It seems like Italo Balbo just became residual shrapnel from the barrage of bullets the rest of the country is firing over what to do with the approximate 1,500 Confederate place names and other symbols in public spaces.
Italian-Americans and others throughout Chicagoland are wondering why the memory of Balbo’s remarkable accomplishments is being swept into the national wave of removing the past.
Eighty-four years ago Gen. Italo Balbo’s air armada landed at Chicago’s World’s Fair marking the first mass flight of planes crossing the North Atlantic. The transatlantic crossing was rightly recognized as one of the most important and best executed aeronautical achievements of that time.
The day of his arrival on the lakefront was the single most memorable and important day in the history of Chicago’s Italian-American community. President Franklin Roosevelt honored him at the White House. And now Balbo’s name is in question because of misinformation.
We want to be perfectly clear. Italo Balbo was an outspoken opponent of the Mussolini tilt towards Hitler and was not the enemy many in the Chicago City Council are portraying he was.
Despite being a general under Benito Mussolini, when Balbo saw where Mussolini was going with his pro-German policies, Balbo was horrified. He was one of the only Fascists in Mussolini’s regime to openly oppose Italy’s anti-Jewish racial laws and Italy’s alliance with Germany. Mussolini’s disagreements with Balbo led to Mussolini “exiling” him to serve as the governor of Libya.
Italo Balbo was never an enemy of the United States. He was an inspiration to Italian-Americans and to those in aviation. Balbo did the right thing: Opposed Mussolini in his darkest time. Why should the City Council bring Chicagoland Italian-Americans into a dark corner when our community shines so brightly with all ethnic groups?
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