The Info List - Italo Balbo

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World War I:

Italian Campaign

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North African Campaign

Italo Balbo
Italo Balbo
(Ferrara, 6 June 1896 – Tobruk, 28 June 1940) was an Italian Blackshirt
(Camicie Nere, or CCNN) leader who served as Italy's Marshal of the Air Force
Marshal of the Air Force
(Maresciallo dell'Aria), Governor-General
of Libya, Commander-in-Chief
of Italian North Africa (Africa Settentrionale Italiana, or ASI), and the "heir apparent" to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. After serving in World War I, Balbo became the leading Fascist organizer in his home region of Ferrara. He was one of the four principal architects (Quadrumviri del Fascismo) of the March on Rome that brought Mussolini and the Fascists to power in 1922, along with Michele Bianchi, Emilio De Bono
Emilio De Bono
and Cesare Maria De Vecchi. In 1926, he began the task of building the Italian Royal Air Force and took a leading role in popularizing aviation in Italy, and promoting Italian aviation to the world. In 1933, perhaps to relieve tensions surrounding him in Italy, he was given the government of Italian Libya, where he resided for the remainder of his life. Balbo was the only leading Fascist to oppose both anti-Jewish racial laws[citation needed] and Mussolini's alliance with Nazi Germany.[1] Early in World War II, he was killed by friendly fire when his plane was shot down over Tobruk
by Italian anti-aircraft guns.[2]


1 Early life 2 Blackshirt
leader 3 Aviator 4 Governor of Libya

4.1 Abyssinia crisis 4.2 Munich crisis 4.3 World War II

5 Death 6 Memorial 7 See also 8 Further reading 9 Notes 10 References 11 External links

Early life[edit]

Italo Balbo
Italo Balbo
during World War I
World War I
in 1918

In 1896, Balbo was born in Quartesana (part of Ferrara) in the Kingdom of Italy. Balbo was very politically active from an early age. At only 14 years of age, he attempted to join in a revolt in Albania
under Ricciotti Garibaldi, Giuseppe Garibaldi's son.[3] As World War I
World War I
broke out and Italy declared its neutrality, Balbo supported joining the war on the side of the Allies. He joined in several pro-war rallies. Once Italy entered the war in 1915, Balbo joined the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) as an officer candidate and served in the Alpini (Mountain) Battalion "Val Fella" before volunteering for flying training on 16 October 1917. A few days later the Austro-Hungarian and German armies broke the Italian lines in the Battle of Caporetto, and Balbo returned to the front, now assigned to the Alpini battalion "Pieve di Cadore", where he took command of the assault platoon. At the end of the war, Balbo had earned one bronze and two silver medals for military valour and reached the rank of Captain (Capitano) due to courage under fire.[1] After the war, Balbo completed the studies he had begun in Florence
in 1914–15. He obtained a law degree and a degree in Social Sciences. His final thesis was written on "the economic and social thought of Giuseppe Mazzini", and he researched under the supervision of the patriotic historian Niccolò Rodolico. Balbo was a Republican, but he hated Socialists and the unions and cooperatives associated with them. Balbo returned to his home town to work as a bank clerk. Blackshirt

Balbo (left) and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini

In 1921, Balbo joined the newly created National Fascist Party (Partito Nazionale Fascista, or PNF) and soon became a secretary of the Ferrara
Fascist organization. He began 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
Estense Castle
in Ferrara. Italo Balbo
Italo Balbo
had become one of the "Ras", adopted from an Ethiopian title somewhat equivalent to a duke, of the Fascist hierarchy by 1922, establishing his local leadership in the party. The "Ras" typically wished for a more decentralized Fascist Italian state to be formed, against Mussolini's wishes. At 26 years of age, Balbo was the youngest of the "Quadrumvirs": the four main planners of the "March on Rome." The "Quadrumvirs" were Michele Bianchi
Michele Bianchi
(age 39), Cesare Maria De Vecchi (38), Emilio De Bono
Emilio De Bono
(56), and Balbo. Mussolini himself (39) would not participate in the risky operation that ultimately brought Italy under Fascist rule.[4] In 1923, as one of the "Quadrumvirs," Balbo became a founding member of the Grand Council of Fascism
Grand Council of Fascism
(Gran Consiglio del Fascismo). This same year, he was charged with the murder of anti-Fascist parish priest Giovanni Minzoni in Argenta. He fled to Rome and in 1924 became General Commander of the Fascist militia and undersecretary for National Economy in 1925. Aviator[edit]

Poster for Italo Balbo's transatlantic flight to the Century of Progress in Chicago

On 6 November 1926, though he had only a little experience in aviation, Balbo was appointed Secretary of State for Air. He went through a crash course of flying instruction and began building the Italian Royal Air Force ( Regia Aeronautica
Regia Aeronautica
Italiana). On 19 August 1928, he became General of the Air Force and on 12 September 1929 Minister of the Air Force. In Italy, this was a time of great interest in aviation. In 1925, Francesco de Pinedo
Francesco de Pinedo
flew a seaplane from Italy to Australia to Japan and back again to Italy. Mario De Bernardi
Mario De Bernardi
successfully raced seaplanes internationally. In 1928, Arctic explorer Umberto Nobile piloted the airship Italia on a polar expedition. Balbo himself led some transatlantic flights. The first was the 1930 flight of twelve Savoia-Marchetti S.55
Savoia-Marchetti S.55
flying boats from Orbetello Airfield, Italy to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
between 17 December 1930 and 15 January 1931. The Crociera del Decennale featured the so-called "Italian Air Armada." From 1 July to 12 August 1933, twenty-four seaplanes flew round-trip from Rome to the Century of Progress
Century of Progress
in Chicago, Illinois. The flight had eight legs: Orbetello
– Cartwright, Labrador – Shediac – Montreal
ending on Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan
near Burnham Park and New York City.[5][6][7] In honor of this feat, Mussolini donated a column from Ostia to the city of Chicago: the Balbo Monument. It can still be seen along the Lakefront Trail, a little south of Soldier Field. Chicago renamed the former 7th Street "Balbo Drive" and staged a great parade in his honor. The Newfoundland
Post Office overprinted one of their 75-cent airmail stamps, that had been issued just two months previously, for the event:[8] General Balbo Flight, Labrador, The Land of Gold.[9]

The Balbo Monument
Balbo Monument
in Burnham Park (as pictured on 19 February 2010)

From Chicago they flew to New York City with an escort of 36 U.S. airplanes. New York gave a warm welcome to the pilots on Broadway (Manhattan). Millions of people watched the parade of dozens of cars escorted by police horses along the streets of Manhattan.[10] Balbo was featured on 26 June 1933 cover of Time.[11] During Balbo's stay in the United States, President Franklin Roosevelt invited him to lunch and presented him with the Distinguished Flying Cross.[12] He was awarded the 1931 Harmon Trophy. The Sioux
even honorarily adopted Balbo as "Chief Flying Eagle".[13] Balbo received a warm welcome in the United States, especially by the large Italian-American populations in Chicago and New York City. To a cheering mass in Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden
he said: "Be proud you are Italians. Mussolini has ended the era of humiliations."[14] The term "Balbo" entered common usage to describe any large formation of aircraft. The return flight from New York stopped in Shoal Harbour
Shoal Harbour
at Clarenville, Newfoundland
on 26 July. A road overlooking the bay used by the flying boats was renamed Balbo Drive, a name it still carries today. On 12 August 1933, Balbo's formation departed Clarenville
for the Azores, Lisbon, and Rome.[15] Back home in Italy, he was promoted to the newly created rank of Marshal of the Air Force
Marshal of the Air Force
(Maresciallo dell'Aria). Governor of Libya[edit]

This article may need to be rewritten entirely to comply with Wikipedia's quality standards, as section. You can help. The discussion page may contain suggestions. (February 2015)

Main articles: Italian Colonial Empire
Italian Colonial Empire
and Tripoli
Grand Prix

Balbo (in white military uniform) with Brazilian President Getúlio Vargas in the Catete Palace
Catete Palace
in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 15 January 1931

On 7 November 1933, Balbo was appointed Governor-General
of the Italian colony of Libya. Mussolini looked to the flamboyant Air Marshal to be the condottiero of Italian ambition and extend Italy's new horizons in Africa. Balbo's task was to assert Italy's rights in the indeterminate zones leading to Lake Chad
Lake Chad
from Tummo in the west and from Kufra
in the east towards the Sudan. Balbo had already made a flying visit to Tibesti. By securing the "Tibesti- Borku strip" and the "Sarra Triangle", Italy would be in a good position to demand further territorial concessions in Africa from France and Britain. Mussolini even had his sights set on the former German colony of Kamerun. From 1922, the colony had become the League of Nations mandate
League of Nations mandate
territories of French Cameroun
and British Cameroons. Mussolini pictured an Italian Cameroon
and a territorial corridor connecting that territory to Libya. An Italian Cameroon
would give Italy a port on the Atlantic Ocean, the mark of a world power. Ultimately, control of the Suez Canal and of Gibraltar
would complete the picture.[16] As of 1 January 1934, Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan
were merged to form the new colony and Balbo moved to Libya. At that stage, Balbo had apparently caused bad blood in the party, possibly because of jealousy and individualist behavior. Being appointed Governor-General of Libya
was an effective exile from politics in Rome where Mussolini considered him a threat,[1] both for his fame and, more importantly, because of his close relationship with the possibly anti-fascist Crown Prince Umberto. Italian newspapers reportedly could not mention Balbo's name more than once a month.[17] "Benito in Balboland," an article in 22 March 1937 issue of Time Magazine, played with the conflict between Mussolini and Balbo. Balbo was still well known in the United States for his visit to the Century of Progress exhibition.[18] Balbo commissioned the Marble Arch to mark the border between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. It was unveiled on 16 March 1937. Abyssinia crisis[edit]

Balbo appeared in military uniform at the Targa Florio
Targa Florio
road race

In 1935, as the "Abyssinia Crisis" worsened, Balbo began preparing plans to attack Egypt
and Sudan. As Mussolini made his intentions to invade Ethiopia clear, relations between Italy and the United Kingdom became more tense. Fearing a "Mad Dog" act by Mussolini against British forces and possessions in the Mediterranean, Britain reinforced its fleet in the region and also its military forces in Egypt. Balbo reasoned that, should Britain choose to close the Suez Canal, Italian troop transports would be prevented from reaching Eritrea
and Somalia. Thinking that the planned attack on Abyssinia would be crippled, Balbo asked for reinforcements in Libya. He calculated that such a gesture would make him a national hero and restore him to the centre of the political stage. The 7th Blackshirt Division (Cirene) and 700 aircraft were immediately sent from Italy to Libya. Balbo may have received intelligence concerning the feasibility of advancing into Egypt
and Sudan from the famous desert researcher László Almásy.[19] By 1 September 1935, Balbo secretly deployed Italian forces along the border with Egypt
without the British knowing anything about it. At the time, British intelligence concerning what was going on in Libya was woefully inadequate. In the end, Mussolini rejected Balbo's over-ambitious plan to attack Egypt
and Sudan and London learned about his deployments in Libya
from Rome.[20] Munich crisis[edit] The "Anglo-Italian Agreement" of April 1938 brought a temporary cessation of tensions between the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Italy. For Balbo, the agreement meant the immediate loss of 10,000 Italian troops; it was characterised by renewed promises of undertakings that Mussolini had previously broken and he could easily break again. By the time of the "Munich Crisis", Balbo had his 10,000 troops back.[21] At this time, Italian aircraft were making frequent overflights of Egypt
and Sudan and Italian pilots were being familiarised with the routes and airfields. In 1938 and 1939, Balbo himself made a number of flights from Libya
across the Sudan to Italian East Africa
Italian East Africa
('Africa Orientale Italiana', or AOI). He even flew along the border between AOI and British East Africa
British East Africa
(now known as Kenya). In January 1939, Balbo was accompanied on one of his flights by German Colonel-General Ernst Udet.[21] There were distinct signs of German military and diplomatic co-operation with the Italians. General Udet was accompanied by the Head of the German Mechanization Department, and the German military attache to Rome paid a long visit to Egypt. A German Military Mission was present in Benghazi
and German pilots were engaged in navigational training flights.[21] Balbo began road construction projects such as the Via Balbia
Via Balbia
in an attempt to attract Italian immigrants to Libya. He also made efforts to draw Muslims
into the Fascist cause. In 1938, Balbo was the only member of the Fascist regime who strongly opposed the new legislation against the Jews, the Italian "Racial Laws". In 1939, after the German invasion of Poland, Balbo visited Rome to express his displeasure at Mussolini's support for German dictator Adolf Hitler. Balbo was the only Fascist of rank to publicly criticize this aspect of Mussolini's foreign policy. He argued that Italy should side with the United Kingdom, but he attracted little following to his argument. When informed of Italy's formal alliance with Nazi Germany, Balbo exclaimed:

"You will all wind up shining the shoes of the Germans!"[1]

World War II[edit] At the time of the Italian declaration of war on 10 June 1940, Balbo was the Governor-General
of Libya
and Commander-in-Chief
of Italian North Africa (Africa Settentrionale Italiana, or ASI). He became responsible for planning an invasion of Egypt. After the surrender of France, Balbo was able to shift much of the men and materiel of the Italian Fifth Army on the Tunisian border to the Tenth Army on the Egyptian border. While he had expressed many legitimate concerns to Mussolini and to Marshal Pietro Badoglio, the Chief-of-Staff in Rome, Balbo still planned to invade Egypt
in early July. Death[edit]

Original Gravesite of Balbo in Libya

On 28 June 1940, Balbo was a passenger on a Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 headed for the Libyan airfield of Tobruk, arriving shortly after the airfield had been attacked by British aircraft. Italian anti-aircraft batteries defending the airfield misidentified the aircraft as a British fighter and opened fire upon it as it attempted a landing. It was downed and all on board perished. Eyewitness General Felice Porro reported that the cruiser San Giorgio, serving as a floating anti-aircraft battery, began firing on Balbo's aircraft, followed by the airfield's antiaircraft guns.[22] It is still not clear which of them shot him down. Rumors that Balbo was assassinated on Mussolini's orders have been conclusively debunked.[23][24][25][26] Balbo's plane was simply misidentified as an enemy target,[1] as Balbo's airplane was flying low and coming in against the sun after an attack by British Bristol Blenheims.[27] Balbo's remains were buried outside Tripoli
on 4 July 1940. In 1970, Balbo's remains were brought back to Italy and buried in Orbetello
by Balbo's family after Muammar Gaddafi
Muammar Gaddafi
threatened to disinter the Italian cemeteries in Tripoli.[citation needed] Memorial[edit] Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
presented to Chicago in 1933 a monument to Balbo. Balbo Drive is a well-known street in the heart of downtown. As of 2017, "a campaign is underway to remove" it.[28] See also[edit]

Aozou Strip Military history of Italy during World War II Squadrismo Via Balbia

Further reading[edit]

Michel Pratt (fr), Italo Balbo, la traversée de l'Atlantique. 24 hydravions de l'Italie fasciste en Amérique. Éditions Histoire Québec, collection Fédération Histoire Québec, 2014.


^ a b c d e Di Scala, Italy:From Revolution to Republic, 1700 to the Present, p. 234. ^ Taylor, Blaine, Fascist Eagle: Italy's Air Marshal Italo Balbo ^ Smith, Italy: A Modern History, p. 273. ^ Di Scala, Italy: From Revolution to Republic, 1700 to the Present, p. 234; Smith, Italy: A Modern History, p. 365. ^ "Italian Air Armada Hops 800 Miles (July 14, 1933)". Retrieved 2017-05-23.  ^ "Balbo Pillar Recalls Flight (July 22, 1965)". Retrieved 2017-05-23.  ^ "BALBO HERE THIS AFTERNOON (July 15, 1933)". Retrieved 2017-05-23.  ^ Harmer, C.H.C. (1984). Newfoundland
Air Mails. Cinnaminson, NJ: American Air Mail Society. p. 159.  ^ "Canadian Postal Archives Database". data4.collectionscanada.ca. Retrieved 2017-05-23.  ^ "Great Italian armada is acclaimed by millions as it wings over the city". New York Times. 20 July 1933.  ^ "TIME Magazine – U.S. Edition – June 26, 1933 Vol. XXI No. 26". Retrieved 2017-05-23.  ^ Italo Balbo
Italo Balbo
comandosupremo.com ^ Taylor, Fascist Eagle: Italy's Air Marshal Italo Balbo, p. 63. ^ Time Life Books, World War II: Italy at War ^ "General Italo Balbo, Unofficial Clarenville
Webpage – Clarenville, Newfoundland". clarenville.newfoundland.ws.  ^ Kelly, Saul, The Lost Oasis, p. 102 ^ Gunther, John (1940). Inside Europe. Harper & Brothers. pp. 259–260.  ^ Time Magazine
Time Magazine
Benito in Balboland ^ Kelly, Saul, The Lost Oasis, p. 121 ^ Kelly, Saul, The Lost Oasis, p. 122 ^ a b c Kelly, Saul, The Lost Oasis, p. 130 ^ General Felice Porro, "Come fu abbattuto l'aereo di Balbo", in Rivista Aeronautica, May 1948. ^ Franco Pagliano, "La morte di Balbo", in La storia illustrata nº 6, Year IX, June 1965, p. 779. ^ Giorgio Rochat, Italo Balbo, Edizioni Utet, 1986, p. 301. ^ Giordano Bruno Guerri, Italo Balbo, Mondadori, 1998 ^ Folco Quilici, Tobruk
1940. Dubbi e verità sulla fine di Italo Balbo, Mondadori, 2006. ^ Taylor, Fascist Eagle: Italy's Air Marshal Italo Balbo, p. 124. ^ Trip, Gabriel (25 August 2017), "Far From Dixie, Outcry Grows Over a Wider Array of Monuments", Washington Post, retrieved 5 December 2017 


Di Scala, Spencer. Italy: From Revolution to Republic, 1700 to the Present. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8133-4176-0 Kelly, Saul. The Lost Oasis: The Desert War and the Hunt for Zerzura. Westview Press, 2002. ISBN 0-7195-6162-0 (HC) Smith, Denis Mack. Italy: A Modern History. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan
Press, 1959. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 59-62503 Taylor, Blaine. Fascist Eagle: Italy's Air Marshal Italo Balbo. Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1996. ISBN 1-57510-012-6

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Italo Balbo.

Italo Balbo
Italo Balbo
and the Sioux Doubts raised into official story of Balbo's death

Awards and achievements

Preceded by Neville Chamberlain Cover of Time Magazine 26 June 1933 Succeeded by Hugh S. Johnson

Military offices

Preceded by Pietro Badoglio Commander-in-Chief
of Italian North Africa
Italian North Africa
and Governor-General
of Italian Libya 1 January 1934 to 28 June 1940 Succeeded by Rodolfo Graziani

v t e

List of Italian First Marshals and Marshals of Italy

First Marshal of the Empire (Primo Maresciallo dell'Impero)

King Victor Emmanuel III Benito Mussolini

Marshals (Maresciallo d'Italia)

Regio Esercito  

Luigi Cadorna Armando Diaz Prince Emanuele Filiberto, Duke
of Aosta Pietro Badoglio Enrico Caviglia Gaetano Giardino Guglielmo Pecori Giraldi Emilio De Bono Rodolfo Graziani Ugo Cavallero Ettore Bastico Umberto, Prince of Piedmont Giovanni Messe

Grand Admiral (Grande Ammiraglio)

Regia Marina  

Paolo Thaon di Revel

Marshal of the Air Force (Maresciallo dell'Aria)

Regia Aeronautica  

Italo Balbo

v t e

Members of Mussolini Cabinet

Head of government
Head of government
and duce of Fascism

Benito Mussolini

Minister of the Air Force (since 1925)

Italo Balbo

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Benito Mussolini Dino Grandi Galeazzo Ciano

Minister of agriculture (abolished in 1923)

Giuseppe De Capitani D'Arzago

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry (since 1929)

Giacomo Acerbo Edmondo Rossoni Giuseppe Tassinari Carlo Pareschi

Minister of the Colonies (abolished in 1937)

Luigi Federzoni Benito Mussolini Pietro Lanza di Scalea Emilio De Bono Alessandro Lessona

Minister of Italian Africa (since 1937)

Alessandro Lessona Benito Mussolini Attilio Teruzzi

Minister of Communications (since 1924)

Costanzo Ciano Umberto Puppini Antonio Stefano Benni Nino Host Venturi Vittorio Cini Giuseppe Peverelli

Minister of Corporations (since 1926)

Benito Mussolini Giuseppe Bottai Ferruccio Lantini Renato Ricci Carlo Tiengo Tullio Cianetti

Ministry of People's Culture (since 1937)

Dino Alfieri Alessandro Pavolini Gaetano Polverelli

Minister of the Interior

Benito Mussolini Luigi Federzoni

Minister of domestic economy

Orso Mario Corbino Cesare Nava Giuseppe Belluzzo Alessandro Martelli

Minister of domestic education

Balbino Giuliano Francesco Ercole Cesare Maria De Vecchi Giuseppe Bottai Carlo Alberto Biggini

Minister of Finance

Alberto De Stefani Giuseppe Volpi Antonio Mosconi Guido Jung Paolo Ignazio Maria Thaon di Revel Giacomo Acerbo

Minister of Justice and Affairs of Religion

Aldo Oviglio Alfredo Rocco Pietro De Francisci Arrigo Solmi Dino Grandi Alfredo De Marsico

Minister of Industry and Commerce

Teofilo Rossi

Minister of Public Works

Gabriello Carnazza Gino Sarrocchi Giovanni Giuriati Benito Mussolini Michele Bianchi Araldo di Crollalanza Luigi Razza Giuseppe Cobolli Gigli Adelchi Serena Giuseppe Gorla Zenone Benini

Minister of War

Armando Diaz Antonino Di Giorgio Benito Mussolini Pietro Gazzera Benito Mussolini

Minister of Labour and Social Security

Stefano Cavazzoni

Minister of Posts and Telegraphs

Giovanni Antonio Colonna di Cesarò Costanzo Ciano

Minister of War Production (since 6 February 1943)

Carlo Favagrossa

Minister of Public Education

Giovanni Gentile Alessandro Casati Pietro Fedele Giuseppe Belluzzo

Minister of Trades and Currencies

Felice Guarneri Raffaello Riccardi Oreste Bonomi

Minister of Press and Propaganda

Galeazzo Ciano Dino Alfieri

Minster of Freed Territories from enemies (abolished on 5 February 1923)

Giovanni Giuriati

Minister of Treasure (merged into Ministry of Finance on 31 December 1922)

Vincenzo Tangorra Alberto De Stefani

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 22151496 LCCN: n80137703 ISNI: 0000 0001 1022 4030 GND: 118885871 SUDOC: 02800552X BNF: cb11992804s (data) NKC: jx20120127002 ICCU: ITICCURAVV64726 BNE: XX1190