Wolde Selassie, the #Eritrean who became an Italian general.

(Editor’s note: the original article is in Italiand and it can be read at https://italiacoloniale.com/2018/07/24/wolde-selassie-leritreo-che-divenne-generale-italiano-una-vita-di-primati/?fbclid=IwAR0utXfjETJmHWYzq567jjRQ1N4Xs0HaMHNKWCItBizIRoIoSFUZQ3UYqSg

Wolde Selassie, the #Eritrean who became an Italian general. A life of primates

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 pilot an airplane during the First World War, in Libya, in 1912, the first black Italian to have military responsibilities, the first Italian of African descent (tigrino era) to reach the rank of general in the army and was also the first black Italian to enter the masonry.
A natural child of the then Lieutenant Attilio Mondelli, stationed in the Italian colony, Wolde took the name of Domenico at the age of twelve when he moved 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 went to the Royal Military Academy of Modena to come out in 1905 with the rank of second lieutenant assigned to the infantry, Bersaglieri specialties.

In 1907 he will take Italian citizenship, according to the civil code of 1865, in fact, the condition of military allowed to become an Italian citizen. Then he volunteered for Libya, then in Turin in 1913 the apprenticeship to become a pilot in the nascent Italian aviation military fleet obtaining the pilot’s license granted by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale on February 20, 1914. In 1915 he was appointed by the Ministry of War “Airplane pilot”. We are on the eve of the start of the First World War and Italy can only count on 58 combat aircraft against the 98 of the Austro-Hungarians. On one of these aircrafts, Captain Mondelli takes place on May 24, 1915, on a Nieuport Ni 80 G, a series of surveys on Mount Hermada and Maria Zell starting from the Campoformido airport, on the Isonzo front. . With this action in the territories of Triveneto Mondelli earns the first medal for military valor (bronze), awarded in June 1916 with this motivation: “It gives proof of calm and courage. Disdainful of danger, he was flying at low altitudes ».

On 12 January 1916 he was appointed squadron commanders based in Aviano. He continued his military career in the army passing then to the command of the 67th Battalion of the 18th Bersaglieri Regiment, experiencing the experience of the front on the ground.

On October 10, with the rank of major, takes command of the XXXIII Assault Department “Crimson Flames” of the newly created daring specialties. After the end of the war, a total of two silver and two bronze medals will be decorated with military valor, and awarded the title of Knight of the Order of the Crown of Italy. In 1920, a volunteer sent to Albania at the head of the IX Assault Ward, he obtained his third Bronze Medal.

In 1923 he was promoted to Colonel but in 1925 he left the Royal Army, entering the reserve, because the preconceptions in the military environment of the era were delayed by the promotion, delays against which he will oppose bringing the Ministry of War in judgment and for three times winning the appeal to the Council of State.

He will be discredited for his affiliation to Freemasonry, in which he entered in 1912 until he reached the rank of Master Free Mason.

In 1959 he was promoted, in the role of honor, to Brigadier General, in 1963 General and 1968 Army Corps. Finally, he was awarded the title of Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic on 10 June 1970 with motu proprio decision of the President of the Republic Giuseppe Saragat. He died in Rome at the Celio Military Hospital on December 13, 1974.

A rare picture of Domenico Mondelli (Wolde-Selassie) with his father Attilio Mondelli in 1891. Source:Mauro GhermandiEritrea Architectural History and Heritage)

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