Baracca entered the Scuola Militare at Modena in October of 1907. In less than a year's time, he was an officer in the Royal Piedmont Cavalry. In April of 1912, Baracca was ordered to Reims, France for flight training. When the Kingdom of Italy declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire on May 24, 1915, Baracca was already an experienced pilot and instructor.
He was assigned to fly Nieuport two-seaters along the Udine Front. During this time his initial attempts to shoot down hostile aircraft were frustrated by frequent machine gun jams. He scored the first Italian victory of the war piloting a Nieuport 11. On April 7, 1916 he forced down an Austrian Aviatik. His final victory of the war was on June 16, 1918. This was against an Austrian Albatros D.III, the victory came just three days before 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 S.VII. Baracca was found 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 distinctive prancing black horse painted on the fuselage. In 1923, Baracca's mother, Countess Paolina, suggested that Enzo Ferrari use her son's emblem on his now famous line of automobiles.