The Eccentric Italian World War I Pilot Guido Keller

Samuel Reason

Not many Italian pilots during World War I became famous, but the eccentric Guido Keller definitely was. He would be flying reading philosophy books and even had a full set of china tea in his plane. In fact, most of his battle reports started as I was reading X book, when suddenly I spotted…

Born in 1892 in Milan to a family of local Swiss/Italian aristocracy, he became passionate about flying from an early age. Too rowdy for traditional school he was quickly expelled for lack of discipline. But this did not matter, by the time World War I came about, Guido was an established pilot. Guido brought a certain gentleman approach to his flying and was not focused on how many planes he brought down. Many note he was more interested in disabling the enemy aircraft than actually killing a pilot.

One of his famous adventures was when he crash-landed behind enemy lines and was heavily wounded during the Battle of Vittorio Veneto. As the German infantry approached his crashed plane, he jumped out and barked orders in fluent perfect German. Guido never did wear an official issued uniform so the trick worked. The German soldiers believed him to be a German lieutenant and took him to a nearby hospital in a stretcher.

After World War I, he took part in the Seizure of Fiume following the revolutionary Gabriele D’Annunzio. Guido was put in charge of finding ammunition and supplies for their cause. This resulted in him becoming a pirate and stealing anything he could find. Though many later stated he spent most of his time perched naked in a tree with an eagle. Famously, he once put a whole pig in his little plane. Additionally, he would fly over Rome and drop turnips and pamphlets in the Government buildings to outline their contempt of the government.

However, after a time he became disillusioned with the movement and ended up exploring South America. Traveling all up and down the Amazon River he explored Venezuela and Peru in search of gold. But this did not last for long and a few years later he was back in Italy, living in poverty. Like many retired pilots Guido found life on the ground too slow and died in a car accident at the age of 37.

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