Captured SM.79 Sparrowhawk used by the 79th Fighter Group

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UncleBourbon
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Captured SM.79 Sparrowhawk used by the 79th Fighter Group

Post by UncleBourbon » 02 Dec 2021 02:18

For the past few months now I've been fascinating with this American captured Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparrowhawk, particularly because while having an American roundel on the rear fuselage, you can clearly see it maintained it's Regia Aeronautica roundels on the top and bottom of it's wings.
Italian and US roundels.png
Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero captured by the US 79th Fighter Group in 1944.png
On the captured-wings wiki, I found it had the Italian s/n MM 21750. I actually purchased the July 2021 issue of FlyPast since it was cited as the source for the article, however the scanned image is the only mention of the captured aircraft in the article, and it turns out the article was available for free online in the meantime.
https://www.key.aero/article/fighting-sparrowhawk
FlyPast 2021 scan.png
Other than it apparently being used by the 79th Fighter Group for transport, I can't find any other details about it's service in American hands.
I'd be particularly interested in what the US pilots thought of the Sparrowhawk's performance, whether there were any stories of interest involving it, and if it's known why the Regia Aeronautica roundels were kept on the wings.

Many thanks in advance if anyone's able to turn up more info on it!
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Takao
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Re: Captured SM.79 Sparrowhawk used by the 79th Fighter Group

Post by Takao » 06 Dec 2021 13:21

Captured on Sicily at Catania Main Airfield near Mt. Etna.

Repaired, renamed The Marcheesi Specialand used as a squadron "hack"(utility aircraft) for supply & beer runs to Alexandria.

The Group was moving to mainland Italy, and the SM-79 was used to transport supplies & personnel. After a problematic flight, the aircraft was overloaded - tail heavy & the trim tabs worked opposite of American trim tabs compounding the problem. The pilot, Lt. Colonel "Chuck" Grogan, Group Operations Officer, managed to recover, continued the flight, and landed uneventfully in Italy.

Unfortunately, the plane was wrecked in taxiing to take off again. Grogan was taxiing to take off with the outboard engines running. While trying to get the center engine running, air was lost to the brakes. The SM-79 drifted left of center of the runway towards a bomb crater. When Grogan applied more throttle to the left engine, it died. The thrust & torque of the right engine alone sent the aircraft into the bomb crater. "End of plane, end of story." Grogan said.

Unfortunately, no date or name of the Italian field is given.

Source: The 79th Fighter Group Over Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy in World War II. by Don Woerpel. 2001. Schaffer Military History.


There is a blurry photo, which I will try to post later.

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Takao
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Re: Captured SM.79 Sparrowhawk used by the 79th Fighter Group

Post by Takao » 06 Dec 2021 13:53

Forgot to add, Page 94 of the book covers the SM-79.

Photo on pg 95.
sm79.jpg
I presume this is the SM-79 in the bomb crater.
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Takao
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Re: Captured SM.79 Sparrowhawk used by the 79th Fighter Group

Post by Takao » 07 Dec 2021 01:11

Interesting, the fuselage has the Star & Bars without the yellow/white band.

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Re: Captured SM.79 Sparrowhawk used by the 79th Fighter Group

Post by UncleBourbon » 07 Dec 2021 06:20

Thank you, Takao! The photo definitely seems to be after hitting the crater.
That is interesting that it appears the roundel was changed by the time of it's final flight. It seems the Regia Aeronautica roundels were also changed; they seem to have been painted over with the same color as the top surfaces and sides of the plane, as the underwings and lower surfaces were a lot lighter in the first photo.

I had done some searching myself in the meantime, and found this page for the 79th Fighter Group with photos by Lt. Col. Grogan. There are three of The Marcheesi Special as well.
https://79thfightergroup.com/79th-fighter-group-grogan

Interestingly, the one on the right below seems to be the same as one of the three I posted at the start of the thread, only Mt Etna was edited out.
Makes me wonder if there's a higher resolution version of the photo on the left of it in flight available somewhere.
79th-FG-Captured-SM.79.-Charles-Grogan-collection-via-Steve-Grogan-.JPG
Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero captured by the US 79th Fighter Group in 1944.png
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Takao
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Re: Captured SM.79 Sparrowhawk used by the 79th Fighter Group

Post by Takao » 07 Dec 2021 23:17

Mt. Etna is in the last photo, but faintly. It looks like the brightness was increased to bring out more details of the aircraft, at the same time, this overexposed the background, making Mt. Etna almost invisible.

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Re: Captured SM.79 Sparrowhawk used by the 79th Fighter Group

Post by Sid Guttridge » 10 Dec 2021 06:54

Hi UncleBourbon,

The USAAF also used a Ju52 in its colours in Panama during the war. It came from one of the Lufthansa subsidiaries in Latin America.

The British captured several serviceable Italian Savoia-Marchetti trimotor bombers in Italian East Africa in 1941 and these were handed over initially to the Kenya Auxiliary Air Unit with the serials:

K-33 Savoia Marchetti SM73
K-34 Savoia Marchetti SM79?
K-35 Savoia Marchetti SM79?
K-36 Savoia Marchetti SM79

All were passed on to the South African Air Force,

Cheers,

Sid

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