World War II Biographies: Italo Balbo (Italy, 1896-40)

Figure 1.--Here we see Italian Governor of Libya and aviation enthusist, Italo Balbo in early 1940. He is with two of his children, Valeri and Paolo. They are at Zliten, a place 120 miles from Tripoli where he likes to spend his weekends. His children were both very fond of riding, and are seen here wearing Jodhpurs. He was killed just 2 weeks after Italy entered the war in a fiendly fire incident over Tobruk.

Italo Balbo was a leading Italian Blackshirt and early supporter of Benito Mussolini. Like Mussolini and other Blackshirts, he served in World War I and was disappointed with what Italy gained in the peace settlement. After the War, Balbo became an effective Fascist organizer in his home region of Ferrara. He was one of the four principal architects of the Blackshirt March on Rome that resulted in Mussolini and the Fascists seizng power (1922). Mussolini gave him the job of building the Italian Royal Air Force (1926). He became the leading voice for Italian aviation. Mussolini appointed him Italy's Marshal of the Air Force (Maresciallo dell'Aria). The flamboyant Balbo cme to be seen as a possible successor to Mussolini. We seem many newsreel and still imagesof Mussolini with Balbo at his side. He was so prominany that Mssolini began to see him as a threat. Mussolini decided to make him Governor of Libya, at the time a kind of exile (1933). Mussolini saw Libya as akind of springboard to a huge African colonial empire. Balbo continued to reside in Libya as Mussolini begn moving Italy toward a German alliance and war. Balbo was the only leading Fascist to oppose both Mussolini's alliance with NAZI Germany and the anti-Semetic racial laws that Hitler demanded. As Mussolmi moved toward war, Balbo as Commander-in-Chief of Italian North Africa (Africa Settentrionale Italiana--ASI), would have played an mportant role. Onlt two weeks after Mussolini declared war, Balbo was killed by friendly fire. Italian anti-aircraft gunners shot down his plane over Tobruk. This would affect the status of Jews in Libya.


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Created: 2:58 AM 5/7/2011
Last updated: 7:14 PM 5/13/2014