The last kill of Ugo Drago

Text: Jan Bobek

Illustration: Adam Tooby

One of the most successful Italian fighter pilots of World War II, Ugo Drago, was

born on March 3, 1915, in Arborio in Vercelli

province. He studied physics and obtained

his civilian pilot's license in the summer of

1938. In the autumn he joined the air force,

became a military pilot in March 1939. Two

months later he joined 363a Squadriglia,

150o Gruppo C.T.

He took part in the attack against France in

the spring of 1940 and during the autumn

was involved in the fighting against the Greek airmen. He entered the war in the cockpit

of a Fiat CR.42, but in the spring of 1941 began flying a Macchi C.200. By the end of the

year, he had four victories and 150 combat


At the end of 1941 he began flying in North

Africa and in June 1942 he would be appointed commander of 363a Squadriglia and

held this post until the summer of 1943, during the defense of Sicily and Pantelleria.

At that time 363a Squadriglia re-equipped

with Bf 109 G fighters and Drago shot down

two American Spitfires.

After the Armistice, Drago refused to join

the Luftwaffe, was captured, imprisoned

and headed in a transport to a German prison camp. However, he managed to escape

and went into hiding for a period of time.

After the formation of the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana, Drago volunteered for

service and was appointed commander of 1a

Squadriglia in the newly formed IIo Gruppo

Caccia. The unit was initially armed with Fiat

G.55s, but later re-equipped with Bf 109 Gs

July 2022

and was redesignated as 4a Squadriglia “Gigi

Tre Osei”. Drago scored additional 11 victories including two four-engined bombers.

He achieved his last victory on March 23,

1945, while covering the take-off of the Arado Ar 234 from Kommando Sommer. Seven

Bf 109s from 4a Sq. took off from Aviano base

at 8.50. The formation split into a trio and a

foursome. The top cover of the three Bf 109s

was led by s. ten. Felice Squassoni, but he

soon had to return due to technical problems and his role was taken over by ten.

Amedeo Fagiano. The lower flying foursome

was led by Drago and one of his wingmen

was serg. m. Loris Baldi. Over Campoforido

at 9.25, Fagiano spotted a large formation of

Thunderbolts with bombs from the 85th FS,

79th FG, he alerted the commander, began

to gain altitude and got into a brief fight with

two Americans.

Meanwhile, Drago hit P-47D-28 s/n

42-29310; its pilot bailed out near Tarcento. Local farmers hid him from the German

patrol and later secured medical treatment.

A doctor removed shrapnel from his thigh,

leg and arm. According to Italian sources,

he evaded capture, but American sources

suggest he ended up in a prison camp in


The Americans were caught by surprise by

the attack of the six Bf 109s. They saw their

colleague try to escape by split S. There

was white smoke coming from his machine. When he leveled off, he dropped bombs,

rolled the machine onto its back and bailed


The American pilot was 2.Lt. Jack Faires and

he was born on February 19, 1922, in Fort

Morgan, Morgan County, Colorado. After

completing three years of high school, he

joined the Air Force in March 1943. He flew

a total of 26 combat sorties and received the

Air Medal and Purple Heart for his actions

and combat injuries. He was released from

captivity in the summer of 1945 and returned

to the United States the following year.

He and his wife Esther, whom he married

in 1944, brought five children into the world.

Jack Faires died on March 12, 2011, six years

after the death of his wife. He is buried

in Westminster, Adams County, Colorado.

However, the shooting down of his Thunderbolt resulted in a dispute at the “Gigi

Tre Osei” unit. Baldi was convinced that he

had shot down the American and refused

to sign a witness report to his commander. The Thunderbolt was initially listed as

a probable kill, but after a few days its status

was changed to two certain kills. Baldi thus

scored his fifth victory and Drago scored

his last, seventeenth. Ugo Drago flew a total

of 385 combat sorties during World War II

and received the Medaglia d'argento four


When his unit laid down arms on April 26,

Drago agreed to work with local partisans

to keep the area safe for the local population. After the war he went to Argentina where he worked as an instructor on Fiat G.55

and G.59 aircraft and from 1953 he flew for

Alitalia. He died in Rome on 22 April 2007.

INFO Eduard