Italy During World War II
1940 (June 10) - Declaration of war:
After the sudden and unexpected defeat of France by Germany, Mussolini finally decides to declare war against England, Canada and France. Italy’s campaign against Greece begins in October. It turns quickly into a great blunder.
Mussolini meets Hitler in April and agrees to declare war against Yugoslavia. In June, after Germany’s invasion of the USSR, Mussolini sends on the Russian front an expeditionary corps. In December Mussolini declares war against the USA.
1942 - War in Russia and North Africa:
Italian and German troops invade and conquer Tunisia on the African front. British victory at the Battle of El-Alamein in North Africa. Disastrous retreat of the Italian expeditionary corps from the Russian front.
1943 - (July 25) Mussolini removed from power:
May, surrender of the Italo-German army in Africa. Mussolini’s inept leadership and the Italian army’s unpreparedness and weakness lead Italy to defeat. When the military disaster is inevitable the Fascist Grand Council finally has the courage to challenge MussolinI’s erratic leadership. In a historic meeting during the night on July 24 Dino Grandi’s motion to remove Mussolini from power is approved by a vote of 19 to 7. At a meeting with the king the following morning on July 25, he is informed that he has been replaced with general Badoglio. Mussolini is arrested. Badoglio abolishes the PNF (Partito Nazionale Fascista) and initiates talks with the Anglo- Americans. The announcement of an armistice with the Allies on September 8 provokes a furious German reaction. While a battle is raging in Rome Badoglio and the Italian royal family flee ignominiously to Allied-occupied Brindisi. The Italian army either resists German attacks or simply dissolves. Mussolini is freed from his mountaintop prison on the Gran Sasso in Abruzzo by an SS commando led by Otto Skorzeny who flies him to Germany.There the Duce announces the creation of the Repubblica Sociale Italiana which has its capital in the Northern Italian town of Salò. Mussolini has his son-in-law arrested, put on trial at Verona and executed by firing squad. Italy is divided both ideologically and geographically. The center and northern part of the country is under fascist and German occupation whereas the southern part is under Allies’ command. On November 4 1943, American troops land at Anzio, south of Rome.
1943 (September 8) - 1945 (April 25) Civil war in Italy:
June 1944, liberation of Rome. War rages in German - occupied regions of Italy. Italians still loyal to Mussolini fight against Italians that have joined the Badoglio reorganized army on the side of the Allies. In central and especially Northern regions of Italy. The resistance movement under the CLN (Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale - Committee of National Liberation) led by antifascists leaders like Pertini, Longo, Parri and others helps the Allies to defeat Fascist and German forces. This is a very dark moment in recent Italian history.
1945 (April 27) Mussolini captured and executed:
Allied troops attack and break the German line near Bologna. In April Mussolini and his mistress Claretta Petacci are captured by partisans while attempting to escape to Switzerland. On April 27, both are executed by ‘Valerio’ (Walter Audisio) at Giulino di Mezzegra. Their corpses are taken to Milan and left hanging to the crowd’s scorn where 15 hostages had been executed by the fascists. On April 25, the CLNAI (Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale Alta Italia) proclaims popular insurrection in Milan. On April 29, the last German troops surrender and the liberation of Italy is complete.April 30.Allied troops enter Milan and Hitler commits suicide in Berlin.