Tiberiu Vinca

Tiberiu Vinca was born on 23 May 1916, in the Hunedoara department in Transylvania. From a young age studied hard and became a teacher.

But he was also an aviation enthusiast. In 1937 he attended the flight school in Bucharest and got the license the same year. He entered in the Air Force's attention and he entered in the Buzau Military Flight School and on 7 September 1940 he received his fighter pilot license. Adj. stg. av. (in reserve) Tiberiu Vinca was assigned to the 7th Fighter Group equipped with the Bf-109E. There he trained with German instructors.

The unit was engaged in the fighting from the first day of Operation Barbarossa. But his first kill came on 23 July. The next one came only five days later, when he was on patrol with adj. Malacescu. They spotted a formation of five Soviet fighters. They dived and attacked. Vinca engaged the first three, while his wingman the last two. The Romanians, however, got separated during the dogfight, mainly because of their lack of experience. Another two Luftwaffe Bf-109s joined the battle. Thus Vinca managed to get behind a Soviet fighter and shot it down. 

On 18 August, four Romanian Emils from the 58th Fighter Squadron (7th Fighter Group) flew a fighter cover mission for the Romanian troops near Odessa. They soon encountered 8 I-16s which were attacking ground targets. In the following dogfight, each Romanian pilot, including adj. stg. Tiberiu Vinca, claimed a Soviet fighter. But these soon were joined by an additional six Ratas. Outnumbered, the Romanians retreated. On their way back, Vinca spotted an isolated I-16 and attacked it. After receiving several cannon rounds, the Rata went down in flames. However, a few minutes later, the Bf-109E had some engine problems and had to land in a field. Luckily for the pilot, it was behind the Romanian lines.

His fifth and last victory during ARR's first campaign came on 29 August. After escorting a IAR-39 observation aircraft, a Romanian formation of Bf-109Es spotted 12 I-16s attacking on the ground near Dalnik. In the following engagement, adj. stg. Tiberiu Vinca managed to shoot down one of them, flown by Starshiy Politruk Semyon Kunitsa of 69 IAP.

In the autumn of 1942, the 7th Fighter Group were again on the front, this time near Stalingrad. When the Soviets broke the Romanian lines in the offensive in November, their airfield had to be evacuated. The pilots and mechanics barely escaped capture, in very dramatic conditions (see the article on Alexandru Serbanescu on this site). Tiberiu Vinca managed save two mechanics. This was probably one the only flights made by a Bf-109E with three passengers on board! One was put inside the fuselage and the other was squeezed in the cockpit together with the pilot. In spite of the difficult take off (the Soviet tanks were shelling the airfield), of the weather and an overloaded airplane he made it to the Tachinskaya airbase. 

The remains of the 7th Fighter Group and of the 5th Bomber Group were joined in the Mixed Group for the moment being. The payback came on 20 January 1943, when cpt. Serbanescu and adj. stg. Tiberiu Vinca shot down a Hurricane each.

At the beginning of March 1943, the Mixed Group was retreated to Melitopol for R&R. But the fighter pilots of the 7th Fighter Group were assigned to the JG 3 Udet were they changed to the new Bf-109G. They soon started flying war missions. On 10 April, ten airplanes strafed an airfield north of Voroshilovgrad. Cpt. Dan Scurtu and slt. Hariton Dusescu had each a Pe-2 confirmed as destroyed on the ground. Of. echip. cls. III Ion Milu, adj. stg. Tiberiu Vinca and adj. sef Nicolae Burileanu also had a Pe-2 confirmed as destroyed on the ground, but only the Germans. It's a mystery, why the Royal Romanian Aeronautics didn't confirm them as well.

On 21 April he shot down a Soviet RZ biplane in a dogfight 4 km west of Starobielsk.

Four days later he crash landed because of an engine failure, but got away unscratched. On 7 May he scored his 8th victory (a Sturmovik) and on 9 May he shot down two La-5s. In that last dogfight he was lightly wounded and sent to the Taganrog hospital. At that moment he was the highest scoring Romanian ace on the front.

In June 1943, the 7th Fighter Group was passed again under Romanian command and was assigned to the Romanian Air Corps. Vinca returned from the hospital and shot down another Soviet aircraft on 27 July. But a few days later he was wounded again and left the Group. He missed the heavy action of August 1943. Who knows what he might have achieved?

After he got out of the hospital he was assigned to the 53rd Fighter Squadron, which was stationed on the Pipera airfield near Bucharest. He flew home defense missions, but they were only exercises.

In February 1944 he was transferred to the 56th Fighter Squadron in the 9th Fighter Group, which was then under the command of cpt. Alexandru Serbanescu. 

On 10 March he was the wingman of lt. Teodor Greceanu. They were called back to the airfield because Soviet airplanes were attacking the base. Adj. Tiberiu Vinca shot down two Il-2 bombers and lt. Greceanu got a Yak. All this happened under eyes of gen. Emanoil Ionescu, the commander of the 1st Air Corps.

But three days later, on 13 March (a coincidence?), his luck ran out. It was his second mission that day. He spotted a bomber formation and went in for a closer look. They were German He-111s. But the German machine-gunners opened fire. Tiberiu Vinca's airplane was hit, entered a spin and crashed into the ground. The pilot's body was thrown out of the cockpit.

He had flown 248 war missions and shot down 13 enemy airplanes (15 victories after the new system adopted in 1944). A few days before he had asked to be promoted to the rank of "sublocotenent" (2nd lt.) in reserve or at least be admitted in the Reserve Officers' School, as reward for his long service record on the front. Unfortunately he was promoted post-mortem.