Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chicago's Italo Balbo Monument


I won't be attending the Worldcon this weekend.  But for those who are, here's a neglected corner of history you might be interested in looking up while you're in Chicago:  The Italo Balbo monument.  This is a memento, and perhaps the only enduring one, of the 1933-1934 Century of Progress World's Fair, hosted by Chicago.

 "One of the highlights of the fair," my source writes, "occurred when Italian aviator Italo Balbo led a squadron of 24 Savoia-Marchetti SM.55X flying boats in a historic transatlantic flight from Rome to Chicago, landing on Lake Michigan near the fairgrounds."  To mark the occasion, Mussolini contributed a Roman column.  On the monument, in Italian and English, is the inscription:

This column, twenty centuries old, was erected on the beach of Ostia, the port of Imperial Rome, to watch over the fortunes and victories of the Roman triremes. Fascist Italy, with the sponsorship of Benito Mussolini, presents to Chicago a symbol and memorial in honor of the Atlantic Squadron led by Balbo, which with Roman daring, flew across the ocean in the 11th year of the Fascist era.

Italo Balbo was an interesting, if not very admirable man.  He was part of the quadrumvirate that brought Mussolini to power, in recognition of which he was made the minister of Italy's air force.  At the time he didn't know how to fly, but apparently he was a quick learner.  He died in 1940, in an air accident, the victim of friendly fire in Libya.  Despite the occasional call for its removal, his monument remains, neflected, in Burnham Park, east of Soldier Field.

You can read about it here.


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