Prince Constantin "Bâzu" Cantacuzino

Constantin Cantacuzino (nicknamed Bâzu, November 11, 1905, Bucharest – May 26, 1958 Spain), Romanian aviator, one of his country's leading World War II fighter aces. 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.

He was born in Bucharest, as the son of Mihai Cantacuzino and Maria Rosetti, both from old noble families and very, very rich. His mother married for the second time with George Enescu (Romania's best composer and a world class violinist, the Yehudi Menuhin's teacher). Young Constantin 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). Bâzu 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 and flew a lot around Europe until the beginning of the war and sometimes in very difficult conditions. He was the pilot of the prince Gheorghe Valentin Bibescu, the president of the International Aviation Federation. Cantacuzino piloted a C.641 Typhon in a record breaking version with raised canopy and increased fuel capacity, only 2 were built. Until the beginning of the war he had already over 2000 hours of flights all across Europe and in 1939 he won the national aerial acrobatics contest with his Bücker Bü-133 Jungmeister. In 1941, he was named chief-pilot of the Romanian national air transport company LARES.

The prince 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 and 2 probable. After the capture of Odessa, the Romanian armed forces reduced the number of front line troops, because the main objectives were achieved (Besserabia was liberated and the Soviets were pushed away the frontiers). Bâzu 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 re-mobilized and assigned to the 7th Fighter Group, which was equipped with the new Me-109G. 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 flew 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. Between 2 and 5 August he shot down 9 planes (4xYaks and 5xIl-2s), raising his score to 27. On 28 August he received the Iron Cross, 1st class, but in the autumn of 1943 Bâzu got sick and was interned to a hospital and then had to stay a while away from the front to rest.

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. Bâzu 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 and Bâzu shot down 3xHe-111 with this occasion. 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. When the war finished, Cpt. av. Cantacuzino was demobilized and returned to LARES. He had 60 victories and was the highest ranking Romanian ace.

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. Bâzu 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 and there are two versions of how he died: one is after an unsuccessful surgical operation and the second when he crashed with his airplane.

Thanks to Victor Niţu for the infos provided!