Czech WWII fighter ace dies at age 95

Perina died in Prague's military hospital of an unspecified chronic illness, Czech Radio 1 reported.

Perina, who was born April 8, 1911, fled Czechoslovakia, which was invaded by Nazi troops in June 1939.

He joined France's air force and was credited with four aerial victories on his first day of combat. After the country capitulated, he fled for Britain to join the Royal Air Force's No. 312 Fighter Squadron to participate in the Battle of Britain, Germany's unsuccessful attempt to destroy the RAF.

Perina ended the war with at least 14 downed enemy planes to his credit, becoming one of the most successful WWII Czech fighter pilots.

After the Communists took power in Czechoslovakia in 1948, Perina was expelled from the army and again fled his country to rejoin the RAF. Later, he moved to Canada and then settled in the United States where he worked for an aircraft company.

Following the fall of communism in 1989, he returned home in the 1990s.

Perina was awarded with a number of the country's top state honors, the AP reports.

Defense Minister Karel Kuenhl called Perina "a brilliant fighter and a true war hero."

"(His death) is a great loss for the Czech Republic and the Czech military," he said, according to comments posted on Czech radio's Web site.