Born: 1902, Brasov
Combat missions: over 500
Victories: 45 confirmed + 6 probable
Died: 1980, Brasov
Ion Milu was born in Brasov in 1902. At 18 years old he started the piloting school at Tecuci and entered active service in 1922 as sergent aviator. Before the he was a flight instructor, test pilot for different airplane manufacturing companies and member of different military commissions. Between others he flew the IAR 80 no. 0 (the prototype) in the Experiment Squadron at Pipera.
In 1940, adj. sef. av. Ioan Milu was assigned to the 7th Fighter Group, which was equipped with the new Bf-109E. He took part in the campaign of 1941 and managed to shoot down 3 Soviet airplanes (I-16s), his aircraft being damaged twice during combat. The last time, on 28 August 1941, he had to make an emergency belly landing.
The 7th Fighter Group was brought back to Romania, like the majority of the Romanian troops. They got to the front in September 1942, in the area around Stalingrad. After the Soviet offensive started they were encircled, but managed to escape in dramatic conditions (see the article on the 7th Fighter Group on this site, in the Units section).
After reorganization, they were again fighting the Soviets in Spring 1943, as part of JG 3 Udet. On 10 April, ten Romanian Bf 109 Gs attacked the VVS airfield north of Voroshilovgrad. Five Pe-2s were destroyed on the ground. While the Germans confirmed all the victories, the Romanians confirmed only two, thus Ion Milu, Nicolae Burileanu and Tiberiu Vinca lost one each, because of bureaucrats who never saw the front.
However, during the same month, Milu shot down a Pe-2 and an Il-2 and achieved aces status with 5 kills.
Picture courtesy of cdor. Ion Morariu
Of. ec. cl. III Ion Milu wearing the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class and the Iron Cross 1st class.
On 6 May he hit the jackpot: 3 Soviet airplanes in an epic dogfight. At 3:45, he took off together with adj. av. Gheorghe Firu, each with 200 kg of bombs. Their mission was to bomb an artillery battery. At 2000 m they saw a large formation of VVS aircraft (18 Il-2s and 20 La-5s) heading towards the airfield. They hurried up to their destination, dropped the load and then came back. Attacking from below, Milu forced the Soviets to pull up, thus allowing his comrades to lift off and join the fight. He shot down one La-5. But ten enemies turned on him. At 4:20 he abandoned the dogfight, after shooting down another two La-5s. He was loosing fuel, because of a 20 mm shell that perforated a fuel tank.
He was by now serving in the 57th Fighter Squadron (7th Fighter Group) as of. echip. cls. III, a rank equal to that of slt. (2nd lt.), a very rare distinction for NCOs. This squadron was under the command of cpt. av. Alexandru Serbanescu and included aces like lt. av. Teodor Greceanu, slt. av. Constantin Rozariu and adj. av. Ion Mucenica, some of the best ARR pilots (these guys had in total about 120 victories by the end of the war).
On 6 July, a formation under the command of cdor. av. Mihail "Leu" Romanescu, the 1st Fighter Flotilla's CO, took off for a ground attack mission, but at about 600 m, the commander's engine caught fire. His cockpit was quickly filled with smoke and he couldn't see anything. He tried to jump, but was too low. Then Milu came by his side and guided by radio him until he landed. Because of the shock and of the smoke, cdor. av. Romanescu fainted. Ioan Milu landed near him and dragged him out of the aircraft.
August 1943 was a very good month for the Romanian pilots. Ion Milu started it with Yak on 4 August and continued with two Il-2s on 7 August. He took off together with cpt. av.Alexandru Serbanescu, Lungulescu and Naghirneac. After 20-25 minutes they noticed a formation of Il-2s escorted by fighters. They surprised them in the moment when they were starting the attack on the ground forces. After a firing very precise Serbanescu and Milu sent down four Il-2s (two each). The Soviet fighters retreated with their remaining assault aircraft.
16 August 1943 was the best day of the 7th Fighter Group. They had 22 confirmed kills and 5 probable. Of echip. cls. III IOan Milu was the champion of the day with five: 2 B-8s and 3 Il-2s. This is the biggest number of victories obtained in one day by a Romanian fighter pilot. But his joy was short-lived. He received news from home that his wife, to whom he had been married since 1930, died a month ago. Now his daughter's chances of becoming an orphan increased. But his skill and probably some luck, kept him alive until the of war.
On 19 August, Milu took off together with adj. av. Gheorghe Firu for a third mission. They were joined by lt. av. Ioan Dobran and adj. av. Moldoveanu. They had to escort a Romanian Hs-129B2 formation. They were jumped by four Yaks. Milu quickly sent one down in flames. But 8 LaGGs appeared. Milu and his wingman engaged them and left the Yaks to the rookies. Even though outnumbered 4 to 1, they stuck to the Henschels. Seeing that they couldn't get to the assault aircraft, the Soviets turned on the fighters. They managed to corner adj. av. Firu and Milu came to his aid. But soon he saw that he wasn't dealing with amateurs. Behind him was a Soviet with a white nose and a flower on the fuselage and heard bullets hitting his aircraft. He dived with 7 Soviets on his tail, trying to evade their shots. He finally reached friendly lines and crash landed his airplane, which by now looked more like Swiss cheese.
The next day, gen. Dessloch, the commander of Luftflotte IV, awarded him the Iron Cross 1st class. Ten days later, he received the highest Romanian military honor: the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class.
Picture from "Rumanian Air Force, the prime decade 1938-1947" by Dénes Bernád, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1999
Of. echip. cls.III Ion Milu is in the extreme right of this photo.
In October 1943, the 9th Fighter Group replaced the 7th Fighter Group on the front. But some of the pilots remained. Between them was also Ion Milu. After the reorganization of this group, he was in the 56th Fighter Squadron.
By spring 1944, the war had reached Romania's borders and the 9th Fighter Group had to fight harder, because there was more in stake now. On 15 April Milu shot down one DB-3 and on 17 one Il-2.
On 24 May, Milu scored his 30th victory. He took off from Tecuci airfield and intercepted a DB-3 at 6500 m. He shot it down. When he went to the crash site with a liaison airplane to confirm his claim, they found the machine-gunner, who surrendered without resistance. The 31st victory came six days later, on 30 May. Cpt. av. Serbanescu, Milu and Mucenica were escorting some Romanian Ju-88A4s. They were attacked by 6 P-39s. The fighters intervened and of. echip. cls. III Ioan Milu closed up on a Soviet and fired. Mucenica also bagged one.
Picture courtesy of mr. Dénes Bernád
ORomanian pilots from the 9th FG on the Tecuci airfield in May 1944. From left: lt Hariton Dusescu, Serbanescu, Milu, adj G Scordila, and unknown pilot.
From 6 June, the 9th Fighter Group was also flying missions against the USAAF raids. On 11 June they succeeded in shooting down 5 B-17s. Milu was one of the victors. This was his first American airplane. The second one came on 15 July and was also a B-17 and the third one on 31 July and was a P-38.
Another battle with the overwhelming forces of the USAAF took place on 8 August. Cpt. av. Constantin Cantacuzino lead the 18 airplanes the 9th Fighter Group sent to confront the invaders. They attacked the bombers twice. Milu managed to shoot down one P-38. Immediately after that he saw a formation of 40 Mustangs diving towards the Group. He alerted the others and tried to evade the Americans, but it was too late. His controls weren't responding anymore. He dislocated his shoulder when he opened the cockpit. Milu managed to jump and open his parachute. His was found later that day and taken to the hospital at Doicesti.
He came back on the front in February 1945 with the 1st Fighter Group, but until the end of the war he didn't obtain any new victories, because the Luftwaffe was a rare site in that area of the front.
After the war, several Romanian pilots reportedly took part in a large Allied-organized air show at Wiener-Neustadt on 1 June 1945. These airmen were asked to represent the German techniques and equipment, including the Bf-109G6, and provide a comparison to the latest US and Soviet aircraft types. On the way back to Miskolc, of. echip. cls. III Milu flew together with lt. av. Dumitru Baciu. Over Hungary, they met several P-51Ds and waggled their wings as a recognition sign. The Mustangs waved back when the aircraft passed each other. A Soviet Il-2 formation, escorted by Yak-3s, came along a few minutes later. The Romanians again waggled their wings, however, the Soviets did not wave back and flew on in the opposite direction. The last two Yaks suddenly broke formation and jumped on the two "Gustavs". Milu had enough of the war in five years and decided not to engage the aggressors. So he dived to safety. Lt. av. Baciu apparently managed to shoot down one Soviet and returned home with 16 holes in his aircraft.
In 1949 he was already captain and was again test-pilot at IAR (now a tractor factory called "Sovromtractor"). On 12 May 1940 he took off with the IAR-811 prototype for the first time. In 1950 he was testing the IAR-813.
In 1980 he died in the city were he was born 72 years before. He was the third ranking Romanian ace of WWII with 45 confirmed victories and 6 probable.
Bibliography: Vasile Tudor, "Un nume de legenda - Cpt. av. erou Alexandru Serbanescu", Editura MODELISM, 1998; Dénes Bernád, "Rumanian Air Force, the prime decade 1938-1947", Squadron/Signal Publications, 1999.
Profile courtesy of Bogdan Patrascu
This Bf-109G4 was apparently flown by of. echip. cl. III av. Ion Milu in 1943