Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, January 20, 2014

D'Annunzio's Flight to Vienna

Eyewitness: D'Annunzio's Flight to Vienna, 
9 August 1918

D'Annunzio and His Pilot, Capt. Palli, Before the Mission

Gabriele D'Annunzio, poet, propagandist, and already a war hero, took command of Italy's First Air Torpedo Squadron in March 1918 and subsequently set up the San Marco Squadron that bombed Pola. He decided to wage psychological war on the Austrian public with a spectacular aviation feat. On his third attempt, D'Annunzio succeeded in leading a squadron of eight aircraft to Vienna and dropping 400,000 propaganda pamphlets written in Italian and German. The remarkable feat involved a 621-mile trip, twice crossing the Alps at 10,000 feet. His account of the flight:

D'Annunzio Preparing for takeoff

When we left at 6 o'clock in the morning the weather was splendid, but we soon were enveloped in a thick mist. We kept at a height varying from 8,000 to 11,000 feet. In crossing our former frontier I was deeply affected at looking down upon Cividale and the wide stretches of our country that have been held for the last nine months by the enemy. 

We reached Vienna about 8 o'clock in the morning and descended to within 1,500 feet. The people in the streets were at first terrified and fled in panic until they saw that we were throwing out only manifestoes. Then crowds assembled and watched in intense curiosity. I particularly wished to approach close to the museum that contains the authentic image of St. Catherine of Alexandria, and made a detour which permitted observation of this point.

The weather became bad on our return trip, and we experienced dangerous air currents while crossing the Alps. We also were attacked by hostile artillery fire and a fleet of hydroplanes, but came through safely by noon of the same day.

The Manifesto authored by D'Annuzio himself:

People of Vienna: You are fated to know the Italians. We are flying over Vienna and could drop tons of bombs; on the the contrary, we leave a salutation and the flag with its colors of liberty.

We Italians do not make war on children, the aged, and women. We make war on your Government, which is the enemy of the liberty of nations—on your blind, wanton, cruel Government, which gives you neither peace nor bread and nurtures you on hatred and illusions.

People of Vienna: You have the reputation of being intelligent; why then, do you wear the Prussian uniform? Now you see the entire world is against you. Do you wish to continue the war? Keep on then, but it will be your suicide. What can you hope from the victory promised you by the Prussian Generals? Their decisive victory is like the bread of the Ukraine—one dies while awaiting it.

People of Vienna, think of your dear ones, awake!

Long live liberty, Italy and the Entente!

New York Times article
11 August 1918 

1 comment:

  1. 50,000 propaganda leaflets in each aircraft - were they stored in bundles inside the fuselage?