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The death of Italo Balbo


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#1 James L. Kalie

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 01:40

Can anyone share with me the true circumstances of the Governor of Tripoli's death on June, 28th 1940. In some accounts he and his entire family were wiped out as some kind of "hit" ordered by Mussolini. Erraahh, somehow I doubt that. But was he killed alone and what were the circumstances? Does anyone know? All the best.

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#2 Don Capps

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 02:02

Here are a few of the obvious starting points:

http://www.comandosu....com/Balbo.html

http://www.nationmas...dia/Italo-Balbo

http://www.aviationb...alo_balbo.shtml

http://en.wikipedia....iki/Italo_Balbo

It was always my understanding that it was a combination of happenstance or good/bad fortune that led to Balbo's death. Mussolini and his minions certainly did not shed many tears at his death.

#3 Paul Parker

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 18:21

Without opening the sites offered by Don or wading through myriad books and endless pages I'm sure that I read a few years ago in a biography of same that it was von Ribbentrop who had Balbo murdered. Then again I'm probably mistaken, why change the habit of a lifetime!

#4 Vitesse2

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 22:44

Sounds unlikely, Paul, as he was shot down over Tobruk by Italian AA guns only 18 days after Italy had entered the war and well before the Afrika Korps had to bail the Italians out in order to attempt to preserve their North African colonies.

#5 VAR1016

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 23:16

It's quite a coincidence. I have read the accounts of the particpants and observers of Balbo's death. The way they gave their accounts, it sounds as though they were pretty jumpy.

This evening on Channel 4, I heard a Spitfire pilot describe how he was forced to crash-land having been hit by British AA fire.

PdeRL

#6 Doug Nye

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 23:59

Balbo is a fascinating figure - hardly admirable, but flamboyant and certainly intriguing. One of the first to take up theories of air warfare propounded by Giulio Douhet - court-martialled in 1916 for arguing against superiors' views on the subject. Douhet's book 'Command of the Air' put forward the theories of air superiority becoming the deciding factor in future warfare - ground forces being regarded as purely defensive.

Bombers were to be flown in vast formations and were to be capable of defending themselves and outpacing available interceptors. In his trans-Atlantic flight Balbo proved that mass aircraft formation flying could be achieved over long distances - the inference being that by providing mutual self-defence such bomber formations could in future fight their way through to any target.

On June 28, 1940, as has already been described only 18 days after Mussolini took Italy into what became World War 2, Balbo was flying in a 'twin-ship' formation to Tobruk's T2 aerodrome on a morale-raising mission to inspect troops. His Savoia-Marchetti SM79 twin-engined transport/bomber apparently approached from seaward shortly after a raid by RAF Bristol Blenheim twin-engined bombers on T2 landing ground. That raid had destroyed a Fiat CR42 fighter on the ground, damaged several others - plus several CR32s and Ro37s, killed six airmen and wounded three pilots. The garrison's blood was up - and when Balbo appeared in a twin-engined aircraft, kiting in towards Tobruk harbour...well, he received the full benefit.

RAF Air Chief Marshal Longmore later wrote: "...as a mark of respect I had a suitably worded note dropped over the frontier by an aircraft on reconnaissance. In due course a reply was dropped by an Italian machine from my Italian opposite number expressing 'Deep thanks for your message of sympathy'. Perhaps it was just as well this colourful personality did not live to see the humiliation of his country in defeat...".

Only 18 days into the North African war, a sense of chivalry still survived. It would soon became another casualty...

DCN

#7 David J Jones

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Posted 27 January 2004 - 22:46

What a pity todays politicians do not charge off into battle.....................

#8 VAR1016

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Posted 28 January 2004 - 09:53

Originally posted by David J Jones
What a pity todays politicians do not charge off into battle.....................


Come back Guy Fawkes, your country needs you.


PdeRL

#9 Patrick Italiano

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Posted 28 January 2004 - 17:19

Originally posted by Doug Nye
His Savoia-Marchetti SM79 twin-engined transport/bomber apparently approached from seaward shortly after a raid by RAF Bristol Blenheim twin-engined bombers on T2 landing ground. [...] The garrison's blood was up - and when Balbo appeared in a twin-engined aircraft, kiting in towards Tobruk harbour...well, he received the full benefit.
[...]DCN


Doug, I hope you won't blame me if I pick up a small, but still important point here - as we use to do when dealing with racing history.

The Savoia-Marchetti SM79 was a three-engined bomber.
How am I sure? :blush:
Well, those were Alfa Romeo 126 RC 32 (or RC 34 ; Piaggio engines were also used)  ;)

Anyone interested can look at: http://www.xs4all.nl...s/savosm79.html

#10 Doug Nye

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Posted 28 January 2004 - 19:10

:blush: - spot on - quite so - "apparently" twin-engined since visible silhouette from below showed a single prominent engine nacelle on each wing. If I had been one of those rattled gunners I'd have pulled the trigger too...

DCN

#11 Patrick Italiano

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Posted 29 January 2004 - 13:20

The real wonder is how they actually managed to hit Balbo's aircraft!

:lol: :lol:

#12 Paolo

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Posted 29 January 2004 - 16:15

Originally posted by Patrick Italiano
The real wonder is how they actually managed to hit Balbo's aircraft!

:lol: :lol:


Excuse me if I laugh less, since I admire many traits of Balbo's personality.
He was notoriously incorruptible, to say one, and had a couple "smart" guys that tried to increase their sales to government arrested in his office. Not common, in my country.
Anyway , Balbo's aircraft was on landing, so slow and low. Easy prey. Also, his personal pilot was not in the plane that day; some people that knew him told me that could have made a difference, although, with the whole of Tobruk base and Nave San Giorgio AA shooting at a single plane I personally doubt it.

#13 Paul Parker

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Posted 30 January 2004 - 21:26

Wrong again. Doh.........................................

I wonder who it was I am getting confused with, but being still away from my books etc., perhaps somebody else can tell me who it was that von Ribbentrop had murdered. I'm fairly sure it was a prominent Italian political figure.

#14 Wolf

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Posted 30 January 2004 - 21:55

Paul- could it be foreign minister Ciano? IIRC Germans forced Mussolini to execute him (he was his relative, IIANM, nephew or something)...

#15 Tim Murray

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Posted 30 January 2004 - 22:41

Son-in-law, I believe.

#16 Vitesse2

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 20:03

This question may or may not be directly related to the demise of Balbo.

The quasi-Mille Miglia of 1939 - more properly known as the Litoreana Libica - was run along the tarmac coast road from Tobruk to Tripoli, which had been built on the orders of Balbo and was a part of the Italian grand plan to populate Libya with colonists. It was also, of course, a handy strategic artery in time of war: once you crossed into Tunisia it apparently became not much more than a dirt track!

This road was known as the Via Balbia (or Via Balbo), in honour of its creator. It had been officially opened by Mussolini in 1937 (when a shorter Litoreana Libica had been run) but I'm struggling to find a reference to exactly when it was so named. Comando Supremo - as referenced above by Don - claims that he "pompously" named it after himself, but was that the case? He was certainly a showman, but would Il Duce have tolerated such a piece of self-aggrandization from a man who had been effectively exiled to North Africa when his views began to diverge from official policy? Or was the name only applied after his death?

Edited by Vitesse2, 05 October 2009 - 10:18.


#17 scheivlak

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 21:58

Interestingly enough a street in Chicago is still named after the fascist aviator/general http://chicago.strai...sdc20090205.php

Another trivia thingy - while searching a Dutch newspaper database I found http://kranten.kb.nl...3...1&ZyEntry=1 column 5 (from March 4, 1936)

Translation goes a bit like this:
One knows that relations between Mussolini and Balbo are not too good. This is illustrated by the following story that the Evening Standard heard from Rome:
Romano, Mussolini's youngest son is still in school. An inspector visits the school and the teacher takes the opportunity to show how his pupil performs.
He asks: "Romano, who is the immortal son of Italy?"
Without hesitation the pupil answers: "Marshall Balbo".
The teacher looks surprised, is silenced for a while and then asks: "Why marshall Balbo?"
The answer is swift: every time my father hears Marshall Balbo speak, my father always says: I don't think he will ever end."

Edited by scheivlak, 03 October 2009 - 22:00.


#18 Manel Baró

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Posted 04 October 2009 - 17:12

[quote name='scheivlak' date='Oct 3 2009, 21:58' post='3904601']
Interestingly enough a street in Chicago is still named after the fascist aviator/general http://chicago.strai...sdc20090205.phpAnd a, according the Wikipedia, a monument too.



#19 Vitesse2

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 19:19

Found this rather nice - if "perspectively challenged" - Alfa Romeo advert on another forum. The building in the background is the Marble Arch (now demolished) which spanned the road.

Posted Image

Still haven't figured out when the road was renamed though! Early references from 1937 call it the Strada Litoranea (Coastal Highway), but I can't find out when it became known as the Via Balbo/Via Balbia.