory, Dobran shot down a Yak-7 on 11 April. On 17, after a regular battle with over 30 Sturmoviks and their escorts, he was credited with a probable Il-2.
11 May was a busy day for lt. av. Ion Dobran. In the first mission of the day the six Romanian Bf-109Gs engaged several Soviet La-5s. They attacked from a dive. Because of the high speed of the airplane, Dobran was unable to correct his fire and the enemy got away. On the second mission they encountered other La-5s. This time he maneuvered properly and shot one down. He also spotted a Pe-2 formation and he approached it, but when he tried to fire, the weapons didn't work.
Another memorable day was 30 May. He was Cantacuzino's wingman. They engaged 8 Aircobras. Dobran wrote in his diary that the ace simply played with them. The Soviets managed to get only in 90 degrees angles and shoot. On the third mission, Dobran got a chance, but he blew it. In the fourth mission they encountered 12 Il-2s protected by 8 Yaks. They dove firing at the escorts, which immediately took evasive actions, living the road to the bombers unguarded. Dobran added one of them to his kill list, but he hardly got way.
On 6 June, the 9th Fighter Group flew for the first time against the Americans. Lt. av. Dobran was playing bridge with Mucenica, Senchea and Simionescu, when the alarm was given. They took off quickly and because of this rush, he ended up without a wingman. He saw the USAAF formation and then he realized that he was alone. Below him were four monoplanes and first thought they were Gustavs from 56th Fighter Squadron. When he got closer he recognized the Mustangs. They were flying like they were at a parade. Dobran dived and fired at the one on the right. Smoke started to come out of the airplane. The others dispersed. He went for the bombers, but he fired from distance, because the Mustangs were closing in. He plunged down and managed to shake off two of them after some aerobatics. But the one that remained shot him down. Apparently the Mustang he claimed as a probable, was flown by 2lt. Barrie Davis (6 kills), who managed to arrive with his badly damaged aircraft to Mirogorod in the Ukraine. The USAAF fighter pilot who shot Dobran down that day was 1lt. Wayne Lowry (11 kills).
Profile courtesy of Bogdan Patrascu
Lt. av. Ion Dobran was shot down in this aircraft on 6 June 1944, following an epic dogfight with P-51s
Dobran's next kill came on 26 July, the "black day" of the 9th Fighter Group. Serbanescu and Cantacuzino were in Bucharest, so cpt. av. Popescu-Ciocanel was in charge. The radar station announced that a formation of about 20 bombers were near Bārlad and that they had almost no escort. In fact there many, many fighters. The Romanian pilots shot down 11 P-38s, but lost 7 planes. More important was the loss of 6 good pilots: adj. av. Pavel Turcanu, adj. av. Emil Balan and adj. av. Alexandru Economu ( all KIA). Cpt. av. Popescu-Ciocanel died because of his wounds on 12 August. Mucenica and Radulescu remained in hospitals for a long time. Only lt. av. Ion Dobran wasn't even scratched when he was shot down that day.
But the most sad day of the 9th FG and of the ARR was 18 August. Serbanescu took him as his wingman. They were 13 in total. They engaged a swarm of Mustangs. During the dogfight, the ace maneuvered quickly and left Dobran a lot behind him. A Mustang got on his tail. Adj. av. Traian Dārjan told Serbanescu to watch out, but he did nothing. The American fired and "Yellow 1" Bf-109G went to the ground. He communicated that day only with the ground control. Probably his radio was malfunctioning and he didn't hear his wingmen.
On 20 August, lt. av. Dobran was on patrol as Bāzu Cantacuzino's wingman. They both got a Yak. After 23 August, when Romania requested an armistice, the Germans started bombing Bucharest and the 7th and 9th Fighter Groups were brought in to intercept the enemy. Thus, on 25, Dobran shot down a He-111H. This was his last kill in the air.
In September, the 9th Fighter Group was in Transylvania, together with the rest of the Romanian Air Corps, fighting against the Luftwaffe and MKHL. On 15, the group attacked a Hungarian airfield near Cluj. Lt. av. Ion Dobran destroyed a Re-2000 on the ground.
Picture courtesy of gen. Ioan Dobran
Lt. av. Ioan Dobran in the cockpit of his Bf-109G
He fought all the way to Czechoslovakia, through Hungary, but there were very few Germans and Hungarians in the air at the end of 1944 and in 1945. On 9 May 1945 he flew his last two missions. He escorted a IAR-39 recon plane, that dropped propaganda leaflets, and then he flew in formation with cpt. av. Constantin Cantacuzino.
Lt. av. Ion Dobran had at the end of the war 340 missions, 74 dogfights, 10 confirmed victories in the air and one on the ground, plus another three unconfirmed. He had been shot down three times.
On 13 March 1946 he is promoted captain and on 7 June 1950 major. In 1952, Ion Dobran is fired, because he was an officer of the royal army and not suited for the new "people's" army. He is qualified as a lathe-operator in the "Timpuri Noi" factory. But in 1964 he got lucky and returned to flying, but in the civilian aviation. In 1973 he retired from TAROM (the Romanian national airlines).
Bibliography: Vasile Tudor, "Un nume de legenda - Cpt. av. erou Alexandru Serbanescu", Editura MODELISM, 1998; Ion Dobran, "Junalul locotenentului Dobran", Editura MODELISM, 1998.
Read the interview with gen. de escadra av. (VR) Ioan Dobran
gen. Constantin Balta (left) and gen. Ioan Dobran (right)