IAR-80/81 & Me - 109G PILOT

Vizanty 1
Dan Valentin "Mon Cher" Vizanty, proudly wearing the Military Order of War "Mihai the Brave" awarded for "exceptional deeds of war by officers who distinguished themselves in the face of the enemy" (Ana Maria Vizanty)
Vizanty 3
The IAR-81C #344 was flown by Vizanty during the major dogfight with USAAF Lightnings on June 10, 1944, in which he shot down two P-38s. (Copyright Bogdan Patrascu)

The Royal Romanian Air Force (RRAF) during World War 2 boasted several remarkable fighter pilots of Greek heritage, a fact well-known to aviation history enthusiasts in Greece. Despite their origins tracing back to the Byzantine Empire centuries ago, their impressive achievements have often been overlooked, leading to the perception that they might have lost touch with their Greek identity. However, it's essential to note that this was not the rule, as some pilots proudly served both in the RRAF and even the Luftwaffe and were proud of their heritage too. Among the distinguished fighter pilots and aces of Romania, one individual stood out prominently – Dan Vizanty. His legacy has been celebrated, and his daughter, Ana Maria Vizanty, authored an article about his life and accomplishments. The piece was initially published in the September 2014 issue of Aviation History magazine and later republished on https://www.historynet.com/ on March 7, 2017. With the generous permissions granted by both the magazine and Ana Maria, we are delighted to republish the article on our website, ensuring that the Greek public can also appreciate and learn from his extraordinary exploits. Moreover, we had the immense honor of meeting Ana Maria Vizanty in Bucharest. During a special occasion on August 6, 2023, our esteemed member and aviation artist, George Moris, had the privilege of presenting her with a remarkable painting depicting one of her father's most intense dogfights, on June 10, 1944, against USAAF fighter-bombers (for a personal account of Vizanty during that dogfight click the following link: https://www.greeks-in-foreign-cockpits.com/pilots-crews/fighter-pilots/dan-vizanty-in-his-own-words/). This particular aerial battle featured Dan Vizanty piloting the indigenous IAR-81C fighter against the renowned twin-engine American fighter, the P-38 Lightning. For a comprehensive account of this thrilling encounter, please refer to the article that follows. For more please refer to the Romanian bibliography, especially his biography "DAN VIZANTY DESTINUL UNUI PILOT DE VANATOARE" written by Daniel Focsa (Institutul European 2010, ISBN: 9789736116926. Now, without further delay, let us immerse ourselves in the captivating story as shared by Ana Maria Vizanty herself.

“My father, av. Dan Vizanty felt indeed an ancestral nostalgia for Greece. He said that he was also considering himself a Greek citizen due to his origin. I only know a little though about this aspect. He mentioned sometimes that his ancestors had come to Moldavia around the 17th or 18th century, and they had become perfectly integrated into their new country. Such that his family became a prominent one in the Moldavian area, just like many others who arrived in Romanian Lands in the Phanariot period as well. His name’s etymology, from Byzantion, also points out his Greek origin. Unfortunately, he did not leave a written family tree. However, I knew that his father’s name was Demostene, one uncle was named Panaite, his grandfather’s name was Gherasim, and his great-grandfather’s was Zacharias. There was also a great-uncle, Menelaos. The family kept Greek names as well. Besides my father, other Romanian pilots descended from prominent families with Greek origins. I will mention only two of them, Constantin “Bâzu” Cantacuzino and Tudor Greceanu. But apart from the name, unfortunately, I doubt that they were preserving something from their Greek legacy. It was rather an abstraction or a sweet memory. They were all, however, Romanian patriots who fully did their duty during World War II. Thank you very much for your interest. I truly believe that my father, alongside other Romanian ace pilots with Greek roots, deserve to be known by the Greek and international public."



The Rediscovered Ace Dan Vizanty. HistoryNet Retrieved from https://www.historynet.com/rediscovered-ace-dan-vizanty/.

Originally published in the September 2014 issue of Aviation History

Vizanty 5
The Romanian ace of Greek heritage looks tired, having the #344 tail as a background. Was this photo taken after the famous engagement on June 10, 1944, the day on which he gained 2 kills flying this particular IAR 81C? (Ana Maria Vizanty)
Vizanty 7
'Mon Cher' entering the cockpit of his 'Gustav', the Me-109G which was the workhorse of the Luftwaffe in the Eastern front, flown also by Romanian and Hungarian Air Forces. The majority of Romanian aces achieved their victories with the Gustav. They all spoke very highly of it. Lt. av. Teodor Greceanu (20 victories) also of Greek heritage once said "it fit him like a glove".  It was by far the best fighter ARR had during the war and also the most effective. It was the only one to score confirmed kills against the Mustang. (via http://www.istoriesicivilizatie.ro/ further info by https://worldwar2.ro/)

On August 24, 1944, a poignant radio exchange took place between two fighter aces who, until the previous day, had been allies, comrades in arms, and close friends. One of them, Captain Dan Vizanty, commanded Fighter Group 6 of the Royal Romanian Air Force (RRAF). The other, Colonel Eduard Neumann, led the Luftwaffe’s Romanian Sector Fighter Command. As Vizanty re-called it, Neumann informed him:

"Dear Vizanty, in half an hour I will launch a strike on Bucharest. What will you do?"

Without hesitation, I answer: "I’ll order the planes to take off." 

Neumann: "I understand, everybody has to do his duty."

I answer: "There is no alternative. Sad reality. If God helps us, we will meet again one day to remember only the good times spent together."

Remarkably, 35 years after this discussion took place, the two protagonists would indeed meet again, at the International Fighter Pilot Convention in Munich, Germany. Born on February 9, 1910, in Botosani, Romania, to an old Moldavian family of Greek heritage, Dan Vizanty hoped to become an actor in his youth. Following two years of studying drama, however, his ambitions turned to flying, a decision destined to supply him with drama aplenty. After graduating from the Military School of Aviation at Cotroceni in 1931, Vizanty was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant aviator (second lieutenant), subsequently earning his air traffic control license and, in 1932, his military pilot’s license. He went on to qualify as a fighter pilot in 1934, was promoted to lieutenant on October 16, 1936, and to captain on April 17, 1939. During this period, he flew a mixed bag of aircraft, including the French Morane-Saulnier 35 and 230 trainers, Potez 25 two-seat fighter-bomber, Romanian-built SET-7 trainer, British de Havilland Tiger Moth trainer, Canadian Consolidated Fleet Model 1 trainer, Italian Nardi FN.305 fighter-trainer, Polish PZL P-11F fighter and German Heinkel He-112 fighter. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Romania joined in as its ally. Vizanty later wrote in a magazine article that World War II represented "an extraordinary and very difficult fight for any military, which during the same conflict, fought in the beginning against the USSR in the East, the Anglo-American alliance inside the country and in the end, in the West, against the Germans."

From the beginning, Vizanty distinguished himself as commander of Fighter Squadron 43 during the campaign to regain possession of Bessarabia. The unit’s P-11Fs were already obsolescent, but between June 1941 and August 1942, Vizanty displayed boldness and daring in the course of more than 50 missions. From August 1942 to August 1943, Vizanty served as chief officer for SubSecretary of State of the Air Force General Gheorghe Jienescu. After the massive American bomb strike on the Ploesti oil refineries on August 1, 1943, Jienescu sought to upgrade Romania’s air defenses in anticipation of further attacks. Vizanty was given command of Fighter Group 6 and tasked with protecting Bucharest and the refineries in the Ploesti-Campina region. Initially based in Pipera and later in Popesti-Leordeni, the group flew IAR 80s and 81s designed and built by the Industria Aeronautica Romana at Brasov. In spite of their technical and numerical inferiority, Fighter Group 6’s three squadrons (59, 61, and 62) were credited with shooting down more than 90 four-engine bombers and 45 fighters while defending their home territory. Vizanty became a triple ace, downing 12 B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators, as well as three P-38 Lightnings. Due to the toll taken on its bombers by Romanian and German fighters, as well as by intense anti-aircraft artillery fire, on June 10, 1944, the Fifteenth Air Force sent more than 100 P-38s to dive-bomb Ploesti. The plan was to come in at a low altitude at an early hour—0800—surprising the defenders and attacking the refineries and any Axis aircraft on nearby airfields. The colossal Lightning strike proved to be a colossal failure. Early radar warnings sent Romanian and German fighters scrambling up to intercept the Americans. For Vizanty and the IAR 81C pilots of Fighter Group 6, June 10 was their "Day of Glory", but their opponents in the 1st and 82nd Fighter Groups would call it the "Blackest Day". The Romanians claimed 24 planes and lost just three—all apparently at the hands of the same pilot, 2nd Lt. Herbert Hatch of the 71st Squadron, 1st Fighter Group. 'Stub' Hatch, who was credited with five Focke-Wulf Fw-190s (the Americans often confused the IAR 80/81s with Fw-190s), would mention in his autobiography, An Ace and His Angel, the merits of Vizanty’s fighter group and the outstanding performance of the IAR 81C. For decades the Fifteenth Air Force believed the 50 percent casualties its Lightning units suffered that day were all at the hands of the Luftwaffe. It was not until the early 1980s that Hatch discovered who his adversaries had really been.

Vizanty 9
The Commander smiling for the camera in a photo that doesn't remind the dangers of the war. (Ana Maria Vizanty)
Vizanty 11
Hanging on his Gustav, proudly wearing the Order of Michael the Brave, 1st Class, Romania’s highest military decoration. (Ana Maria Vizanty)

With the truce on August 23—a crucial moment in Romanian history—the country changed sides politically as well as militarily, thereafter fighting alongside the Allies. Captain Vizanty became commander of Fighter Group 1 but also retained command of Fighter Group 6. Both groups operated from Popesti-Leordeni, defending the Romanian capital from Luftwaffe attacks, and adding 25 German aircraft to their joint tally. Vizanty interceded when 1,590 American, British, and Canadian airmen, “with my help, were released and sent to Foggia, Italy, after the truce of August 23, 1944, before the Soviet military invaded Bucharest.” Eager to establish contact with the Americans, Vizanty entrusted the job of flying the highest-ranking American POW in Romania, Lt. Col. James Gunn III, to fellow Greek parentage ace Captain Constantin Cantacuzino, who squeezed Gunn into the radio compartment of a Me-109G and delivered him to Allied territory. From September 8, 1944, until the end of the war, Vizanty led Fighter Group 1, which by then was using Me-109Gs— ironic, considering that his new enemies, the Germans, were flying the same models. Just after the German surrender, on May 10, 1945, the Romanian ace was promoted to lieutenant commander. By then he had accumulated more than 4,600 flying hours and racked up 16 air-to-air victories. According to the system used by the RRAF, which gave credit for shared kills and multiplied credits for multiengine bombers, his official score stood at 43. In recognition of his piloting skills, leadership, and "outstanding heroism in the war," Vizanty was awarded the highest military honors. Among them was the Order of Michael the Brave, 1st Class, Romania’s highest military decoration. According to Dénes Bernád’s book Rumanian Aces of World War 2, "He was one of only three surviving officers flying the Rumanian-designed aircraft to receive this award, and the only recipient to participate in the fighting against the Americans."

When the Communist regime was installed in Romania after the war, Vizanty was forced to retire from the air force. In 1961 he was sentenced to five years imprisonment for “plotting against the social order,” but after two years was given an official pardon. Immediately upon his release, Vizanty sued the Communist government, demanding the restoration of his civil rights and the goods seized from him during his incarceration. Although he actually won the lawsuit, the government subsequently relegated him to a number of jobs unconnected with his training—from salvaging war wrecks to planting medicinal plants and working as a technician, mechanic, crane operator, and junior engineer. Like most officers who had been commissioned in the Royal Romanian military, Vizanty was largely ignored by his countrymen in the war’s aftermath. His exploits received more acknowledgment in France, however, where in October 1976 he became an honorary member of the international aeronautical association Les Vieilles Tiges. After immigrating to Paris, in June 1977 Vizanty was given another award, the Silver Medal of Paris, presented to him by the mayor—and later president of France—Jacques Chirac. In exile, the ace became a journalist, but he still remained devoted to his homeland, often writing about Romanian aviation. Vizanty died in Paris on November 12, 1992. In 2010, the centennial of his birth, Daniel Focsa published Dan Vizanty: The Destiny of a Fighter Pilot. The Museum of Aviation in Bucharest also developed a photo-documentary exposition exploring Vizanty’s many accomplishments. That exhibit—"The Rediscovered Ace…"— was presented at the Military Museum in Bucharest in November 2012.

Vizanty 10
Visanty while enjoying the company of his little friend. (via https://adevarul.ro/)
Vizanty 15
In front of a Messerschmitt Me-109G. (http://www.istoriesicivilizatie.ro/)
Vizanty 6
The cover of Aripi Romanesti magazine on June 15, 1944, which represent "Mon Cher" holding probably the mascot of his Group. The photo was taken just after his return from the dogfight of June 10, 1944, often called the RRAF "Turkey Shoot" or the "Blackest Day" for the USAAF 15th Air Force. (via https://adevarul.ro/)
Vizanty 4a
Cpt av Dan Vizanty, chats with comrade and friend Lt av Dumitru Baciu in front of Vizanty’s Bf 109G-6‘Red 1’ in Slovakia in the spring of 1945. Both ex-IAR 81 pilots, they had converted to the Bf 109G to fight against the Axis and were credited with over 50 victories between them. (via https://muzeulvirtual.ro/ further info by Dénes Bernád)
Vizanty 12
Dan Vizanty along with his beloved daughter Ana Maria, in his latter years in Paris. (Ana Maria Vizanty)
Vizanty 8
Dan Vizanty along with his brothers in arms in a snow-covered RRAF airfield. (via https://adevarul.ro/)
Vizanty 14
The citation for the award of The Order of Michael the Brave (Ordinul Mihai Viteazul) to Dan Vizanty. (via http://www.istoriesicivilizatie.ro/)

by George Moris
Vizanty 17

An unexpected trip to Bucharest gave us the opportunity to meet the only daughter of the Romanian ace of Greek origin, Mrs. Ana Maria Vizanty. Already from our correspondence, she seemed a noble and warm woman, which we soon confirmed. She chose to meet at the National Military Museum of Romania (Muzeul Militar Naţional), where an IAR.80, whose -81C version, was flown by Vizanty in 1944, is also on display. In front of this famous fighter, we handed her a gift, a painting depicting her father's IAR.81C during the huge dogfight between the 15th Air Force P-38 fighter bombers and the Romanian and Luftwaffe fighters on June 10, 1944. Leaving the Museum we headed to a more comfortable space and spent time having a more personal conversation with her. We had the opportunity to get to know her better, through beautiful stories about her own life, during the difficult periods of the past. Ana Maria worked as a Mathematician at the Secondary Level of Education as well as in various Research Projects, and from her positions in discussions on all subjects, she proved that she was a cultured person. We recognized in her friendly face a warm heart, which made our unavoidable separation sadder, but fortunately, she left floating a promise of a visit to Greece. For me and my wife, meeting her was perhaps the most emotionally valuable moment in our entire journey. Ana Maria Vizanty, is a special Lady, a special personality, and a self-luminous person even without the heavy name of her great father Dan Vizanty.

Vizanty 16
Vizanty 18

Further Reading


1. DAN VIZANTY, DESTINUL UNUI PILOT DE VANATOARE, Daniel Focsa, Institutul European 2010, isbn   9789736116926.

2. Rumanian Aces ofWorld War 2, Dénes Bernád, Οsprey Publishing 2003, isbn 978184176535

3. Romanian Fighter Colours, 1941-1945, Teodor Liviu Morosanu, Dan Alexandru Melinte, Mushroom Model 2009, isbn 9788389450906