Luigi Gorrini was a fighter ace who served in the Regia Aeronautica during World War II. He is notable for being the highest ranking Italian air ace still alive before his death in 2014. For his service and bravery in combat, Gorrini was awarded the Gold Medal of Military Valor.
Gorrini was born in Alseno, Italy on July 12, 1917. Initially, Gorrini's passion lay in motorcycles but quickly changed towards the air. In 1937, he joined the Regia Aeronautica and earned his wings. In February 1939, he was assigned as flight sergeant to 85ª Squadriglia, 18˚ Gruppo, 3˚ Stormo. This would be his unit for the remainder of the time he served with the Regia Aeronautica. As noted in a later interview, it is also here where he gained precious training from the group's Spanish Civil War veterans.
World War II
Gorrini's first combat operation took place in France, 1940 as part of the Battle of France. Though facing little combat, Gorrini nonetheless was occasionally engaged by enemy aircraft, scoring no kills. On his first such encounter with a French aircraft for example, Gorrini simply could not bring himself to open fire when given the opportunity, leaving the group commander to do so, resulting in a severe calling out by his superior, though no punishment. By autumn of that same year, Gorrini was fighting during the Battle of Britain. Again scoring no kills, although experiencing much fiercer combat.
In January 1941, Gorrini's squadron was immediately sent into combat over North Africa. Gorrini scored his first kill on April 16 which was a beaufighter shot down over Derna. However, according to British sources, no aircraft were lost on that day in that area, but ZG 26 meanwhile reported a Bf 110 shot down which could indicate that this was a case of friendly fire. On May 29, he claimed his second kill, a Bristol Blenheim. For a time after this, Gorrini scored no further kills while he and his unit operated as escorts for naval convoys or conducted ground attack runs. By January 1943, Gorrini's unit had upgraded to the Macchi MC.202 Folgore and was now fighting in the defense of Tunisia.
On January 11, Gorrini was involved in a large Italian ground strike against British airfields in Uadi Tamet. While protecting the bomber aircraft, Gorrini claimed one spitfire shot down and one damaged. Before finally returning to Italy in March, 1943, Gorrini claimed a P-40 and a Hurricane Mk IID. Now defending Italy, Gorrini's unit was once again upgraded, now to the Macchi MC.205 Veltro. However, he was prevented from flying at first due to an eye injury. Regardless, now that his aircraft was more sufficiently armed with autocannons, Gorrini's air kill count went up dramatically to four B-17s, four P-38s, and a spitfire from July to August. Also shot down, albeit with a MC.202, Gorrini claimed another P-38 and a B-24. On August 13, Gorrini was shot down by 12.7mm machine gun fire from the B-24 he claimed. Later on the 31st, Gorrini claimed another spitfire to add to his tally, but was forced to make an emergency landing and thus spent weeks recovering in the hospital. Later fighting for the ANR, Gorrini claimed another four Allied aircraft, but was shot down again on June 15, 1944 by American P-47s and became too injured to continue flying. In total, Luigi Gorrini had nineteen confirmed kills, though personally claimed twenty-four.
Gorrini would go on to enlist in the post-war Italian Air Force and served until 1979. From there, he retired and lived in Alseno until his death in 2014.