Monday, August 31, 2015

Italo Balbo Invaded America!

Italo Balbo bust, Caproni Museum
Trento, IT
In 1927 Charles Lindbergh flew the Spirit of St. Louis in the first transatlantic flight. Just six years later, however, Italo Balbo led a squadron of twenty-four Italian seaplanes across the Atlantic and back. Balbo was a decorated World War I veteran (two silver medals and one bronze medal) who served as Air Minister under Mussolini.  In 1930 he had crossed the south Atlantic leading a squadron of seaplanes from Italy to Africa and on to Rio de Janeiro.

Caproni Seaplane (NOT in X SM S.55), Caproni Museum, Trento, IT
Balbo's squadron in his 1933 flight over the north Atlantic was composed of Savoia Marchetti S.55 X seaplanes that each held a crew of four. They flew from Italy to Amsterdam, then Londonderry, then Reykjavik, then Cartwright (Canada), then Shediac, then Montreal and then to Chicago. Balbo arrived in Chicago in time for the 1933 World's Fair. He even dedicated a monument to Christopher Columbus in Illinois. A street in Chicago, Balbo Drive, is named after the fascist aviator.

Balbo at Madison Square Garden, 1933
From Chicago they flew on to New York. Thousands of Americans heard Balbo address a crowd at Madison Square Garden. He even met and had lunch with President Roosevelt. Italian relations with America were quite cordial in 1933. At this point in history both FDR and Mussolini believed in public interventionist economic policies with massive public works programs. FDR wrote That Mussolini was a "true gentleman "and expressed That he was" very interested and profoundly impressed by all that he created, and by his honest effort to renovate Italy." (Source: Balbo's Seas and Skies , Paolo Mieli, 2014 www.amzn.com/8875675732 ).


New York Welcomes Balbo, 1933
Even Winston Churchill was smitten with the Duce in 1933 when he declared in a speech that, "The Roman genius as manifested by Mussolini, the greatest living legislator, has shown to many nations how it's possible to resist Socialism's urgings, and has indicated the road that a nation may follow when it is conducted courageously. With the fascist regime, Mussolini has established a pole star that Countries that are involved in the fight against Socialism must not hesitate to follow. "   Churchill would regret those words in 1940.

Balbo's flight to America
Caproni Museum, Trento, IT
Balbo With His squadron flew back to Italy via the Azores and Lisbon.

Italo Balbo (1896 - 1940)
Caproni Museum, Trento, IT
Mussolini was somewhat jealous of Balbo's growing popularity in America and around the world. Mussolini called Balbo "un porco democratico" or "a democratic pig ".  Perhaps he saw his one time heir apparent as a rival and threat to his own power in Italy?  Mussolini made ​​him Governor general of Libya where the independent minded Balbo did not enforce fascist racial decrees and opposed the anti-semitic laws of 1938.


Savoia Marchetto S.55 X
Balbo expressed strong reservations about Italy's alliance with Hitler's Germany. That he believed going to war in 1940 was a "historic nonsense" and feared That Italy would become "the German's shoeshiners". 
Tobruk sign, Tank Museum Bovington, UK
When Mussolini joined Hitler's war in June 1940 Balbo flew in a mission over Tobruk. He was apparently shot down and killed on June 28, 1940 by friendly fire from ships of the Italian navy.

Balbo's brief visit had an impact on America.  Today one can find at least six streets in the USA named after Balbo.  He even inspired the Marx Brothers to parody him in the film A Night at the Opera (see video below).  One can learn more about Italo Balbo and his amazing flights at the fascinating Caproni Museum in Trento, Italy (http://www.museocaproni.it/index.php/en/).


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2 comments:

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miguel jose said...

Progressive infatuation with Fascism is largely unknown because it was deliberately erased by Progressive historiography after WWII. FDR and many Progressive Democrats were openly enthusiastic about Italian fascism before the WWII atrocities. FDR hosted fascist aviator Balbo at white house and organized ticker-tape parade in New York before Balbo spoke to 65000 Democrats in Madison Square Garden. This infatuation by Progressive journalists, scholars, and New Deal Democrats is well documented in Dinesh D’Souza’s new book, “The Big Lie.”