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Francesco Baracca

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Francesco Baracca (9 May, 188819 June, 1918) was Italy's top fighter ace of World War I. He entered the Modena military academy in 1907 and became a cavalryman upon commissioning. Baracca became interested in aviation and learned to fly in France in 1912, leading to assignment as a flight instructor during the early part of WWI.

After Italy's entry on the Allied side, Baracca flew operational missions in a variety of aircraft during 1914. The next year he converted to Nieuport two-seaters but he came into his own with arrival of the Nieuport 11 in 1916. He scored his first victory on 7 April, Italy's first such success of the war. Steadily increasing his score at the expense of Austro-Hungarian airmen, by year end he was an ace. Eventually he marked his success by adapting a prancing horse emblem which, after the war, became the insignia of Ferrari race cars.

Baracca hit his stride as commander of the 91a Squadriglia during 1917. Flying Nieuports and SPADs, he raised his score to 30 at year's end, but saw little action in the first part of 1918. However, he added four more victories before failing to return from an attack mission on 19 June.

His body, found a few days later, reportedly bore the marks of a bullet hole to the head. In his hand was held a pistol, leading to suspicions that he elected to take his own life rather than burn to death.it:Francesco Baracca

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