The legend of Baracca - Museo Francesco Baracca - Comune di Lugo

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The legend of Baracca


Many authors stress the importance of the role but above all the legend of the pilot within the context of the First World War, suggesting different ways of looking at the figure of Baracca.
Even during the war, the name of Baracca was already very well-known. Numerous books, articles and booklets have been published about him, without counting the space reserved for him in the various general histories of aviation and the First World War, while school textbooks, which aim to capture the imagination of children and young people, never fail to mention his name.

Most of the texts can be divided into two main types. On one hand we have the picture of a “knight of the air”, one who views aerial combat as duels between gentlemen, and who harbours great enthusiasm for these battles in the sky, considering them a ‘spectacle’, a sporting contest with “glory” as the ultimate goal.
On the other hand we have a more warrior-like figure, showing no compassion towards the enemy he has shot down, one who takes on the characteristics of the superhuman hero, a perfect war machine, completely absorbed in carrying out his “sacred duty”.

The image which tends to prevail today, however, is that of an adventurous man, sensitive to the development of technology and modernity. According to various modern interpretations, Baracca was not so much inspired by the idea of the hero of the air, pure and resolute, as much as by the “champion of success”.

Analysis of the diary and letters sent to the family shows the figure of a young pilot aware of his ‘status’ of “knight of the skies”; one who belongs to a kind of supranational élite, which “has the fortune in life, but especially after death, to embody the spirit of flying and aerial warfare, combining daring and chivalrous conquest, the most advanced technology, and the most resolute spirit of adventure in a rare synthesis.”
But this legend, which in the twentieth century would come together admirably and inseparably with that of another great ‘pioneer’, Enzo Ferrari, has its roots as far back as the “Manifesto of Futurism” of 1909, when Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, choosing the aeroplane as a symbol of modernity, wrote:
“We will sing [...] the gliding flight of the aeroplanes, its propellor fluttering like a flag in the wind, seeming to applaud like an enthusiastic crowd”.

An exaltation of the audacity and domination of man over the ‘machine’, but also a sense of the challenge and dimension of a dream, the latter clearly expressed by Baracca himself in a letter to his father, dating back to the French period: “[...] It was a wonderful daydream, seeing myself flying under the trees, over the roads and the countryside...”.