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Lieutenant Commander John L. Callan, U.S.N.R.F., Commander, United States Naval Air Forces in Italy, to Captain Hutchinson I. Cone, Commander, United Stations Naval Aviation Forces, Foreign Service



Rome, Italy.

C:W:N-811.                              19 August 1918.


Synopsis of United States Naval Aviation Activities in Italy.

     1.   A training school was established on February 19, 1918 at Lake Bolsena, sixty miles North of Rome, in conjunction with the Italian Navy Seaplane Station at that place. The greatest American complement there at any one time has been 78, including officers, students, and enlisted men. Sinces its inception, <50> students have received their superior pilot’s brevets, on F B A, L-3, and M-5 Seaplanes.1

     2.   On July 23rd, 1918, the American Forces arrived at Porto Corsini. This is an active station situated near Ravenna, and operating against Pola and other Austrian bases across the Adriatic. A day after our forces arrived there, it was bombarded by Austrian planes, without damage to personnel or material. This station was formally taken over by the United States on August 1st. The full complement at this station will be 78 officer pilots, 15 ground officers, and 516 enlisted men; at present, however, there are only 20 pilots, 7 ground officers, and 364 enlisted men, as the Italian government has been unable to supply the promised allowance of seaplanes. The present equipment is four M-8 bombing seaplanes,2 twelve F B A bombing seaplanes, and M-5 chasse seaplanes. It is intended to increase this equipment to eighteen M-8s, twenty-four M-7s,3 (an improved type of M-5), and nine HS-1 seaplanes,4 as soon as the necessary seaplanes can be obtained.

     3.   A second station has been authorized and is being prepared for our forces at Pescara, and it is hoped that it will be ready for operation about October 1st; the great difficulty, as in the case of Porto Corsini, being the scarcity of planes. It will have the same equipment and complement as Porto Corsini.

     4.   In addition to the activities mentioned above, arrangements have been made with the Italian Government for the purchase of 600-H.P. Caproni bombing planes. Fifteen Naval Aviators were sent to the Italian School at Malpensa, and obtained their brevets on Capronis. Of these pilots, seven were lent to the Italian Navy to ferry their machines from Milan to Gioja del Colle, near Brindisi, but they are now all being used to ferry the American Navy Capronis from Milan to Paris.

     5.   Technical instruction has been given to various drafts of mechanics in the Fiat Factory in Turin; the Isotta-Fraschini Factory in Milan; the Caproni factory at Taliedo; and, the Machi Factory at Varese. An officer is stationed permanently in Milan, and a Chief Petty Officer in Turin, in charge of this instruction, and to aid the Army organization there in accepting and inspecting Capronis for the Navy.

     6.   Various technical information has been obtained, translated, and forwarded to Paris and Washington. Machine guns, sights, and bomb sights have been purchased and forwarded. Two kite balloons and parachutes were obtained, and sent to America. Reports have been written upon instruments and inventions, and test witnessed.

     7.   It is felt that the Allies are neglecting a great opportunity by not prosecuting a vigorous air programme against Austria, which is undoubtedly the weakest point in the enemy’s defence. Austria’s shipping, submarine bases, and other vulnerable objectives lie practically undefended in the Adriatic seaports. Italy herself has a most ambitious programme, which she is unable to carry out satisfactorily, owing to shortage of raw material and personnel. She is eager and willing to accept help from her allies, and it is hoped that America will approve the proposed expansion of United States Naval Aviation activities in Italy by taking over three other important air stations, which will shortly be available, and equipping them with American planes as soon as possible.

JL Callan          

Lieutenant Commander, U.S.N.R.F.

Commanding, U.S.N.A.F. in Italy.

Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Subject File, Roll 26. Written on “U.S. NAVAL FORCES OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS/U. S. NAVAL AVIATION FORCES, FOREIGN SERVICE,” stationary.

Footnote 1: The F B A, or Franco-British Airlines, was a single engine seaplane used for training purposes by the Allies. The Macchi  L-3 was a single engine flying boat used for bombing and reconnaissance. The Macchi M-5 seaplanes was a single engine pusher flying boat, with a single seat. It was predominantly used as a fighter aircraft.

Footnote 2: Macchi M-8 was a dual seat seaplane bomber.

Footnote 3: Macchi M-7 was a single engine, single seat, flying boat.

Footnote 4: The Curtiss HS-1 was an American made single engine flying boat.