The son of a nobleman, Francesco Baracca, Italy's greatest ace, entered the Scuola Militare at Modena in October 1907. Less than a year later, he was an officer in the Royal Piedmont Cavalry. In April 1912, Baracca and other cavalry officers were ordered to Reims, France for flight training. By the time the Kingdom of Italy declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire on 24 May 1915, Baracca was an experienced pilot and instructor. Flying Nieuport two-seaters along the Udine Front, his first attempts to shoot down enemy aircraft were frustrated by frequent machine gun jams. With a Nieuport 11, he scored the first Italian victory of the war on 7 April 1916, forcing down an Austrian Aviatik with an accurate burst of machine gun fire. His final victory, an Austrian Albatros D.III, came just three days prior to his death. Shot down and killed while strafing enemy lines, his body was recovered a few days later near the burnt out wreckage of his SPAD VII. When found, Baracca was holding a pistol in his hand and had a bullet hole in his forehead. Whether he was shot down by ground fire, chose suicide over a fiery death in the cockpit or was killed attempting to resist capture will never be known.
On the ground and in the air, Baracca's aircraft were easily recognized by the prancing black horse painted on the fuselage. In 1923, Baracca's mother, Countess Paolina, suggested Enzo Ferrari use her son's emblem on his now famous line of automobiles.
Evening World-Herald, Omaha, Nebraska, Tuesday, 24 June 1918, page 1