|Born||29 Jul 1883|
|Died||28 Apr 1945|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseBenito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was born in the village of Predappio in Forlž, Emilia-Romagna, Italy to blacksmith Alessandro and teacher Rosa Maltoni. In 1901 he qualified to become an educator, but in the following year emigrated to Switzerland to escape military service. He was deported back to Italy after participating in socialist movements in Switzerland. He was involved with the socialist newspaper Avanti! in the Austro-Hungarian-controlled Italian town of Trento. In 1908, he wrote the novel the Cardinal's Mistress.
ww2dbaseIn 1914, Mussolini joined a group that later became the Fasci d'azione rivoluzionaria internazionalista and founded the newspaper Il Popolo d'Italia. He was drafted into the military in 1915 when Italy entered WW1. In 1917, he was wounded in grenade practice and returned to Italy to resume his civilian life. In 1919, he entered politics by entering the parliamentary elections, but lost. In 1921, he attempted the election again and succeeded his time. His political party, the Fascisti, formed para-military groups to terrorize anarchists, socialists, and communists; the Italian government turned a blind eye. Mussolini also gathered the support of industrialists by offering his services in breaking labor strikes. On 31 Oct 1922, Italian King Vittorio Emanuele III named Mussolini the premier of a new Italian government. At the age of 39, he was the younger premier in Italian history. It was believed that Vittorio Emanuele III only made this decision to prevent the country from falling into a civil war. Preying upon the public sentiment that Italy was looked down upon by the other European powers due to her small military and small colonial holdings, Mussolini presented as the hero of Italy who would bring Italy to its former Roman glory. The fear of communism in Italy also contributed to his popularity. While introducing economic policies to strengthen Italy's various industries (though at a cost of international trade), he also introduced strict censorship and eventually assumed control of all mass media. His control of the media eventually became so absolute that he personally approved nearly every newspaper editor in the entire nation, and required every school teacher to swear allegiance to the Fascist Party. With this control of the media, he built up the legend of Il Duce, a title he had given himself. On the political front, he took control of all Italy by heading the Interior Ministry, Foreign Affairs Ministry, Colonies Ministry, and the military. He was now the absolute ruler of Italy acting in the name of his king.
ww2dbaseOn 8 Apr 1926, Mussolini survived an assassination attempt by Violet Gibson. Later, he again survived another assassination attempt, this time by American anarchist Michael Schirru.
ww2dbaseIn 1929, Mussolini managed to reach an agreement with the Vatican. The Papal State was given independence, and in exchange the Vatican recognized Mussolini's government as the legitimate government over Italy.
ww2dbaseIn 1935, Mussolini invaded Abyssinia, an action that was condemned by the League of Nations. This drove Mussolini closer to the expansionist German regime headed by Adolf Hitler. Further more, his active intervention in the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War on the side of Francisco Franco ended any possibility of reconciliation with France and Britain. In 1938, to appease Hitler, he supported the German annexation of Austria, something he had opposed only three years before. In May 1939, Italy, under Mussolini's rule, signed the Pact of Steel with Germany, and anti-Semitic policies followed, though never nearly as extreme as the Nazi had wanted in Italy. In Apr 1939, he annexed Albania into Italian borders. In Jun 1940 Italy declared war on Britain and France, and four months later invaded Greece. The campaign in Greece proceeded poorly, however, as the Italian military was in actuality in a much weaker form than what Mussolini had presented with the media under his control. Hitler sent in German troops to bail out his ally, which in term had dire consequences in terms of the launch date of Operation Barbarossa against Russia. In Jun 1941 Mussolini declared war in Russia, and in Dec of that year against the United States.
ww2dbaseWhen the western Allies defeated the Italian-German forces in North Africa, the Italian support for Mussolini's regime faltered. When they conquered Sicily, however, the support nearly completely shattered. On 25 Jul 1943, he was stripped of his powers by Vittorio Emanuele III and placed under arrest in a mountain resort in central Italy. Italy surrendered under the leadership of Pietro Badoglio on 8 Sep, and the Italian military simply disintegrated.
ww2dbaseA few days after Mussolini's arrival at the mountain resort, however, Hitler dispatched commandos on a successful rescue mission. At the moment of rescue, German SS commando leader Otto Skorzeny noted Mussolini as having aged greatly during his captivity. "He looked very ill, an impression intensified by the fact that he was unshaved and his usually smooth, powerful head was covered with short, stubby hair", Skorzeny observed. Upon being rescued, Mussolini was flown to Practica di Mare, Italy by Storch aircraft, then on to Vienna, Austria in a He 111 aircraft, and finally on to meet Hitler in East Prussia, Germany. He supposedly told Skorzeny his realization that he "made one great and critical mistake" by allowing the Italian royal house to remain influential. "I ought to have made Italy a republic after the end of the Abyssinian campaign", said Mussolini.
ww2dbaseMussolini was later placed in power by Hitler in northern Italy as the head of the Italian Social Republic. During this time as a puppet leader backed by Germany, he wrote his memoirs My Rise and Fall. On 27 Apr 1945, near the village of Dongo, Mussolini and his mistress Claretta Petacci were caught by communist partisans as they attempted to flee to Switzerland. On the next day, they were executed in the village of Giulino di Mezzegra and hung upside down in public in Milan.
Otto Skorzeny, Skorzeny's Special Missions
- "I've had my fill of Hitler. These conferences called by a ringing of a bell are not to my liking; the bell is rung when people call their servants. And besides, what kind of conferences are these? For five hours I am forced to listen to a monologue which is quite fruitless and boring."
» To his son-in-law, 10 Jun 1941
Benito Mussolini Timeline
|29 Jul 1883||Benito Mussolini was born in Dovia di Predappio, Forlž, Emilia-Romagna, Italy.|
|23 Feb 1919||Benito Mussolini formed the Fascist Party in Italy.|
|23 Mar 1919||Benito Mussolini established the Fasci di combattiment (Fighting Fascists) organization in Milan, Italy with 200 members.|
|28 Oct 1922||Four columns of National Fascist Party paramilitary personnel, as known as the Blackshirts, marched into Rome. As a result, King Vittorio Emanuele handed over political power to Benito Mussolini.|
|13 Jun 1924||Mussolini used the Blackshirt combat legions to restore order in Italy after the murder of Socialist politician Giacomo Matteotti.|
|3 Jan 1925||Mussolini claimed political responsibility of the murder of Socialist politician Giacomo Matteotti.|
|9 Oct 1926||Mussolini was declared the commander-in-chief of the Milizia Volontaria Sicurezza Nazionale (National Security Volunteer Militia).|
|7 Oct 1935||The League of Nations branded Mussolini a covenant-breaker and aggressor.|
|18 Mar 1937||Benito Mussolini staged an event for propaganda in which he received a ceremonial sword from Arab leaders from Italian Libya, symbolizing him as the protector of Arab peoples.|
|30 Mar 1938||Benito Mussolini created the new military rank of First Marshal of the Empire for himself and King Vittorio Emanuele III thereby empowering himself with the joint High Command of all Italian armed forces.|
|2 Sep 1939||Benito Mussolini continued to urge peace between Germany, United Kingdom, and France, without any success.|
|8 Jan 1940||Benito Mussolini sent a message to Adolf Hitler, cautioning against waging war with the United Kingdom.|
|16 Mar 1940||Benito Mussolini held peace talks with US envoy Sumner Welles in Rome.|
|31 Mar 1940||Mussolini informed King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy that Italy would soon enter the European War.|
|26 May 1940||Benito Mussolini informed the Chief of Supreme Staff, Marshal Pietro Badoglio, and Governor of Libya, Marshal Italo Balbo, that he had told Adolf Hitler of his intentions to declare war on England and France after 5 June. Badoglio was horrified and protested vehemently that crippling shortages of equipment in the Italian Army made a such a military adventure a very risky business.|
|30 May 1940||Benito Mussolini advised Adolf Hitler that Italy was ready to enter the war.|
|11 Apr 1941||Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini concluded their four-day meeting at Salzburg in occupied Austria, during which Hitler convinced Mussolini to remain in the war.|
|2 Jun 1941||Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini met again at the Brenner Pass on the Italian-Austrian border.|
|22 Jun 1941||At about 0300 hours, Benito Mussolini was awaken as an urgent message was received from Adolf Hitler's office, informing Mussolini of the invasion of the Soviet Union; though annoyed by not having been notified earlier, he dutifully declared war on the Soviet Union. Romania would also make a declaration of war on the Soviet Union on this date.|
|22 Jul 1941||Adolf Hitler sent an armored train equipped with anti-aircraft weapons to Benito Mussolini as a birthday present.|
|25 Aug 1941||Benito Mussolini arrived at Adolf Hitler's Wolfsschanze headquarters in eastern Germany (now Poland).|
|29 Jun 1942||Benito Mussolini flew to Libya, with his white horse, to prepare for a victory parade through Cairo, Egypt.|
|2 Jul 1942||Benito Mussolini cabled Adolf Hitler in regards to the future administration of Egypt, in which he recommended Erwin Rommel as the military governor and a yet-unnamed Italian as the civilian administrator.|
|20 Jul 1942||Benito Mussolini arrived in Rome, Italy.|
|29 Jan 1943||Benito Mussolini met with the Commando Supremo. Among the items discussed in this meeting was the plan to salvage, repair, and recommission French battleships Strasbourg and Dunkerque into the Italian Navy by the end of 1946.|
|5 Feb 1943||Mussolini personally took over the Italian Foreign Ministry after firing his son-in-law Count Ciano.|
|19 Jun 1943||The Italian Minister of Transport, Vittorio Cini, openly criticised Benito Mussolini during a Cabinet meeting. Normally Cini would have been arrested inmmediately and faced a firing squad; but Mussolini had already seen the red light and had tried to put out peace soundings to Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary.|
|19 Jul 1943||Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini meet at Feltre in northern Italy in a magnificent villa. Mussolini had come to ask Hitler for massive military help, but the meeting was a fiasco with Hitler promising no specific aid and instead spent the entire morning in a dreary dialogue about German arms production. Mussolini was unable to pin Hitler down with specific demands for equipment and troops. Just before lunch, a messenger arrived with the news that Rome, Italy had suffered a heavy air attack. Mussolini was so upset that he could no longer listen to Hitler's waffle. Yet at a private luncheon Hitler was able to persuade Mussolini that his secret weapons, including atom warheads on flying bombs, could still win the war for the Axis.|
|19 Jul 1943||At Feltre, Italy, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini met for the 13th and last time before Mussolini was ousted from power.|
|24 Jul 1943||The Fascist Grand Council in Rome, Italy voted 19 to 7 for King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy to retake command of Italian military from Mussolini; Count Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law, also voted against him. Upon relieving his duties, King Vittorio Emanuele III ordered Mussolini arrested.|
|12 Sep 1943||German Luftwaffe and SS personnel rescued Mussolini from Gran Sasso, Italy.|
|18 Sep 1943||Mussolini declared the Repubblica Sociale Italiana in Northern Italy.|
|16 Dec 1943||Benito Mussolini gave Commander Ferrucio Ferrini the authorization to form a new naval infantry corps.|
|22 Apr 1944||Mussolini met with Hitler near Salzburg, Germany (Austria).|
|21 Jun 1944||Mussolini transformed the Partito Fascista Repubblicano into a military organization.|
|20 Jul 1944||Benito Mussolini met with Adolf Hitler at Rastenburg, East Prussia, Germany shortly after the failed assassination attempt on Hitler.|
|25 Apr 1945||Benito Mussolini fled to Como, Italy.|
|27 Apr 1945||Italian partisans captured Benito Mussolini.|
|28 Apr 1945||Mussolini was hanged by Italian partisans along with his mistress Clara Petacci and a dozen of his cabinet members.|
|29 Apr 1945||The bodies of Mussolini and Petacci were taken to Milan, Italy and hung upside down for public display at the spot where partisans had been executed earlier.|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945