Constantin "Bāzu" Cantacuzino
He was born on 11 November 1905 in Bucharest. His father was
Mihai Cantacuzino and his mother Maria Rosetti. There were both from old noble
families and very, very rich. For example, after 1921, when many lands were
expropriated and given to the peasants, his estate in Jilavele, still had 1172
ha(1ha=100 mx100 m), a huge surface of high quality agricultural land. His
mother married for the second time with George Enescu (Romania's best composer
and a world class violinist; he was Yehudi Menuhin's teacher). He went to
high-school in Bucharest. He loved motor sports and he could afford to practice
them all the time. He was an excellent biker (won some races) and driver (he set
a new record on the Paris-Bucharest race). He played tennis and was the captain
of the Romanian ice hockey team at the World Championship in 1933.
That year he attended the "Mircea Cantacuzino" Flight School
(the fee was 30000 lei, which was a considerable sum, the leu was equal to the
French franc). He flew a lot around Europe until the beginning of the war and
sometimes in very difficult conditions. He was the pilot of the prince G. V.
Bibescu, the president of the International Aviation Federation. Until the
beginning of the war he had already over 2000 hours of flights all across
Europe. In 1939 he won the national aerial acrobatics contest with his Bücker
1941, he was named chief-pilot of the Romanian national air transport company LARES.
Even though this was a comfortable and job, he managed to get in the front
line as a fighter pilot in the 53rd Squadron (equipped with Hurricane
Mk. I). From 5 July, when he started flying war missions, until 31 October 1941,
when he was demobilized, he claimed 4 victories (3xDB-3 and 1xI-16) and 2
probable (1xDB-2 and 1xI-16).
After the capture of Odessa, the Romanian armed forces reduced
the number of front line troops, because the main objectives were achieved (Bessarabia
was liberated and the Soviets were pushed away the frontiers).
"Bāzu" was one of the reservists who were sent home. He retook
his position at LARES.
But he managed to return to active duty in 1943. On 26 April
1943 he was remobilized and assigned to the 7th Fighter Group, which
was equipped with the new Me-109 G. On 5 May he arrived on the front line and
was named commander of the 58th Squadron. On 29 June, he and his
wingman engaged 4xYaks, 2xLa-5s and 4xSpitfires, while trying to protect 3
Romanian Ju-88s His wingman was badly hit and forced to return to base. He
continued the fight and shot down 2 Spits. He was also damaged, but managed to
escape. Unfortunately, two of the bombers were destroyed. In July he flown both
day and night missions, even though his "Gustav" was not equipped for that kind
of flying. He tried to stop the Soviet night bombings of his airfield. The
Germans protested and considered him mad. He finally gave up these missions.
On 27 July 1943, his wing was suppose to escort a German recon
plane. But because of technical problems, only "Bāzu�s" airplane could be fueled
in time. When he reached the rendezvous point, the German plane was already
under attack by a Yak with a red engine hood (that meant over 25 kills). There
were another two Yaks which were protecting the other one. He fired from
distance and the Soviets turned on him. After 2 minutes he managed to get behind
the Soviet ace and shot him down, before the wingmen could intervene. They ran
away after seeing what happened to their leader. On his way back to the airfield
"Bāzu" also sent a Pe-2 to the ground.
Between 2 and 5 August he shot down 9 planes (4xYaks and
5xIl-2s), raising his score to 27. On 5 August he was alone on patrol and he
encountered a Soviet formation about 40-50 planes strong (Il-2s and Yaks). He
realized that he couldn't have obtained outstanding results, but he could try to
create them some problems. He dove into the Il-2 formation and shot down 2 of
them, but he was immediately attacked by the Soviet fighters. He managed to
shake them off, only one remained, but soon he joined Cantacuzino's kill
The day of 16 August was an excellent day for the pilots of
the 7th Fighter Group. They claimed 22 kills and 5 probable. First
was Slt. Ion Milu with 5, then came Cpt. av. Cantacuzino with 3 (2xLa-5s and
1xIl-2) and Cpt. av. Alexandru
Şerbănescu (2xIl-2s and 1xIl-2 probable). On 28 August he also received the Iron
Cross, 1st class (Şerbănescu got his on 17).
In the autumn of 1943 "Bāzu" got sick and was interned to a
hospital and then had to stay a while away from the front to rest.
One of Bf 109's G-4 flown probably by Cpt. av. Cantacuzino in
On 10 February 1944 he returned to active duty in the 7th
Fighter Group, which was sent to the front with the Soviets in Moldavia. On 15
April, there was an American raid and Cpt. av. Cantacuzino and his wingmen
attacked the bomber formations and shot down 6 Liberators (the prince got one
himself). He continued flying missions against the VVS and had a few victories.
On 31 May the 7th Fighter Group was pulled out of
the first line and assigned to home defense. Cantacuzino remained in the 9th
Fighter Group. He had 36 kills.
"Bāzu" was the first Romanian pilot to send a Mustang to the
ground on 6 June. He shot down another one on 15 July and started August with
2xP-38s. After the death of Cpt. av. Alexandru Şerbănescu, he was named
commander of the 9th Fighter Group.
After 23 August 1944, when Romania quit the Axis and joined
the Allies, the Germans started bombing Bucharest, from airfields close to the
capital, which were still in their hands. The 7th and 9th
Fighter Group were brought in to protect the city. "Bāzu" shot down 3xHe-111
with this occasion.
He was then given a special mission: to transport Lt. Col.
James Gunn III, the American highest ranking POW in Romania, to the airbase in
Foggia and then to lead back the USAAF airplanes that were coming to take the
He flew in the Gustav nr. 31, which was in the best condition,
because it had only 7.5 hours of use. The American was put in the place of the
radio and an extra fuel tank was added. He landed after two hours and 5 minutes
of flight. First the Americans were suspicious, even though he spoke fluent
English. But the colonel got out of the fuselage, everything was OK. He returned
with a Mustang, because the Gustav couldn't be fueled. He needed only a flight
to get used to it and dazzled the Americans with his acrobatics, which he
couldn't help himself not to execute. Until 25 September he made several flights
to Italy. Then he returned to his Group, which was engaged in the fights with
the Germans and Hungarians in Transylvania. The Gustav was destroyed by the
Americans, when they tried to fly it and were "stolen away" by it (the all known
Even though the ARR was facing many supplying difficulties,
because the Soviets were requisitioning all the airplanes that were produced or
repaired, the 9th Fighter Group did its best to carry out the orders.
On 25 February 1945, Cpt. av. Cantacuzino and his wingman Adj.
Av. Traian Dārjan (11 kills), engaged 8xFw-190Fs. In the dogfight that followed,
"Bāzu" got one of the Germans. While they were looking for the crash site in
order to validate the victory claim, they failed to see the two German Gustavs.
They jumped the careless Romanian pilots and shot them down very quickly. Dārjan
When the war finished, Cpt. av. Cantacuzino was demobilized
and returned to LARES. He had 60 victories and was the highest ranking Romanian
ace. He is probably one of the few pilots, if not the only one, that shot down
Soviet, US and German airplanes, ranging from the I-16, the Yak-1,3,7,9, the
La-3,5, the Spitfire, the P-38 and P-51 to the Fw-190F.
After the war, times changed. The USSR imposed a communist
regime that started confiscating private properties and imprisoning the old
elite and all those who dared not to think like them. "Bāzu" lost all its land
and soon his wife left him. He managed to escape to Italy in 1947 and then he
settled down in Spain. There he was helped by the Romanian community to buy
himself an airplane, in order to earn his living at air shows. He died on 26 May
1958. There are two versions of how he died: one is after an unsuccessful
surgical operation and the second when he crashed with his airplane.
His wife (the fourth one) was an actress. She emigrated to the
USA and settled down at Hollywood and married there. She had a daughter which
later became Miss America and stared in the "Dallas" show as JR's wife: the name
was Linda Grey.
The prince Constantin Cantacuzino between Slt. mec. Bāscă
and his impressive 40 kills in August 1944.