- (1896–1940)Born in Quartesana, Ferrara (EmiliaRomagna), to a family of schoolteachers, at the age of 14 Balbo was one of the irredentists who volunteered to conquer the Albanian coast in order to make the Adriatic an Italian lake. At 17, he led a group of bicyclists on the road from Ferrara in the thick of the 1914 events of “red week” clad in his Garibaldine red shirt and ready to proclaim a socialist republic in Emilia-Romagna. His subsequent service in World War I (he became a lieutenant in the Alpini) and his nationalism, spirit of adventure, and natural combativeness equipped him well for his postwar activities as an organizer and leader of Fascist squads in the Po Valley. Prior to the March on Rome, some regarded him as a potential rival to Benito Mussolini to head the Partito Nazionale Fascista/National Fascist Party (PNF). Balbo was put in charge of the militia after Mussolini came to power but had to resign after the murder of Giacomo Matteotti. In 1926, he headed a movement to depose the king in favor of a Fascist republic but was thwarted by General Pietro Badoglio. As minister of aviation between 1929 and 1933, he personally led an Italian seaplane-group (he was an enthusiastic pilot) called, grandiloquently, an “armada,” on transatlantic formation flights to Chicago and Brazil. Mussolini was so irritated by Balbo’s popularity that he made him governor of Libya in order to remove him from the seat of power in Rome and from any temptation to challenge the Duce himself. Despite his dissent from the alliance with Nazi Germany, he was put in command of Italian forces in North Africa in 1940, when he was accidentally shot down by Italian antiaircraft fire over Tobruk. He was probably the only Fascist hierarch who was unintimidated by Mussolini.
Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. Mark F. Gilbert & K. Robert Nilsson. 2007.
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Balbo, Italo — born June 6, 1896, near Ferrara, Italy died June 28, 1940, Tobruk, Libya Italian aviator and politician. He led the fascist Blackshirts in the March on Rome (1922) and served under Benito Mussolini as general of militia (1923) and air minister… … Universalium
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