By Gregory Alegi
Following the September 8, 1943 armistice with the Allies, Italy split in two, with the Kingdom of Italy continuing in the South and a new Mussolini-led Italian Social Republic (RSI) springing up in the North under German tutelage. The RSI was not recognized by the international community, but this did not prevent it from setting up a complete government organization, including a large army, minuscule navy, and small air force (ANR). For decades, the story of these armed forces has oscillated between being officially ignored and trumpeted by Mussolini’s nostalgia. The tide changed about 35 years ago, with the publication of well-researched books by respected authors Giancarlo Garello, Ferdinando D’Amico, and Gabriele Valentini.
With this massive 800-page two-volume book, Paolo Pesaresi plugs one of the few remaining gaps in the ANR story by reconstructing the history of the II Gruppo Caccia (2nd Fighter Group), a subject he first through a chance meeting with an ANR veteran. The title, which translates as Heart, Country, Flight covers the three main points of view which led many to join the ANR at an extraordinarily complex political and military time for Italy. The original 600-page, single-volume edition won first prize in the Aviation History category in the 11th Douhet Aerospace Book Prize, organized biennially by the ITAF Association.
Initially equipped with the Fiat G.55, the 2nd Group switched to German-supplied Bf.109G’s in June 1944 and flew them until late April 1945. It thus flew and fought longer than the 1st Fighter Group, which was out of service for about six months following the disastrous German attempt to turn the ANR into the “Italian Legion” of the Luftwaffe. Despite this, the 2nd Group has been largely ignored, or at least overlooked. This is possible because of the two units’ very different fate at the end of the war when the RSI collapsed and left its military at the mercy of partisans. The 1st Group surrendered but had its prestigious CO summarily executed; the 2nd negotiated with the partisans to defend law and order in Bergamo, to the point of being issued valuable partisan IDs.
Heavily-illustrated and well-printed, the book provides both the general framework of the time and a detailed reconstruction of the unit’s history, plus pilot profiles and modelers’ notes. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a category of enthusiasts who will not find their favorite angle covered here. Each chapter includes an English summary, which helps non-Italians navigate the information.
170 documents from national archives and private collections
110 color drawings by M. Gueli and P. Pesaresi
48 color profiles da M. Gueli
26 technical drawings by M. Bartolacci and P. Pesaresi
26 chapter excerpts in English
Where to Buy It
GLI ARCHIVI RITROVATI
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