Italo Balbo Monument
Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini gave this sculpture to Chicago to commemorate the 1933 transatlantic flight of seaplanes from the Italian Air Force, commanded by Marshall Italo Balbo. It was installed at the site of the Italian Pavilion at the Century of Progress fair and has not been moved since. The shaft is antique Roman spolia dating from the first century CE. The arrival of Balbo’s amphibious air force was a spectacle that captivated Chicagoans in the early years of the Great Depression. His popularity triggered the renaming of 7th Street after the fascist aviator. Considered a dangerous political rival by Mussolini, Balbo was named Governor-General of the Italian Colony of Libya in 1934. Until his death in 1940, Balbo commanded forces that jockeyed for military and political advantage with other colonial powers in North and East Africa in the years leading up to World War II. Balbo's remains, which were interred outside of Tripoli, were recovered by Italy in 1970 when Libyan dictator, General Muammar Gaddafi, threatened to destroy the country's Italian cemeteries. Calls for the removal of the Chicago monument have grown in recent years.