Francesco Baracca, the son of a nobleman, was born in Lugo di Romagna, Italy, on 9th May 1888. He joined the Italian Army in 1909 and within a year was an officer in the Royal Piedmont Cavalry. He was transferred to the Corpo Aeronautico Militare (CAM) in April, 1912.
By the outbreak of the First World War he was an experienced pilot and instructor. Flying a Nieuport II he gained his first combat victory on 7th April, 1916. Over the next two years he achieved another 33 victories, making him the leading flying ace in Italy. Baracca's aircraft could always be recognised by the rearing black horse that he painted on his fuselage.
While strafing enemy lines on 19th June, 1918 in his Spad S.VII, Baracca was shot down by ground-fire. He was later found holding a pistol and with a bullet hole in the forehead. Forensic tests were not carried out and so it is not known whether he was killed by an enemy soldier or had committed suicide to avoid being burnt to death in his cockpit.
In 1923 Enzo Ferrari, an Italian racing driver, decided to use Francesco Baracca's black horse emblem on his racing car. It was also used on the Ferrari racing cars he began designing in 1929.