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WWII Royal Italian Air Force

DAYTON, Ohio - The Royal Italian Air Force portion of the WWII: Airmen in a World at War exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - The Royal Italian Air Force portion of the WWII: Airmen in a World at War exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - The Royal Italian Air Force portion of the WWII: Airmen in a World at War exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - The Royal Italian Air Force portion of the WWII: Airmen in a World at War exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Artifacts from the Royal Italian Air Force portion of the WWII: Airmen in a World at War exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Artifacts from the Royal Italian Air Force portion of the WWII: Airmen in a World at War exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Many CR-42 pilots were killed while flying this obsolete biplane fighter
against modern Allied types. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Many CR-42 pilots were killed while flying this obsolete biplane fighter against modern Allied types. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The USAAF supplied P-39Ns to the Regia Aeronautica’s 4th Stormo in the summer of 1944. Note the Italian insignia painted over the USAAF insignia on the fuselage. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The USAAF supplied P-39Ns to the Regia Aeronautica’s 4th Stormo in the summer of 1944. Note the Italian insignia painted over the USAAF insignia on the fuselage. (U.S. Air Force photo)

An Italian fighter pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo)

An Italian fighter pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Regia Aeronautica
Italian pilots enjoyed success in the invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935 and during the Spanish Civil War in 1936-1938, but suffered heavily while flying inferior aircraft against the Allies in World War II. Although the Regia Aeronautica carried out limited operations over England and the Soviet Union, most of its pilots fought in the Mediterranean region. 

After the armistice in 1943, some pilots fled north to form the Republican Air Force and continued to fight for Mussolini. The majority of the Regia Aeronautica, however, took up arms against the Axis, flying over 4,000 missions between September 1943 and May 1945. 

Regia Aeronautica Officer's Service Uniform
This is a service uniform for a Regia Aeronautica captain who was a fighter pilot. The two hash marks on the upper right sleeve indicate he suffered two war wounds. His decorations reflect his earlier service in Abyssinia and in the Spanish Civil War. 

Regia Aeronautica Flying Uniform
This was a typical summer flying outfit for a Regia Aeronautica pilot in North Africa in 1942, although some airmen wore khaki shorts in place of the flying trousers for a measure of relief from the heat. This lieutenant has obtained a pair of comfortable British flying boots. It was a common practice for pilots of both sides to replace issued material with captured flying gear.

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