Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
Teaser Image

Bulgaria, Air Service

As a defeated Central Power in World War I, Bulgaria was forbidden under the Treaty of Neuilly to maintain an air force. In 1936, however, it illegally reconstituted its air force with German biplanes, adding Polish fighters and German Messerschmitt Bf-109E fighters after 1938. Simultaneous domestic production at the Bulgarian national aircraft factory, Darjavna Aeroplanna Rabotilnitza (DAR), augmented the force. After Bulgaria's declaration of war on Great Britain and the United States in December 1941, the Royal Bulgarian Air Force was further increased through Germany's contribution of a number of ex-Czechoslovakian aircraft. Bulgaria entered the war with 228 fighters, dive-bombers, and medium bombers of German, Polish, and Czechoslovakian design, together with DAR dive-bombers and reconnaissance aircraft.

The Bulgarian air force was largely inactive until mid-1943, when the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) conducted their first major bombing raid on the Axis-held oil fields of Ploesti, Romania. The Bulgarians' attempt to engage the U.S. B-24 bombers clearly showed that their air arm was hopelessly obsolete. Most of the fighters could not catch the bombers, and Bulgarian aircraft shot down only 2 B-24s. The Germans then provided the Bulgarians with 120 French Dewoitine D.520 fighters and additional Messerschmitt aircraft.

These additional planes did little to improve the effectiveness of the Bulgarian air force. Between December 1943 and January 1944, Allied bombers sortied virtually unmolested over Bulgaria, and their defensive cover of P-38 fighters shot down 39 Bulgarian fighters with negligible losses of their own. Introduction of the superior P-51 Mustang fighter further reduced the effectiveness of Bulgarian air defenses.

After it was invaded and occupied by the Soviet Union in September 1944, Bulgaria switched sides in the war. Royal Bulgarian Air Force units then provided ground support for the Red Army in Yugoslavia and Hungary.

Eric W. Osborne


Further Reading
Tarnstrom, Ronald L. Handbooks of Armed Forces: Balkans, Part II. Lindsborg, KS: Trogen Publications, 1984.
 

©2011 ABC-CLIO. All rights reserved.

  About the Author/Editor
  Introduction
  Essays
  A
  B
  C
  D
  E
  F
  G
  H
  I
  J
  K
  L
  M
  N
  O
  P
  Q
  R
  S
  T
  U
  V
  W
  X
  Y
  Z
  Documents Prior to 1938
  1939 Documents
  1940 Documents
  1941 Documents
  1942 Documents
  1943 Documents
  1944 Documents
  1945 Documents
  Images
ABC-cLIO Footer