Nick’s Heron

An Italian triple-engine floatplane, a CANT Z. 506B Airone (Italian: Heron) rests on a Sicilian beach (possibly on Mondello beach south of Palermo) guarded by an SMLE-armed British soldier in November 1943.

LOC LC-DIG-fsa-8d34157

Originally built in the 1930s as a 12-seat passenger plane for the Italian airline Ala Littoria to zip tourists and businessmen around the Med, the Airone turned out to be a pretty decent search-and-rescue craft and torpedo bomber and as such saw service in WWII with the Italian Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) and Navy (Regia Marina) as well as the by the Luftwaffe in limited numbers.

Another photo from the same set, LC-DIG-fsa-8d34158.

The two above images were shot by Office of War Information photographer Nick Parrino, who crawled around the ETO and the Middle East throughout 1943 and 1944, leaving behind more than 500 amazing images that are available through the Library of Congress.

Postwar, the Airone would remain in service as a SAR aircraft into the 1960s. Of the more than 350 produced, only one is preserved.

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