The first black aviator
BY ALBERTO ALPOZZI PHOTOGRAPHYNALIST JULY 24 2018 AERONAUTICA ARDITI ARDITI ASMARA COLONIES DOMENICO MONDELLI FASCISM FLAMES GENERAL CREMISI BLACK LIBIAMASSONERIA PARMA WOLDE SELASSIEWOLDE SELASSIE
Wolde Selassie, known as Domenico Mondelli, was born in Asmara, in the Italian colony of Eritrea, in 1886 he was a man of great records for himself and for Italy.
He was the first black aviator in the world to obtain a military pilot’s license, the first African to fly a plane during the First World War, in Libya, in 1912, the first black Italian to have military responsibilities, the first Italian of African origin (he was Tigrinya) to reach the rank of general in the army and was also the first black Italian to enter the Freemasonry.
Natural son of the then Lieutenant Attilio Mondelli, stationed in the Italian colony, Wolde takes the name of Domenico at the age of twelve when he moves with his father to Parma. Here following in the footsteps of his father and uncle Emilio, in October 1900 he began his military career attending the Military College of Rome and then moving on to the Royal Military Academy of Modena to leave in 1905 with the rank of second lieutenant assigned to the infantry, specialty bersaglieri
In 1907 he took Italian citizenship, according to the civil code of 1865, in fact, the military status allowed him to become an Italian citizen. He then volunteered for Libya, then in Turin in 1913, an apprenticeship to become a pilot in the nascent Italian military aviation fleet, obtaining the pilot’s license conferred by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale on 20 February 1914. In 1915 he was appointed by the Ministry of War “Airplane pilot”.
We are on the eve of the beginning of World War I and Italy can count on just 58 combat aircraft against the 98 of the Austro-Hungarians. Captain Mondelli took his place on one of these aircraft. On May 24th 1915 he carried out, on board a Nieuport Ni 80 G, a series of reconnaissance on Mount Hermada and Maria Zell starting from Campoformido airport, on the Isonzo front . With this action in the territories of the Triveneto area, Mondelli earned the first medal for military valor (bronze), awarded in June 1916 with this motivation: «It gave proof of calm and courage. Disdainful of danger, he flew at low altitudes ».
On 12 January 1916 he was appointed squadron commander with headquarters in Aviano. He continued his military career in the army then moving to the command of the 67th battalion of the 18th Bersaglieri Regiment, experiencing the experience of the land front.
On 10 October, with the rank of major, he assumed command of the XXXIII Assault Department “Fiamme Cremisi” of the newly established daring specialties. After the end of the war, he will be decorated with two silver medals and two bronze medals for military valor, and awarded the title of Knight of the Order of the Crown of Italy. In 1920, a volunteer envoy to Albania at the head of the IX Assault Department obtained his third Bronze Medal.
In 1923 he was promoted to colonel but in 1925 he left the Royal Army, entering the role of the reserve, because due to the preconceptions present in the military environment of the time he was delayed the promotion, delays against which he will oppose bringing the Ministry of War into judgment and for three times winning the appeal to the Council of State.
He will be discredited for his affiliation with Freemasonry, in which he entered in 1912 until he reached the rank of Master Freemason.
In 1959 he was promoted, in the honorary role, to Brigadier General, in 1963 General Division and in 1968 to Army Corps. Finally he was awarded the title of Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic on 10 June 1970 by motu proprio decision of the President of the Republic Giuseppe Saragat. He died in Rome, at the Celio Military Hospital, on 13 December 1974.
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