Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Elly Beinhorn-Rosemeyer (30 May 1907 – 28 November 2007) was a German pilot.
She was born in Hannover, Germany on 30 May 1907.
In 1928, she attended a lecture by famed aviator Hermann Köhl, who had recently completed a historic East-West Atlanticcrossing. This lecture is described as the spark that ignited her interest in aviation.
At just 21 years old, with funds from a small inheritance (against the wishes of her parents) she moved to Spandau in Berlin where she took flying lessons, at Berlin-Staaken airport, under the tutelage of instructor Otto Thomsen. She soon made her solo flight in a small Klemm KL-20. With her money running out, it was suggested that she give aerobatic displays on the weekends. She found this financially rewarding, but personally unsatisfying.
Elly Beinhorn was born in Hannover in 1907. An only child, she grew up dreaming of travel and adventure in foreign lands. In 1928 she went to a lecture of noted pilot Hauptmann Hermann Köhl. Struck by the lure of flying to distant places she sought to enroll in a flying school. Since none was available in Hanover she travel to Berlin. Both parents were against their young daughter flying so she rented a small room in Spandau and learned to fly at the Berlin-Staaken airfield. Since there were few jobs available for a female pilot she earned a living flying aerobatics but her heart was still in long-distance flying. Her first opportunity to take a longer flight was when her former instructor asked her to fly to Rome and deliver some clothes to a wealthy relative of a flying club member. Dutifully she took off and headed towards Rome guided only by a compass. Unfortunately her first major trip resulted in her getting lost and having to land the plane, finally arriving at her destination aboard a commercial flight 24 hours too late. From this humble beginning her next trip was to Africa with a group of anthropologists. Fort the rest of her life she would have a special affection for Africa. Later flights would take her to the Americas and Asia.
Elly Beinhorn was already a well known woman aviator when she first met her future husband, Bernd Rosemeyer in 1935. Since 1931 she had flown all over the world and in order to finance her trips she gave lectures. This occasion was a lecture to the local Flying Club in Brno, Czechoslovakia. As a guest of Auto Union she attend the Masaryk Grand Prix being held at the time of her visit to Brno. In the pits she was impressed by a handsome driver, who's name was Hans Stuck. But this was not Stuck's race as he suffered what could have been a tragic accident when he was struck in the face by a bird which shattered his goggles. Luckily he was able to mange to return to the pits where he was attended to. The eventual winner was a new rookie driver by the name of Bernd Rosemeyer. Elly was asked by Franz Michler, the Press Officer for Auto Union to go up and congratulate the young winner. One year later on July 13th they were married. To the Nazis they were the perfect Aryan couple and in fact unlike the other drives Rosemeyer was asked to join the SS. Theirs seamed the perfect marriage and the couple became the toast of Berlin. Tragically it was to end not quite three years later with the death of Rosemeyer while on a record attempt.
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Italo Balbo (Ferrara, 6 June 1896 – Tobruk, 28 June 1940) was an Italian Blackshirt (Camicie Nere, or CCNN) leader who served as Italy's Marshal of the Air Force (Maresciallo dell'Aria), Governor-General of Libya, Commander-in-Chief of Italian North Africa (Africa Settentrionale Italiana, or ASI), and the "heir apparent" to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
After serving in World War I, Balbo became the leading Fascist organizer in his home region of Ferrara. He was one of the four principal architects (Quadrumviri del Fascismo) of the March on Rome that brought Mussolini and the Fascists to power in 1922, along with Michele Bianchi, Emilio De Bono and Cesare Maria De Vecchi. In 1926, he began the task of building the Italian Royal Air Force and took a leading role in popularizing aviation in Italy, and promoting Italian aviation to the world. In 1933, perhaps to relieve tensions surrounding him in Italy, he was given the government of Italian Libya, where he resided for the remainder of his life. Balbo was the only leading Fascist to oppose both anti-Jewish racial laws and Mussolini's alliance with Nazi Germany. Early in World War II, he was killed by friendly fire when his plane was shot down over Tobruk by Italian anti-aircraft guns.
The Grand Prix scene during this period contains its assortment of heroes, scoundrels and even murderers. In Italo Balbo you had all three. Balbo was born on June 6, 1896, near Ferrara, Italy. After serving in World War I he got himself involved with the local Fascists. It may well have been his sense of patriotism that mislead him but the dashing young man became one of their young leaders. He was involved in many bloody attacks against their opponents. By far the bravest of this motley group he came to the attention of the Fascist leadership including Mussolini. When Mussolini came to power Balbo quickly moved up the ladder becoming General and later Marshall. Balbo would have been just another Fascist thug if not for his other great passion, flying.
In fact Balbo was one of Italy's greatest aviators and accomplished many feats that could not be called anything less than heroic. His most famous feat came during the World's fair in Chicago in 1933. General Italo Balbo, minister of air under Italy's dictator Benito Mussolini, led a fleet of 25 Savoia-Marchetti SM.55X flying boats in a mass formation flight to Chicago's World's Fair. In an aerial spectacle aimed at demonstrating Italian technological might under fascist rule, Balbo's 100 crewmen practiced precision formation flying and water landings for months before taking off from Orbetello seaplane base for the first leg of the round-trip transatlantic flight. Despite the loss of a plane and a crewman in Amsterdam, 24 aircraft landed safely on Lake Michigan, having flown 6,065 miles in just under 49 hours flying time. Following celebrations in Chicago and New York, the fleet took off for Rome on July 25. A crash in the Azores took the life of a second crewman, but Balbo's remaining 23 flying boats arrived home to a patriotic welcome on August 12, still flying in tight formation. Balbo's popularity rivaled Mussolini's and as a reward he was banished to Libya as its Governor.
Disillusioned with the direction that Mussolini was taking Italy he resented the growing power of the German Nazi's over his beloved Italy. Exiled to Libya he assumed the role of Roman pro-consul; the greatness of the empire depended on the prestige the Consul could command. He held lavish receptions replete with African Guards in flowing costumes with drawn swords. The receptions were open to the diplomatic corps of North Africa and international high society. He preferred to mix with the creme of Britain and France over that of Germany. A perfect vehicle for him, in fact his world stage was the Grand Prix of Tripoli. He loved cars and would often cajole the teams to let him try their cars out on the circuit.
On August 13th, 1932 Victor Emmanuel III, King of Italy authorized a lottery based on the result of the Tripoli Grand Prix. The effect was enormous, the race was converted from a backwater event to the top of the Grand Prix calendar. It became known as the race of millions, it also saw it involved in a scandal that rocked the sport when Varzi won the first race during the lottery under dubious circumstances over Nuvolari. The following year Balbo created new rules to prevent any chance of further cheating.
Reality was to intrude on this idyllic setting when Italy entered the war on the side of Germany. Balbo had been against the war from the start. On June 28, 1940 Governor-General Marshal Italo Balbo was shot down and killed by his own AA guns over Tobruk just as an RAF raid materialized (could this have been coincidence? Or is it possible that this was deliberate as Mussolini considered him to be his only serious contender in the fascist "government".) Considering Hitler's betrayal of his former comrade Ernst Rölm of the SA this scenario is not an uncommon feature of Fascism.
Balbo appeared in military uniform at the Targa Florio road race.
Balbo appeared in military uniform at the Targa Florio road race.