Italian leaflets falling over Vienna.
August 9 1918, Vienna–The nationalist poet and proto-fascist Gabriele D’Annunzio had been one of the leading voices calling for Italian entry into the war. Since then, he had been chosen to be Italy’s official war chronicler (a task he would never complete), occasionally participated in the fighting at the front (including a disastrous raid that he carried out during the Tenth Battle of the Isonzo), and trained to be a pilot. He put these latter skills to use on August 9, when he led a leaflet-dropping mission over Vienna, a 750-mile round-trip flight. D’Annunzio’s 50,000 leaflets were in his usual overwrought style (“On this August morning, while the fourth year of your desperate convulsion comes to an end and luminously begins the year of our full power, suddenly there appears the tricolor wing as an indication of the destiny that is turning….”) and were in Italian, which could not be read by most of Vienna’s population. Critics quipped that once “he wrote but did not act,” but “now he acts but does not write.”
The planes also dropped 350,000 leaflets in German, which were presumably more effective:
Learn to know the Italians.
We are flying over Vienna; we could drop tons of bombs. All we are dropping on you is a greeting of three colors: the three colors of liberty.
We Italians do not make war on children, on old people, on women.
We are making war on your government, the enemy of national liberties, on your blind, stubborn, cruel government that can give you neither peace nor bread, and feeds you hatred and illusions.
You are famous for being intelligent. But why have you put on the Prussian uniform? By now, you see, the whole world has turned against you.
You want to continue the war? Continue it; it’s your suicide. What do you hope for? The decisive victory promised to you by the Prussian generals? Their decisive victory is like the bread of Ukraine: You die waiting for it.
PEOPLE OF VIENNA, think of your own fates. Wake up!
LONG LIVE LIBERTY!
LONG LIVE ITALY!
LONG LIVE THE ENTENTE!
While its effect on Vienna is unclear, the flight provided a definite boost to Italian morale, especially in the parts of Italy occupied by the Austrians. While the Allies won great victories on the Western Front, the Italian Army continued to recuperate; the Italians would have be satisfied with D’Annunzio’s exploits for the time being.
Today in 1917: Robertson Fumes as Only One British Division Leaves Salonika
Sources include: Mark Thompson, The White War.