Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Candidate on Election Day in Italy.

      Sometimes, I find it interesting to look at old aviation magazines, and read what people wrote about a particular aircraft in those days, knowing now that the project was very successful or that it was a total commercial flop. In a similar way, instead of analyzing the results of an election sometimes it is more interesting to read what people thought before the elections took place. So,   while Italians are digesting, commenting and analyzing last Sunday's results, I translated and published a post of Dr. Antonio Martino, a former member of the Italian Cabinet in two of Prime Minister Berlusconi's governments and a prominent member of the PdL
   Your comments will be greatly appreciated. Thanks,
Leonardo Pavese

A candidate on Elections Day.

This morning (February 24), I went to vote with a friend of mine. He had voted at 8:30 am and had to wait in line; I had no better luck at 10:30. The weather, here in Rome, is nice; but in so many years I had never seen so many people at the polls. One could jump to the conclusion that the foreseen protagonist of these elections, abstention from voting that is, hadn’t shown up for the appointment. Nevertheless, to arrive at that important conclusion would be precipitous and baseless based only on such an insignificant observation; to dream, though, is not forbidden or taxed (yet), and I’d be very pleased if good-willing Italians, instead of taking refuge in a void, understood that voting has never been as necessary as it is now, if only in self defense.

The number of people at the polls, even if my first impression was confirmed, is not at all the only problem of this round of elections. The enemies to defeat, besides the disaffection of the voters, are the anti-politics attitude and bad politics. The main representative of the former is Beppe Grillo. The Genoese comedian brought a multitude of people to San Giovanni Square in Rome. Even if that wasn’t the first time the square was filled with people (just think of the great Communist gatherings of the second half of the 1900’s, or the hundreds of thousands of Berlusconi’s supporters who packed it, repeatedly, since 1994), the fact that Mr. Grillo managed to do the same doesn’t promise anything good.

I was told that Mr. Grillo also enjoys a great following in Sicily; and I’m sure that the same is true in other regions. If Mr. Grillo actually proposed anything concrete, or that could be identified with the rest of the political line-up, we would at least know what we could expect from his electoral success; but what he proposes makes no sense, like the nationalization of banks (to reduce the public debt!) and the twenty hour work week; or it’s totally crazy (like, for example, the end of all parties, everybody home, and keep on raving). We’re just forced to conclude that a Grillo victory would only amount to a sizeable contribution to the un-governability of the country.

As far as bad politics are concerned, we wouldn’t know what to pick: Bersani (leader of the Leftist coalition) proposes a wealth tax (but only on the very wealthy) and increases in public spending left and right; Ingroia (a magistrate who founded a party) would distribute free handcuffs to everyone, to throw not less than 30% of the population in jail; Vendola (Governor of Apulia, unrepentant Communist and homosexual activist) hasn’t said much yet, but it’s very likely he will manage to propose some new and very effective tax; the imperturbable Professor Monti, after having stated that the I.M.U (a property tax on the primary residence) was essential “if we wanted to save Italy”, now seems convinced that, little by little, in a few years, after having gradually reduced it, it could maybe be retired; as far as Fini, Casini, and the other various assorted politicians are concerned, their imagination is not lacking.

You probably noticed I haven’t mentioned the Lega (the Northern League) and the PdL, so I’ll be quick to remedy that. The Lega, with this idea of leaving 75% of the tax revenues to the various regions, caught up with Mr. Grillo in the race to madness.
To say that it is right that private money is wasted by local politicians, but it is theft if the politicians in Rome throw it to the wind, is an obvious expression of pure idiocy; but that’s exactly their idea: regions, provinces, municipalities are sacred entities that can’t be touched, and should be free to spend with no restraint whatsoever; but the national state is superfluous, sinful and damaging to everyone.
Lastly, as far as the PdL is concerned, as to the promises they made (which nevertheless are feasible), I’d have preferred they had taken two ideas from the 1994 plan, which I think are still of fundamental importance: the flat tax and the school vouchers. I would also have liked a discussion on how to tackle the two most shameful entitlements of our system: the national healthcare service and the excess of local administrations. I admit it with no shame, I voted for the PdL (oh really?); not with great enthusiasm, but with the conviction that was the least hurtful thing to do for the country.

I hope the readers of this blog won’t hold it against me, and I’d like to thank them for their assiduous attention.

Dr. Antonio Martino is a professor of economics (currently on a parliamentary leave) who served as Foreign Minister and Defense Minister in two of Prime Minister Berlusconi's administrations. If you're interested in three other translations of his articles, about Switzerland,  the Euro and the "trilemma" Italians face, please check out this pagethis page and this one

Thank you,
L. Pavese.   

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Write and post, write and post. Or not?

Should what you write be extemporaneous or patiently reviewed?

By Roberto Vacca. (Translated into English by L. Pavese)

It appears that Ernest Hemingway rewrote the last page of his novel A Farewell to Arms twenty-six times. To me that always seemed an exaggeration. The novel was good, but it wasn’t so very excellent to justify such perfectionist care. Nevertheless, I began to ask myself if there weren’t a relation between Hemingway’s compulsive reviewing and the fact that he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature.

Victor Ricketts types in the cockpit of the de Havilland Comet, right before leaving for his record breaking 1938 round-the world-flight. I doubt he had much time to review what he wrote. 

Many decades later, in the introduction to his book The New Industrial State, John Kenneth Galbraith wrote: “My writing begins to appear spontaneous only after the fourth or the fifth revision”. The book was interesting. It described the techno-structures, denounced the anachronism of antitrust laws and pinpointed the lack of modern culture as one of the causes of unemployment. It’d be worth to read it again. When I read it I was forty years old, and I found Galbraith’s note irritating. I said to myself: “What’s the need for so many revisions? If you know what you want to write, think it over beforehand, so you won’t have to review it so much.”
I had already published two books that were written that way. I pondered over every sentence, for a long time, till it satisfied me; then I didn’t change a word. The books weren’t bad, but I could have greatly improved them. I realized that, when Mr. Donato Barbone (who was the Literary Associate-Editor and Secretary General of Mondadori Editore), very kindly, spent many hours with me revising and correcting the manuscript of my non-fiction book The Coming Dark Age. We broke some sentences up, and erased some others (even entire paragraphs and two chapters). We changed words. We eliminated useless quotes and references. We turned passive sentences into active ones. Besides improving the style of writing we discussed the content, erasing mistakes and non-sequitur. It was a very good education for me.
In the following years I became interested in the reading ease of texts, and I introduced, in Italian, the index devised by Rudolph Flesch for English prose. Doing so I learned to produce texts that were more easily readable. One learns also by doing; therefore I improved considerably the level of my communications writing technical reports, newspapers articles and several books. Doubtless, the editing of a text improves its quality; but editing is best when it’s practiced by professionals who cooperate with the author. In the English-speaking countries there’s a long editing tradition. In Italy there are some very good editors, but in the past I’ve also encountered a few pitiful ones, who even worked for publishers with a good reputation.

This long premise of mine aims at inspiring diffidence towards all improvised communication. People who engage in it have no time for editing their message, let alone to think about what they’re writing. Insisting on the advantages of mobile internet connections implies that communicating and exchanging  messages is always a good thing, even when one is travelling, in motion, or when is standing on one foot. I deny that. I’d advise you instead to refrain from using blogs and connections on which people chat in real time. Those are connections that are only good for irrelevant chatting. Let’s forget about them, and concentrate on relevant, thoughtful and meditated statements.
After three centuries, we’re forced to agree with Metastasio, even if the verses aren’t really that good; especially if one doesn’t like seven-syllable lines:   He wrote:  “It’s useless to try to recall the voice that escaped from your breast. One cannot stop the arrow when it has left the bow.”
Let’s take advantage instead of the e-mail, which has the useful trait of being asynchronous. We send an e-mail when we feel like, the recipient reads it when it’s convenient for him or her, and answers in due time.
In the American offices of IBM on every wall there used to be a sign that read:
In  the Italian offices of IBM, the sign was

By training Roberto Vacca is an engineer and a computer scientist (I believe he was among the first to be trained on how to operate and maintain a computer in Italy, and he lectured in what now would be called Computer Science, at the University of Rome, until the mid 1960's); but Dr. Vacca achieved prominence as a science writer, and a novelist. (By the way, his books may be downloaded, in Italian and English, here. On the same site you'll find a link to his personal website, on which there's a more detailed resume, like we say in the U.S., or CV, if you pretend to speak Latin). He contributed regularly to many Italian publications and television shows, and now he publishes a newsletter that one might request by contacting him. In recent years, besides continuing his work of explaining scientific and economic issues, he has been insisting on the importance of scientific education and research in the development of a society. (Specifically in Italy, that is lagging behind in those fields).
On this blog I have already translated two of his interesting articles: one is about the mechanics of a body falling from great heights, which you'll find here; the other is about war.
Your comments, as always, will be greatly appreciated. Thanks,

L. Pavese

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Libya Delivered?

One hundred years ago, the Italo-Turkish War created the modern territorial entity of Libya, when the expansionist colonial aims of the Kingdom of Italy clashed with the Ottoman Empire on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. One hundred years later, an alliance of Western nations, backed by a few Arab countries, each with their own motivation, overthrew the regime of Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi who had ruled Libya (or the Jamahiriya, as he had named her) since 1969. The alliance included Italy, notwithstanding the fact that she was bound to Libya by an alliance and co-operation treaty and that she was one of Libya's most important trading partners. The power passed to the hands of the National Transitional Council, which most of the world rushed to recognize as the legitimate governing body of Libya; but today, two years after the revolution (which was even backed by a U.N. Resolution) it is not clear what kind of transition, and to what, the Council had in mind.

Freedom and Democracy in Libya. 
By Gianandrea Gaiani. (Translated and edited by L. Pavese)

Two years after the beginning of the “revolution” against Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi’s regime,  we should really feel very proud of the progress made in Libya in the realms of freedom, security, human rights and civilization. Thanks to the political and military intervention of the Western world, a brutal regime was overthrown and we Westerners were very good at not letting ourselves be fooled by the lies of the Colonel, who wanted to convince us that among the rebels there were fundamentalist Islamic and Al-Qaeda militias. We didn’t pay attention to the warnings of the African Union, which believed that the fall of al-Gaddafi would turn Libya into a sort of Somalia on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Even when the National Transitional Council (the political arm of the Libyan rebels) assured us that Sharia will be imposed in Libya we were not willing to stop and reflect on what we were doing.


Today, in fact,  Cyrenaica is in the hands of the jihadists and of the militias that report to al-Qaeda. If that weren't enough, these forces are also present in the rest of the territory, where the Tripoli government doesn’t seem to be in control of much, in view of the fact that there are at least 70 armed militias who have, by now, turned Libya into a feudal country.  It is also true that the weapons that were stolen from the al-Gaddafi’s arsenals and the Tuareg fighters (who at one time used to be at the service of the Colonel) have made it possible to unleash chaos in the Republic of Mali, where the French intervention has probably only marked the start of yet another insurrectional war which could affect anew the southern region of Libya.
But this is nothing, compared to the social and political progress that Libya has achieved since the tyrannical and megalomaniac Colonel was tortured and lynched. Our (Italian) Foreign Minister, Mr. Giulio Terzi, really cheered us up when he stated that the issue of security in Libya is of “the highest priority” to Italy  because “it inevitably affects the economic and social development of the country.”  He added that, nevertheless, the security conditions (in Libya) are not such “to impede the continuation of the Italian entrepreneurial presence, which proceeds and is very positive, even though there’s still a lot to be done.” 
Those statements were released by Mr. Terzi during a seminary held at the Farnesina regarding the promotion of religious freedom, an issue which, ironically, is of great topical interest in the democratic and pluralistic Libya that we Italians helped to build, even going as far as trampling on the alliance treaty that was stipulated with al-Gaddafi. In fact, on February 12, four foreigners were arrested in Benghazi, suspected of being Christian missionaries printing books about Christianity. The arrest was reported by Libyan “security” sources, who specified that the four consisted of an Egyptian, a South-African, a Korean, and a Swede with an American passport. “They were arrested in the headquarter of a publishing house where they were printing thousands of books about conversion to Christianity,” reported Hussein Bin Hmeid, a security official who represents perfectly the libertarian spirit that pervades the new Libya. “Proselytism is forbidden in Libya. We are a 100% Muslim country, and this sort of undertakings interferes with our national security,” added Bin Hmeid, saying that “the interrogations are proceeding” and that “the four people will be delivered to Libyan intelligence services”.
In Tripoli the atmosphere is not better. “Not a day goes by that graves are not vandalized,” denounced Mr. Bruno Dalmasso, the keeper of the Italian Cemetery in the Libyan capital, where Christians fear an increase of Islamic extremism. “Human bones were dug up from the graves and spread over the grounds of the cemetery. The Libyan authorities came and took photographs. They promised they would take action, but nothing really has been done.”

Since the fall of the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011, the fear of the small Libyan Christian community has been growing, especially since last December when a church was bombed in Dafniya causing two deaths. Father Dominique Rezeau points out that, before the revolution, there were about 100,000 Christians in Libya, and now they’re down to a few thousand. That is really a fantastic outcome along the lines of progress and human rights, even though the best the new Libya has to offer was demonstrated the past February 9 when the constitutional branch of the Libyan Supreme Court reinstated polygamy, thereby overturning part of the family law of the regime of al-Gaddafi that had forbidden a man to have more than one wife. The law was modified by the Supreme Court because it was contrary to Sharia, the Islamic law that now rules Libya thanks to the bombs of Nato and the about-face of Italy towards “the friend and ally” al-Gaddafi. 
So, from now on, a man will be allowed to marry a second woman without even the consent of the first wife or the courts. A great step towards civilization, don’t you think?

Gianandrea Gaiani is a historian, a war correspondent and the editor of the Italian on-line magazine Analisi Difesa. I have already published two translations of his articles: one about the Italian participation in the F-35 fighter program, the other dealing with the killing of an Italian soldier by Taliban fighters who infiltrated the Afghan armed forces. Mr. Gaiani is the author of the book: "Iraq-Afghanistan. Guerre di pace italiane" (Iraq-Afghanistan. The Italian Wars for Peace). 

I'd like to thank J.J.P for reviewing the English text.
Your comments, as usual, will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
L. Pavese   


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Donne combattenti.

L. Panetta

Leon Panetta, californiano, progressista e ministro della Difesa uscente degli Stati Uniti d'America ha dichiarato che la recente decisione, presa dall'amministrazione Obama, di permettere alle donne nelle forze armate di partecipare direttamente alle operazioni di combattimento renderà gli Stati Uniti più forti. A giudicare dagli studi dei risultati delle prove di idoneità fisica delle forze armate statunitensi, che il Professor Walter E. Williams cita nel seguente articolo, non si direbbe proprio.
L'articolo è apparso il 5 febbraio sul blog di Lew Rockwell; ed è anche stato ripreso sulla rivista italiana di difesa on-line Analisi Difesa, grazie alla cortesia del direttore G. Gaiani, che ringrazio molto.
Buona lettura. 
Leonardo Pavese

Le donne in guerra.
di Walter E. Williams 
(Traduzione di Leonardo Pavese)

Un funzionario di lunga data del Ministero della Difesa (degli Stati Uniti) ha dichiarato che la proibizione dell’impiego delle donne in combattimento dovrebbe essere eliminata, perché l’obiettivo delle forze armate è di “creare un terreno più equo e neutro dal punto di vista sessuale”. Avrei creduto che l’obiettivo delle forze armate fosse invece quello di disporre delle forze da combattimento le più toste e cattive possibili. Ma, visto che ci siamo, esaminiamo quest'idea del “terreno più equo e neutro.”
Il test di idoneità fisica all’addestramento iniziale, dell’Esercito degli Stati Uniti, consiste di una prova in tre stadi per valutare la resistenza. I requisiti minimi, per i maschi dai diciassette ai ventun’anni di età, sono: trentacinque flessioni sulle braccia, quarantasette flessioni del busto (cioè quando ci si mette a sedere da una posizione supina) e una corsa di due miglia (3,2 chilometri) in un tempo non superiore ai 16’ 36’’. Per le femmine della stessa età, il requisito minimo è di 13 flessioni sulle braccia, 47 flessioni del busto e un tempo massimo sui 3,2 chilometri di 19’42’’.

Ma perché tanta differenza nei requisiti?
Il “USMC Women in the Service Restrictions Review”, cioè un’inchiesta del Corpo dei Marines riguardo alle limitazioni delle donne in forza al corpo ha rilevato che le femmine, in media, possiedono il 20% in meno della potenza aerobica dei maschi, 40% in meno della forza muscolare degli arti inferiori, una capacità di sollevamento inferiore del 47% e una velocità di marcia, rispetto agli uomini, inferiore del 26%.

William Gregor, professore di sociologia allo Army’s Command and General Staff College, scrive, in un suo rapporto, che nei test di potenza aerobica i rilevamenti dimostrano che solo 74 fra le donne dello ROTC, il Reserve Officers’ Training Corps ( programma a livello universitario per la preparazione di futuri ufficiali delle forze armate), sono state in grado di raggiungere il livello del 16% degli uomini che si sono piazzati più in basso in graduatoria.
Il “carico di combattimento”, cioè l’equipaggiamento che un fante porta sulle spalle in pattuglia, equivale al 35% del peso corporeo di un uomo medio, e al 50% del peso medio di una femmina in forza all’Esercito degli Stati Uniti. Dall’esame dei risultati delle prove fisiche effettuate, forniti dallo ROTC, che risalgono al 1992 e riguardano 74000 cartelle di ufficiali di entrambi i sessi, solo il 2,9% delle donne è stato in grado di raggiungere la media maschile di sollevamenti sulle braccia ed eguagliare i tempi degli uomini sui famosi 3,2 chilometri.

In una relazione dello scorso gennaio, intitolata “Gli sforzi verso la “differenziazione” in favore delle donne nell’ambito del combattimento terrestre,” (http://tinyurl.com/axn9l93), Elaine Donnelly, direttrice del Center for Military Readiness (il Centro per la Preparazione Militare), indica studi dell’Esercito i quali dimostrano che le donne hanno il doppio delle probabilità degli uomini di soffrire danni fisici e sono tre volte meno impiegabili degli uomini. Inoltre, è meno probabile che siano in grado di marciare portando un carico (per 20 chilometri, in cinque ore, con un carico di materiali per un assalto di 38 chilogrammi), e che con quel fardello sulle spalle riescano a strisciare, scattare di corsa, superare ostacoli, o a spostare un ferito che pesa almeno 75 chilogrammi. Senza contare le altre operazioni che comportano grandi fatiche muscolari anche per un uomo, come per esempio riparare un carro armato M1A1 Abrams sul campo.

Poi ci sono le questioni relative alla gravidanza, le quali rendono le donne dalle tre alle quattro volte meno impiegabili degli uomini; e una volta sul campo, le donne devono spesso essere evacuate lasciando le loro unità sguarnite.
Infine, c’è un’altra ovvia e sostanziale differenza fra uomini e donne, che però viene raramente presa in considerazione nelle deliberazioni riguardo al ruolo delle donne in combattimento. Tutte le misurazioni dell’aggressività fisica dimostrano che gli uomini, forse per via del livello di testosterone dieci volte più alto, sono più aggressivi, competitivi e ostili delle donne. Tutte caratteristiche, se non piacevoli, certamente desiderabili in combattimento.

Facciamo un paio di ipotesi. Supponiamo che un’unità si stia ritirando sul terreno montagnoso dell’Afghanistan, dove la capacità aerobica di una persona fa una bella differenza; e che le donne non riescano a tenere il passo con gli uomini. Cosa si propone? Di lasciarsi dietro le donne, e farle cadere probabilmente in mano ai talebani, o di rallentare cosicché le donne possano stare al passo rischiando quindi delle perdite, o la cattura?

Cosa succede se un maschio viene scartato dall’addestramento speciale di fanteria dell’Esercito perché non ha superato l’esame d’idoneità fisica, e invece una soldatessa che non riesce neanche a raggiungere il suo livello viene mantenuta in servizio? Dovrebbe essere consentito ai maschi di citare in giudizio lo stato per discriminazione sessuale? Quanto rispetto può provare un maschio verso un commilitone femmina, al quale non è richiesto di adeguarsi allo stesso standard?
E c’è un altro problema. Il Selective Service System (il sistema attraverso il quale il governo federale degli Stati Uniti registra le informazioni sulle persone soggette a un eventuale servizio di leva), diffonde il seguente messaggio sul suo sito web:
“Nonostante il Ministero della Difesa abbia deciso di consentire l’accesso ai ruoli di combattimento anche alle donne, la normativa non è stata ancora modificata in tal senso. Di conseguenza, in questo momento solo i maschi di età compresa fra i 18 e i 25 anni sono tenuti per legge a registrarsi col Selective Service. Le donne non sono ancora tenute a registrarsi.”
Volete spiegarmi come si possa conciliare tutto questo con le intenzioni del Ministero della Difesa di creare un terreno più equo e neutro dal punto di vista sessuale?

Walter E. Williams è uno scrittore ed economista libertario americano che insegna alla George Mason University.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Flying the gentle giant.

     Researching Fulvio Setti, the author of the text I translated and published on this post, I discovered that during the 1930's he had been the Italian national champion in the 110 meter hurdling race. At that time little he knew about the deadly hurdles he would have to face in a few years, as a transport pilot in the Italian Royal Air Force.
    Italy entered the war in June of 1940. Benito Mussolini was convinced the conflict was going to be over very soon, once France had fallen, and, in his own ruthless words, he just wanted "one thousand casualties to bring, as a victor, to the negotiating table." But the war went on, and for the Italian forces, thrown into the cauldron ill-equipped and without the backing of a strong industrial capability, the conflict turned into a slow but inexorable process of consumption which consumed men and machines, until the inevitable defeat, foreign invasion, and the catastrophe of the 1943 to 1945 period.
    I found the piece on an old Italian book that I probably bought in a newsstand about thirty-five years ago, in Italy. It was published in the QUID NOVI? series by S.T.E.M. Mucchi, an Italian publisher  based in the city of Modena.
    Fulvio Setti was the only recipient of the Gold Medal for military valor among the Italian transport pilots of World War II. In its resemblance to the Olympic system, the Italian custom of awarding military bronze, silver and gold medals for military valor is almost ridiculous; and by instituting an official scale of merit, as if it were a measuring of the highest jump in a competition, cheapens the actions and the suffering of the combatants to whom, I think, we should leave the recounting of them.
    I'm interested in the thoughts and the feelings of a pilot who performs the familiar motions of the craft he loves, when each act has become a movement of the deadly mechanism of war. 
   I hope you'll find this reading as interesting as I did. 
   You comments will be greatly appreciated.
   Thank you.
   L. Pavese


 The S.M. 82 in the memories of a protagonist. 

As a non-commissioned Lieutenant pilot recalled to duty, I did the entire Second World War on the '82; except for a few rare exceptional flights on the S.M.79 and the S.M.81.
For us who lived on it, for the combatants, for everyone, it was not the S.M 82 tri-motor transport aircraft by Savoia Marchetti, but simply the '82. It was a confidential, friendly tone that the aircraft allowed us to take with it. The airplane was the proverbial gentle giant, with a wingspan of about 97 feet, 72 feet long, and with a pilot, who was very tiny compared to it, sitting 19 feet from the ground. Had the pilot also been short, like my friend Nicola was, he would have had necessarily to equip himself with a lot of cushions to be able to emerge barely with his eyes from below the windshield, like from a trench.

The airplane was good, powerful, very strong. It never betrayed its crew. It could withstand such hits from the enemy fighters, or from the anti-aircraft artillery, that looking at the airplane when it came back from its always strange and out of the ordinary flights, it seemed impossible that it could have flown back home in those conditions.
It was good, and it just grumbled a bit when at the first light of dawn, in long lumbering lines, always laden beyond allowance, it taxied to depart for the eight, ten, twelve hour round-trip flights from the Italian mainland to Africa, without even a sip of coffee; because the cooks got up at the wake, but for the airplane and the crews the wake was not signaled by the trumpet but by the rising of the sun. Then, until dark, the program was to lift the load, get to destination, hurriedly unload and get back to Italy, which seemed so far, on the other side of the sea: from Tobruk, from Mersa Matrouh, from Fuka, with numbered hours of light and the ever-rationed and scarce gasoline.
As far as loading was concerned, the '82 wasn't a problem; although, truthfully, our engineers had mandated a maximum payload of 7 metric tons. On the Athens to Tobruk leg (the runway at Tatoi was short and mislaid), because of a constant local breeze, the take-off was either with a tail-wind and therefore quite dangerous, or with a favorable wind but uphill and towards the hills. In those conditions the '82 took-off routinely with a load of 8.5 metric tons and not always flown by the aces from the airlines, but very often by us recalled non-commissioned officers.
A few years ago, during a visit to the Greek Reserve, I visited Tatoi again, which is now the airfield of the Greek Air Force Academy. It's still the same, with the same exact challenges. At the end of the airfield, on the downhill side towards Athens, there remains that small stone building, maybe a sheepfold, which really bothered us a lot during those memorable take-offs when we just flew a few feet off the ground.

When it was young, the '82 could boast of having set two very prestigious records: the endurance of more than 70 hours and a distance record of about 7020 nautical miles. And during the war it even tried to emulate its past, like when Gigi Balletti took off from the beach, in Zula, on the shores of the Indian Ocean, with a load of 10.5 tons, well above the empty weight of the aircraft which was around 9 or 9.5 metric tons, depending on the series. During the conflict, the '82 was no longer a record-plane, and the lack of strategic materials had made it heavier. Nevertheless it felt strong; and every once in a while someone got even some strange ideas, like that it could have been feasible, even easy, to try to bomb New York City with it. Then they changed their mind, and the aircraft continued to act like a good guy.

The '82 was good-natured, but it wasn't a wimp. It had a tough temperament and it really demanded well trained pilots; and to train the recalled officers like me was the job of the great instructors who came from the Italian airlines.
It never got along with the Germans though. The '82 was the only Italian transport aircraft employed by the Germans in an attempt to replace the outstanding but outdated Junkers Ju. 52's. To retire Tante Ju and put the '82 to work was a good idea, but the German pilots never bonded with the Italian aircraft. Maybe they couldn't rely on the great teachers we had, and many '82's with German insignia ended up badly, written off at the edges of all the airfields of the war theater. Those wrecked aircraft actually were very useful to us because from them we could get the spare parts for our '82's, which kept flying until the last day of the conflict.

On September 8, 1943, the day the Armistice was announced, the Italian 44th StormoTrasporti was still flying war missions with all its remaining aircraft; and afterwards the '82 continued to do its hard work for the opposing Italian air forces in the North and in the South, until the April of 1945.
As far as the way to fly it, the '82 didn't want to hear any excuses. It had needs that had to be absolutely satisfied. It was very demanding, but with those who executed the obligatory maneuvers, it turned out to be docile, safe, and could land and take off from anywhere.
To extend the flaps for landing, the '82 demanded a particular counter-instinctive maneuver that could not be improvised. We needed the tips from the great instructors we had. Then, after the aircraft had been set up the right way, everything proceeded perfectly and it was a delight to alight on the runway on those big tires, very lightly, especially when our passengers included the soldiers who returned wounded, some very seriously, and couldn't be made to suffer even more with our bounces.

Evacuation of casualties with a S.M. 82

On departures, with a cross-wind that blew on the huge vertical stabilizer and with the load that often was badly distributed, the '82 sometimes refused to take-off and slapped you around with furious yaws. But with a trick it liked, and that we had inherited from the old seaplane pilots, that is, yoke to the side of the yaw (to lower the upwind wing), delicately dosed not to plant a wingtip into the ground, it just flew out straight and safe, to the amazement of everyone, especially those who, a few minutes earlier, had laid the plane clumsily across the field. (Translator note: that is the technique that should be used on any tail-wheel equipped aircraft.)

Derna, Libya. An Italian S.M.82 Captain pilot with a group of Indian prisoners.

When things went well for our armed forces, the '82 almost looked cheerful. It flew just off the surface of the Mediterranean Sea without worrying too much about the wake it left behind on the water. It frightened the sea turtles basking in the sun and very often another '82 came and tapped on its shoulder, like children do, wing over wing, to the amazement, not exactly without worry, of the soldiers who were being ferried. Baldo Secco Snardo flew with me during the mandatory familiarization flights with the squadron; and during his period of rest from flying (we usually did one hour each at the controls), played the banjo and sang; and the '82 joined in with its powerful and attuned rhythmic voice.

On April 13, 1942, two S.M.82's of 145th Gruppo took off from Derna and, preceded by three German Bf. 110's, landed at a British Landing Ground (a forward airfield established for the purpose of extending the combat range of aircraft). Twenty nine Italian soldiers and thirty German sappers disembarked from the '82's with their equipment: three motorcycles, one cannon and several machine guns. They destroyed more than three hundred barrels of aviation fuel, one hundred containers of lubricant and other material, rendering the airfield inoperable for a long time.     

I only had a fight once with the '82, and the aircraft was right. Coming back to Derna from Athens, in the middle of the Mediterranean the central engine quit, then the starboard one began to act up, and barely kept going thanks only  to the attentive care of Tarsi, my good flight engineer. Those are moments in which the cohesiveness and the understanding among all the crew members, and the perfect, almost fraternal knowledge of the aircraft are decisively important.
With a very light touch on the controls, it is ridiculous to say it, but we talked to the airplane and we entrusted ourselves to it: “Come on old friend, just a bit longer, we don't have anything left to jettison to lighten the load.” (I had had the foresight not to load anything for the return flight.)  Fighting on the radio with the controllers of the Suda naval base on Crete, who demanded we passed offshore while we were about to plunge into the sea, we reached with a supreme effort a tiny airfield on the shore, Rethimnonn, on the northern coast of the Cretan island.
The poor '82 really had given it all. After a check on the ground, we discovered that the central engine was completely molten and the lateral engine had even deformed the cowling, throwing the push-rods against it.  Nevertheless, we had managed to put our feet on the ground, safe and sound.
A few minutes later, still elated for having made it, we heard fighting in the sky above the airfield.  Soon after, at the horizon, a fighter aircraft was nose-diving into the sea. Then a parachute, far away, descending towards the waves. Right away we got out the dinghy that we had readied for ourselves in the cabin for the past emergency and, naked with a gun belt around our neck, just in case, the hat with our rank on, Tarsi (my phenomenal engineer) and I sailed off to rescue the shipwrecked fallen from the sky.
As the two of us got farther away from the beach, it almost looked like the aircraft was giving us a bad look. It seemed angry: all the sacrifices it had made just a few minutes earlier had been for nothing. It was our destiny that we also ended up lost at sea that afternoon. It knew that our dinghy was a veritable colander; and if a land breeze started to blow, like it did every evening, we would never make it back. The '82 might as well have let us fall into the sea.
But when we came back, almost at night, with the British pilot we had rescued and made our prisoner, the aircraft seemed mortified for its earlier unusual behavior because it had always been ready to make itself useful and give a hand to whomever needed its help.

Crete, September 1942. Lieutenant Setti's crew rescues R.A.F F.O. Day with the semi-deflated dinghy.

Sometimes, when we had a problem and no way out, especially over the open sea, it happened that we had to jettison our load. It was painful to watch the luggage of the soldiers fly away, knowing that they kept in it the memories of thirty months of war,  but it had to be done. However, the mail, no.  We never jettisoned the mail. The loss of the luggage affected a few people, but the loss of the mail would have been damaging to everyone.
On a flight from Rome to Athens, with an enormous load of correspondence, in the middle of the terrible mountains of Greece, with malfunctioning engines, it became necessary to choose: either to jettison the load or end up in those awful mountains.
Our '82 couldn't make it anymore and had to lose altitude, but the five of us stuck together and agreed not to get rid of the load. The '82 kept descending, down, almost brushing against the peaks, then inside those twisting and narrow valleys, desperately, lower and lower.  By then our hair was standing on our heads. Then, the usual stroke of luck: right under our nose, Agrinion, a forgotten airfield in the middle of the mountains.
 The airfield is very short and the '82 is very big and very heavy. Careful, the nerves are very tense, here we go. The '82 lands, jumps a ditch.  It almost looks impossible to be able to land in that little basin, but the plane makes it. The mail will continue, although aboard trucks.  It will reach our soldiers, many of whom are leaving for northern Africa and that might be the last letter they'll receive from home. 

In 1942, during our lighting advance into Egypt, the '82 exuded happiness: maybe that was going to be the final push. We needed to rush, hurry; and the plane ran and hurried: there were hundreds of high ranking prisoner enemy officers who had to be ferried to Italy, and the '82 carried 35 of them at a time. We transported them with much dignity, but keeping our eyes open to avoid being hijacked to Malta, where we would have liked to go just a few months earlier, but carrying the paratroopers of the Folgore Division for the invasion instead, and not as a hijacked aircraft. That would have been very humiliating: taken prisoners by the prisoners. But that never happened, and all those big shots were delivered in good health.

 Benghazi, Libya. 1941. British prisoners board a S.M.82 to be flown to Lecce, Italy. 

The '82 flew back and forth along the Via Balbia, sometimes even three times a day, carrying gasoline, explosives, ammunition; no rest for the weary. Business as usual: never any time to sleep or to eat. At night the aircraft returned, exhausted but satisfied, and very often with a crate of excellent French Champagne that the retreating Allies had lost along the way. We lived in the most appalling conditions and we drank Champagne; there was nothing else!
Alexandria was close and we kept an old and dilapidated motorcycle in the belly of the '82, with two sub-machine guns. The '82 wanted to be among the first to reach Alexandria, the Cairo, Suez.  It had done its part with great humility and now it wanted to be there. But things changed: the motorcycle was unloaded, but not the sub-machine guns, which would come very handy later when the '82 stayed behind to load our things and the British armored cars were already running all around us. 

Then the Calvary began. The Allies were really miffed and it truly looked like they had a bone to pick with the '82's. What an honor. They were saying: “You're too big, too slow, too clumsy, under-gunned; you can't possibly take on the Hurricanes, the P40's, the Mosquitoes, the Lightning's.” But what could it possibly do? They were attacking it and the '82 defended itself as it knew best, using its old tricks again. They were not very useful but sometimes they helped to get through and complete the mission.

1943. A S.M. 82 escorted by a C.R.42 braves the Channel.

Under the attacks of the ravenous American fighters, when the gunner in the dorsal turret of the '82 fired his first shots — which he had to economize because he only had 250 rounds — the first impulse was to gun the engines but, against every instinct, the '82 dropped down to the surface of the water and into the waves if there happened to blow a crosswind.  Cutting the power suddenly, the '82 almost stopped horrifically in mid air and the bursts of enemy fire streamed just in front of its bow but off-target.
We had to keep very calm, to play this mortal accordion game of fast and slow. To brake was useful to avoid the bursts of gunfire, but we couldn't exaggerate: the Mediterranean was right there, just a few meters below, and it would've been very easy to plunge into its waters. Nevertheless sometimes it happened we touched the crest of the wave with the propellers' tips and, if the airplane made it home, everybody laughed about the funny whisker-like marks on the blades that the aircraft exhibited with pride.

Channel of Sicily  1943

On April 10, 1943, on their way from Castelvetrano to El Aouina, Tunis, 15 S.M.82's fell into the Channel of Sicily. On the 13th of April we lost 27, and three days later all the 82's in service that day, attacked by P-38 Lightning's, met the rest on the bottom of the sea. 

But Tunisia had to be supplied, and all the '82's that had been under maintenance on the mainland until then converged towards Sicily. Colonel Morino, the very severe commander of the 44th Transport Wing, desperate because of a situation that had no solution, tried to explain to the High Command that, at the moment, the reinforcements were not yet able to operate. The answer was: Regrettably, those are aircraft and crews destined for sacrifice. It is better to lose an airplane in bad shape, and a sick crew, than a perfectly good airplane (which didn't exist) and a healthy crew. 
The remaining '82's flew to Finocchiara, Sigonella, Fontana Rossa, Scissa, Castelvetrano, and kept sacrificing serenely till the day General Messe received the order to quit. 

Fulvio Setti

Tunisia. May 1943. The '82 has landed on the beach, and the  Bersaglieri will be on the line of fire in a few hours.

A brief history of the S.M. 82. 

The Marsupiale, as the '82 was officially baptized (although I think the name was never used by the crews) was a derivative of the S.M.75 airliner, with a re-designed fuselage and Alfa Romeo 128 engines. It was designed for the dual bomber-transport aircraft role. Several aircraft performed that role, during WWII. The first that comes to mind is the Consolidated B-24/C-87 and, if you have read Ernest K. Gann, you know what I'm talking about.

S.M.75, the precursor of the '82.  Illustration from The Fedora Lounge

The prototype of the S.M. 82 flew in 1938. At the outbreak of the war (Italy declared war on June 10, 1940), the Italian Royal Air Force was only in charge of 12 S.M. 82's, but series production had started in earnest at SIAI Savoia Marchetti. 
On October 18, 1940, six S.M.82's based on the island of Rhodes, in the Aegean, carried out the most famous bombing mission flown by S.M.82's: hitting the oil refineries at Manama, in the Persian Gulf, and landing at Zula, in Italian Ethiopia, after flying about 2270 nautical miles in 15 hours and 30'.

One of the S.M. 82 bombers based in Rhodes.

However, the aircraft really came into its own performing the transport role. During the brief campaign of Italian Eastern Africa, eight S.M.82'S ferried fifty-oneFiat C.R. 42's fighters, plus the engines and equipment, from the Italian mainland. 
Between 1942 and the Spring of 1943 the Luftwaffe employed forty-five of the 100 aircraft that had been ordered from SIAI, which were assigned to the FliegerTransport Gruppe "Savoia".

Luftwaffe's S.M.82 

As a consequence of the Armistice, thirty-one Italian S.M.82'S flew to Allied controlled southern Italy,  two flew to Spain and fifteen were destroyed, but the bulk of the '82's was captured by the Germans, together with a large number of new aircraft found in the SIAI's factories. 
The S.M.82'S that ended up in the south were put to good use in the operations in the Balkans.

A S.M.82 of the 1st Raggruppamento Trasporti of the Italian Royal Air Force, operating in Allied -controlled southern Italy.

 In the north, the A.N.R., the air force of the Republic, could field about sixty transports, forty of which operated on the Eastern Front with the newly created 2nd Gruppo.

Italian paratroopers of the Republican Army prepare to board an S.M. 82 in  northern Italy.

After September of 1943, SIAI kept building S.M.82'S for the Luftwaffe, delivering 299 aircraft. Through orders, requisitions, and by capturing them as war booty the Germans eventually acquired about 430 S.M.82's, the majority of which were assigned to the 6th Luftflotte, and the ReichLuftflotte, operating extensively on the Russian Front and in northern Germany until the end of the conflict. 
Production between 1938 to 1945 totaled 875 aircraft. At the end of the war,  fifty-three S.M.82's remained in northern and southern Italy in various stages of production and maintenance at the SIAI shops.  
After the war, the S.M. 82 was re-engined with the much more powerful Pratt&Whitney R-1830 engines that improved speed and load carrying capability; although, due to the restrictions imposed by the Allies on the bombing capability of the Italian Air Force, the bomb doors of the aircraft had to be locked in a closed position and the fuselage doors enlarged.
The last Italian S.M.82 was decommissioned in 1960.

A post-war S.M. 82 with P&W 1830 engines and the insignia of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

As always, your comments will be greatly appreciated. Thank you, (and thanks to J.J.P. for reviewing the English text).

Leonardo Pavese