The Ambassador in Italy (Fletcher) to the Secretary of State

No. 1211

Sir: I have the honor to report that the news of the destruction of Colonel De Pinedo’s airplane, the “Santa Maria”, at Roosevelt Dam day before yesterday caused, as was to be expected, a great sensation in Italy. In view of the delay involved in securing a prompt interview with Mussolini, I thought it best to send him a telegram expressing our regret that this accident should have happened in the United States. I telegraphed him as follows:

“The President, the Government and people of the United States have followed with growing interest and admiration the splendid record breaking flight of Colonel De Pinedo, undertaken and organized under Your Excellency’s inspiration. I hasten to inform you that the entire American nation deeply and sincerely lament the destruction of the ‘Santa Maria’. A thorough investigation is being made and if a cowardly crime has been committed the guilty will be discovered and severely punished. I regret that this should have occurred in my country, but I am convinced that this glorious flight which has been a wonderful augury for the future of world aviation, has simply been interrupted and will be resumed by the heroic Colonel De Pinedo who will finish it triumphantly and will be received everywhere with even greater enthusiasm. This attempt of fate or criminal folly will have only served to bring out in bolder relief the exceptional qualities of De Pinedo, who so worthily represents the virtues of the Italian race. [Page 121] Neither mountains nor oceans will prevent his arrival at the goal. De Pinedo is not Icarus.”

and immediately received his reply, of which the following is a translation:

“I have received with particular gratification the sentiments of cordial sympathy which Your Excellency in the name of the American nation and of yourself was good enough to express to me in connection with the loss of the ‘Santa Maria’. The interruption in the flight of De Pinedo, which until now had been so happily conducted and which world aeronautics had followed with manifest interest strikes, in reality, a painful blow to the Italian people. While I share with Your Excellency the full confidence that De Pinedo, in spite of the occurrence, will be able to bring to a finish his titanic undertaking, I must express to Your Excellency that Italy, bound to America by the most profound ties of friendship, sees absolutely no connection whatever between the painful incident and the fact that it took place on American territory. I beg Your Excellency to act as the interpreter of these sincere sentiments of mine to the great American Nation and to accept the renewed expressions of my gratitude.”

This exchange of telegrams was prominently featured in all the newspapers, as were the prompt offers of assistance made in Washington.

A new airplane of similar type is being rushed to the United States and Colonel De Pinedo will resume his flight as soon as it is received. I would suggest that all possible facilities be extended in connection with the despatch of this machine.

The extreme Fascist papers immediately assumed that the destruction of the “Santa Maria” was due to an anti-Fascist plot. While the facts, so far as known here, seem to me to indicate that such was not the case, I would, nevertheless, suggest that when Colonel De Pinedo resumes his flight a proper guard be afforded him and his machine at each stopping place. Were the anti-Fascist elements in the United State to be successful in wrecking a second machine or in injuring Colonel De Pinedo, the effect on public opinion here would be extremely adverse and our Government bitterly criticized. The Tribuna last night published extracts from manifestoes which have been issued in the United States, which emanate from anti-Fascist sources, and the former Deputy Vacirca is mentioned in this connection. One of the manifestoes is said to read as follows:

“De Pinedo is the messenger of Fascism. He is, therefore, our greatest enemy. Let him know that upon his arrival on American soil he will be given the reception he merits.”

Another extract reads:

“We wish to say but a few, frank words: De Pinedo is a Fascist, a supporter of the Fascist régime.”

[Page 122]

The manifesto closes as follows:

“Italian workmen! Remember: Take part in all the receptions given in honor of De Pinedo and to glorify the Fascist monarchy. Take part and act. Demonstrate your solidarity with the martyred proletariat of Italy.

“Prepare yourself from now on to undertake this duty.

“The Anti-Fascist Alliance of North America, first in all conflicts, appeals to you to transform these receptions in honor of De Pinedo into demonstrations of indignation against the Fascist brigandage.

“Long live the proletariat of Italy!

“Long live movements directed against murderous Fascism!

“Long live the Anti-Fascist Alliance of North America!”

The secret service has probably already taken notice of the possibilities of some attempt against Colonel De Pinedo, but out of excess of caution I think it well to ask the Department to give this subject special attention.

I have [etc.]

Henry P. Fletcher