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Knights of the Air: Flight over Vienna

The Flight over Vienna was an epic action performed by Italian poet and nationalist Gabriele D'Annunzio on 9 August 1918.

He was planning it as early as in 1917, but his dream to fly over the enemy capital together with his friends Maurizio Pagliano and Luigi Gori (see Poetic Bombers) shattered when their Ca.3 bomber was shot by Benno Fiala von Fernbrugg on December 30, 1917.

With 11 Ansaldo S.V.A. from his team, the 87th Squadron called "La Serenissima", Maj. D'Annunzio flew for over 1,200 km in a round trip from the squadron's military airfield near San Pelagio at Due Carrare near Padua to Vienna to drop not bombs but thousands of propaganda leaflets. The first trial was attempted on 2 August 1918, but the aircraft returned due to heavy fog. The second trial, on 8 August 1918, was canceled due to strong wind, while the last one, on 9 August, was successful.

Pietro Massoni in the cockpit of his S.V.A. with St. Marc's Lion, the "Serenissima" emblem

Eleven Italian aviators left San Pelagio with the poet. Ten (Antonio Locatelli, Girolamo Allegri, Gino Allegri, Censi, Aldo Finzi, Pietro Massoni, Granzarolo, Sarti, Francesco Ferrarin, Masprone and Contratti) flew single-seater Ansaldos. Capt. Natali Palli flew a two-seater S.V.A., D'Annunzio sitting before him (see the headline picture). They flew over Vienna and dropped 50,000 leaflets on green-white-red colored card.

The leaflets were written by D'Annunzio himself. Above is a short text: "People of Vienna, instead of explosives we bring you three colors of liberty. We Italians do not wage a war against children or elderly or women. We are at war with your government, the enemy of national freedom, the government that won't give you neither peace nor bread. People of Vienna, you are famous for your intellectual skills. What do you have in common with this Prussian uniform? Now you see: all the world has turned against you... Do you really want to continue the war? So continue, it will be your suicide. Awake, people of Vienna! Long live Liberty! Long live Italy! Long live l'Entente!"

Others were longer and more poetic:

«On this August morning, while the fourth year of your desperate convulsion comes to an end and luminously begins the year of our full power, suddenly there appears the three-color wing as an indication of the destiny that is turning. Destiny turns. It turns towards us with an iron certainty. The hour of that Germany that thrashes you, and humiliates you, and infects you is now forever passed. Your hour is passed. As our faith was the strongest, behold how our will prevails and will prevail until the end. The victorious combatants of Piave, the victorious combatants of Marna feel it, they know it, with an ecstasy that multiplies the impetus. But if the impetus were not enough, the number would be; and this is said for those that try fighting ten against one. The Atlantic is a way  yet closed; and is an heroic way, as they demonstrate the newest pursuers that have colored the Ourcq with German blood. On the wind of victory that rises from the rivers of liberty, we have come for the joy of the boldness, we have come for the contest that we will dare when we want, in the hour that we choose. The rumble of the young Italian wing not look like to the one of funereal bronze, in the early morning sky. However the joyful audacity suspends between St. Stephen and Graben an irrevocable sentence, Viennese. Long live Italy!»

Gabriele D'Annunzio

Leaflets over Vienna (St. Stephan Cathedral on the right)

None of the 50,000 cards were translated into German. But there were 350,000 leaflets in German, calling for the end of the alliance between Austria-Hungary and "Prussia". Probably someone will call this action "ridiculous". But after the flight, Viennese Arbeiter Zeitung wrote: "Where are our  d'Annunzios declaiming emphatic poetry when the war burst out? "

The Ansaldo S.V.A. of Maj. D'Annunzio and Capt. Palli preserved at Vittoriale museum, Italy

Sources: Wikipedia (IT), Aerei della Regia Aeronautica

Dieci erano monoposto, pilotati da Antonio Locatelli, Girolamo Allegri, detto Gino Allegri, Censi, Aldo Finzi, Massone, Granzarolo, Sarti, Francesco Ferrarin, Masprone e Contratti;

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Tags: 1910s, Knights of the Air, aircraft, austria-hungary, aviation, biplane, fighters, italy, propaganda, wwi

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Comment by Doc Spencer on March 24, 2011 at 2:15pm
Que Bella Uomo.

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