the most epic combat of the lethal national fighter pilot that the PSOE wants to exhume

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Far from ideological fights, the combat that led the aviator of the national side Joaquín García Morato about his «Chirri» the February 18, 1937 He was, at least, curious to remember. That day was launched, with the sole support of two companions, against 26 fighters of the Second Republic As he wrote shortly after, for a few minutes he was convinced that this would be his last day on Earth. But, to his surprise, about twenty Italian pilots supported him at the last moment. The battle ended with a victory that allowed him to add, after the Civil war, a whopping 40 casualties and earn the respect of their enemies. This is demonstrated by what the members of the government squads used to say before leaving the mission: «Good luck, and do not meet the Morato group».

To García Morato, death came shortly after the war, during an exhibition. After the accident he was buried in the San Miguel Cemetery (in Malaga) although, in 1971, his remains were sent to the church of Carmen de Málaga, where they still rest. At least for the moment since, last week, the Historical Memory Commission created at the request of PSOE confirmed that his remains will be exhumed in compliance with the Historical Memory Law. Among other things, the spokesman of the party in the City Council has stressed that this aviator “participated in the massacre of tens of thousands of people and helped the same Nazi and Italian bombers who persecuted and killed the civilian population.” Again, the controversy is served.

Civil war

But let’s go to history and put aside political controversies. García Morato was surprised by the military Uprising in England while repairing one of his planes. When he learned the news he tried to return to Spain through the skies, but was arrested in Biarritz by the Gallic government and was forced to cross the border by car. Already in homeland he joined the newly created National aviation along with another 150 of his classmates. By then, the superiority of the Second Republic it was incontestable both in the number of fighters and in the number of aviators. And, as the historian explains Jesús María Salas Larrazábal in one of his dossiers on aviation in the fratricidal contest –«The Civil War, 1936-1936»– 250 remained faithful to the government.

Garcia Morato

During the first month of Republican supremacy, national aviators had to squeeze their abilities to the maximum. García Morato, a tanned veteran of the Morocco warIt was no exception. Although the countless hours on the back of a fighter machine-gunned the Rifeña positions and the hard training of pirouettes in the thirties gave him a considerable advantage over his enemies. ABC himself emphasized in 1939 that, during his days as aerobatics teacher before the war, the Melillense used to insist on his students that, in addition to picturesque, the pranks could be very useful in the middle of a contest. «It’s fun and easy».

Funny yes; but simple … not too much. The curls, the bites, the quick barrel, the auger, the slips and many other maneuvers helped him (as ABC remembered) to emerge victorious at the controls of the Heinkel He 51 arrived from Germany first and from the mythical Fiat CR-32 Italians (nicknamed «Chirri“) then. On August 12 he began his private hunt in the heavens when he shot down an enemy. Shortly after he also climbed into the cabin of a Junkers Ju-52 German to bomb the Madrid airfield of Four winds and the Ministry of War. In the end, he was one of the defenders of such attacks on cities to make the “militiamen and the red mass” understand that they should not oppose a “foolish resistance and long stubbornness».

Throughout the first three months of the Civil War he managed to bring down 15 enemies, a brand that no pilot matched in the contest. This is how he became, step by step, a true aviation legend and the nightmare of the fighters and the bombers of the Second Republic. A clear example of his courage (which goes beyond ideologies) is presented by the Royal Academy of History in his biographical dossier on this aviator: «On January 3, 1937, Morato starred in the greatest aerial feat so far, the dejection in a single combat of two fast twin-engine Tupolev SB-2called Katiuiskas in Spain”. It was located at an altitude of 5,000 meters to avoid being seen by the opponents and plummeted against them to distinguish their silhouette. It was a success.

The madness of Jarama

But it was in the battle of Jarama where García Morato starred in his most outstanding performance. Or, as the ABC explained in 1959, one of his “cool follies so prevalent in the history of Spain.” It was February 1937 and the National aviation He was in crisis. The squadrons of the Second Republic, increased with the USSR devices, were the owners of the heavens. Meanwhile, the airplanes of the elevations were limited to carry out aerial patrols in their own territory and the pilots of the Legionary Aviation Italian (Franco’s ally) had received orders not to venture behind enemy lines to avoid casualties. “They were afraid, no doubt, of the lack of flight safety,” said this newspaper.

The truth is that they were right, because the situation could not be worse for the National Aviation aircraft. The speed of Polikarpov I-15 and I-16 soviet squad of Andrés García Calle (better known as The street, the great star of the fighters of the Second Republic) far exceeded that of the «Chirri” and the Heinkel Germans escorting the rebel bombers. In those cases the situation was when García Morato was sent to front of Jarama with his newly founded Blue Squadron with orders to stand up to the enemy no matter what it cost.

The February 18, 1937 it was the day in which García Morato earned his San Fernando Laureate Cross. That day, the Blue Squadron took off, along with 21 other “Chirris” piloted by Italians, to give protection to a group of Ju 52 bombers. In those they walked when they ran into a large group of Republican fighters. No less than 26, to be more exact. They painted coarse, and it didn’t seem like their allies of the Legionary Aviation were willing to jump into combat. Melilla’s reaction was, at least, aguerrida: he threw himself alone with his two companions (Narciso Bermúdez de Castro and Julio Salvador Benjumea) Against them.

Garcia Morato
Garcia Morato

García Morato himself said shortly after that day, in the solitude of the cockpit, he could only think that this would be his last fight. However, Italian fighters, stung in pride, came to the rescue. Thus the ABC newspaper narrated the situation on the twentieth anniversary of his death: «Alone, they bear the overwhelmed weight of the enemy superiority, but the gesture produces its fruits and 21“ Fiat ”that patrolled in the front go to the fight before the example of Morato ». After a hard dog fight (as this type of confrontation is called) eight government fighters fell in exchange for a national one.

Melilla’s motto, «Luck, sight and the bull!», that day was evident against what the media of the time, in a pun, called the «republican morlacos». Thanks to this battle, García Morato increased his legend and the respect he instilled in the opposites. «The motto of” Vista, luck and the bull “became fearsome for enemy aviators to such an extent that when a red squad initiated a war action, the pilots said goodbye with this phrase:”Good luck, and do not meet the Morato group“», Added this newspaper. It is also said that the slogan was born from the words that the “Ace” (any pilot with more than five casualties) once directed a newcomer who asked for advice.

Already elevated to the category of “Ace of Aces” of National Aviation, García Morato allowed himself the luxury of challenging an aerial duel to the aviation genius Garcia Street, one of the hardest pilots in the Second Republic. It seems that he did not accept, as he explained shortly after the end of the contest in his work “Myths and truths. Hunting aviation in the Spanish war »: «Alfredo Tourné informed me that the general Queipo de Llano had announced on the radio that Garcia Morato he challenged me to a fight over the Jarama. I replied that it seemed a simplicity since I didn’t need to challenge anyone, since every day I could find myself in the Jarama at the head of my squad ».

Knocked down and dead

According to ABC published in 1959, García Morato finished the Civil war with 511 services, 112 machine guns, 144 air combats and 40 destroyed devices. He was never shot down by the enemy. There was only one time when he was forced to land after being shot by a fighter, and this was an ally who confused him with a “Rat” (the nickname Polikarpov I-16 received). Apparently, the aviator loved the anecdote of how that happened. He liked it so much that he told an ABC journalist during the contest. The reporter in question, J. Miquelarena, replied shortly after:

«I saw him in Burgos during the battle of the Ebro. He told us, while we were having dinner at the hotel unemployed, how he had been shot down by one of his companions. This had happened to him at the moment when he was preparing for his 37 sure victory over a poor enemy “Rat”. The pilot of his squad, who was chasing the same prey, blinded perhaps at a time of struggle, incurred a deviation of shot that went to hit the head of his boss. “My only engine since the beginning of the war,” said Garcia Morato. […] Upon arriving at the base, on foot, he approached the group before which his companion told how he had knocked down a “Rat”. “Are you sure it was a ‘Rat’?” He asked. “I think so”. “You are very modest boy. The one you killed today is Commander García Morato“».

Article on the combat of Garcia Morato
Article on the combat of Garcia Morato

He died after the contest, the April 4, 1939. That day, the infantry captain (was promoted to commander posthumously) found death while participating in the filming of a movie for the «Condor Legion». García Morato took off on the back of a «Fiat» to simulate an air combat alongside a German Messerschmit BF-109 and a «Rat». After an hour of acrobatics, and as explained by the Royal Academy of History, the aircraft hit the ground when it landed. “The device crashed in the belly before reaching the field,” the dossier is explained. He was buried in principle in the Cemetery of San Miguel (Málaga). However, since 1971, his remains are in the Chapel of Mercy of the Church of Carmen, in the neighborhood of El Perchel.

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