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
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
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.