Winter 2003, Vol. 35, No. 4
The International Civil Aeronautics Conference of 1928
Freedom of the Press Prevails
A radical anti-Fascist Italian-language publication in New York City, Il Lavoratore, published an article to which the Italian ambassador took grave exception, for it appeared to incite violence against the Italian representative to the conference, Gen. Italo Balbo. General Balbo was the Italian under-secretary of state for aeronautics in Mussolini's Fascist government, and the publication question was not only anti-Fascist but also "anti-imperialist," denouncing U.S. military involvement in Nicaragua. The State Department contacted the Justice Department, who brought the affair to the attention of the U.S. attorney for New York City, Charles H. Tuttle. In the end, the U.S. attorney declined to prosecute, providing his reasons in a memorandum dated January 14, 1929, to the Justice Department. First, it was not clear that the newspaper really was advocating a physical attack against General Balbo, rather than some lesser demonstration. Second, Tuttle did not think that he could win the case against the free-speech defense Il Lavotatore's defenders would undoubtedly use. And, after all, the general came and went without suffering any harm. The incident apparently did not sour General Balbo on the United States, for he returned triumphantly in 1933 with a fleet of 25 Savoia-Marchetti S-55X seaplanes in a record-setting trans-Atlantic crossing.