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I’ve heard of him, but I didn’t know all of this, from a reader:

Dear Mr. Goldberg:

An interesting bit of history, just in case you are not already familiar with it. (I am waiting for my copy of Liberal Fascism to arrive from Amazon.)

If you google “Italo Balbo” you will learn that he was an Italian fascist who was honored by President Roosevelt and by the City of Chicago. In fact, a street still bears his name.

From Wikipedia:

“Italo Balbo (June 5, 1896 – June 28, 1940) was an Italian blackshirt leader, aviator, governor of Libya, and heir apparent of Mussolini.”

“In 1921, he joined the Fascists 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…In 1923 he was charged with the murder of anti-fascist parish priest Giuseppe Minzoni in Argenta. He fled to Rome and in 1924 became General Commander of the Fascist militia and undersecretary for National Economy in 1925.”

“Balbo led two transatlantic flights. The first was the 1930 flight of twelve Savoia-Marchetti S.55 flying boats from Orbetello, Italy to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil between December 17, 1930 and January 15, 1931. From July 1 – August 12, 1933 he led a flight of 24 flying boats on a round-trip flight from Rome to the Century of Progress in Chicago, Illinois. The flight had seven legs; Orbetello — Amsterdam — Derry — Reykjavík — Cartwright — Shediac — Montreal ending on Lake Michigan near Burnham Park. In honor of this feat, Mussolini donated a column from Ostia to the city of Chicago; it can still be seen along the Lakefront Trail, a little south of Soldier Field. Chicago renamed Seventh Street “Balbo Drive” and staged a parade in his honor. (Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn [4] has called for the city to remove Balbo’s name from the street and replace it with a “more virtuous” Italian-American.) President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited him to lunch and presented him with the Distinguished Flying Cross.[5] The Sioux even honorarily adopted Balbo as “Chief Flying Eagle”.[6] He was received and feted by everyone, especially the large Italian-American populations in Chicago and New York. At a cheering mass in Madison Square Garden he told them, “Be proud you are Italians. Mussolini has ended the era of humiliations.”[7]Back home in Italy, he was promoted to Air Marshal. After this, the term Balbo entered common usage to describe any large formation of aircraft.”



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