General Italo Balbo visit to Read Head Beach

(1896-1940). Air Force officer. Born Ferrara, Italy. After serving as an officer in World War I he joined the Italian Fascist Movement. He rose rapidly in the Military, becoming General of the Air Fleet (1928), and Minister of Aviation (1929-1933).

In 1933 General Balbo commanded the Italian Air Armada from Italy to Chicago via Newfoundland. Canada, and the United States, en route to the Chicago Century of Progress Exhibition. The fleet, consisting of twenty-four hydro-planes, landed in Cartwright Harbour, Labrador on July 12, 1933, and departed the next day after refueling. On the return trip via New York, Newfoundland and the Azores, they landed off Shoal Harbour and Clarenville, Trinity Bay, made preparations for the next leg, and departed August 8. Balbo had agreed to take mail from Newfoundland to Rome. Eight thousand and forty stamps of 1933 Air Mail Issue (75 cent denomination) were surcharged and overprinted with 1933/GEN. BALBO/FLIGHT./$4.50. He took 1,153 pieces of mail, 1,083 postmarked St. John's and seventy postmarked Shoal Harbour. The fleet landed on the Tiber on August 12, and the next day Balbo was given a hero's welcome in Rome. That same year he was made Governor of Libya.

Balbo was killed when his plane was shot down by Italian guns in Tobruk Harbour, Libya. It was claimed his plane failed to give correct recognition signals.


Balbo's Flight


On July 26, 1933, the largest armada of aircraft to make a trans-atlantic flight landed in Random Sound, putting Clarenville and Shoal Harbour in the international spotlight.

General Italo Balbo and his fleet of twenty-four seaplanes landed at Shoal Harbour. They were completing the last leg of their spectacular flight from Orbetello, Italy to the Chicago Century of Progress Exhibition, via Amsterdam, Reykjavik, Cartwright, Shediac, Montreal, Chicago, New York, Shoal Harbour, Lisbon, and Rome, a distance of 12,000 miles. The flight was undertaken for political propaganda purposes and served to draw the Italian people's attention away from the effects of the depressions to military exploits.

The armada arrived in Shoal Harbour on the 26th day of July, 1933. The landing of the planes was witnessed by a large crowd and Balbo and his crew received a hearty Newfoundland welcome from Newfoundlander's immediately upon their arrival.

On his return to Rome, General Balbo was elevated to the rank of Air Marshall by Premier Mussolini in a decree published on August 12, 1933. The visit was perhaps the most important event in Shoal Harbor's history, so important that the main road in Shoal Harbour is called Balbo Drive.

Photos of General Italo Balbo
Random Sound July 1933

General Italo Balbo at RedHead Beach

General Italo Balbo at RedHead Beach

General Italo Balbo at RedHead Beach

General Italo Balbo Refuling Aircraft at RedHead Beach

Photos of General Italo Balbo

General Italo Balbo

General Italo Balbo

General Italo Balbo

© Please note that some or all of the above photos may be subject to Copyright protection. This photes were provided by Mr. Stephen Parsons formely of Clarenville, Mr. Stephen Parsons photographs came from his collection along with the grateful assistance of Mr. Huntley Butler.

General Italo Balbo 1896-1940

Italy’s most famous interwar pilot, Italo Balbo served with the Alpine troops during WW1 and then joined Benito Mussolini’s Fascist movement. In 1926, despite knowing nothing about aviation, he was appointed Secretary of State for Air. He quickly learned to fly, and set about reorganizing Italy’s air force, the Regia Aeronautica. In 1933, he led a mass formation of 24 Savoia-Marchetti SM.55X flying boats on a transatlantic round-trip flight from Italy to Chicago, landing on Lake Michigan. As a result the collective noun balbo was coined in Italian to describe a large formation of aircraft. Balbo was subsequently appointed governor of Libya. During WW2, he called for Italy to side with Britain, contrary to Mussolini’s plans. He continued to lead air patrols over North Africa and was killed when returning from a patrol in 1940, shot down by the antiaircraft guns of his own base.

Following text from
University of California Press

Pioneering aviator, blackshirt leader, colonial governor, confidante and heir-apparent to Benito Mussolini, the dashing and charismatic Italo Balbo exemplified the ideals of Fascist Italy during the 1920s and 30s. He earned national notoriety after World War I as a ruthless squadrista whose blackshirt forces crushed socialist and trade union organizations. As Minister of Aviation from 1926 to 1933, he led two internationally heralded mass trans-Atlantic flights. When his aerial armada reached the U. S., Chicago honored him with a Balbo Avenue, New York staged a ticker-tape parade, and President Roosevelt invited him to lunch. As colonial governor from 1933 to 1940, Balbo transformed Libya from backward colony to model Italian province. To many, Italo Balbo seemed to embody a noble vision of Fascism and the New Italy.