|Date: ca. 1933-1940|
|Notes: "Benito Mussolini making a speech."|
|Contributed by: Courtesy of National Film Board of Canada/ Library and Archives Canada/ PA-130046|
| View full size image|
|Date: World War II|
|Notes: Military history of Italy during World War II
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
During World War II (1939 - 1945), the Kingdom of Italy had a varied and tumultuous military history. While the Italian forces are widely viewed by the victorious nations as weak, historians believe this was largely down to circumstances such as poor equipment and ineffective political leadership, rather than to inherent inferiority. Indeed, the Italian troops themselves were often praised by their opponents.
The Italian empire in late 1940.
Greatest extent of Italian control within the Mediterranean region (within green line & dots) in 1942. British control is delineated by red.
The start of World War II
Main article: Military production during World War II
Nazi Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, but Italy remained neutral for the following ten months even though it was one of the Axis powers.
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's Under-Secretary for War Production, Carlo Favagrossa, had estimated that Italy could not possibly be prepared for such a war until at least October 1942. This had been made clear during Italo-German negotiations for the Pact of Steel whereby it was stipulated that neither signatory was to make war without the other earlier than 1943. Although considered a major power, the Italian industrial sector was relatively weak compared to other European major powers. Italian industry did not equal more than 15% of that of France or of Britain in militarily critical areas such as automobile production: the number of automobiles in Italy before the war ranged at ca. 372,000, in comparison to ca. 2,500,000 in Britain and France. The lack of a stronger automotive industry made it difficult for Italy to mechanize its military. Italy still had a predominantly agricultural-based economy, with demographics more akin to a developing country (high illiteracy, poverty, rapid population growth and a high proportion of adolescents) and a proportion of GNP derived from industry less than that of Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Sweden, in addition to the other great powers. In terms of strategic materials, in 1940, Italy produced 4.4, 0.01, 1.2 and 2.1 Mt of coal, crude oil, iron ore and steel, respectively. By comparison, Great Britain produced 224.3, 11.9, 17.7, and 13.0 Mt and Germany produced 364.8, 8.0, 29.5 and 21.5 Mt of coal, crude oil, iron ore and steel, respectively. Most of the raw material needs could only be fulfilled through importation and no effort was made to stockpile key materials before the entry into war. Also, approximately one quarter of Italy?s merchant fleet were present at foreign ports and given no forewarning of Mussolini?s rash decision to enter the war and were immediately impounded. Another handicap was the large number of weapons and supplies given by Italy practically for free to the Spanish forces fighting under Franco during the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939. The Italians also sent the "Corps of Volunteer Troops" (Corpo Truppe Volontarie) to fight for Franco. The financial cost of this war was between 6 and 8.5 billion lire, approximately 14 to 20% of annual expenditure. Added these issues was Italy's extreme debt position. When Benito Mussolini took office in 1921 the government debt was 93 billion lire, un-repayable in the short to medium term. Yet only two years later this debt increased to 405 billion lire.
The Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) therefore remained comparatively depleted and weak at the commencement of the war. The Italian tanks were of poor quality, and radios were few in number. The bulk of the Italian artillery dated from World War I. The Italian Air Force (Regia Aeronautica's) primary fighter was the Fiat CR-42, though an advanced design for a biplane with excellent performance characteristics, it was obsolete compared to the then current generation monoplane fighters of other nations. The Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) had no aircraft carriers. In addition, the Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) could field approximately 1,760 aircraft, of which only 900 of them could be considered as "front-line machines".
Yet whilst equipment was lacking and outdated, Italian authorities were acutely aware of the need to maintain a modern army[nb 1] and were taking the necessary steps to modernize in accordance with their very own relatively advanced tactical principles.[nb 2] Almost 40% of the 1939 budget was allocated to military spending. Awareness existed, albeit belatedly, of the need to have close air support for the Navy and the decision to build carriers was taken[nb 3] And whilst the majority of equipment was obsolescent and poor, appropriate steps were being taken whereby quality equipment was being developed. For example, the three series 5 fighters[nb 4] were capable of meeting the best allied fighters on equal terms,  but only a few hundred of each were produced; The Fiat G55 Centauro received much German interest and was defined by Oberst Petersen, advisor to Goering, as the ?best Axis fighter.? The Carro Armato P40 tank,  roughly equivalent to the M4 Sherman and Panzer IV, was designed in 1940, but no prototype was produced until 1942 and developers/manufacturers not able to roll out any of these tanks before Armistice.[nb 5] This was owing, in part, to the lack of sufficiently powerful engines, which were themselves undergoing a development push. Unlike the Allies, Italian tank designers did not think to use old aircraft engines, which were available in relative abundance, and would have certainly facilitated more rapid tank development. Total tank production for the war (~ 3,500) was less than the number of tanks used by Germany in its invasion of France. The Italians were also reported to be the first to use self-propelled guns, both in close support and anti-tank roles, and their, for example, 75/46 (& 75/32) , 90/53 (a peer of the German 88/55), 102/35 and 47/32 mm, and 20 mm AA guns were not obsolete. Also of note were the AB 41 and the Camionetta AS 42 which were regarded as excellent vehicles of their type. None of these developments precluded the fact that the bulk of the equipment was obsolescent and poor. However, it was this relatively weak economy, lack of suitable raw materials and inability to produce suitable quantities of armaments and supplies which was predominant reason for Italian military failure.
On paper, Italy had one of the largest armies, but this was far from reality. According to the estimates of Bierman and Smith, the Italian regular army could field only about 200,000 troops at the start of World War II. Irrespective of the attempts to modernize, the majority of Italian army personnel were lightly armed infantry lacking sufficient motor transport.[nb 6] There was insufficient budget to train the men in the services such that in WWII the bulk of the personnel received much of their training at the front, when it was too late to be of use. Air units had not been trained to operate with the naval fleet and the majority of ships had been built for fleet actions, not the convoy protection duties which they were mostly employed for during the war. Regardless, a critical lack of fuel kept naval activities to a minimum.
Senior leadership was also an issue. Mussolini personally assumed control of all three individual military service ministries with the intention of influencing detailed planning. Comando Supremo (the Italian High Command) consisted of only a small complement of staff that could do little more than inform the individual service commands of Mussolini?s intentions, after which it was up to the individual service commands to develop these into proper plans and execute. The result was that there was no central direction for operations and the three military services tended to work independently, focusing only on their fields, with little inter-service cooperation. The Army itself was essentially split into two different institutions; those institutionally loyal to the king (Regio Esercito) and those to Mussolini, and discrepancies in pay existed for personnel of equal rank, but from different units.
Following the German conquest of Poland, Mussolini would change his mind repeatedly as to whether he would enter the war. The British commander in Africa, General Archibald Wavell, correctly predicted that Mussolini's pride would ultimately cause him to enter the war. Wavell would compare Mussolini's situation to that of someone at the top of a diving board: "I think he must do something. If he cannot make a graceful dive, he will at least have to jump in somehow; he can hardly put on his dressing-gown and walk down the stairs again."
Some historians believe that Italian leader Benito Mussolini was induced to enter the war against the Allies by secret negotiations with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, with whom he had an active mail correspondence between September 1939 and June 1940. The journalist Luciano Garibaldi wrote that "in those letters (which disappeared at Lake Como in 1945) Churchill may have extorted Mussolini to enter the war to mitigate Hitler's demands and dissuade him from continuing hostilities against Great Britain as France was inexorably moving toward defeat. In light of this, Mussolini could urge Hitler turn against the USSR, the common enemy of both Churchill and Mussolini".
Initially, the entry into the war was clearly political opportunism, which lead to a lack of consistency in planning, with principal objectives and enemies being changed with little regard for the consequences. Mussolini was well aware of the military and material deficiencies but thought the war would be over soon and did not expect to do much fighting. This led to confusion amongst ordinary Italians and soldiers who had little idea of what they were fighting for and, hence, had little conviction and saw little justification for it. As the war progressed and one disaster followed another, Commando Supremo were forced to take more serous steps in their planning.
Italy enters the war: June 1940
See also: Fall of France and Italian invasion of France
On 10 June 1940, as the French government fled to Bordeaux before the German invasion, declaring Paris an open city, Mussolini felt the conflict would soon end and declared war on Britain and France. As he said to the Army's Chief-of-Staff, Marshal Badoglio:
I only need a few thousand dead so that I can sit at the peace conference as a man who has fought.
Mussolini had the immediate war aim of expanding the Italian colonies in North Africa by taking land from the British and French colonies.
Of Italy's declaration of war, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, said:
On this tenth day of June 1940, the hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor.
Italian forces in France: 1940 - 1943
See also: Italian-occupied France
In June 1940, after initial success the Italian offensive into southern France stalled at the fortified Alpine Line. On 25 June 1940, France surrendered to Germany. Italy occupied some areas of French territory along the Franco-Italian border. During this operation, Italian casualties were 1,247 men dead or missing and 2,631 wounded. A further 2,151 Italians were hospitalised due to frostbite.
In November 1942, the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) participated in invading south-eastern Vichy France and Corsica as part of what was known as Case Anton. From December 1942, Italian military government of French departments east of the Rh?ne River was established and continued until September 1943 when Italy quit the war. This had the effect of providing a de facto temporary haven for French Jews fleeing the Holocaust.
The Italian Navy established a submarine base at Bordeaux, code named BETASOM and thirty two Italian submarines participated in the Battle of the Atlantic
Hostilities commence in North Africa: 1940
Main article: Italian invasion of Egypt
Things did not go well for the Italians in North Africa almost from the start. Within a week of Italy's declaration of war on 10 June 1940, the British 11th Hussars had seized Fort Capuzzo in Libya. In an ambush east of Bardia, the British captured the Italian Tenth Army's Engineer-in-Chief, General Lastucci. On 28 June, Marshal Italo Balbo, the Governor-General of Libya was killed by friendly fire while landing in Tobruk.
Mussolini ordered Balbo's replacement, Marshal Rodolfo Graziani, to launch an attack into Egypt immediately. Graziani had been the commander of the Italian Tenth Army in Libya before being promoted to Governor-General. He complained to Mussolini that his forces were not properly equipped for such an operation. Graziani further complained that an attack into Egypt could not possibly succeed. Mussolini ordered Graziani to attack anyway.
On 13 September, elements of the Italian Tenth Army retook Fort Capuzzo, crossed the border between Libya and Egypt, and advanced into Egypt as far as Sidi Barrani. Sidi Barrani was about 100 kilometers inside Egypt from the Libyan border. The Italians then stopped and began to entrench themselves in a series of fortified camps.
At this time, the British had only 36,000 troops available (out of ~100,000 under his Middle Eastern command) to defend Egypt against 236,000 Italian troops. However, the Italians were not concentrated in one place. They were divided between the 5th army in the west and the 10th army in the east. Hence, they remained spread out from the Tunisian border in western Libya to Sidi Barrani in Egypt. With reluctance Graziani?s invasion of Egypt commenced on September 13 with four divisions and one (ad hoc) armoured group crossing the border. The advance stopped at Sidi Barrani, where Graziani, not knowing the British lack of numerical strength,[nb 7] planned to build fortifications and stock them with provisions ammunition and fuel, establish a water pipeline and extend the via Balbia to that location, which was where the road to Alexandria began. This task was being obstructed by the British Royal Navy forces operating in the Mediterranean by attacking Italian supply-ships. At this stage Italian losses remained minimal, but the efficiency of the British Royal Navy would improve as the war went on. Mussolini was fiercely disappointed with the sluggishness of Graziani. However, according to Bauer he had only himself to blame as he withheld the trucks, armament and supplies that Graziani had deemed necessary. Wavell was hoping to see the Italians over-extend themselves before his intended counter at Marsa Matruh.
In addition, Graziani and his staff lacked faith in the strength of the Italian military. One of his officers wrote: "We're trying to fight this... as though it were a colonial war... this is a European war... fought with European weapons against a European enemy. We take too little account of this in building our stone forts.... We are not fighting the Abyssinians now." (This was a reference to the Second Italo-Abyssinian War where Italian forces had fought against a relatively poorly equipped opponent.) Balbo had previously documented: "Our light tanks, already old and armed only with machine guns, are completely out-classed. The machines guns of the British armoured cars pepper them with bullets which easily pierce their armour."
Italian forces around Sidi Barrani had severe weaknesses in their deployment. The five fortifications were placed too far apart to allow mutual support against an attacking force and the areas between were weakly patrolled. The absence of motorised transport did not allow for rapid reorganisation, if needed. The rocky terrain had prevented an anti-tank ditch from being dug and there were too few mines and 47 mm anti-tank guns to repel an armoured advance.
Battle of Britain: 1940 - 1941
Main article: Battle of Britain
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini insisted on providing an element of the Italian Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) to assist his German ally during the Battle of Britain. Mussolini's expeditionary air force was called the Italian Air Corps (Corpo Aereo Italiano, or CAI). The CAI went to Belgium on 10 September 1940 and first saw action in late October 1940. The Italian aircraft took part in the latter stages of the battle. The Italian equipment, which included biplane fighters, did not compare favorably with the aircraft of the British Royal Air Force or of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe). As a result, the CAI achieved limited to no success. The aircraft of the CAI were redeployed in early 1941. The last Italian fighters were redeployed by mid-April.
Campaigns in East Africa: 1940 - 1941
Main article: East African Campaign (World War II)
In addition to the well-known campaigns in the western desert during 1940, the Italians opened an additional front in June 1940 from their East African colonies of Ethiopia, Italian Somaliland, and Eritrea.
As in Egypt, the Italian forces with ~70,000 Italian soldiers and ~180,000 native troops outnumbered their British opponents. But Italian East Africa was isolated and far away from the Italian mainland. The Italian forces in East Africa were thus cut off from re-supply. This severely limited the operations that they could seriously undertake.
The initial Italian attacks in East Africa took two different directions, one into the Sudan and the other into Kenya. Then, in August 1940, the Italians advanced into British Somaliland. After suffering and inflicting few casualties, the British and Commonwealth garrison was evacuated from Somaliland by sea to Aden.
The Italian invasion of British Somaliland was one of the only successful Italian campaigns of World War II accomplished without German support. In the Sudan and Kenya, Italy captured small territories around several border villages. After doing so, the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) in East Africa adopted a defensive posture against an expected British counter-attack.
The Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) maintained a small squadron in the Italian East Africa area. The Italian "Red Sea Flotilla" was based at the port of Massawa in Eritrea. It consisted of seven destroyers and eight submarines. Despite a severe shortage of fuel, the Red Sea Flotilla posed a threat to British convoys traversing the Red Sea. However, Italian attempts to attack British convoys resulted in the loss of four submarines and one destroyer.
On 19 January 1941, the expected British counter-attack arrived in the shape of the Indian 4th and Indian 5th Infantry Divisions, which made a thrust from the Sudan. A supporting attack was made from Kenya by the South African 1st Division, the 11th African Division, and the 12th African Division. Finally, the British launched an amphibious assault from Aden to re-take British Somaliland.
From February to March, the outcome of Battle of Keren determined the fate of Italian East Africa. In early April, after Keren fell, Asmara and Massawa followed. The Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa also fell in April 1941. The Viceroy of Ethiopia, Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, surrendered at the stronghold of Amba Alagi in May. He received full military honors. The Italians in East Africa made a final stand around the town of Gondar in November 1941.
When the port of Massawa fell to the British, the remaining destroyers were ordered on a suicide attack in the Red Sea. At the same time, the last four submarines made an epic voyage around the Cape of Good Hope to Bordeaux in France.
Some Italians, after their defeat, waged a guerrilla war mainly in Eritrea and Ethiopia, that lasted until summer 1943.
Italian forces in the Balkans: 1940 - 1943
Main articles: Greco-Italian War, Axis Occupation of Greece, and Yugoslavian Front (WWII)
In early 1939, while the world was focused on Adolf Hitler's aggression against Czechoslovakia, the Italian dictator set his eyes on Albania, across the Adriatic from Italy. Italian forces invaded Albania on 7 April 1939 and despite some strong resistance, especially at Durr?s, swiftly took control of the small country.
Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.
On 28 October 1940, Italy started the Greco-Italian War by launching an invasion of the Kingdom of Greece from Albania. In part, the Italians attacked Greece because of the growing influence of Germany in the Balkans. Both Yugoslavia and Greece had governments friendly to Germany. Mussolini launched the invasion of Greece in haste after Romania, a state which he perceived as lying within the Italian sphere of influence, allied itself with Germany. The order to invade Greece was given by Mussolini to Badoglio and Roatta on October 15 with the expectation that the attack would commence with 12 days. Badoglio and Roatta were appalled given that, acting on his orders, they had demobilised 600,000 men three weeks prior. Given the expected requirement of at least 20 divisions to facilitate success, the fact that only eight divisions were currently in Albania, and considering the inadequacies of the Albanian ports and connecting infrastructure, adequate preparation would require at least three months. Nonetheless, D-day was set at dawn on October 28.
However, the war went badly for the Italians. The initial Italian offensive was quickly contained, and the Greek Commander-in-Chief, Lt Gen Papagos, was able to establish numerical superiority by mid-November,[nb 8] prior to launching a counter-offensive that drove the Italians back into Albania. In addition, the Greeks were naturally adept at operating in mountainous terrain, while only six of the Italian Army's divisions, the Alpini, were trained and equipped for mountain warfare. Only when the Italians were able to establish numerical "parity" was the Greek offensive stopped. By then they had been able to penetrate deep into Albania.
The following passage aptly summarizes the episode from the perspective of both the brilliant Greek defence of their homeland and the ill-prepared Italian debacle:
No one can deny the victor's laurels to the Greek soldier. But under conditions like these one can only say that the Italian soldier had earned the martyr's crown a thousand times over.
An Italian "Spring Offensive" in March, that tried to salvage the situation before the German intervention, amounted to little. The Italian Army was still bogged down in Albania by the Greeks and the Albanian resistance when the Germans invaded Greece. Crucially, the bulk of the Greek Army (fifteen divisions) was left deep in Albania, while the German attack approached.
After British troops arrived in Greece in March 1941, British bombers operating from Greek bases could reach the Romanian oil fields, vital to the German war effort. Hitler decided that he had to help the Italians and committed German troops to invade Greece via Yugoslavia (where a coup had deposed the German-friendly government).
On 6 April 1941 the Wehrmacht invasions of Yugoslavia (Operation 25) and Greece (Operation Marita) both started, while the Italians attacked Yugoslavia in Dalmatia and pushed the Greeks finally out of Albania. On 17 April Yugoslavia surrendered to the Germans and the Italians. On 30 April, Greece too surrendered to the Germans and Italians, and was divided into German, Italian and Bulgarian sectors. The invasions ended with a complete Axis victory in May when Crete fell. On May 3, during the triumphal parade in Athens to celebrate the Axis victory, Mussolini started to boast of an Italian Mare Nostrum in the Mediterranean sea.
Some 28 Italian divisions participated in the Balkan invasions. The coast of Yugoslavia was occupied by the Italian Army, while the rest of the country was divided between the Axis forces (an Italian puppet State of Croatia was created, under the sovereign of an Italian Savoia). The Italians assumed control of most of Greece with their 11th Army, while the Bulgarians occupied the northern provinces and the Germans the strategically most important areas. Italian troops would occupy parts of Greece and Yugoslavia until the Italian armistice with the Allies in September 1943.
In spring 1941 Italy created a Montenegrin client state and annexed most of the Dalmatian coast as the Governorship of Dalmatia (Governatorato di Dalmazia). Yugoslavian partisans fought a guerrilla war against the occupying forces until 1945.
The Italian Navy in the Mediterranean: 1940 - 1943
Main article: Battle of the Mediterranean
In 1940, the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) could not match the overall strength of the British Royal Navy in the Mediterranean Sea. After some initial setbacks, the Italians Navy declined to engage in a confrontation of capital ships. Since the British Navy had as a principal task the supply and protection of convoys supplying her outposts in the Mediterranean, the mere continued existence of the Italian fleet (the so called Fleet in being) caused problems to Britain, which had to utilise warships sorely needed elsewhere to protect Mediterranean convoys. On 11 November 1940, Britain launched the first carrier strike of the war, using a squadron of Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers. This raid at Taranto left three Italian battleships crippled or destroyed for the loss of two British aircraft shot down.
The Italian Navy found other ways to attack the British. The most successful involved the use of frogmen and riding manned torpedoes to attack ships in harbour. The 10th Light Flotilla, also known as Decima Flottiglia MAS or XMAS, which carried out these attacks, sank or damaged 28 ships from September 1940 to the end of 1942. These included the battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant (sunk in the Harbor of Alexandria on 18 December 1941), and 111,527 tons of merchant shipping. The XMAS used a particular kind of torpedo, the SLC (siluro a lenta corsa), which crew was composed by two frog men and a strange motorboat, called an MTM (motoscafo da turismo modificato).
Following the sinking of these two battleships, an Italian-dominated Mediterranean Sea appeared much more possible to achieve. However, this was only a brief happy time for Mussolini. The oil and supplies brought to Malta, despite heavy losses, by Operation Pedestal in August and the Allied landings in North Africa, Operation Torch, in November 1942, turned the fortunes of war against Italy. After years of stalemate, the Axis forces were ejected from Libya and Tunisia in six months after the Battle of El Alamein, while their supply lines were harassed day after day by the growing and overwhelming aerial and naval supremacy of the Allies in what had just been the Mussolini's "Italian Mare Nostrum".
Italy in North Africa: 1940 - 1943
Main articles: North African Campaign, Western Desert Campaign, and Tunisia Campaign
Semovente 75/18 during the North African campaign.
On 8 December 1940 the British Operation Compass began. Planned as an extended raid (see Battle of the Marmarica), it resulted in a force of British, Indian and Australian troops cutting off the Italian troops. Pressing the British advantage home, General Richard O'Connor pressed the attack forward and succeeded in reaching El Agheila (an advance of 500 miles (800 km)) and capturing tens of thousands of enemies. The Allies nearly destroyed the Italian army in North Africa, and seemed on the point of sweeping the Italians out of Libya. However, Winston Churchill directed the advance be stopped, initially because of supply problems and because of a new determined effort that had gained ground in Albania, and ordered troops dispatched to defend Greece. Weeks later the first troops of the German Afrika Korps started to arrive in North Africa (February 1941) to reinforce the Italians.
German General Erwin Rommel now became the principal Axis field commander in North Africa, although the bulk of his forces consisted of Italian troops. Under Rommel's direction the Axis troops pushed the British and Commonwealth troops back into Egypt but were unable to complete the task because of the exhaustion and their extended supply lines which were under threat from the Allied enclave at Tobruk, which they failed to capture. After reorganising and re-grouping the Allies launched Operation Crusader in November 1941 which resulted in the Axis front line being pushed back once more to El Agheila by the end of the year.
In January 1942 the Axis struck back again, advancing to Gazala where the front lines stabilised while both sides raced to build up their strength. At the end of May Rommel launched the Battle of Gazala where the British armoured divisions were soundly defeated. The Axis seemed on the verge of sweeping the British out of Egypt, but at the First Battle of El Alamein (July 1942) General Claude Auchinleck halted Rommel's advance only 90 miles (140 km) from Alexandria. Rommel made a final attempt to break through during the Battle of Alam el Halfa but Eighth Army, by this time commanded by Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery, held firm. After a period of reinforcement and training the Allies assumed the offensive at the Second Battle of Alamein (October/November 1942) where they scored a decisive victory and the remains of Rommel's German-Italian Panzer Army were forced to engage in a fighting retreat for 1,600 miles (2,600 km) to the Libyan border with Tunisia.
After the Operation Torch landings in the Vichy French territories of Morocco and Algeria (November 1942) British, American and French forces advanced east to engage the German-Italian forces in the Tunisia Campaign. By February the Axis forces in Tunisia were joined by Rommel's forces, after their long withdrawal from El Alamein, which were re-designated the Italian First Army (under Giovanni Messe) when Rommel left to command the Axis forces to the north at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass. Despite the Axis success at Kasserine, the Allies were able to reorganise (with all forces under the unified direction of 18th Army Group commanded by General Sir Harold Alexander) and regain the initiative in April. The Allies completed the defeated the Axis armies in North Africa in May 1943.
Italian troops on the Eastern Front: 1941 - 1943
Main article: Italian participation in the Eastern Front
In July 1941, some 62,000 Italian troops of the "Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia" (Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia, or CSIR) left for the Eastern Front to aid in the German invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa).
In July 1942, the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) expanded the CSIR to a full army of about 200,000 men known as the "Italian Army in Russia" (Armata Italiana in Russia, or ARMIR). The ARMIR was also known as the "Italian 8th Army."
From August 1942 to February 1943, the Italian 8th Army took part in the Battle of Stalingrad. At Stalingrad, the 8th Army suffered heavy losses (some 20,000 dead and 64,000 captured) when the Soviets isolated the German forces in Stalingrad by attacking the over-stretched Hungarian, Romanian, and Italian forces protecting the German's flanks.
By the summer of 1943, Rome had withdrawn the remnants of these troops to Italy. Many of the Italian POWs captured in the Soviet Union died in captivity due to the unfavourable conditions in the Soviet prison camps.
The fight for Italy: 1943 - 1945
Main article: Italian Campaign (World War II)
On 10 July 1943, a combined force of American and British Commonwealth troops invaded Sicily in Operation Husky. German generals again took the lead in the defence and, although they lost the island, they succeeded in ferrying large numbers of German and Italian forces safely off Sicily to the Italian mainland. On 19 July an Allied air raid on Rome destroyed both military and collateral civil installations. With these two events, popular support for the war diminished in Italy.
On 25 July 1943, the Grand Council of Fascism ousted Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and a new Italian government, led by General Pietro Badoglio and King Victor Emmanuel III, took over in Italy. The new Italian government immediately began secret negotiations with the Allies to end the fighting and to come over to the Allied side. On 3 September, a secret armistice was signed with the Allies at Fairfield Camp in Sicily. The armistice was announced on 8 September. By then, the Allies were on the Italian mainland.
On 3 September 1943, British troops crossed the short distance from Sicily to the 'toe' of Italy in Operation Baytown. Two more Allied landings took place on 9 September at Salerno (Operation Avalanche) and at Taranto (Operation Slapstick). The Italian surrender meant that the Allied landings at Taranto took place unopposed, with the troops simply disembarking from warships at the docks rather than assaulting the coastline.
German troops, once they had discovered that the Italians had signed an armistice, moved quickly to disarm the Italian forces and to take over critical defensive positions (Operation Achse). These included Italian-occupied south-eastern France and the Italian-controlled areas in the Balkans.
On 9 September, a German Fritz X guided bomb sank the Italian battleship Roma off the coast of Sardinia.
In the Greek island of Cephallonia, General Antonio Gandin, commander of the 12,000-strong Italian Acqui Division decided to resist the German attempt to forcibly disarm his force. The battle raged from September 13 to 22, when the Italians were forced to surrender after suffering some 1,300 casualties. The ensuing massacre of several thousand Italian POWs by the Germans stands as one of the worst war crimes committed by the Wehrmacht.
About two months after he was stripped of power, Benito Mussolini was rescued by the Germans in Operation Oak (Unternehmen Eiche). This was a spectacular raid planned by German General Kurt Student and carried out by Senior Storm Unit Leader (Obersturmbannf?hrer) Otto Skorzeny. The Germans re-located Mussolini to northern Italy where he set up a new Fascist state, the Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana or RSI).
The Allied armies continued to advance through Italy despite increasing opposition from the Germans. The Allies soon controlled most of southern Italy, and Naples rose against and ejected the occupying German forces. The Allies organized some Italian troops in the south into what were known as "co-belligerent" or "royalist" forces. In time, there was a co-belligerent army (Italian Co-Belligerent Army), navy (Italian Co-Belligerent Navy), and air force (Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force). These Italian forces fought alongside the Allies for the rest of the war. Other Italian troops, loyal to Mussolini and his RSI, continued to fight alongside the Germans. From this point on, a large Italian resistance movement located in northern Italy fought a guerrilla war against the German and RSI forces.
Winston Churchill had long regarded southern Europe as the military weak spot of the continent (in World War I he had advocated the Dardanelles operation, and during World War II he favored the Balkans as an area of operations, for example in Greece in 1940 and so on). Calling Italy the "soft underbelly" of the Axis, Churchill had therefore advocated this invasion instead of a cross-channel invasion of occupied France. But Italy itself proved anything but a soft target: The mountainous terrain gave Axis forces excellent defensive positions, and it also partly negated the Allied advantage in motorized and mechanized units. The final Allied victory over the Axis in Italy did not come until the spring offensive of 1945, after Allied troops had breached the Gothic Line, leading to the surrender of German forces in Italy shortly before Germany finally surrendered ending World War II in Europe.
Italy's declaration of war on Japan
Although Italy and Japan were part of the Axis Powers, Japan reacted with shock and outrage to the news of the surrender of Italy to the Allied forces in September 1943. Italian citizens residing in Japan and in Manchukuo were swiftly rounded up and summarily asked whether they were loyal to the King of Savoy, who dishonored their country by surrendering to the enemy, or with the Duce and the newly created "Repubblica Sociale Italiana", which vowed to continue fighting alongside the Nazis. Those who sided with the King were interned in concentration camps and detained in dismal conditions until the end of the war, while those who opted for the Fascist dictator were allowed to go on with their lives, although under strict surveillance by the Kempeitai.
The news of Italy's surrender did not reach the crew members of the three Italian submarines Giuliani, Cappellini and Torelli traveling to Singapore, then occupied by Japan, to take a load of rubber, tin and strategic materials bound for Italy and Germany's war industry. All the officers and sailors on board were arrested by the Japanese army, and after a few weeks of detention the vast majority of them chose to side with Japan and Germany. The Kriegsmarine assigned new officers to the three units, who were renamed as U-boot U.IT.23, U.IT.24 and U.IT.25, taking part in German war operations in the Pacific until the Giuliani was sunk by the British submarine Tallyho in February 1944 and the other two vessels were taken over by the Japanese Imperial Navy upon Germany's surrender.
Alberto Tarchiani, an anti-fascist journalist and activist, was appointed as Ambassador to Washington by the cabinet of Badoglio, which acted as provisional head of the Italian government pending the occupation of the country by the Allied forces. On his suggestion, Italy issued a formal declaration of war to Japan on 14 July 1945. The purpose of this act, which brought no military follow-up, was mainly to persuade the Allies that the new government of Italy deserved to be invited to the San Francisco Peace Conference, as a reward for its co-belligerence. However, the British Prime Minister Churchill and John Foster Dulles were resolutely against the idea, and so Italy's new government was left out in the cold.
Although Italy and Japan negotiated the resumption of their respective diplomatic ties after 1951, and later signed several bilateral agreements and treaties, a formal peace treaty between the two nations was never sealed.
Nearly 4 million Italians served in the Italian Army during the Second World War and nearly half a million Italians (including civilians) died between June 1940 and May 1945.
The Regio Esercito suffered 161,729 casualties between 10 June 1940 and 8 September 1943 in the war against the Allies, and 18,655 casualties in Italy plus 54,622 casualties in the rest of Europe in September/October 1943 against the German Army after the Italian Armistice.
There were even 12,000 casualties in the northern Italian guerrilla war (Guerra di Liberazione) and in the "Army of Badoglio" on the side of the Allies. In the fascist Army of Mussolini's Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana, or RSI there were 45,424 casualties.
Nearly 60,000 Italian POWs died in Nazi labour camps, while nearly 20,000 perished in Allied Prisoner of War camps (mainly Russian: 1/4 of the 84,830 Italians officially lost in the Soviet Union were taken prisoners, and most of them never returned home).
Reputation of Italian fighting efficiency during World War II
Allied press reports of Italian military prowess in the Second World War were almost always dismissive. This is primarily the result of British wartime propaganda produced when the Italian 10th Army was destroyed by significantly smaller British forces during the early phase of the North African Campaign. The propaganda from this single event, which was designed to boost British morale during a bleak period of the war, has left a lasting impression. Prior to this, due largely to their exploits in World War I, Italian soldiers were generally considered to be brave fighters,  and their feats exceptional.
Like any other army, the Italians suffered their fair share of reversals, but it should be remembered that their equipment was not up to the standard of either the Allied or the German armies. More crucially, they lacked suitable quantities of equipment of all kinds and their high command did not take necessary steps to plan for most eventualities.
Italian forces displayed stubborn resistance at the Battle of Keren in East Africa, for which the participating Italian Savoia battalions, Alpini, Bersaglieri and Grenadiers were acknowledged as being equal to the best opposition the British and Indians had faced during the war with the possible exception of the German parachute division in Italy and the Japanese in Burma. In the account of the battle by Compton Mackenzie in Eastern Epic, an officially sponsored history of the British Indian army in World War II, Mackenzie wrote:
Keren was as hard a soldiers' battle as was ever fought, and let it be said that nowhere in the war did the Germans fight more stubbornly than those [Italian] Savoia battalions, Alpini, Bersaglieri and Grenadiers. In the [first] five days' fight the Italians suffered nearly 5,000 casualties - 1,135 of them killed. Lorenzini, the gallant young Italian general, had his head blown off by one of the British guns. He had been a great leader of Eritrean troops.
The unfortunate licence of wartime propaganda allowed the British Press to represent the Italians almost as comic warriors; but except for the German parachute division in Italy and the Japanese in Burma no enemy with whom the British and Indian troops were matched put up a finer fight than those Savoia battalions at Keren. Moreover, the Colonial troops, until they cracked at the very end, fought with valour and resolution, and their staunchness was a testimony to the excellence of the Italian administration and military training in Eritrea.
The Italian army in Russia fought stubbornly under General Giovanni Messe, winning various accolades from Berlin Radio. Italian soldiers also fought with determination at the battle of Mersa Matruh, in which the Littorio, Brescia and Trento Divisions, and 7th Bersaglieri Regiment played an important part  and at El Alamein in the North African Campaign. Bierman and Smith indicated that Italian artillery gunners of the North African campaign tended to serve their guns until they were overrun, an observation similarly made by others.
Rommel was later to write about the fighting at Alamein in July:
The Italians were willing, unselfish and good comrades in the frontline. There can be no disputing that the achievement of all the Italian units, especially the motorised elements, far outstripped any action of the Italian Army for 100 years. Many Italian generals and officers earned our respect as men as well as soldiers.
The Bologna and Trento infantry divisions were unlucky to have been left stranded without water or transport, deep in the southern sector at the Second Battle of El Alamein. At Second Battle of El Alamein, on 4 November 4 1942, the Ariete division was able to fight a dramatic day-long rear-guard action to prevent the Allies from encircling the bulk of the retreating Axis armoured formations. Whilst both German and Allied records leave the impression that the Ariete voluntarily immolated itself, Walker,  points out that remnants were successfully able to disengage, as they later, with elements of the Centauro division on 12 December 12, successfully fended off further Allied armoured attacks to the rear of the Axis forces.
In the Tunisian Campaign, at Kasserine Pass, Mareth, Akarit and Enfidaville, as the North African campaign drew to its close, Italians fought with courage and determination. In fact, it was observed by General Alexander that:
...the Italians fought particularly well, outdoing the Germans in line with them.
The Italian's German allies often blamed them for any Axis failure but they nevertheless widely praised their bravery. Ripley has asserted:
The Italians supplied the bulk of the Axis troops fighting in North Africa, and too often the German Army unfairly ridiculed Italian military effectiveness either due to its own arrogance or to conceal its own mistakes and failures. In reality, a significant number of Italian units fought skillfully in North Africa, and many "German" victories were the result of Italian skill-at-arms and a combined Axis effort. 
Steinberg wrote that:
With almost no exception, however, those Germans closest to the Italian troops in the field, the liaison units and attached officers, or at higher level the generals attached to the Italian Supreme Command respected and admired their Italian counterparts. 
Interestingly, the special study (German Experiences in Desert Warfare During World War II) from Generalmajor Alfred Toppe of the Wehrmacht, written with the assistance of nine middle-rank officers who served in the Afrika Korps is very positive in regard to Italian fighting abilities.
The following passage from Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts praises the courage of Italian tank crews at El Alamein:
....it is perhaps simplest to ask who is the most courageous in the following situations: the Italian carristi, who goes into battle in an obsolete M14 tank against superior enemy armour and anti-tank guns, knowing they can easily penetrate his flimsy protection at a range where his own small gun will have little effect; the German panzer soldier or British tanker who goes into battle in a Panzer IV Special or Sherman respectively against equivalent enemy opposition knowing that he can at least trade blows with them on equal terms; the British tanker who goes into battle in a Sherman against inferior Italian armour and anti-tank guns, knowing confidently that he can destroy them at ranges where they cannot touch him. It would seem clear that, in terms of their motto Ferrea Mole, Ferreo Cuore, the Italian carristi really had "iron hearts", even though as the war went on their "iron hulls" increasingly let them down.
 See also
* Axis occupation of Greece during World War II
* Black Brigades
* Battle of Gazala
* Decima Flottiglia MAS
* Italian 132nd Armored Division Ariete
* Italian Army equipment in World War II
* Italian Campaign (World War II)
* Italian conquest of British Somaliland
* Italian guerrilla war in Ethiopia
* Italian Mare Nostrum
* Italian resistance movement
* List of World War II Battles
* MVSN (Blackshirts)
* North African Campaign timeline
* Regia Aeronautica - Royal Italian Air Force
* Regio Esercito - Royal Italian Army
* Regia Marina - Royal Italian Navy
* Yugoslavian Front (WWII)
For original text with references see Wikipedia,
"Military history of Italy during World War II."
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|Notes: "Hitler's state visit to Italy. Hitler and Mussolini leaving the Quirinal, 193-." Digital ID: 3b00389.|
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|Date: World War II|
|Notes: Italian Fascism
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The term Italian Fascism denotes the authoritarian nationalist Fascismo political movement that ruled Kingdom of Italy from 1922 until 1943 under leader Benito Mussolini. The term Fascism comes from the word Facismo, and dates back variously to January 1915 when the "Fascist Revolutionary Party" was created and 1919 when Benito Mussolini launched his movement in the Piazza San Sepolchro 9 in Milan.  The English fascism derives from the Italian fascio ("league"). Italian Fascism is considered a proper noun, and thus is capitalised; generic fascism is lower-case. Italian Fascism is considered the model for the other fascisms, yet there is no agreement about which aspects of structure, tactics, culture, and ideology represent the "fascist minimum" core. Similar political movements appeared worldwide, including German Nazism, under Adolf Hitler, other movements in Europe, Japan, and Latin America between World War I and World War II. These groups, prior to World War II saw themselves as sharing a common ideology. Specifically Portugal with its "Clerico Corporativist regime" and Spain with its uneasy alliance between explicitly Fascist Falangists, Clerical Fascists, and Franco; both explicitly embraced their own variants of Fascism as did Germany under Hitler, Austria under Dolfuss, and other countries prior to World War II. After the failure of Hitler's Germany most of these countries distanced themselves from Fascism in order to avoid falling along with Hitler's Nazism, and some even from the term Fascism. Although Fascism for many denotes only Italian fascism, the word often is used to describe like ideologies and political movements.
Part of the Politics series on
Italian Fascist flag
Nationalism ? Authoritarianism ? Third Position ? Single party state ? Dictatorship ? Social Darwinism ? Social interventionism ? Indoctrination ? Propaganda ? Anti-intellectualism ? Eugenics ? Heroism ? Militarism ? Economic interventionism
Definitions ? Economics ? Fascism and ideology ? Fascism worldwide ? Symbolism
Class collaboration ? Corporatism ? Heroic capitalism ? National socialism ? National syndicalism ? Populism ? State capitalism ? State socialism ? Statism ? Supercapitalism ? Third Position ? Totalitarianism
Arrow Cross Party ? Austrofascism ? Brazilian Integralism ? Falange ? 4th of August Regime ? Iron Guard ? Italian Fascism ? Japanese fascism ? Nazism ? Rexism ? Usta?e
Abba Ahimeir Abba Ahimeir
Corneliu Zelea Codreanu Corneliu Zelea Codreanu
Leon Degrelle Leon Degrelle
Giovanni Gentile Giovanni Gentile
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler
Ikki Kita Ikki Kita
Oswald Mosley Oswald Mosley
Benito Mussolini Benito Mussolini
Jos? Antonio Primo de Rivera Jos? Antonio Primo de Rivera
Konstantin Rodzaevsky Konstantin Rodzaevsky
Ante Pavelić Ante Pavelić
Plinio Salgado Plinio Salgado
The Doctrine of Fascism ? Fascist manifesto ? Mein Kampf ? The Myth of the Twentieth Century
Axis powers ? Black Brigades ? Blackshirts ? Blueshirts ? Fascist International ? Grand Council of Fascism ? Greenshirts ? Italian Nationalist Association ? Schutzstaffel ? Sturmabteilung
Fascio ? March on Rome ? Beer Hall Putsch ? Acerbo Law ? Aventine Secession ? Fascist Italy ? Nazi Germany ? March of the Iron Will ? Congress of Verona ? Italian Social Republic
Anti-fascists ? British fascists ? Fascists by country ? Nazi ideologues
Anti-fascism ? Clerical fascism ? Cryptofascism ? Ecofascism ? European fascist ideologies ? Fascism (epithet) ? Hitler salute ? Left-wing fascism ? Neo-Fascism ? Quadrumvirs ? Racism ? Roman salute ? Social fascism ? Palingenetic ultranationalism
Fascism was born during a period of social and political unrest during and following the First World War when liberal democracy was seen as sickly, corrupt and effete. The war had seen Italy, born from the Italian unification less than a century earlier, begin to develop a sense of nationalism, rather than its traditional regionalism. Fascism was the vision of Benito Mussolini in alliance with the Syndicalist Michele Bianchi, Arditi veterans like Captain Ferruccio Vecchi and others. Mussolini created the Fascist movement specifically to oppose what he felt was the treachery of Internationalist Socialism after he left the Socialist Newspaper Avanti! in 1914. He left the Socialist movement specifically over first the question of Italian Neutrality and subsequently over the entry of Italy into World War I. Fascism would come to be defined by these two characteristics; opposition to Socialism and explicit nationalism. On leaving Avanti! Mussolini founded the paper Il Popolo d'Italia. This paper would become the party organ of the Fascist movement. He also joined the Italian Army where he fought in the war and was wounded. When the war ended, in 1919 he sensed the opportunity to gain power, and despite his movement being a minority of Italians moved to make his vision of Fascism a reality. In doing so he used the methods of organized violence, propaganda, and sometimes powerful but often Machiavellian logic. These too would become characteristic of Italian Fascism and its other nationalist cousins.
Conditions that enabled the rise of the Fascists
Despite the Kingdom of Italy being a fully fledged Allied Power during the war against the Central Powers, Italy was given what nationalists considered an unfair deal at the Treaty of Saint-Germain; which they saw as the other allies "blocking" Italy from progressing to a major power. The fascists would exploit Italian Nationalism, and their sense of the failure of Democracy, Socialism and liberalism in their rise to power.
The allies told Italy to hand over the city of Fiume at the Paris Peace Conference. Fiume had not been significant to the majority of Italians until early 1919, and the the town was not included in the Treaty of London, a wartime territorial agreement between Italy and the Allies. This saw war veteran Gabriele d'Annunzio declaring the independent state Italian Regency of Carnaro. He positioned himself as Duce of the nation and declared a constitution, the Charter of Carnaro which was highly influential to early Fascism, though he himself never became a fascist.
The other source for the power of the Fascists was labor unrest in the countryside and peasant opposition to international socialism. Mussolini had been a socialist and knew how to inspire workers. Even so, in an afternoon speech given by Mussolini in 1919, he declared that "We declare war on socialism, not because it is socialist, but because it has opposed nationalism...." Between 1920 and 1921, fascists began to appeal both to Italian industrialists and landowners in the countryside. Both groups were opposed to efforts of socialist workers to gain power by strikes in the factories and countryside. Charles F. Delzell writes:
At first, the Fascists were concentrated in Milan and a few other cities. They gained ground quite slowly between 1919 and 1920; not until after the scare brought about by the workers "occupation of the factories" in the late summer of 1920 did fascism become really widespread. The industrialists began to throw their financial support to it. Moreover, toward the end of 1920, fascism began to spread into the countryside, bidding for the support of large landowners, particularly in the area between Bologna and Ferrara, a traditional stronghold of the left and scene of frequent violence. Socialist and Catholic organizer of farm hands in that region, Venezia Giulia, Tuscany, and even distant Apulia were soon attacked by squads of Fascists, armed with castor oil, blackjacks, and more lethal weapons. The era of Squadrismo and nightly expeditions to burn Socialist and Catholic labor headquarters had begun.
Rise to power
The war had left Italy with inflation, large debts, unemployment aggravated by demobilisation of thousands of soldiers and social unrest with strikes, attempts at insurrection by anarchists, socialists and communists, as well as a breeding ground for organised crime. The democratically elected Liberal government had no means to control the unrest, so when Benito Mussolini took matters into his own hands to combat the social unrest by organising the paramilitary blackshirts, made up of former socialists and war veterans, Prime Ministers such as Giovanni Giolitti allowed them to continue. The government preferred this class collaboration orientated movement, to the prospect of a greatly feared bloody class war coming to Italy by the hand of the communists, following the recent Russian Revolution. Within The Manifesto of the Fascist Struggle the initial stances of Fascism were outlined, requesting amongst other things voting rights for women, insertion of a minimum wage, insertion of an eight-hour workday for all workers and reorganisation of public transport such as railways.
Mussolini giving a speech and performing the Roman salute towards his gathered audience.
By the early 1920s, popular support for the fascist's fight against "Bolshevism" had increased to around 250,000. The Fascisti were transformed into the National Fascist Party in 1921, with Mussolini being elected to the Chamber of Deputies the same year, enterting legitimate politics. The Liberals retained power but Prime Ministers came and went at a fast pace, Luigi Facta's government was particularly unstable and dithering. The fascists had enough of what they considered a weak parliamentary democracy process and organised the March on Rome in an effort to take power, with promises of restoring Italian pride, reviving the economy, increasing productivity, ending harmful government controls and furthering law and order. Whilst the march was taking place king Victor Emmanuel III made Mussolini Prime Minister and thus the march turned into a victory parade, the Fascists believed their success was both revolutionary and traditionalist.
Flag of the National Fascist Party during the 1930s and 1940s.
Main article: Economy of Italy under Fascism, 1922?1943
Until 1925, when Alberto de Stefani ceased to be Minister of Economics, policies were mostly in line with classical liberalism (suppression of inheritance and luxury tax, suppression of taxes on foreign capital ; life insurance transferred to private enterprises in 1923 , state monopoly on telephones and matches was abandoned, etc.). However, this policy did not contradict seemingly opposite-minded ones: various banking and industrial companies were financially supported by the state. One of Mussolini's first acts was to fund the metallurgical trust Ansaldo to the height of 400 millions Liras. Following the deflation crisis which started in 1926, banks such as the Banco di Roma, the Banco di Napoli or the Banco di Sicilia were also assisted by the state . In 1924, the Unione Radiofonica Italiana (URI) was formed by private entrepreneurs and part of the Marconi group, and granted the same year a monopoly of radio broadcasts. URI became after the war the RAI.
Starting in 1925, Italy's policies became more protectionist. Tariffs of grains were increased in an attempt to strengthen domestic production ("Battle for Grain"), which was ultimately a failure. Thus, according to historian Denis Mack Smith (1981), "Success in this battle was... another illusory propaganda victory won at the expense of the Italian economy in general and consumers in particular". He also pointed out "Those who gained were the owners of the Latifondia and the propertied classes in general... his policy conferred a heavy subsidy on the Latifondisti".
Affected by the Great Depression, the Italian state attempted to respond to it both by elaborating public works programs such as the taming of the Pontine Marshes, developing hydroelectricity, improving the railways which in the process improved job opportunities, and launching military rearmement. The Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) institute was created in 1933, with the aim of subsiding floundering companies. It soon controlled important parts of the economy, through government-linked companies, including Alfa Romeo.
Economically Italy improved with the GNP growing at 2% a year; automobile production was increasing especially those owned by Fiat, its aeronautical industry was making advances. Mussolini also championed agrarianism as part of what he called battles for Land, Lira and Grain; in aims of propaganda, he physically took part in these activities alongside the workers creating a strong public image.
Relations with Vatican and others
Through various outlets including everything from stamps to monumental architectural and sculptural works, the Fascists made Italians of every social class aware of the country's rich cultural heritage, including Roman, medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods through to the modern age.
Fascism declared war on the Mafia and organised crime, to defeat it the fascists did so on the terms which the Mafia itself had used for so long ? violence and honour. Mussolini received praises from a wide range of figures, such as Winston Churchill, Sigmund Freud, Mahatma Gandhi, George Bernard Shaw and Thomas Edison. It was under Mussolini that the long standing Roman Question was concluded with the Lateran Treaty between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See, this allowed the Holy See to have a tiny microstate within the city of Rome; the move was brought about due to most Italians being religiously Catholic.
The Fascist accepts life and loves it, knowing nothing of and despising suicide; he rather conceives of life as duty and struggle and conquest, life which should be high and full, lived for oneself, but not above all for others ? those who are at hand and those who are far distant, contemporaries, and those who will come after.
?Giovanni Gentile in the The Doctrine of Fascism, signed by Benito Mussolini, 1933.
 Doctrine of fascism
Fascist propaganda of 1933 depicting a number of slogans and themes of the Fascist regime. The popular Fascist militarist slogan "Book and Musket make the Perfect Fascist" is displayed. The connection of a crucifix to the fasces represents the link the Fascists promoted after 1929 of Christianity being naturally connected to Fascism. Anno XI E.F. refers to the eleven years since the rise of Mussolini to power from 1922 to 1933 when this propaganda piece was made.
The Doctrine of Fascism is the official presentation of the Fascist ideology; authored by Giovanni Gentile, approved by Mussolini and presented to the public in 1933. Gentile was a Sicilian who was influenced by the likes of Hegel, Plato, Croce and Vico; he introduced the idea of Actual Idealism. The Doctrine presented that the Fascist viewed the world quite apart from the mere constricts of currently political trends, but rather the wider picture of humankind. It rejected ideas of "perpetual peace" as fantasy and accepted man as a species constantly at war and those who met it achieved the stamp of nobility. It accepted that in general men who had made the most significant impact in history were conquerors such as Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Charlemagne and Napoleon Bonaparte; the Roman Empire was of particular inspiration. It looked at Italy and saw that life for the state and by product the everyday person was of a better standard, under a single party fascist system than it had been in 1920 under a democratic liberal party. Mussolini thus spoke of democracy as "beautiful in theory, in practice it is a fallacy" and spoke in speeches of celebrating burying the "putrid corpse of liberty" to rapturous Italian applause.
It was the Acerbo Law of 1923, which had allowed Italy to become a single party system. The National Fascist Party had won the election with 65% of the votes, giving them 2/3 of the parliamentary seats. The socialists were bitter with this defeat and couldn't accept it, especially socialist Giacomo Matteotti who accused the Fascists of fraud. He was killed by Amerigo Dumini, for this Mussolini had Dumini tried and imprisoned but some socialists accused him of foul play, they protested by quitting parliament leaving the Fascists as the sole representatives. The means which Mussolini generally dealt with political dissenters was placing them under arrest and sending them to small Italian islands. Mussolini declared himself Duce from the Roman title dux meaning leader in 1925; though regarded a dictator by most popular historians, the Grand Council of Fascism was still in place and the king had the power to fire Mussolini, as would eventually happen.
Nationalism and Empire building
The Italian Empire in 1939.
Influenced by the concepts of the Roman Empire, with Mussolini viewing himself as a modern day Roman Emperor Italy set out to build the Italian Empire. With an expansionist and militarian agenda, their colonialism reached further into Africa in an attempt to compete with British and French colonial empires. Italy had long owned Libya and parts of East Africa but took Ethiopia under Mussolini. The means in which the fascists kept power was sometimes with a strong hand, especially inregards to guerrillas and rebels who attempted to overthrow them; Omar Mukhtar was a notable Libyan example. However, Italian fascism did not directly discriminate in regards to race or religion, so long as the peoples swore fealty to a cultural "Italianisation" and Mussolini. Just as the Italian Jews were permitted to join the NFP back in Italy, Libyan Muslims had their own section of the party called the Muslim Association of the Lictor in the colony. In a ceremony of unity regardless of religion, Mussolini was awarded the ancient Yemeni artifact the Sword of Islam by a Libyan chieftain. In East Africa too the natives had opportunities to serve with the fascists in the MVSN Colonial Militia. However the expansionist ideology did not stop there, the Italia irredenta stance, desired the returning of lands which previous belonged to older states now incorporated inside of Italy, to complete the Italian unification. This included Nice which was part of the Kingdom of Sardinia until 1860 as well as Savoy, Corsica which was part of the Republic of Genoa until 1768, Dalmatia which was part of the Republic of Venice until 1797 and Malta which was part of the Kingdom of Sicily until 1530.
Some have compared Adolf Hitler's nationalistic domestic and foreign policies in Germany as being inspired by Benito Mussolini. Mussolini himself did not hold a consistent view on the role of the concept of race in society. In the 1920s, Mussolini emphasized the importance of race and spoke in racialist terms regarding relations between white and coloured races, claiming that white and coloured people were in racial competition, as shown in this statement in 1928:
? [When the] city dies, the nation?deprived of the young life?blood of new generations?is now made up of people who are old and degenerate and cannot defend itself against a younger people which launches an attack on the now unguarded frontiers[...] This will happen, and not just to cities and nations, but on an infinitely greater scale: the whole White race, the Western race can be submerged by other coloured races which are multiplying at a rate unknown in our race. ?
?Benito Mussolini, 1928.
However when tensions grew between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany From 1933 to 1934 over Austrian independence, Mussolini opportunistically contradicted his earlier claims of the importance of race and instead claimed that race was insignificant:
? Race! It is a feeling, not a reality: ninety-five percent, at least, is a feeling. Nothing will ever make me believe that biologically pure races can be shown to exist today. [...] National pride has no need of the delirium of race. ?
?Benito Mussolini, 1933.
From the late 1930s to his death, Mussolini returned to endorsing and promoting racialism, including accepting anti-Semitism to gain favour from Nazi Germany.
Influence outside Italy
The Italian model of fascism was influential outside of Italy in the inter-war period and a number of groups and thinkers looked directly to Italy for their inspiration rather than developing an indigenous form of the ideology. Groups that sought to copy the Italian model of fascism included the Russian Fascist Organization, the Romanian National Fascist Movement (an amalgam of the National Romanian Fascia and the National Italo-Romanian Cultural and Economic Movement) and the Dutch group based around the Verbond van Actualisten journal of H. A. Sinclair de Rochemont and Alfred Haighton and, to some extent, Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party.
In Switzerland Colonel Arthur Fonjallaz, who had previously been associated with the more pro-Nazi National Front, became an ardent admirer of Mussolini after visiting Italy in 1932. He came to advocate the annexation of Switzerland by his idol, whilst also receiving some financial aid from the Italian leader. The country also hosted the International Centre for Fascist Studies (CINEF) and the 1934 congress of the Action Committee for the Universality of Rome (CAUR), two Italian-led initiatives.
In Spain early fascist writer Ernesto Gim?nez Caballero called for Italy to annex Spain in his 1932 book Genio de Espa?a, with Mussolini at the head of an international Latin Roman Catholic empire. He would later become more closely associated with Falangism, leading to his ideas of Italian annexation being put aside.
Fascist mottos and sayings
* Me ne frego, "I don't give a damn": the Italian Fascist motto
* Libro e moschetto - fascista perfetto, literally "Book and Musket - Perfect Fascist" meaing the book and the musket make the perfect Fascist.
* Viva la Morte, "Long live death (sacrifice)."
* The above mentioned Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato, "Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State".
* Credere, Obbedire, Combattere ("Believe, Obey, Fight")
* Se avanzo, seguitemi. Se indietreggio, uccidetemi. Se muoio, vendicatemi, ("If I advance, follow me. If I retreat, kill me. If I die, avenge me") The quote was originally by French royalist general Henri de la Rochejaquelein, however the Fascists borrowed it.
* Viva Il Duce, "Long live the Duce (Leader)"
* "War is to man as motherhood is to woman."
* Boia chi molla, "He who abandons is a vile assassin".
* Definitions of fascism
* Economy of Italy under Fascism, 1922?1943
* National Fascist Party
* Italian fascist states:
o Kingdom of Italy (1861?1946) (1922-1943, as a fascist state)
o Italian Social Republic (1943-1945)
* Cesare Mori
For original text see Wikipedia, "Italian Fascism."
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Benevento, Molise, Italy|
|Notes: Rocco Guerera was one of ten children. He grew up in the Italian countryside, learning to love and respect the land. As a young man he was recruited into the army. After World War II ended he immigrated with his family to North America, noting that even in his region the winds of emigration were blowing people in that direction ["... anche nella sua regione cominicio a soffiare 'il vento dell' emigrazione'."]. After his brothers and sisters immigrated to the United States, he too decided to leave his homeland. He doesn't remember all that much about his arrival, but he does remember that he went from being an independent farm owner to being a common laborer ["... ricordo solamente che da agricoltore a proprio conto, divenni un operaio qualunque"]. Today, he takes comfort in the fact that his children have retained their Italian heritage. In the photo Rocco Guerrera is seen wearing his "bersagliere" uniform.
The photo and short biography of Rocco Guerrera were first published in Centro Dante's "Album di Famiglia, 1996." Permission to use the material was granted by Santa Cabrini Hospital's administration. For further information visit: wwwsantacabrini.qc.ca.
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|Notes: A few days after his marriage to Iolanda Di Cesare, Francesco Gavita was ordered to report for military duty. He was sent to Libya where he fought in the awful battle at Tobruk. After seven long years of army duty, suffering indescribable hardship, often going hungry, Francesco Gavita was finally allowed to return to his hometown. Here he was reunited with his wife and his seven year old daughter whom he had not yet met. After World War II ended Francesco Gavita worked as a miner in Germany. In 1958 he decided to immigrate to Canada and here began yet another battle -- on the immigration front ["il fronte delll'emgirato all'estero."). In Montreal he found work in the construction industry and saw to it that his family lacked for nothing. Alas, a work-related accident deprived him of his health.
The photo and short biography of Francesco Gavita were first published in Centro Dante's "Album di Famigia, 1996." Permission to use the material was given by Santa Cabrini Hospital's administration. For further information visit: www.santacabrini.qc.ca.
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Italian prisoner of war documents|
|Date: circa 1930s|
|Notes: Prisoner of war documents of Francesco Gravita. The photo was first published in Centro Dante's "Album di Famiglia, 1996." Permission to use the material was granted by Santa Cabrini Hospital's administration. For further information visit: www.santacabrini.qc.ca.|
|Contributed by: Courtesy of The Santa Cabrini Hospital|
| View full size image|
|Date: World War II|
|Notes: Benito Mussolini
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
40th Prime Minister of Italy
October 31, 1922 ? July 25, 1943
Monarch Victor Emmanuel III
Preceded by Luigi Facta
Succeeded by Pietro Badoglio (Provisional Military Government)
First Marshal of the Empire
March 30, 1938 ? July 25, 1943
Succeeded by Pietro Badoglio
Duce of the Italian Social Republic
September 23, 1943 ? April 26, 1945
Born July 29, 1883(1883-07-29)
Varano di Costa, Predappio, Forl?, Italy
Died April 28, 1945 (aged 61)
Giulino di Mezzegra, Italy
Political party Republican Fascist Party
National Fascist Party
Italian Socialist Party
Spouse Rachele Mussolini
Profession Politician, Journalist
Religion Converted to Roman Catholicism in 1927, irreligious in earlier life.
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini, KSMOM GCTE (July 29, 1883, Varano di Costa, Predappio, Forl?, Italy ? April 28, 1945, Giulino di Mezzegra, Italy) was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism. He became the Prime Minister of Italy in 1922 and began using the title Il Duce by 1925. After 1936, his official title was "His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Duce of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire". Mussolini also created and held the supreme military rank of First Marshal of the Empire along with King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, which gave him and the King joint supreme control over the military of Italy. Mussolini remained in power until he was replaced in 1943; for a short period after this until his death he was the leader of the Italian Social Republic.
Mussolini was among the founders of Italian fascism, which included elements of nationalism, corporatism, national syndicalism, expansionism, social progress and anti-communism in combination with censorship of subversives and state propaganda. In the years following his creation of the fascist ideology, Mussolini influenced, or achieved admiration from, a wide variety of political figures.
Among the domestic achievements of Mussolini from the years 1924?1939 were: his public works programmes such as the taming of the Pontine Marshes, the improvement of job opportunities, and public transport. Mussolini also solved the Roman Question by concluding the Lateran Treaty between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See. He is also credited with securing economic success in Italy's colonies and commercial dependencies.
Although he initially favoured siding with France against Germany in the early 1930s, Mussolini became one of the main figures of the Axis powers and, on 10 June 1940, Mussolini led Italy into World War II on the side of Axis. Three years later, Mussolini was deposed at the Grand Council of Fascism, prompted by the Allied invasion. Soon after his incarceration began, Mussolini was rescued from prison in the daring Gran Sasso raid by German special forces.
Following his rescue, Mussolini headed the Italian Social Republic in parts of Italy that were not occupied by Allied forces. In late April 1945, with total defeat looming, Mussolini attempted to escape to Switzerland, only to be captured and summarily executed near Lake Como by Communist Italian partisans. His body was taken to Milan where it was hung upside down at a petrol station for public viewing and to provide confirmation of his demise.
Birthplace of Benito Mussolini, today used as a museum.
Mussolini was born in Dovia di Predappio, a small town in the province of Forl? in Emilia-Romagna in 1883. In the Fascist era, Predappio was dubbed "Duce's town", and Forl? was "Duce's city". Pilgrims went to Predappio and Forl?, to see the birthplace of Mussolini.
Mussolini was born into a working class background; his father Alessandro Mussolini was a blacksmith and an Anarchist activist, while his mother Rosa Mussolini (n?e Maltoni) was a school teacher and a devout Catholic. Owing to his father's political leanings, Mussolini was named Benito after Mexican reformist President Benito Ju?rez, while his middle names Andrea and Amilcare were from Italian socialists Andrea Costa and Amilcare Cipriani. Benito was the eldest of his parents' three children. His siblings Arnaldo and Edvige followed.
As a young boy, Mussolini would spend time helping his father in his blacksmithing. It was likely here that he was exposed to his father's significant political beliefs. Alessandro was a socialist and a republican, but also held some nationalistic views, especially in regards to some of the Italians who were living under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which were not consistent with the internationalist socialism of the time. The conflict between his parents about religion meant that, unlike most Italians, Mussolini was not baptised at birth and would not be until much later in life. However, as a compromise with his mother, Mussolini was sent to a boarding school run by Salesian monks. Mussolini was rebellious and was expelled after a series of behaviour related incidents, including throwing stones at the congregation after Mass, stabbing a fellow student in the hand and throwing an inkpot at a teacher. After joining a new school, Mussolini achieved good grades, and qualified as an elementary schoolmaster in 1901.
Political journalist and soldier
Mussolini as an Italian soldier, 1917.
In 1902, Mussolini emigrated to Switzerland partly to avoid military service. He worked as a stone mason and during this time studied the ideas of Nietzche, the sociologist Pareto and the syndicalist Sorel. Mussolini also, later in life, credited as influences on his thought the French Marxian Convert Charles P?guy who started a Socialist but became a convert to Roman Catholicism, and Hubert Lagardelle (also a French Syndicalist). Sorel's emphasis on the need for overthrowing decadent liberal Democracy and Capitalism by the use of violence, direct action, the general strike, and the use of neo-Machiavellian appeals to emotion, impressed him deeply. He was unable to find a permanent job in Switzerland, and was at one point arrested for vagrancy and jailed for one night. While in Switzerland he picked up speaking knowledge of French and a smattering of German. Later, after becoming involved in the socialist movement, he was deported to Italy and volunteered for military service. After his two years of service he returned to teaching.
Political journalist and Socialist
Soon he joined the Marxian Socialist movement. In February 1908 in the city of Trento as secretary of the local chamber of labor, which was ethnically Italian but then under the control of Austria-Hungary. While there he wrote The Cardinal's Mistress which was bitterly anticlerical and years later had to be withdrawn from circulation after he made his truce with the Vatican  He did office work for the local socialist party and edited its newspaper L'Avvenire del Lavoratore ("The Future of the Worker").
By 1910 Mussolini returned to Forli where he edited the weekly Lotta di classe. He was now one of Italy's most prominent Socialists. In 1911 (September), there was a riot by Socialists, and Mussolini with them, in Forl?, against the Italian war in Libya. He bitterly denounced the "imperialist war" to gain Tripoli, an action which earned him a five month jail term. After his release he helped expel from the ranks of the Socialist party two 'revisionists' who had supported the war, Ivanhoe Bonimi, and leonida Bissolati. For that he was rewarded with the editorship of the Socialist party newspaper Avanti! Its circulation soon rose from 20,000 to 100,000. During this time he had become important enough for the Italian police to write the following (excepts) police report prepared by the Inspector-General of Public Security in Milan, G. Gasti
Break with Socialists
The Inspector General wrote:
Regarding Mussolini Professor Benito Mussolini,...38, revolutionary socialist, has a police record; elementary school teacher qualified to teach in secondary schools; former first secretary of the Chambers in in Cesena, Forli, and Ravenna; afte 1912 editor of the newspaper Avanti! to which he gave a violent suggestive and intransigent orientation. In October 1914, finding himself in opposition to the directorate of the Italian Socialist party because he advocated a kind of active neutrality on the part of Italy in the War of the Nations against the party's tendency of absolute neutrality, he withdrew on the twentieth of that month from the directorate of Avanti! Then on the fifteenth of November , thereafter, he initiated publication of the newspaper Il Popolo d'Italia in which he supported -- in sharp contrast to Avanti! and amid bitter polemics against that newspaper and its chief backers -- the thesis of Italian intervention in the war against the militarism of the Central Empires. For this reason he was accused of moral and political unworthiness and the party thereupon decided to expel him. Thereafter he....undertook a very active campaign in behalf of Italian intervention, participating in demonstrations in the piazzas and writing quite violent articles in Popolo d'Italia.... 
In his summary the Inspector also notes:
"He was the ideal editor of Avanti! for the Socialists. In that line of work he was greatly esteemed and beloved. Some of his former comrades and admirers still confess that there was no one who understood better how to interpret the spirit of the proletariate and there was no one who did not observe his apostacy with sorrow. This came about not for reasons of self-interest or money. He was a sincere and passionate advocate, first of vigilant and armed neutrality, and later of war; and he did not believe that he was compromising with his personal and political honesty by making use of every means -- no matter where they came from or wherever he might obtain them -- to pay for his newspaper, his program and his line of action. This was his initial line. It is difficult to say to what extent his socialist convictions (which never did he either openly or privately abjure) may have been sacrificed in the course of the indispensable financial deals which were necessary for the continuation of the struggle in which he was engaged... But assuming these modifications did take place... he always wanted to give the appearance of still being a socialist, and he fooled himself into thinking that this was the case." 
Service in World War I
He became an ally with the irredentist politician and journalist Cesare Battisti, and like him he entered the Army and served in the war. "He was sent to the zone of operations where he was seriously injured by the explosion of a grenade."
The inspector continues:
"He was promoted to the rank of corporal "for merit in war." The promotion was recommended because of his exemplary conduct and fighting quality, his mental calmness and lack of concern for discomfort, his zeal and regularity in carrying out his assignments, where he was always first in every task involving labor and fortitude." 
Mussolini's military experience is told in his work Diario Di Guerra. Overall he totalled about nine months of active, front-line trench warfare. During this time he contracted paratyphoid fever. His military exploits ended in 1917 when he was wounded accidentally by the explosion of a mortar bomb in his trench. He was left with at least 40 shards of metal in his body He was discharged from the hospital in August 1917 and resumed his editor-in-chief position at his new paper, Il Popolo d'Italia.
On December 25, 1915, in Trevalglio, he contracted a marriage with his fellow countrywoman Rachele Guidi, who had already born him a daughter, Edda, at Forli in 1910. In 1915, he had a son with Ida Dalser, a woman born in Sopramonte, a village near Trento. He legally recognized this son on January 11, 1916.
Creation of Fascism
Main article: Fascism
also Italian Fascism
By the time Mussolini returned from Allied service in World War I, he had decided that socialism as a doctrine had largely been a failure. In early 1918, Mussolini called for the emergence of a man "ruthless and energetic enough to make a clean sweep" to revive the Italian nation. Much later in life Mussolini said he felt by 1919 "Socialism as a doctrine was already dead; it continued to exist only as a grudge". On March 23, 1919, Mussolini reformed the Milan fascio as the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento (Italian Combat Squad), consisting of 200 members.
An important factor in fascism gaining support in its earliest stages was the fact that claimed to oppose discrimination based on social class and was strongly opposed to all forms of class war. Fascism instead supported nationalist sentiments such as a strong unity, regardless of class, in the hopes of raising Italy up to the levels of its great Roman past. The ideological basis for fascism came from a number of sources. Mussolini utilized works of Plato, Georges Sorel, Nietzsche, and the socialist and economic ideas of Vilfredo Pareto, to create fascism. Mussolini held great admiration for Plato's work, The Republic which he kept a copy and often read to gain inspiration. The Republic held a number of ideas that fascism promoted such as rule by an elite promoting the state as the ultimate end, opposition to democracy, protecting the class system and promoting class collaboration, rejection of egalitarianism, promoting the militarization of a nation by creating a class of warriors, demanding that citizens perform civic duties in the interest of the state, and utilizing state intervention in education to promote the creation of warriors and future rulers of the state. The Republic differed from fascism in that it did not promote aggressive war but only defensive war, unlike fascism it promoted very communist-like views on property, and Plato was an idealist focused on achieving justice and morality while Mussolini and fascism were realist, focused on achieving political goals.
Mussolini and the fascists managed to be simultaneously revolutionary and traditionalist; because this was vastly different to anything else in the political climate of the time, it is sometimes described as "The Third Way". The Fascisti, led by one of Mussolini's close confidants, Dino Grandi, formed armed squads of war veterans called Blackshirts (or squadristi) with the goal of restoring order to the streets of Italy with a strong hand. The blackshirts clashed with communists, socialists and anarchists at parades and demonstrations; all of these factions were also involved in clashes against each other. The government rarely interfered with the blackshirts' actions, owing in part to a looming threat and widespread fear of a communist revolution. The Fascisti grew so rapidly that within two years, it transformed itself into the National Fascist Party at a congress in Rome. Also in 1921, Mussolini was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time. In the meantime, from about 1911 until 1938, Mussolini had various affairs with the Jewish author and academic Margherita Sarfatti, called the "Jewish Mother of Fascism" at the time.
March on Rome and early years in power
Further information: March on Rome
Mussolini and Fascist Blackshirts during the March on Rome in 1922.
The March on Rome was a coup d'?tat by which Mussolini's National Fascist Party came to power in Italy and ousted Prime Minister Luigi Facta. The "march" took place in 1922 between October 27 and October 29. On October 28, King Victor Emmanuel III refused his support to Facta and handed over power to Mussolini. Mussolini was supported by the military, the business class, and the liberal right-wing.
As Prime Minister, the first years of Mussolini's rule were characterized by a right-wing coalition government composed of Fascists, nationalists, liberals and even two Catholic ministers from the Popular Party. The Fascists made up a small minority in his original governments. Mussolini's domestic goal, however, was the eventual establishment of a totalitarian state with himself as supreme leader (Il Duce) a message that was articulated by the Fascist newspaper Il Popolo, which was now edited by Mussolini's brother, Arnaldo. To that end, Mussolini obtained from the legislature dictatorial powers for one year (legal under the Italian constitution of the time). He favored the complete restoration of state authority, with the integration of the Fasci di Combattimento into the armed forces (the foundation in January 1923 of the Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale) and the progressive identification of the party with the state. In political and social economy, he passed legislation that favored the wealthy industrial and agrarian classes (privatisations, liberalisations of rent laws and dismantlement of the unions).
In 1923, Mussolini sent Italian forces to invade Corfu during the "Corfu Incident." In the end, the League of Nations proved powerless and Greece was forced to comply with Italian demands.
In June 1923, the government passed the Acerbo Law, which transformed Italy into a single national constituency. It also granted a two-thirds majority of the seats in Parliament to the party or group of parties which had obtained at least 25 percent of the votes. This law was punctually applied in the elections of April 6, 1924. The "national alliance", consisting of Fascists, most of the old Liberals and others, won 64 percent of the vote largely by means of violence and voter intimidation. These tactics were especially prevalent in the south.
The assassination of the socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti, who had requested the annulment of the elections because of the irregularities committed, provoked a momentary crisis of the Mussolini government. The murderer, a squadrista named Amerigo Dumini, reported to Mussolini soon after the murder. Mussolini ordered a cover-up, but witnesses saw the car used to transport Matteotti's body parked outside Matteotti's residence, which linked Dumini to the murder. The Matteotti crisis provoked cries for justice against the murder of an outspoken critic of Fascist violence. The government was shocked into paralysis for a few days, and Mussolini later confessed that a few resolute men could have alerted public opinion and started a coup that would have swept fascism away. Dumini was imprisoned for two years. On release he told others that Mussolini was responsible, for which he served further prison time. For the next 15 years, Dumini received an income from Mussolini, the Fascist Party, and other sources.
A young Mussolini in his early years in power.
The opposition parties responded weakly or were generally unresponsive. Many of the socialists, liberals and moderates boycotted Parliament in the Aventine Secession, hoping to force Victor Emmanuel to dismiss Mussolini. Despite the leadership of communists such as Antonio Gramsci, socialists such as Pietro Nenni and liberals such as Piero Gobetti and Giovanni Amendola, a mass antifascist movement never caught fire. The king, fearful of violence from the Fascist squadristi, kept Mussolini in office. Because of the boycott of Parliament, Mussolini could pass any legislation unopposed. The political violence of the squadristi had worked, for there was no popular demonstration against the murder of Matteotti.
Within his own party, Mussolini faced doubts and dissension during these critical weeks.
On December 31, 1924, 31 MVSN consuls met with Mussolini and gave him an ultimatum?crush the opposition or they would do so without him. Fearing a revolt by his own militants, Mussolini decided to drop all trappings of democracy. On January 3, 1925, Mussolini made a truculent speech before the Chamber in which he took responsibility for squadristi violence (though he did not mention the assassination of Matteotti). He also promised a crackdown on dissenters. Before his speech, MVSN detachments beat up the opposition and prevented opposition newspapers from publishing. Mussolini correctly predicted that as soon as public opinion saw him firmly in control the "fence-sitters", the silent majority and the "place-hunters" would all place themselves behind him. This is considered the onset of Mussolini's dictatorship.
While failing to outline a coherent program, Fascism evolved into a new political and economic system that combined totalitarianism, nationalism, anti-communism, anti-capitalism and anti-liberalism into a state designed to bind all classes together under a corporatist system (the "Third Way"). This was a new system in which the state seized control of the organisation of vital industries. Under the banners of nationalism and state power, Fascism seemed to synthesize the glorious Roman past with a futuristic utopia.
Building a dictatorship
After taking power, Mussolini was often seen in military uniform.
Mussolini's influence in propaganda was such that he had surprisingly little opposition to suppress. Nonetheless, he was "slightly wounded in the nose" when he was shot on April 7, 1926 by Violet Gibson, an Irish woman and daughter of Baron Ashbourne. On October 31, 1926, 15-year-old Anteo Zamboni attempted to shoot Mussolini in Bologna. Zamboni was lynched on the spot. Mussolini also survived a failed assassination attempt in Rome by anarchist Gino Lucetti, and a planned attempt by American anarchist Michael Schirru, which ended with Schirru's capture and execution. Members of TIGR, a Slovene anti-fascist group, plotted to kill Mussolini in Caporetto in 1938, but their attempt was unsuccessful.
At various times after 1922, Mussolini personally took over the ministries of the interior, foreign affairs, colonies, corporations, defense, and public works. Sometimes he held as many as seven departments simultaneously, as well as the premiership. He was also head of the all-powerful Fascist Party and the armed local fascist militia, the MVSN or "Blackshirts," who terrorised incipient resistances in the cities and provinces. He would later form the OVRA, an institutionalised secret police that carried official state support. In this way he succeeded in keeping power in his own hands and preventing the emergence of any rival.
Between 1925 and 1927, Mussolini progressively dismantled virtually all constitutional and conventional restraints on his power, thereby building a police state. A law passed on Christmas Eve 1925 changed Mussolini's formal title from "president of the Council of Ministers" to "head of the government." He was no longer responsible to Parliament and could only be removed by the king. While the Italian constitution stated that ministers were only responsible to the sovereign, in practice it had become all but impossible to govern against the express will of Parliament. The Christmas Eve law ended this practice, and also made Mussolini the only person competent to determine the body's agenda. Local autonomy was abolished, and podestas appointed by the Italian Senate replaced elected mayors and councils.
All other parties were outlawed in 1928, though in practice Italy had been a one-party state since Mussolini's 1925 speech. In the same year, an electoral law abolished parliamentary elections. Instead, the Grand Council of Fascism selected a single list of candidates to be approved by plebiscite. The Grand Council had been created five years earlier as a party body but was "constitutionalised" and became the highest constitutional authority in the state. On paper, the Grand Council had the power to recommend Mussolini's removal from office, and was thus theoretically the only check on his power. However, only Mussolini could summon the Grand Council and determine its agenda.
In order to gain control of the South, especially Sicily, he appointed Cesare Mori as a Prefect of the city of Palermo, with the charge of eradicating the Mafia at any price. In the telegram, Mussolini wrote to Mori:
"Your Excellency has carte blanche, the authority of the State must absolutely, I repeat absolutely, be re-established in Sicily. If the laws still in force hinder you, this will be no problem, as we will draw up new laws."
He did not hesitate laying siege to towns, using torture, and getting women and children as hostages to oblige suspects to give themselves up. These harsh methods earned him the nickname of "Iron Prefect". However, in 1927 Mori's inquiries brought evidence of collusion between the Mafia and the Fascist establishment, and he was dismissed for length of service in 1929. Mussolini nominated Mori as a senator, and fascist propaganda claimed that the Mafia had been defeated.
Benito Mussolini visiting Alfa Romeo factories.
Main article: Economy of Italy under Fascism, 1922-1943
Mussolini launched several public construction programs and government initiatives throughout Italy to combat economic setbacks or unemployment levels. His earliest, and one of the best known, was Italy's equivalent of the Green Revolution, known as the "Battle for Grain", in which 5,000 new farms were established and five new agricultural towns on land reclaimed by draining the Pontine Marshes. In Sardinia, a model agricultural town was founded and named Mussolinia, but has long since been renamed Arborea. This town was the first of what Mussolini hoped would have been thousands of new agricultural settlements across the country. This plan diverted valuable resources to grain production, away from other less economically viable crops. The huge tariffs associated with the project promoted widespread inefficiencies, and the government subsidies given to farmers pushed the country further into debt. Mussolini also initiated the "Battle for Land", a policy based on land reclamation outlined in 1928. The initiative had a mixed success; while projects such as the draining of the Pontine Marsh in 1935 for agriculture were good for propaganda purposes, provided work for the unemployed and allowed for great land owners to control subsidies, other areas in the Battle for Land were not very successful. This program was inconsistent with the Battle for Grain (small plots of land were inappropriately allocated for large-scale wheat production), and the Pontine Marsh was lost during World War II. Fewer than 10,000 peasants resettled on the redistributed land, and peasant poverty remained high. The Battle for Land initiative was abandoned in 1940.
He also combated an economic recession by introducing the "Gold for the Fatherland" initiative, by encouraging the public to voluntarily donate gold jewellery such as necklaces and wedding rings to government officials in exchange for steel wristbands bearing the words "Gold for the Fatherland". Even Rachele Mussolini donated her own wedding ring. The collected gold was then melted down and turned into gold bars, which were then distributed to the national banks.
Mussolini pushed for government control of business: by 1935, Mussolini claimed that three quarters of Italian businesses were under state control. That same year, he issued several edicts to further control the economy, including forcing all banks, businesses, and private citizens to give up all their foreign-issued stocks and bonds to the Bank of Italy. In 1938, he also instituted wage and price controls. He also attempted to turn Italy into a self-sufficient autarky, instituting high barriers on trade with most countries except Germany.
In 1943 he proposed the theory of economic socialization.
Main article: Italian Fascism
As dictator of Italy, Mussolini's foremost priority was the subjugation of the minds of the Italian people and the use of propaganda to do so; whether at home or abroad, and here his training as a journalist was invaluable. Press, radio, education, films?all were carefully supervised to create the illusion that fascism was the doctrine of the twentieth century, replacing liberalism and democracy.
The principles of this doctrine were laid down in the article on fascism, written by Giovanni Gentile and signed by Mussolini that appeared in 1932 in the Enciclopedia Italiana. In 1929, a concordat with the Vatican was signed, the Lateran treaties, by which the Italian state was at last recognised by the Roman Catholic Church, and the independence of Vatican City was recognised by the Italian state; the 1929 treaty also included a legal provision whereby the Italian government would protect the honor and dignity of the Pope by prosecuting offenders. In 1927, Mussolini was baptised by a Roman Catholic priest in order to take away certain Catholic opposition, who were still very critical of a regime which had taken away papal property and virtually blackmailed the Vatican. Since 1927, and more even after 1929, Mussolini, with his anti-Communist doctrines, convinced many Catholics to actively support him. In the encyclical Non abbiamo bisogno, Pope Pius XI attacked the Fascist regime for its policy against the Catholic Action and certain tendencies to overrule Catholic education morals.
The law codes of the parliamentary system were rewritten under Mussolini. All teachers in schools and universities had to swear an oath to defend the fascist regime. Newspaper editors were all personally chosen by Mussolini and no one who did not possess a certificate of approval from the fascist party could practice journalism. These certificates were issued in secret; Mussolini thus skillfully created the illusion of a "free press". The trade unions were also deprived of any independence and were integrated into what was called the "corporative" system. The aim (never completely achieved), inspired by medieval guilds, was to place all Italians in various professional organizations or "corporations", all of which were under clandestine governmental control.
Large sums of money were spent on highly visible public works, and on international prestige projects such as the SS Rex Blue Riband ocean liner and aeronautical achievements such as the world's fastest seaplane the Macchi M.C.72 and the transatlantic flying boat cruise of Italo Balbo, who was greeted with much fanfare in the United States when he landed in Chicago.
Role of education and youth organizations
Benito Mussolini and Fascist Blackshirt youth in 1935.
Nationalists in the years after the war thought of themselves as combating the both liberal and domineering institutions created by cabinets such as those of Giovanni Giolitti, including traditional schooling. Futurism, a revolutionary cultural movement which would serve as a catalyst for Fascism, argued for "a school for physical courage and patriotism", as expressed by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1919. Marinetti expressed his disdain for "the by now prehistoric and troglodyte Ancient Greek and Latin courses", arguing for their replacement with exercise modelled on those of the Arditi soldiers ("[learning] to advance on hands and knees in front of razing machine gun fire; to wait open-eyed for a crossbeam to move sideways over their heads etc."). It was in those years that the first Fascist youth wings were formed Avanguardie Giovanili Fasciste (Fascist Youth Vanguards) in 1919, and Gruppi Universitari Fascisti (Fascist University Groups), in 1922).
After the March on Rome that brought Benito Mussolini to power, the Fascists started considering ways to ideologize the Italian society, with an accent on schools. Mussolini assigned former ardito and deputy-secretary for Education Renato Ricci the task of "reorganizing the youth from a moral and physical point of view". Ricci sought inspiration with Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, meeting with him in England, as well as with Bauhaus artists in Germany.The Opera Nazionale Balilla was created through Mussolini's decree of April 3 1926, and was led by Ricci for the following eleven years. It included children between the ages of 8 and 18, grouped as the Balilla and the Avanguardisti.
According to Mussolini: "Fascist education is moral, physical, social, and military: it aims to create a complete and harmoniously developed human, a fascist one according to our views". Mussolini structured this process taking in view the emotional side of childhood: "Childhood and adolescence alike (...) cannot be fed solely by concerts, theories, and abstract teaching. The truth we aim to teach them should appeal foremost to their fantasy, to their hearts, and only then to their minds".
The "educational value set through action and example" was to replace the established approaches. Fascism opposed its version of idealism to prevalent rationalism, and used the Opera Nazionale Balilla to circumvent educational tradition by imposing the collective and hierarchy, as well as Mussolini's own personality cult.
In foreign policy, Mussolini soon shifted from the pacifist anti-imperialism of his lead-up to power to an extreme form of aggressive nationalism. He dreamt of making Italy a nation that was "great, respected and feared" throughout Europe, and indeed the world. An early example was his bombardment of Corfu in 1923. Soon after he succeeded in setting up a puppet regime in Albania and in ruthlessly consolidating Italian power in Libya, which had been loosely a colony since 1912. It was his dream to make the Mediterranean mare nostrum ("our sea" in Latin), and he established a large naval base on the Greek island of Leros to enforce a strategic hold on the eastern Mediterranean. However, his first 'baby steps' into foreign policy seemed to portray him as a 'statesman', for he participated in the Locarno Treaties of 1925 and the attempted Four Power Pact of 1933 was Mussolini's brainchild. Following the Stresa Front against Germany in 1935, however, Mussolini's policy took a dramatic turning point and revealed itself once again to be that of an aggressive nature. This domino-effect of war began with the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.
Conquest of Ethiopia
Main article: Second Italo-Abyssinian War
Il Duce standing on top of a tank.
In an effort to realise an Italian Empire or the New Roman Empire as supporters called it, Italy set its sights on Ethiopia with an invasion that was carried out rapidly. Italy's forces were far superior to the Abyssinian forces, especially in regards to air power and were soon declared victors. Emperor Haile Selassie was forced to flee the country, with Italy entering the capital Addis Ababa to proclaim an Empire by May 1936, making Ethiopia part of Italian East Africa.
Although all of the major European powers of the time had also colonised parts of Africa and committed atrocities in their colonies, the Scramble for Africa had finished by the beginning of the twentieth century. The international mood was now against colonialist expansion and Italy's actions were condemned. Retroactively, Italy was criticised for its use of mustard gas and phosgene against its enemies and also for its zero tolerance approach to enemy guerrillas, allegedly authorised by Mussolini.
Spanish Republican poster against "the Italian invader".
When Rodolfo Graziani the viceroy of Ethiopia was nearly assassinated at an official ceremony, with the guerrilla bomb exploding among the people there, a very stronghanded reaction followed against the guerrillas, including those who were prisoners according to the International Red Cross. The IRC also alleged that Italy bombed their tents in areas of guerrillas military encampment; though Italy denied it had intended to, insisting that the rebels were targeted. It was not until the East African Campaign's conclusion in 1941 that Italy lost its East African territories, after taking on a fourteen nation allied force.
Spanish Civil War
Main articles: Spanish Civil War and Foreign Involvement and Corpo Truppe Volontarie
Italian military help to Nationalists against the anti-clerical and anti-Catholic atrocities committed by the Republican side worked well in Italian propaganda targeting Catholics. On July 27, 1936 the first squadron of Italian airplanes sent by Benito Mussolini arrived in Spain. This active intervention in 1936?1939 on the side of Franco in the Spanish Civil War ended any possibility of reconciliation with France and Britain. As a result, his relationship with Adolf Hitler became closer, and he chose to accept the German annexation of Austria in 1938 and the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in 1939. At the Munich Conference in September 1938, he posed as a moderate working for European peace, helping Nazi Germany seize control of the Sudetenland. His "axis" with Germany was confirmed when he made the "Pact of Steel" with Hitler in May 1939, as the previous "Rome-Berlin Axis" of 1936 had been unofficial. Members of TIGR, a Slovene anti-fascist group, plotted to kill Mussolini in Kobarid in 1938, but their attempt was unsuccessful.
Main articles: Rome-Berlin Axis and Pact of Steel
The relationship between Mussolini and Adolf Hitler was a contentious one early on. While Hitler cited Mussolini as an influence, Mussolini had little regard for Hitler, especially after the Nazis had assassinated his friend and ally, Engelbert Dollfuss the Austrofascist dictator of Austria in 1933.
With the assassination of Dollfuss, Mussolini attempted to distance himself from Hitler by rejecting the racialism and anti-Semitism espoused by the German radical. Mussolini during this period rejected biological racism and instead emphasized "Italianising" the parts of the Italian Empire he had desired to build. Mussolini claimed that cultural superiority of a nation was possible but that a biologically-superior race was not. The difference was that a culture can be learned, while a race cannot.
? Race! It is a feeling, not a reality: ninety-five percent, at least, is a feeling. Nothing will ever make me believe that biologically pure races can be shown to exist today. [...] National pride has no need of the delirium of race. ?
?Benito Mussolini, 1933.
However Mussolini's rejection of both racialism and the importance of race in 1934 during the height of his antagonism towards Hitler contradicted his own earlier statements about race, such as in 1928 in which he emphasized the importance of race:
? [When the] city dies, the nation?deprived of the young life?blood of new generations?is now made up of people who are old and degenerate and cannot defend itself against a younger people which launches an attack on the now unguarded frontiers[...] This will happen, and not just to cities and nations, but on an infinitely greater scale: the whole White race, the Western race can be submerged by other coloured races which are multiplying at a rate unknown in our race. ?
?Benito Mussolini, 1928.
Though Italian Fascism variated its official positions on race from the 1920s to 1934, ideologically Italian fascism did not originally discriminate against the Italian Jewish community: Mussolini recognised that a small contingent had lived there "since the days of the Kings of Rome" and should "remain undisturbed". There were even some Jews in the National Fascist Party, such as Ettore Ovazza who in 1935 founded the Jewish Fascist paper La Nostra Bandiera ("Our Flag"). However by 1938, the enormous influence Hitler now had over Mussolini became clear with the introduction of the Manifesto of Race. The Manifesto, which was closely modeled on the Nazi Nuremberg laws, stripped Jews of their Italian citizenship and with it any position in the government or professions. The German influence on Italian policy upset the established balance in Fascist Italy and proved highly unpopular to most Italians, to the extent that Pope Pius XII sent a letter to Mussolini protesting against the new laws.
Munich Conference, war looming
Main articles: Munich Agreement and Italian invasion of Albania
Chamberlain, Mussolini, Viscount Halifax and Ciano, at the Rome Opera House in 1939.
Mussolini had imperial designs on Tunisia which had some support in that country. In April 1939 with world focus on Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia, looking to restore honour from a much older defeat Italy invaded Albania. Italy defeated Albania within just five days forcing king Zog to flee, setting up a period of Albania under Italy. Until May 1939, the Axis had not been entirely official, however during that month the Pact of Steel treaty was made outlining the "friendship and alliance" between Germany and Italy, signed by each of its foreign ministers. Italy's king Victor Emanuel III was also wary of the pact, favouring the more traditional Italian allies of Britain and France.
Hitler was intent on invading Poland, though Galeazzo Ciano warned this would likely lead to war with the Allies. Hitler dismissed Ciano's comment, predicting that instead the West would back down as in Czechoslovakia and suggested that Italy should invade Yugoslavia. The offer was tempting to Mussolini, but at that stage world war would be a disaster for Italy as the armaments situation from building the Italian Empire thus far was lean. Most significantly, Victor Emmanuel had demanded neutrality in the dispute. Thus when World War II in Europe began on September 1, 1939 with the German invasion of Poland eliciting the response of the United Kingdom and France declaring war on Germany, Italy remained non-belligerent in the conflict.
Main article: Military history of Italy during World War II
As World War II began, Ciano and Viscount Halifax were holding secret phone conversations. The British wanted Italy on their side against Germany as it had been in World War I. French government opinion was more geared towards action against Italy; they were itching to attack Italy in Libya. However, in September, 1939, France swung to the opposite extreme, offering to discuss issues with Italy, but as the French were unwilling to discuss Corsica, Nice and Savoy, Mussolini did not answer.
? So long as the Duce lives, one can rest assured that Italy will seize every opportunity to achieve its imperialistic aims. ?
?Adolf Hitler, late November 1939.
The Italian Empire in 1939.
Convinced that the war would soon be over, with a German victory looking likely at that point, Mussolini decided to enter the war on the Axis side. Accordingly, Italy declared war on Britain and France on June 10, 1940. Italy joined the Germans in the Battle of France, fighting the fortified Alpine Line at the border. Just eleven days later France surrendered to the Axis powers. Included in Italian-controlled France was most of Nice and other southeastern counties. Meanwhile in Africa, Mussolini's Italian East Africa forces attacked the British in their Sudan, Kenya and British Somaliland colonies, in what would become known as the East African Campaign. British Somaliland was conquered and became part of Italian East Africa on August 3, 1940, and there were Italian advances in Sudan and Kenya.
Just over a month later, the Italian Tenth Army commanded by General Rodolfo Graziani crossed from Italian Libya into Egypt where British forces were located; this would become the Western Desert Campaign. Advances were successful, but the Italians stopped at Sidi Barrani waiting for logistic supplies to catch up. During October 25, 1940, Mussolini sent the Italian Air Corps to Belgium, where the air force took part in the Battle of Britain for around two months. In October, Mussolini also sent Italian forces into Greece starting the Greco-Italian War. After initial success, this backfired as the Greek counterattack proved relentless, resulting in Italy losing one quarter of Albania. Germany soon committed forces to the Balkans to fight the gathering Allies.
Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler
Events in Africa had changed by early 1941 as Operation Compass had forced the Italians back into Libya, causing high losses in the Italian Army. Also in the East African Campaign, a three-pronged Allied invasion against Italian East Africa took place, though the Italians fought back hard, the multiple-nation force they faced was too much, and after the Battle of Keren defense started to crumble with a final defeat in the Battle of Gondar. However, when addressing the Italian public on the events, he was completely open about the situation saying "We call bread bread and wine wine, and when the enemy wins a battle it is useless and ridiculous to seek, as the English do in their incomparable hypocrisy, to deny or diminish it." Part of his comment was in relation to earlier success the Italians had in Africa, before being defeated by an Allied force later. In danger of loosing the control of all Italian possessions in North Africa, Germany finally sent the Afrika Korps to support Italy. Meanwhile Operation Marita took place in Yugoslavia to end the Greco-Italian War, resulting in an Axis victory and the Occupation of Greece by Italy and Germany. With the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, Mussolini declared war on the Soviet Union in June 1941 and sent an army to fight there. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he declared war on the United States.
Dismissed and arrested
King Victor Emmanuel III dismissed Mussolini and prisoned him on July 25, 1943.
Marshal Pietro Badoglio succeeded Benito Mussolini as Prime Minister.
Italy's position became more and more untenable. After the defeat at El Alamein in 1942 the Axis troops had to retreat to Tunisia where they were finally defeated in the Tunisia Campaign. Also at the Eastern Front were major setbacks and the war had come to the nation's very doorstep with the Allied invasion of Sicily. The home front was also in bad shape as the Allied bombings were taking their toll. The factories were ground to a virtual standstill due to a lack of raw materials, coal and oil. Additionally, there was a chronic shortage of food, and what food was available was being sold at nearly confiscatory prices. Mussolini's once-ubiquitous propaganda machine lost its grip on the people; a large number of Italians turned to Vatican Radio or Radio London for more accurate news coverage. Discontent came to a head in March with a wave of strikes in the industrial north?the first large-scale strikes since 1925. Also in March, some of the major factories in Milan and Turin stopped production to secure evacuation allowances for workers' families. The physical German presence in Italy had sharply turned public opinion against Mussolini; for example, when the Allies took Sicily, the public welcomed them as liberators.
Earlier, Mussolini had begged Hitler to make a separate peace with Stalin and send German troops to the west to guard against an expected Allied invasion of Italy. He feared that with the losses in Tunisia and North Africa, the next logical step for Dwight Eisenhower's armies would be to come across the Mediterranean and attack the peninsula. Within a few days of the Allied landings on Sicily, it was obvious Mussolini's army was on the brink of collapse. This led Hitler to summon Mussolini to a meeting in northern Italy on July 19. By this time, Mussolini was so shaken that he could no longer stand Hitler's boasting. His mood darkened further when that same day, the Allies bombed Rome?the first time that city had ever been the target of enemy bombing.
Some prominent members of the Italian Fascist government had turned against Mussolini by this point. Among them were Grandi and Mussolini's son-in-law Galeazzo Ciano. With several of his colleagues close to revolt, il Duce was forced to summon the Grand Council of Fascism on July 24, the first time that body had met since the start of the war. When he announced that the Germans were thinking of evacuating the south, Grandi launched a blistering attack on him. Grandi moved a resolution asking the king to resume his full constitutional powers, in effect, a vote of no confidence in Mussolini. This motion carried by a 19?7 margin. Despite this sharp rebuke, Mussolini showed up for work the next day as usual. He allegedly viewed the Grand Council as merely an advisory body and did not think the vote would have any substantive effect. That afternoon, he was summoned to the royal palace by King Victor Emmanuel III, who had been planning to oust Mussolini earlier. When Mussolini tried to tell the king about the meeting, Victor Emmanuel cut him off and told him that he was being replaced by Marshal Pietro Badoglio. After Mussolini left the palace, he was arrested on the king's orders.
By this time, discontent with Mussolini was such that when the news of his ouster was announced on the radio, there was no resistance. In an effort to conceal his location from the Germans, Mussolini was moved around before being sent to Campo Imperatore, a mountain resort in Abruzzo where he was completely isolated. Given the large Nazi presence in Italy, Badoglio announced that "the war continues at the side of our Germanic ally" in the hopes that chaos and Nazi retaliation against civilians could be avoided. Even as Badolglio was keeping up the appearance of loyalty to the Axis, he dissolved the Fascist Party two days after taking over. Also, his government was negotiating an armistice with the Allies, which was signed on September 3, 1943. Its announcement five days later threw Italy into chaos, a civil war of sorts. Badoglio and the king fled Rome, leaving the Italian Army without orders. After a period of anarchy, Italy finally declared war on Nazi Germany on October 13 from Malta; thousands of troops were supplied to fight against the Germans, others refused to switch sides and had joined the Germans. The Badoglio government held a social truce with the leftist partisans for the sake of Italy and to rid the land of the Nazis.
Italian Social Republic
Main article: Italian Social Republic
Benito Mussolini reviewing adolescent RSI soldiers, 1944.
Meanwhile, only two months after Mussolini had been dismissed and arrested, he was rescued from prison in the Gran Sasso raid by a special Fallschirmj?ger unit on September 12, 1943; present was Otto Skorzeny. The rescue saved Mussolini from being turned over to the Allies, as per the armistice. Hitler had made plans to arrest the king, Crown Prince Umberto, Badoglio and the rest of the government and restore Mussolini to power in Rome, but the government's escape south likely foiled those plans.
By this time, Mussolini was in very poor health and wanted to retire. However, he was immediately taken to Germany for an audience with Hitler in his East Prussia hideaway. There, Hitler told him that unless he agreed to return to Italy and set up a new fascist state, the Germans would destroy Milan, Genoa and Turin. Feeling that he had to do what he could to blunt the edges of Nazi repression, Mussolini agreed to set up a new regime, the Italian Social Republic. informally known as the Sal? Republic because of its administration from the town of Sal?.
Mussolini lived in Gargnano on Lake Garda in Lombardy during this period, but he was little more than a puppet ruler under the protection of his German liberators. After yielding to pressures from Hitler and the remaining loyal fascists who formed the government of the Republic of Salo, Mussolini helped orchestrate a series of executions of some of the fascist leaders who had betrayed him at the last meeting of the Fascist Grand Council. One of those executed included his son-in-law, Galeazzo Ciano. As Head of State and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Italian Social Republic, Mussolini used much of his time to write his memoirs. Along with his autobiographical writings of 1928, these writings would be combined and published by Da Capo Press as My Rise and Fall.
? Yes, madam, I am finished. My star has fallen. I work and I try, yet know that all is but a farce.... I await the end of the tragedy and -- strangely detached from everything -- I do not feel any more an actor. I feel I am the last of spectators. ?
?Benito Mussolini, interviewed in 1945 by Madeleine Mollier.
Mussolini was first married to Ida Dalser in Trento in 1914.The couple had a son one year later and named him Benito Albino Mussolini. In December 1915, Mussolini married Rachele Guidi, his mistress since 1910, and with his following political ascendency the information about his first marriage was suppressed and both, his first wife and son were later persecuted. With Rachele, Mussolini had two daughters, Edda (1910-1995) and Anna Maria (Forl?, Villa Carpena, 3 September 1929 - Rome, 25 April 1968), married in Ravenna on June 11, 1960 to Nando Pucci Negri, and three sons Vittorio (1916-1997), Bruno (1918-1941), and Romano (1927-2006). Mussolini had a number of mistresses among them Margherita Sarfatti and his final companion, Clara Petacci. Further Mussolini had innumerable brief sexual encounters with adoring female supporters as reported by his biographer Nicholas Farrell. 
Cross marking the place in Mezzegra where Mussolini was shot.
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Execution of Mussolini (1945).ogg
American newsreel coverage of the death of Mussolini in 1945
Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci were stopped by communist partisans Valerio and Bellini and identified by the Political Commissar of the partisans' 52nd Garibaldi Brigade, Urbano Lazzaro, on April 27, 1945, near the village of Dongo (Lake Como), as they headed for Switzerland to board a plane to escape to Spain. During this time Claretta's brother even posed as a Spanish consul (The Last 100 Days, John Toland). Mussolini had been traveling with retreating German forces and was apprehended while attempting to escape recognition by wearing a German military uniform. After several unsuccessful attempts to take them to Como they were brought to Mezzegra. They spent their last night in the house of the De Maria family.
The next day, Mussolini and his mistress were both summarily executed, along with most of the members of their 15-man train, primarily ministers and officials of the Italian Social Republic. The shootings took place in the small village of Giulino di Mezzegra. According to the official version of events, the shootings were conducted by "Colonel Valerio" (Colonnello Valerio). Valerio's real name was Walter Audisio. Audisio was the communist partisan commander who was reportedly given the order to kill Mussolini by the National Liberation Committee. When Audisio entered the room where Mussolini and the other fascists were being held, he reportedly announced: "I have come to rescue you!... Do you have any weapons?" He then had them loaded into transports and driven a short distance. Audisio ordered "get down"; Petacci hugged Mussolini and refused to move away from him when they were taken to an empty space. Shots were fired and Petacci fell down. Just then Mussolini opened his jacket and screamed "Shoot me in the chest!". Audisio shot him in the chest. Mussolini fell down but he did not die; he was breathing heavily. Audisio went near and he shot one more bullet in his chest. Mussolini's face looked as if he had significant pain. Audisio said to his driver "Look at his face, the emotions on his face don't suit him". The other members were also lined up before a firing squad later the same night.
On April 29, 1945, the bodies of Mussolini and his mistress were taken to the Piazzale Loreto (in Milan) and hung upside down on meathooks from the roof of a gas station, then stoned by civilians from below. This was done both to discourage any fascists from continuing the fight and as an act of revenge for the hanging of many partisans in the same place by Axis authorities. The corpse of the deposed leader became subject to ridicule and abuse.
After being captured and sentenced to death, Fascist loyalist Achille Starace was taken to the Piazzale Loreto and shown the body of Mussolini. Starace, who once said of Mussolini "He is a God", saluted what was left of his leader just before he was shot. The body of Starace was subsequently strung up next to the body of Mussolini.
After his death and the display of his corpse in Milan, Mussolini was buried in an unmarked grave in Musocco, the municipal cemetery to the north of the city. On Easter Sunday 1946 his body was located and dug up by Domenico Leccisi and two other neo-Fascists. Making off with their hero, they left a message on the open grave: "Finally, O Duce, you are with us. We will cover you with roses, but the smell of your virtue will overpower the smell of those roses."
On the loose for months?and a cause of great anxiety to the new Italian democracy?the Duce's body was finally 'recaptured' in August, hidden in a small trunk at the Certosa di Pavia, just outside Milan. Two Fransciscan brothers were subsequently charged with concealing the corpse, though it was discovered on further investigation that it had been constantly on the move. Unsure what to do, the authorities held the remains in a kind of political limbo for 10 years, before agreeing to allow them to be re-interred at Predappio in Romagna, his birth place, after a campaign headed by Leccisi and the Movimento Sociale Italiano.
Leccisi, a fascist deputy, went on to write his autobiography, With Mussolini Before and After Piazzale Loreto. Adone Zoli, the Prime Minister of the day, contacted Donna Rachele, the former dictator's widow, to tell her he was returning the remains, as he needed the support of the far-right in parliament, including Leccisi himself. In Predappio the dictator was buried in a crypt (the only posthumous honour granted to Mussolini). His tomb is flanked by marble fasces and a large idealised marble bust of himself sits above the tomb.
Mussolini was survived by his wife, Donna Rachele Mussolini, two sons, Vittorio and Romano Mussolini, and his daughter Edda, the widow of Count Ciano and Anna Maria. A third son, Bruno, was killed in an air accident while flying a P108 bomber on a test mission, on August 7, 1941. Sophia Loren's sister, Anna Maria Scicolone, was formerly married to Romano Mussolini, Mussolini's son. Mussolini's granddaughter Alessandra Mussolini is currently a member of the European Parliament for the extreme right-wing party Alternativa Sociale; other relatives of Edda (Castrianni) moved to England after World War II.
Mussolini's National Fascist Party was banned in the postwar Constitution of Italy, but a number of successor neo-fascist parties emerged to carry on its legacy. Alessandra Mussolini runs one of the primary neo-fascist parties in modern Italy, Azione Sociale. Historically, the strongest neo-fascist party was MSI (Movimento Sociale Italiano), which was declared dissolved in 1995 and replaced by the National Alliance, which in the meanwhile has distanced itself from Fascism (its leader Gianfranco Fini once declared that Fascism was "an absolute evil"). These parties were united under Silvio Berlusconi's House of Freedoms coalition and the leader of the National Alliance, Gianfranco Fini, was one of Berlusconi's most trusted advisors. In 2006, the House of Freedoms coalition was narrowly defeated by Romano Prodi's coalition, L'Unione.
In popular culture
American wartime comic showing Mussolini and Hitler beaten by superheroes.
Charlie Chaplin's 1940 film The Great Dictator satirizes Mussolini as "Benzino Napaloni", portrayed by Jack Oakie. More serious biographical depictions include a look at the last few days of Mussolini's life in Carlo Lizzani's movie Mussolini: Ultimo atto (Mussolini: The last act, 1974) and George C. Scott's portrayal in the 1985 television mini-series Mussolini: The Untold Story. Another 1985 movie was Mussolini: The Rise and Fall of Il Duce, in which Bob Hoskins plays the dictator (with Susan Sarandon as his daughter Edda and Anthony Hopkins as Count Ciano). Actor Antonio Banderas also played the title role in Benito - The Rise and Fall of Mussolini in 1993, which covered his life from his school teacher days to the beginning of World War I, before his rise as dictator. Mussolini is also depicted in the films Tea with Mussolini and Lion of the Desert.
Also in The Time Tunnel, in the episode called "The Ghost of Nero", when the protagonists Doug and Tony were rescued by some Italian soldiers during the First World War, the "ghost" of Nero inhabits a soldier, which is revealed to be Mussolini.
Mussolini has been referenced less seriously in television episodes of The Simpsons, The X-Files and The Young Ones, as well as in the song "Cult of Personality" by the rock band Living Colour. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's novel Inferno, a 1976 modern take on Dante's Inferno, has the protagonist being guided by an analog of Virgil who is ultimately revealed to be Mussolini. In the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray described life growing up with his father as "growing up with Benito Mussolini." In the American version of The Office, Jim gives Dwight points for his speech based on a speech made by Mussolini.
For original text with reference see Wikipedia, "Benito Mussolini."
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Casacalenda, Molise, Italy|
|Notes: The contributor's husband, Vincenzo Di Tullio, is seen here with his unit.|
|Contributed by: Carmela Di Tullio|
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