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GABRIELE D’ANNUNZIO, the Italian poet and patriot, also became enamored with aviation. At the 1909 air show in Brescia, in northern Italy, d’Annunzio conned his way aboard flights with aeronaut competitors, including a star of the event, America’s Glenn Curtiss.
The short flights ignited d’Annunzio’s passion for aviation to the point of his giving it prominence in a romance novel, Forse Che Si, Forse Che No (Perhaps Yes, Perhaps No).
Maybe a bit overflown by modern literary taste, he certainly brought romance to aviation: “Just as an eagle in a sandy valley does not leap into flight but starts with a rapid step, runs accompanying the run with a growing quivering of feathers….thus the machine left the ground, its three light wheels racing amidst the clear blue smoke from the exhaust, almost as if the dry grass of the field were burning beneath it.”
Later, almost at the end of World War I, d’Annunzio achieved an amazing feat of aerial warfare—bombing the city of Vienna not with explosives but rather with his poetry.
On August 9, 1918, he and his pilot Natale Palli led a squadron of S.V.A. Ansaldo Scout biplanes from San Pelagio, in northern Italy near Trieste, on their bombing mission to Vienna, some 270 miles away.
There, the squadron circled the enemy city for 30 minutes while they dropped thousands of messages that said, in a poetic way, nah nah, nah NAH nah.
Then they returned to San Pelagio, their complete flight rather more than 625 miles, 500 of it over enemy territory.
Quite a guy, d’Annunzio. ds