PETITION TO RETAIN THE NAME OF BALBO DRIVE This petition is in response to an earlier petition initiated by a group of individuals who identify themselves as educators, and to a subsequent editorial in the Chicago Tribune on 06/27/2011 endorsing the petition’s objective. The petition and the editorial call for the name of the street known as Balbo Drive to be changed.
We the undersigned, in view of the facts outlined below, call upon Mayor Rahm Emanuel and all members of the Chicago City Council to permanently retain the name of the Chicago street known as Balbo Drive.
Originally known as 7th Street, the street was re-named to honor General Italo Balbo in 1933 by resolution of the Chicago City Council as a perpetual commemoration of the unprecedented transatlantic flight of an entire squadron of 24 aircraft from Italy to Chicago’s Century of Progress World’s Fair of that year.
At that time, Balbo was chief of the Royal Italian Air Force (Regia Aeronautica). The transatlantic crossing was rightly recognized as one of the most important and best executed aeronautical achievements of that time, having made a valuable contribution toward the future realization of routine intercontinental air travel and to technological progress in general.
The street, therefore, not only honors the organizer and commander of that enterprise, but the enterprise itself and the role played by the City of Chicago, a major hub in global aviation, in that historic event.
The street also commemorates an occasion of incomparable significance to Chicago’s Italian American community which took, and continues to take, justifiable pride in this triumph of Italian aviation. To support our position, is essential that the distortions, falsehoods implied or directly propagated in the earlier above-referenced petition and Chicago Tribune editorial be directly addressed.
• Italo Balbo was a consistent opponent and vocal critic of Italy’s alliance with Nazi Germany.
• Italo Balbo was a consistent opponent and vocal critic of anti-Semitism.
• Italo Balbo was opposed to Italy’s participation in The Second World War on the side of Nazi Germany.
• Italo Balbo was a well respected and honorable colonial administrator as Governor of Libya. Contrary to the blatantly false claims in the original petition, Balbo never supervised or operated concentration camps in Libya or anywhere else.
• Italo Balbo was an Italian patriot and anti-Communist who endured completely unfounded accusations by his political opponents.
• Italo Balbo was never an enemy of the United States.
Quite to the contrary Balbo was considered with highest regard by Americans at the time of his death (1940), nearly half a year before a state of war between the US and the Kingdom of Italy was declared.
However, it should be noted that the British, who were indeed at war with the Italians at that time, responded to news of Balbo’s death with an unprecedented wartime gesture of respect, sorrow and regret, with Commander Arthur Longmore, Chief of the British Air Force in the Middle East, immediately dispatching the following message across the Italian lines in Libya: “The British Royal Air Force expresses sympathy in the death of General Balbo, a leader and gallant aviator personally known by me, whom fate has placed on the other side”
Clearly, and regardless of a state of belligerency, the British still considered Italo Balbo as a person worthy of honor and great respect. Italo Balbo was received and honored not only by Illinois Governor Henry Horner, Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly, and literally every other prominent public figure in the City of Chicago, but also those of the City and State of New York, and even President Roosevelt himself.
Contrary to today’s unfounded revisionism, none of them, not even the President, hesitated to personally greet Balbo and hail him as a hero. At the time of his transatlantic flight even The Chicago Tribune, (ironically enough, given its recent editorial) expressed only praise and admiration in its assessment of General Balbo and his remarkable achievement.
Finally, the petition falsely asserts that “in Italy itself, in which Italo Balbo’s crimes are well known, no streets are named after him”.
In fact, there are numerous streets named after Italo Balbo in towns and cities across Italy, including Messina (Sicily), Falcone (Sicily), Pozzuoli (Campagna), Baiano (Campagna), Gerace (Calabria), Tufara (Molise), Itri (Lazio), Villaurbano (Sardegna), Minturno (Lazio), Montepaone (Calabria), and others. Further, a section of Ciampino Airport in Rome is named Piazzale Italo Balbo.
In light of these undeniable facts it is obvious that opponents of maintaining Balbo Drive seek to distort history for their own socio-political beliefs.
Consequently, we the undersigned believe that the decision to eradicate a part of Chicago history dishonors our city and should not be condoned.
Don Fiore - William Dal Cerro - Rosario Iaconis
ITALIC INSTITUTE OF AMERICA