Rescue of the Airship Italia Survivors - August 1998
By Alfred A. Gruber (Page 3 of 3)


Figure 9. Cover to Natale Ceciooni, a member of the Italia polar exploration party injured in the crash. This cover was air dropped to the stranded survivors.

Figure 10. 1978 Italy commemorative aerogram honoring the Italia polar expedition.

Proper smoke pots from the initial air drop eliminate the difficulty of finding the camp. On 22 June, both Italian flying boats drop more supplies and some letters (Figure 9). That evening, two of the Swedish Heinkels make drops. The next evening, a Swedish pilot, Lt. Einar Lundborg, lands his Fokker C-VD. He can only carry one person and refuses to take anyone other than the seriously injured Nobile, despite Nobile's protests. Ceciooni, although also injured, is too heavy for a safe liftoff, and Lundborg will soon return. But the arctic weather sours, as usual. Lundborg eventually returns, only to crash and join the party on the ice. The fascist Italian govemment labels the general (who was, if not anti-fascist, at least neutral) a coward for abandoning his crew. It is not until the end of World War II that the truth is told in his homeland.

After 48 days on the ice, on 11 July, the icebreaker Krassin breaks through and takes the survivors on board. It is just in time; a few days later the ice breaks up.

Dead or missing from the airship were seven Italians and one Swede; from the Latham flying boat, two Norwegians and four Frenchmen - fourteen in all. The Italian Dornier Wal crashes in France on the way home from the rescue mission; all three on board perish.

It is spring, 1978. Italy honors the Italia expedition with a commemorative aerogram for the 50th anniversary (Figure 10). General Nobile attends the ceremony. He dies two months later, on 19 July 1978, at the age of 93.

McKee, Alexander: Ice Crash
Luning, Orjan: Luftpostens historia I Norden Nobile
Umberto: My Five Years with Soviet Airships

Author's note: Thanks to Dr. Hal Vogel for the illustrated covers and advice.

Editor's note: This article previously appeared in the Feb 1997 issue of Airpost Journal.



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