Moments Which Changed Naval History

Today in History, November 11: 1940 – A History changing event. The British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious launches several obsolete aircraft, “Fairey Swordfish” torpedo aircraft…flying kites, really, in an attack on the Italian Naval Base at Taranto, Italy.

The Harbor was shallow, so the Italians thought they were safe. In this, the first attack by aircraft from a carrier, the Italian navy was devastated, by what many naval officers considered a gimmick…the airplane. On the other side of the world, someone took notice of the successful attack. The Imperial Japanese Navy was encouraged in their plans against Pearl Harbor…also a shallow anchorage considered safe. Naval History was changed…tactics forever adapted by those few British pilots.

A Theft for Honor?

Today in History, August 21: 1911 – On the 22nd, French painter Louis Beroud carries his easel into the Louvre and sets it up in front of The Mona Lisa, preparing to paint her. But when he looks up he sees only a blank wall where she should be. He notifies the museum’s guards, who thought she was being photographed elsewhere. They soon found that not to be true and the investigation began. 

 Several people were questioned, including Pablo Picasso. Many believed Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece was gone forever. 

 Then, two years after the theft, former Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia, attempted to sell the painting to a museum in Florence, Italy and was arrested. He had hidden in the museum during business hours, and then smuggled Mona Lisa out under his coat. 

Peruggia was an Italian nationalist who believed The Mona Lisa should be displayed in Leonardo’s home country. She was displayed around Italy, then returned to the Louvre. Peruggia served less than a year in jail and was released, hailed as a hero by many Italians.

Brazil Attacks!

Today in History, April 17: 1945 – After a three day battle, Montese, Italy is liberated by…Brazilian Army forces. The Brazilians fought valiantly against German Nazis to gain control of the Italian city. It had been a long trek to this point. When the war started, Brazil, led by an almost fascist leader, was “neutral”. After several Brazilian ships were sunk by U-Boats, the Brazilian public made it impossible for the government to remain neutral…Brazil first cut off diplomatic relations with the Axis powers, and then declared war on them. The Brazilian Army, Air Force, and Navy fought primarily in the Italian campaign.