Ion Dobran was born on 5 February 1919,
in Văleni Podgoria. He finished the elementary school in Bucharest, the
military high-school in Tārgu Mures and, on 10 May 1941, the School of Air
Force Officers in Bucharest.
Until October 1941, slt. av. Ion Dobran
is assigned to the Fighter School in Ghimbav and then sent to the 48th
Squadron (9th Fighter Group), which was equipped with IAR-80s. After the
first USAAF raid (Operation Halpro), the 9th FG was given the mission,
along with other groups, to defend the territory. In March 1943, the
IAR-80s are replaced by Me-109Gs and, in August, the 9th FG starts to
replace the 7th FG (the process was gradual). In the first phase, 10
pilots were sent to the front (on 14 August) and then came the rest after
a few months. Slt. av. Ion Dobran was among these men.
His first mission was on 15 August (the
second day) and with a little luck could have been his first kill, even
though they were 2 against 8xYaks. But the day wasn't over. The Soviets
attacked the airfield with Il-2s and Yaks, but without results. They came
again during the night with Po-2s (obsolete biplanes flown by women).
These were called the "disturbing squadrons" by the Romanian pilots,
because the bombs usually fell far from the base. They only disturbed
their sleep. But after a while, Dobran got used to it.
His first kill came on 6 September 1943.
It was an Il-2 from a formation that just had attacked the airfield. The
second one came on 25 September. He was on an escort mission and the
Stukas were attacked by Yaks. After the second burst of the 20 mm cannon,
a part of the Soviet's wing fell off.
On 23 October, the 9th FG completely
replaced the 7th FG, but 14 pilots remained in the new group. They were
the best pilots Romania had then: Cantacuzino, Şerbănescu, Milu, Greceanu,
Mucenica and others.
His first kill in 1944 was on 26
February, when he was on patrol as Şerbănescu's wingman. It was the third
mission that day. Near Krivoirog they engaged 6 Yaks. Şerbănescu missed
one, but Dobran followed up and it took him only one burst of his 20 mm MG
151 gun to send him to the ground. Şerbănescu then attacked another one
and didn't miss this time.
In March he was promoted to lieutenant
and in April the 9th FG was on the Tecuci airfield, in Romania. During the
summer of 1944, the flew missions against the Americans and the Soviets.
On his first dogfight over national territory, Dobran shot down a Yak-7 on
11 April. On 17, after a regular battle with over 30 Sturmoviks and their
escorts, he was credited with a probable Il-2.
11 May was a busy day for lt. av. Ion
Dobran. In the first mission of the day the six Romanian "Gustavs" engaged
several Soviet La-5s. They attacked from a dive. Because of the high speed
of the airplane, Dobran was unable to correct his fire and the enemy got
away. On the second mission they encountered other La-5s. This time he
maneuvered properly and shot one down. He also spotted a Pe-2 formation
and he approached it, but when he tried to fire, the weapons didn't work.
Another memorable day was 30 May. He was
Cantacuzino's wingman. They engaged 8 Aircobras. Dobran wrote in his diary
that the ace simply played with them. The Soviets managed to get only in
90° angles and shoot. On the third mission, Dobran got a chance, but he
blew it. In the fourth mission they encountered 12 Il-2s protected by 8
Yaks. They dove firing at the escorts, which immediately took evasive
actions, living the road to the bombers unguarded. Dobran added one of
them to his kill list, but he hardly got way.
6 June, the 9th FG flew for the first time against the Americans. Lt. av.
Dobran was playing bridge with Mucenica, Şenchea and Simionescu, when the
alarm was given. They took off quickly and because of this rush, he ended
up without a wingman. He saw the USAAF formation and then he realized that
he was alone. Below him were four monoplanes and first thought they were "Gustavs"
from 56th Squadron. When he got closer he recognized the Mustangs. They
were flying like they were at a parade. Dobran dived and fired at the one
on the right. Smoke started to come out of the airplane. The others
dispersed. He went for the bombers, but he fired from distance, because
the Mustangs were closing in. He plunged down and managed to shake off two
of them after some acrobatic flying. But the one that remained shot him
Dobran's next kill came on 26 July, the
"black day" of the 9th FG. Şerbănescu and Cantacuzino were in Bucharest,
so cpt. av. Popescu-Ciocănel was in charge. The radar station announced
that a formation of about 20 bombers were near Bārlad and that they had
almost no escort. In fact there many, many fighters. The Romanian pilots
shot down 11 P-38s, but lost 7 planes. More important was the loss of 6
good pilots: adj. av. Pavel Ţurcanu, adj. av. Emil Bălan and adj. av.
Alexandru Economu (KIA). Cpt. av. Popescu-Ciocănel died of wounds on 12
August. Mucenica and Rădulescu remained in hospitals for a long time. Only
lt. av. Ion Dobran wasn't even scratched when he was shot down that day.
But the most sad day of the 9th FG and
of the ARR was 18 August. Şerbănescu took him as his wingman. They were 13
in total. They engaged a swarm of Mustangs. During the dogfight, the ace
maneuvered quickly and left Dobran a lot behind him. A Mustang got on his
tail. Adj. av. Traian Dārjan told Şerbănescu to watch out, but he did
nothing. The American fired and "Yellow 1" Me-109 G went to the ground. He
communicated that day only with the ground control. Probably his radio was
malfunctioning and he didn't hear his wingmen.
On 20 August, lt. av. Dobran was on
patrol as "Bāzu" Cantacuzino's wingman. They both got a Yak. After 23
August, when Romania requested an armistice, the Germans started bombing
Bucharest and the 7th and 9th FG were brought in to intercept the enemy.
Thus, on 25, Dobran shot down a He-111. This was his last kill in the air.
In September, the 9th Fighter Group was
in Transylvania, together with the rest of the Romanian Air Corps,
fighting for the liberation of this Romanian province (in 1940 it was
given by the Vienna Dictate to Hungary). On 15, the group attacked a
Hungarian airfield near Cluj. Lt. av. Ion Dobran destroyed a Re-2000 on
He fought all the way to Czechoslovakia,
through Hungary, but there were very few Germans and Hungarians in the air
at the end of 1944 and in 1945. On 9 May 1945 he flew his last two
missions. He escorted a IAR-39 recon plane, that dropped propaganda
leaflets, and then he flew in formation with cpt. av. Constantin
Lt. av. Ion Dobran had at the end of the
war 340 missions, 74 dogfights, 10 victories in the air and one on the
ground. He had been shot down three times.
On 13 March 1946 he is promoted captain
and on 7 June 1950 major. In 1952, Ion Dobran is fired, because he was an
officer of the royal army and not suited for the new "people's" army. He
is qualified as a lathe-operator in the "Timpuri Noi" factory. But in 1964
he got lucky and returned to flying, but in the civilian aviation. In 1973
he retired from TAROM (the Romanian national airlines). He is still alive
and well in Bucharest.
Ion Dobran in cockpit of his Bf 109.