September 19, 1913|
Jošik, Bosanska Dubica,
September 14, 1944 (aged 30)|
Franjo Kluz (September 19, 1913 – September 14, 1944) was a Yugoslav pilot from Bosnia and a People's Hero of Yugoslavia. He is best known as one of the founders of the Partisan air force, and served as an officer in No. 352 Squadron RAF.
Early life and career
Franjo Kluz was born in Jošik, near Bosanska Dubica. In 1931 he graduated from the Yugoslav reserve officers school as a sergeant-pilot. After the Axis invasion and establishment of Independent State of Croatia in 1941 he was drafted into the Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia and was stationed in Banja Luka.
In the second half of May 1942, like Rudi Čajavec before him, he defected to the Partisans with his Potez 25 aircraft. From the improvised airfield near Prijedor he carried out a number of sorties against Axis forces, the most notable being the attack on an Ustaša column near Orahovo on June 4. His plane was destroyed by hostile fire on July 6.
He then became a member of the Partisan command for Bosanska Krajina region. As a member of the command staff, he was required to be a Party member and on August 14, 1942 he was accepted as a member of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.
On October 14 Kluz became the station commander of the First Air Base of the Yugoslav National Liberation Army (YNLA) in Livno. After the German offensive, Kluz was sent, with 200 men, to Allied-controlled Italy, where they received training, equipment and aircraft from the RAF. Kluz was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in the RAFVR, with the service number 178171. Kluz became a member of the 1st Air Squadron of YNLA (Prva eskadrila, NOVJ), otherwise known as No. 352 Squadron RAF. On September 14, 1944, he was shot down in his Spitfire and killed (unfortunately CWGC misspells his first name) by German AAA over Omiš. For his wartime service, Franjo Kluz was posthumously awarded the Order of a People's Hero of Yugoslavia.
His unusual distinction of being 'an officer and a gentleman' in His Britannic Majesty's Royal Air Force whilst simultaneously being a member of the proletariat's Communist Party is, in reality, unlikely to be unique, but there will certainly be very few other RAF officers who have become a national Hero, whether of Yugoslavia, or any other country.
A clothing factory in Belgrade was named in his honour, as was a printing company in Omiš, a title it holds to this day. An aero club in Zemun is also named in his honour. Streets in Skopje and in Novi Sad are also named after Kluz.
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