Gorizia

Validation date: 10 11 2011
Updated on: Never
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45°54'30"N013°36'00"E

Flying field: 520x1150m - grass (1924)

Air field Gorizia (also known as (Friulian) Gurize, (Slovene) Gorica, or (German) Görz) was an airfield in the northeast of Italy, north of Triest, bordering to Slovenia.
The airfield was built as a military training ground for the Austro-Hungarian army in 1911. The year before, aviation pioneer Rusjan had used the grassy area for his flight experiments. Soon after, hangars were built along the road Merna-Gorizia. The original project enticed the construction of four hangars, a workshop, a room for the guard, a room used as office, a parts warehouse, a cement waste oil facility and two tanks of gasoline, each having a capacity of 300 kg. Each hangar had a 16 meter opening front, a height of 4.20 meters and a depth of 8 meters.
By the end of 1911 four hangars and workshops had been built. The airport was inaugurated 15 January 1912 by the Austro-Hungarian army who used it as its only flying school in support of Wiener Neustadt.


Austro-Hungarian document of the area for the construction of the airfield with the surrounding area, ca 1910 (asso4stormo.it).

Flying classes began the folowing year with a limited amount of students. There were not enough instructors and thus a course could not handle more than 10-12 pilots. Furthermore, considering the actual situation of the school, given the number of aircraft and the number of instructors available, it was decided that a course should not have more than six officers participating.
Gorizia was considered a difficult airfield because of its small size. It was 'a field more suited to experienced pilots and less for beginners'. Still, in spite of many difficulties, there were always one 'basic' and an 'advanced' training course running at the airfield. Obviously there were accidents too: Lt. Von Petrovitz had the dubious double 'honour' of being the first to crash at the airfield and also the first Austrian military pilot to die.
In 1915 the first signs of Italy's entry into the Great War became clear. Soon it became obvious how vulnerable the airfield was, because it was too close to what would be the front line. Therefore it was decided that all the material had to be disassembled and moved to Szombathely.


Aerial photo of 1924: From north to west runs the railway line. The ragged lines are the former trenches running across the railway and another running across the aifield to a covered walkway. A third trench was dug over the entire airfield. The two Ts delimit the length of the runway, and in between the word Gorizia is painted. The grounds south of the runway are still farmland (asso4stormo.it).

After World War I the airfield was enlarged. This occurred not without difficulty, because the camp was still crossed by the trenches and communication trenches of World War 1. In 1924 the airfield was listed by the Italian authorities as an 'abandoned military airfield'. Italian lawmakers did not sit idle though.
The Italian Air Force had become an independent Weapon in March 1923. A law passed in 1924 demanded for flying bases to be established all around Italy, as any enemy aircraft needed to cover only a modest 350kilometers to reach Italy. The law was reinforced only 3 years later requiring the Italian provinces to carry the financial burden, as the Ministry of Aviation had only very limited budgets.
After the extension and accommodation work was carried out in the middle of the 1920s, the field was definitely oversized for the needs. Only after the 4°Stormo's permanent arrival at the airport it began to operate at full capacity.
The airport is named after E. Grego, which was replaced in 1942 with "Duca d'Aosta." After 4° Stormo had left, the airfield got another Wing: 21° Stormo, which divided the airfield in two (south, resp. north). With proper drainage and generally good weather the airport always ensured full operability. Many Wings and Squadrons from all over Italy used the airfield to fly exercises in the Aviano area.


December 1931 airfield map (asso4stormo.it).

The 1930s were a busy period for the units at Gorizia. In June 1932 4° and 21° Stormo organised an air show. The command of 3rd Air Brigade was moved to Gorizia in May 1934. In 1934 4° Stromo deployed to East Africa.
In 1935 testing of a new torpedo, built in the Whitehead torpedo factory in Rijeka (then still an Italian city) took place from Gorizia. Many torpedo bomber units deployed to the airfield to test the torpedo at the sea front of Pula.
Although Italy joined the war on 10 June 1940, 4° Stormo had prepared for North Africa 3 days earlier. A deadly incident occurred when some Stukas from Graz made an emergency landing 6 kilometers north of Gorizia. One of the aircraft snapped a high voltage cable during his emergency landing. The crew escaped with minor injuries, but of the rescuers, who were unaware of the cable, 1 died and two others received serious injuries.
December 1940 saw the establishment of a new torpedobomber squadron at Gorizia (279Sq), but they transferred out in Janary 1941.


Macchi C.202 Folgores of 51° Stormo at Gorizia Airfield, 1942, notice the 3 landmark hangars in the rear of the picture.

From the beginning Gorizia was also heavily involved in the war with Yugoslavia. In June 1941 4° Stormo left for Sicily. A month later they returned with unserviceable aircraft and converted to the Reggio Re.2001. They then redeployed to Sicily.
In 1942 SM82 were operating out of Gorizia committed in Croatia on refuelling missions. In 1943 the Section Repair Aircraf Engines (SRAM) was set up in one of the hangars. On 8 September 1943 the Italian forces surrendered to the Allies. The next morning Slovenian Partisans occupied the airfield and stole every weapon available at the airfield. Hardly any aircraft were left though; only a few trainer aircraft remained, which were set on fire.


Gorizia March 1942, SM82 "Marsupiale" of 606 Squadron, CXLVIII Transportation Group. (asso4stormo.it)

In the late afternon of 12 September 1943, after having fought a bloody gunbattle that annihilated the Partisans, the Germans occupied the airfield. Two Italian collaborateurs were left to command the airfield.
On 18 September a Ju-52 landed at the airfield with the first group of Italian pilots that had refused to surrender to the Allies. Their task was to salvage whatever aircraft were left on various airfields in the center of Italy and recover them. Initially the Germans order all these aircraft to be repaired at Gorizza and then flown to Treviso. Soon the order was given to bring all to Germany though.
Only the torpedo bombers remained, and with a major effort the Italians managed to get 30 operational in 3 squadrons. 23 November 1943 they became part of the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (National Air Force of the Republlic). In early 1944 Gorizia continued to support actions against the Allies, such as the beach landings near Anzio and Nettuno.
The Allied response did not take long: Gorizia was bombed by Allied bombers with 32,370 cluster bombs on 18 March 1944. Their aircraft destroyed, the pilots left for Venegono.

On 11 August 1944 bombs fell on the airport again. It suffered a final less intense strike in April 1945, just days before the end of the war. By then the airfield was already closed and the German garrison left, after having destroyed the remains of 4° Stormos metal hangars. The metal was brought to Germany for use in the smelters. Only one hangar remained, the old World War I hangar Gleiwitz. On 1 September 1945 World War II was over.
The Americans used the airfield with 13 single engine Stinson L-5s:
1 Stinson L-5 to the Division Headquarters (HQ 88 "Blue Devils).
3 Stinson L-5, one for each command Infantry Regiment (HQ 349 - 350 and 351 Inf.Rgt.).
9 Stinson L-5, for command Artillery Battalion (HQ 337 - 338 - 339 - 931 FA Bn.).
The units remained in Italy for the supervision of their section of the "Morgan Line".


Gorizia in 2009 (Google Earth).

Many thanks to Claudio Gioia for pointing out this airfield!