Italo Balbo

From Academic Kids

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Air Marshal Italo Balbo

Italo Balbo (June 6, 1896 - June 28, 1940) was an Italian aviator, blackshirt leader and possible successor of Mussolini.

Balbo was born in Quartesana, Italy in 1896. During World War I he served in the Alpine troops, earning one bronze and two silver medals and reaching the rank of captain. After the war he studied in Florence and obtained a degree in Social Sciences, then returned to his hometown to work as a bank clerk.

Eventually he joined the Fascists and soon became a secretary of a local fascist section. He begun to organize fascist gangs and formed his own group nicknamed Celibano, after their favorite drink. They broke strikes for local landowners and attacked communists and socialists in Portomaggiore, Ravenna, Modena and Bologna. The group once raided the Estense Castle in Ferrara.

By the time of 1922 March on Rome, he was a prominent fascist leader. In 1923 he was charged with murder of anti-fascist parish priest Giuseppe Minzoni in Argenta. He fled to Rome and in 1924 became General Commander of Fascist militia and undersecretary for National Economy in 1925.

In November 6, 1926, despite of the fact that he knew nothing at the time about aviation, he was appointed Secretary of State for Air. He went through a crash course of flying instruction and set up to build the Regia Aeronautica, the Italian air force. In August 19 1928 he became Marshal of the Air Force and September 12 1929 Minister of the Air Force.

Balbo led two cross-Atlantic flights. The first was the 1930 flight of twelve Savoia-Marchetti S.55 flying boats from Orbetello, Italy to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil between December 17, 1930 and January 15, 1931. In July 1 - August 12, 1933 he led a flight of 24 flying boats on a round-trip flight from Rome to Chicago, Illinois; the flight ended on Lake Michigan. New York City named Balbo Avenue after him and staged a parade in his honor. President Roosevelt invited him to lunch. Back home in Italy, he was promoted Air Marshal. After this, the term Balbo entered common usage to describe any large formation of aircraft.

Later the same year Balbo was appointed governor general of Italian-held Libya, where he moved in January, 1934. At that stage he had apparently caused bad blood in the party, possibly because of jealousy and individualist behavior. He began road construction projects, tried to attract Italian immigrants and made efforts to draw Muslims into the fascist cause.

After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Balbo visited Rome to express his displeasure with Mussolini's support for Hitler. He argued that Italy should side with Britain, but attracted little following. In Libya he continued to lead air patrols over North Africa.

On June 28, 1940 he was killed while returning from a patrol flight in Tobruk, Libya, when his plane was shot down by Italian anti-aircraft fire from an Italian cruiser. The government in Rome maintained that the incident was an accident of friendly fire but Balbo's widow, Emanuela Florio, believed that it was an assassination on Mussolini's orders.


  • Claudio G. Segre - Italo Balbo - A Fascist Life

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