Military history of Italy during World War II

During the Second World War (1939-1945) the Kingdom of Italy had a tumultuous history and distinctive as a result of improvisation with which the country was thrown into the war, imperizia political and military hierarchies, and the weakness of economic and social structure of the nation.

The imperial ambitions of the fascist regime, which aimed absurdly to revive the glories of ‘”Roman Empire” in the Mediterranean (Mare Nostrum), were soon shattered by the unpreparedness demonstrated by our armed forces and for the poor planning of the political and military conflict that led to defeats in Greece and Africa. Italy quickly became a minor ally of Nazi Germany, almost a satellite country, until in 1943 the dictator Benito Mussolini was deposed and arrested by order of King Vittorio Emanuele III. After the armistice of 8 September, the Italian government collapsed: the northern part of the country was occupied by the Germans who created a puppet state of Nazi collaborator (with over 600,000 soldiers), while the south was ruled by royalist forces and liberals who fought with the Allies in ‘Cobelligerante Italian Army which at its peak counted more than 500,000 men. In northern and central Resistance forces, consisting of about 350,000 partisans largely from the Garibaldi Brigades and the Brigades Justice and Freedom, autonomy operated in an effective guerrilla war against the occupying German troops and fascist forces the Italian Social Republic.

From the “non-aggression” intervention

The German invasion of Poland and the outbreak of war

At 4.45 am on 1 September 1939, the German army crossed the Polish border, offering the world a practical demonstration of Blitzkrieg, the “lightning war”, based on the close cooperation of the armored forces and aviation. In the evening of the first day of the war, the Polish air force was nearly destroyed on the ground by the Luftwaffe. On September 3, Britain and France declared war on Germany, but the Poles were left alone to fight against a stronger opponent and their resistance was defeated in a few weeks that would have occurred without the hoped-for Allied offensive on the Western Front. At the declaration of war on France and Britain did not follow any concrete action that would ease under pressure from the German armed forces on Poland: 110 French divisions deployed along the Maginot Line not even attempt to attack the 23 German divisions remained to defend the western border of Germany, allowing the Germans to concentrate the bulk of their forces on the eastern front.

On 7 September the German army from the IV Pomerania was reunited with the III came from East Prussia by cutting the Danzig Corridor and leaving Poland landlocked. On September 17, Warsaw was surrounded and surrendered after ten days of relentless bombardment. On September 17, also the ‘Red Army from the east, crossed the Polish border occupying the eastern territories.

“I do not belligerence” Italian

Meanwhile Italy, despite the signing of the Pact of Steel, had declared “not belligerent power”: the signing of the agreement took place with the verbal assurance given by the German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop to his Italian colleague, Galeazzo Ciano that Germany would not have started the war first three years, in addition, the lack of consultation of Italy before the invasion of Poland and the signature Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, could be considered a breach of the obligation of consultation between the two countries contained in the covenant. Italy was thus able to declare its non-aggression pacts signed without failing.

In the period of “non-aggression”, Hitler seized the strategic importance of having Italy on their side: a migration of Italy in the opponent’s court, as in the First World War, would mean a return to the deployment of ’14- 18 and the maritime blockade which, alone, had bent the Germany of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Therefore, Hitler decided to finally give in on the question of South Tyrol: at the end of ’39 the South Tyrolese were called to opt for one or the other country: about 229,000 inhabitants in the province of Bolzano, 166,488 chose Germany pledging to leave Italy within two years; 22,712 and 32,000 opted for Italy are not pronounced and remained in the state of aliens.

The successes Nazis

April 1940 the Germans, to obtain the bases on the North Sea and to ensure the supply routes of the Swedish iron, invaded Denmark and Norway on April 9 launched the invasion of Denmark which, quite unprepared for a conflict , surrendered and was occupied in a single day in Norway, a failed Anglo-French attempt to counter the German conquest, was installed puppet government of the Norwegian Nazi Vidkun Quisling. On May 10, 1940, at 5:35, Hitler unleashed an attack against France on the western front penetrating the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium. Circumvented the French fortifications of the Maginot Line, with roughly a maneuver similar to the one implemented during the First World War, the Germans forced the French and British allies to enter Belgium, where they were overwhelmed by the force of heavily armored divisions supported by the Nazi Luftwaffe : l Holland was forced to surrender on May 14 and Belgium twelve days later. After shaking the bag of Dunkirk the British Expeditionary Force and the French army along with the remains of the Belgian, the Germans crossed the Somme breaking the Weygand Line and headed for Paris and the south.

The Italian intervention

Faced with the extraordinary and unexpected successes of Nazi Germany between April and May of 1940, Mussolini believed that the outcome of the war had now decided and, thinking they can take advantage of the successes Nazis to get immediate territorial advantages, June 10 declared war to France and Britain. To the opposition and to the grievances of some important collaborators and military (including Pietro Badoglio, Dino Grandi, Galeazzo Ciano and General Enrico Caviglia), Mussolini would have answered:

With reserves of ammunition sufficient for just two months, with only 19 divisions capable of fighting and hoping to get easily a military victory against a country now exhausted, the Italian Duce did amassing troops on the Western Front to attack France . With purely demonstrative actions on June 11, the ‘Italian Air Force bombed Port Sudan, Aden and the British naval base in Malta.

The war “parallel”

The vertices of fascism fell for the illusion that the war would be short and that Italy would be able to wage a war “parallel” to that of Germany in complete independence from the ally.

The battle of the Alps

The French-Italian border was fortified by both sides in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and then in the thirties. For the high command of Turin French Italian offensive was the most feared threat, however it did not seem possible because after the Italian offensive French fortifications had to cross other mountain ranges and plains before reaching the important goals, so the army’s plans Italian, the nineteenth century to 1940, provided for a defensive war in the Alps The Italians concentrated at the border 22 divisions, 300,000 men and 3,000 guns and a large reserve forces in the Po valley.

In the night between 12 and 13 June, the Italian bombers made ​​their way out of southern France, Corsica and Tunisia and struck Saint-Raphaël, Hyères, Bizerte, Calvi, Bastia and the naval base of Toulon.

On June 14, German troops entered Paris on 17 and Marshal Petain asked the yield. Mussolini had hoped to get great gains (the occupation of French territory to the Rhone, Corsica, Tunisia, Djibouti, even the sale of the fleet, aircraft, heavy weapons) without firing a shot, then realized that he only got the land occupied by his troops, and only then gave the order to attack, ten days after the declaration of war.

The Italian offensive, conducted between June 21 to 24, did not give the expected results and the only place of some importance to be occupied by Italian troops was Menton on the Mediterranean coast. On June 23 began talks in Rome to the armistice between Italy and France, conducted separately from those of Germany. The conditions imposed were: the French territory reached by the Italian troops had to be demilitarized for the duration of the armistice, the armed forces on land, air and sea French had to be disarmed, except for those necessary to maintain public order. At 19:15 on 24 June, General Charles Huntziger and Marshal Badoglio, with the signing of ‘armistice of Villa Engraved, put an end to direct conflict with France. The armistice foresaw the occupation by the Italian border of some French territories, demilitarization of the French-Italian border and the Tunisian-Libyan to a depth of 50 kilometers and the demilitarization of French Somaliland (modern Djibouti), and the ability to Italian side to use the port of Djibouti and Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway.

Hostilities ceased in the Alps at 12:35 on 25 June. During the battle of the Western Alps, the Italians had 631 deaths (59 officers and 572 soldiers), 616 missing and 2,631 injured between and frozen, the French captured 1,141 prisoners who returned immediately after the ‘armistice of Villa Engraved. The French had 40 killed, 84 wounded and 150 missing.

The empire at war

The arrival on the scene of Italy in the Second World War brought the war in Africa in the colonies of Italian Libya and ‘Italian East Africa. At the beginning of hostilities the supreme command of the Italian forces in Libya was entrusted to the Governor-General Italo Balbo. In Libya, there were two armies: the Fifth, commanded by General Italo Gariboldi, on the border with Tunisia, composed of 8 divisions, 500 guns, 2,200 trucks and 90 light tanks from 3 tonnes to the Egyptian border was the 10th Army of the General Berti, with 5 divisions, 1,600 artillery pieces, 1,000 trucks and 184 light tanks. In total 220,000 men. The 5th air force, under the command of General Porro, consisted of 315 war planes. The French had 4 divisions to the Tunisian border, immediately removed from the scene of the struggle of France, the British forces in Egypt amounted to about 36.000/42.000 men.

A Balbo shot down by Italian June 20, just ten days after the entry into the war, was succeeded by Marshal Rodolfo Graziani. For some time in North Africa there were no battles, but only skirmishes and raids of British armored vehicles and trucks. This phase ended September 13, 1940, when Graziani crossed the border with Egypt with the forces of the 10th Army coming September 16 at Sidi Barrani, about 95 km across the border, and there stood a long time to prepare for a new offensive . There was no real battle: the British, who had retired with almost no resistance, they lost 50 men, 120 Italians. In East Africa, in the first half of July, the Italians attacked to Sudan, rejecting a British attack on the town of Eritrean Metemma and occupying Kassala (20 km from the border with Eritrea and the Sudan Defence Force defense) , the small British fort at Gallabat (about 320 km (200 miles) south of Kassala), and the villages of Ghezzan, Kurmuk and Dumbode on the Blue Nile.

After his success in Sudan, the Italian troops went on the offensive on the border with Kenya to eliminate the salient Dolo, which is wedged between Ethiopia and Somalia, managing to occupy Fort Harrington, Moyale and Mandera, pushing inward to over 100 kilometers. At the end of July the Italian forces reached Debel and Buna. This last resort, a hundred kilometers from the border, marked the peak of the Italian penetration in Kenya. To the east, on August 3, began the conquest of British Somaliland, the Italian forces, commanded by General Guglielmo Nasi, proceeded to complete the campaign with the occupation of Berbera, the main town on August 19.

The campaign in Greece

In the division of spheres of influence agreed between Berlin and Rome, Italy sought a prestigious win and opted for the strategy of “separate war”. Mussolini attacked therefore the only remaining ally to Britain on the European continent: Greece. The attack on Greece was conducted with improvisation and rested on the illusion of a quick victory. October 28, 1940, the eighteenth anniversary of the March on Rome, the Italian troops crossed the border into Albania and Macedonia focusing on Epirus.

Three divisions of the XXV Corps Ciamuria (51st Infantry Division “Siena”, 23 Infantry Division “Ferrara” and 131st Armored Division “Centauro”), had the task of leading the offensive whose main purpose was the conquest of Epirus while the 3rd Alpine Division “Julia” and the Littoral Group had to conduct maneuvers enveloping respectively from the north, in the direction of Métzovon, and from south to Prévedza and Arta. The advance was slow because of the bad roads and the inclement weather and ran aground after a few days without reaching their goals. Three days after the Italian offensive began, on 1 November, took the Greek counteroffensive that Italians quickly forced to retreat with heavy losses and fall back to toil in Albanian territory. Italians took position along a defensive line from thirty to sixty kilometers inside the border greek-Albanian who, despite continuous attacks Greeks, they managed to keep up the German intervention in the Balkans.

The night of Taranto

On the evening of 11 November, 1940, 21 Swordfish torpedo bombers, armed with torpedoes and the part of bombs and unexploded lighting, taken off in two waves from the aircraft carrier Illustrious, in the port of Taranto attacked the Italian fleet at anchor managed to sink the battleship Cavour and seriously damage the brand new Littorio and Duilio (three out of five battleships in service), together with the cruiser and destroyer Libeccio heavy Trento. It was a resounding demonstration of inefficiency of the Italian navy: the English fleet could approach without being countered, and the strong anti-aircraft defense of Taranto (a hundred guns, two hundred guns, more than a hundred balloons), only managed to shoot down two of the British aircraft. The damage was limited by the shallow waters of the harbor which prevented the sinking of the battleships, but only the Littorio and Duilio could be retrieved before the end of the war after many months of work.

Disaster in North Africa

In North Africa, 8 December 1940, preventing five days the new Italian offensive scheduled for the 13th of that month, jumped the counter-English began as a “reconnaissance in force” but quickly turned into a major offensive. With just 35,000 men and 275 tanks (compared to 150,000 men and 600 tanks Italian), but with a clever strategy based on the war of movement, General Richard O’Connor walked around the Italian lines attaching them behind and continued the advance until 9 February 1941 forcing Italians to retreat 400 km and carrying out the occupation of Cyrenaica. Only two British divisions wiped out 10 Italian divisions making about 130,000 prisoners. Between 30 November 1940 and 11 February 1941, the British were only 438 dead, 1,200 wounded and 87 missing. The casualties (dead, wounded and missing), incurred by the Italian army are uncertain, while those materials were 1,100 guns and 390 tanks.

The war subordinate

The parallel war, on which Mussolini had set the Italian intervention had two assumptions: the nearby German victory over Britain and the ability of the Italian forces to achieve partial successes of different theaters as the basis for the claim of a series of annexations to the table of peace. Both assumptions were soon unless: Britain was not conquered and Italian parallel war ended with three defeats (the failure of the attack on Greece, the sinking of the battleships in Taranto and the disaster in North Africa). The German intervention in the Balkans and especially in the Mediterranean and North Africa allowed the continuation of the Italian war.

Although it was logical, in a war of coalition, the strongest ally came to the aid of the weaker one, the German-Italian alliance was always unequal, Hitler and his generals took their decisions without consulting the Italian allies, the German forces in the Mediterranean increased or decreased according to the needs of the German war. The term “subaltern war” in 1941-1943 because it is completely dependent on German decisions.

Takes the field the Afrika Korps

Following the defeat in Libya between the end of 1940 and beginning of 1941, Marshal Graziani was replaced on February 12 with General Italo Gariboldi. On February 14, landed in Libya, the first units of the expeditionary force known as the German “Afrika Korps”, under the command of General Erwin Rommel, sent to Africa by Adolf Hitler, concerned about the situation that was being created on that front.

General Rommel was formally a subordinate of the Commander in Chief of the front of North Africa, the Italian General Italo Gariboldi, but with the right to appeal directly to Hitler in case of disagreement, a situation which continued until 1943 for two reasons: the troops of ‘Axis were composed mostly of Italian and he never had at his command more than five German divisions; also supplies were transported by sea from Italian merchant. Rommel however, reputation and personality, in fact he always managed to impose his point of view and ally, in the case of requests or instructions, he turned increasingly to the Führer or to Oberkommando der Wehrmacht.

The landing of the German divisions in Libya Afrika Korps led to a reversal of the balance between the Axis forces in the field and the British. On 24 March 1941 Rommel with the Afrika Korps and Italian divisions went on the offensive, and within three weeks of almost 1,000 kilometers with an advanced, regained Cyrenaica. On April 13, the German-Italian reached Sollum, on the border with Egypt, where Rommel paused to reorganize his forces. In the swift advance of the Italo-Germans had left behind Tobruch, with whose outer defenses had come in contact on April 10 and was besieged on a perimeter of 35 kilometers. Meanwhile, the Italian East Africa had ceased to exist and the forces thus became available were quickly diverted by the British in Egypt. On May 14, the British launched an offensive in the first attempt to unlock Tobruch, but were repulsed by a German counter-attack, however, left the Halfaya Pass in British hands. In early June, reinforced by the arrival of the first American aid, the British launched a new offensive, the ‘Operation Battleaxe, who set off on the morning of 15 June. The battle lasted three days by essentially business as usual. After the failure of “Battleaxe”, Churchill exonerated General Archibald Wavell and replaced him with General Claude Auchinleck. After that, the operations in the Libyan desert knew a long period of stagnation that lasted from July to November, in part determined by the attack on the Soviet Union that German absorbed a great deal of men and means. The lull was used by opposing sides to reinforce, the British much of the Italo-German: supported by the United States thanks to the law “Rent and loans,” passed by Congress on March 11, 1941, were able to amass for the start forces of November more than double the opponents.

The Battle of Cape Matapan

The decisive German intervention in favor of Italy changed the relationship between the two allies, Hitler claimed to weigh its decisions on the controls also Italian. Lamenting the inactivity of the Italian naval forces and the ease with which the British were operating maritime traffic between northern Africa and Greece, where the Wehrmacht was about to intervene, the Germans began to press on the Italian commands to induce the Italian navy to take a more offensive tactic refusing the apology made ​​by Supermarina, such as the shortage of oil, and the creeping doubt that the Italian navy did not dare to face the enemy.

It was decided then an offensive action in the eastern Mediterranean in traffic Allied fighter, and the whole operation was entrusted to the surprise factor, but the interception and decryption of some radio communications Italian put the British in a position to prevent the moves Italian, suspend the merchant traffic and preparing the release of the squadron from Alexandria and a second team from Piraeus. The Italian fleet, under Admiral Angelo Iachino and consists of the battleship Vittorio Veneto, 6 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers and 14 destroyers, took to the sea on the evening of March 26. The British team of Alexandria, under Admiral Andrew Cunningham, with three battleships, an aircraft carrier and 9 destroyers sailed on the evening of March 27 at the same time the team of Piraeus, strong 4 light cruisers and four destroyers and the command of Admiral Henry Pridham-Wippell. The departure of the British ships escaped the Italian reconnaissance due to bad weather conditions. That night was finished a courageous action of the media onslaught of the Italian navy in Souda Bay, Crete, where six men, commanded by Lieutenant Faggioni, on board small boats explosives penetrated into the bay and managed to sink the ‘heavy cruiser and a tanker York.

The following day, 27 March, the Italian fleet was discovered by a British reconnaissance removing Admiral Iachino, hoping to catch the enemy by surprise. Under the provisions of Cunningham, the two teams would meet British at the dawn of 28 south-east of Gavdos, ie more or less the same place where, according to the orders of Supermarina, had to be at that time the Italian team. At 8:00 in the morning the three heavy cruisers (Trieste, Bolzano and Trento) Admiral Luigi Sansonetti clashed with the four light cruisers Pridham-Wippel. Both Sansonetti Pridham-Wippell that had received the same orders: When Hiring, had to withdraw in such a way that the enemy chasing them, so as to bring it as close as possible to the battleships. The British were the first to reverse the course pursued by the Italians until 8:30 Iachino Sansonetti ordered to stop the action and return; just Italians stopped the pursuit, the British cruisers reversed course and began to follow them. Admiral Iachino managed to tighten the Vittorio Veneto distances on the British light cruisers and at 10:56 opened fire without hitting the opponents. Cunningham, too far from the area of the fight to take direct action, he lifted up by a group of six Formidable Fairey Albacore torpedo bombers to attack the Italian battleship, torpedo planes arrived on the Italian ships at 11:15 but failed to score even a shot . Ships of Pridham-Wippell took the opportunity to take out of range. Worried by the presence of British naval aircraft and fighter jets run out of fuel, at 11:40 Iachino ordered the Italian team to suspend the action, reverse course and return to the base.

While the team of Iachino was heading at full speed towards the Italian bases chased by the British ships, torpedo bombers Formidable attacked again the Italian team hitting the Vittorio Veneto, which might continue browsing, albeit at a reduced speed. The air strikes continued until dusk and in the last attack, a torpedo struck the cruiser Pola, immobilizing him. The admiral ordered the cruisers Iachino Rijeka and Zadar, with the escort of destroyers Alfieri, Gioberti and Oriani Carducci, to go back to the Pula to rescue just as the British team was approaching. The Italian ships ended up in the trap: the British ships equipped for night fighting and equipped with radar equipment on some units, opened fire at 22:27: On the Italian cruisers beat salvos from 381 mmm battleships Warspite, Valiant and Barham: the two cruisers were sunk together with the destroyers Alfieri and Carducci, while the ‘Gioberti and Oriani escaped.

At about 3:00 am the destroyer Jervis came to Pula with the intention of silurarlo, but since it did not arrive from Pula signs of hostility, the British commander decided to join him to rescue the crew before diving. At 3:40, Sopo have taken on board the whole crew, the Jervis moved away from Pula and addressed a torpedo causing it to sink. At 8:00 on the morning of 29 March, in addition to the 258 men of Pula, the British had already rescued 905 survivors, but the arrival of a formation of German planes forced them to abort the save operation.

Blitz in the Balkans

At the beginning of 1941, obtained the support of Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Yugoslavia, Hitler was preparing to lead the attack against the USSR having complete control of the southern flank of his armies directed to the east, but the situation of Italian troops in Albania and the coup in Yugoslavia on March 27, 1941, which overthrew the collaborationist government of the Prince Regent Pavle proclaiming age the young King Peter II and a pact of alliance with the Soviet Union, forced to postpone the Fürehr ‘attack to rescue the Italians occupy Greece and regulate the situation in Yugoslavia.

The attack against Yugoslavia, taken at dawn on April 6, was entrusted to the twelfth army of Field Marshal Wilhelm List, which starts from Bulgaria headed for Belgrade, while the Second Army of Weichs crossed the Yugoslav border from the north. From Hungary Hungarian Third Army intervened, and the Italian Second Army of General Vittorio Ambrosio, deployed at the border Julian, walked to Ljubljana along the Dalmatian coast. The Italian troops occupied Slovenia, Dalmatia and Montenegro, reunified with departments from Albania. In just two weeks, the Yugoslav resistance was annihilated and the country was dismembered by the winners:•Germany (blue) is attached Styria (inhabited by a mixed population, Austrian and Slovenian) and militarily occupied the Banat (region inhabited by a minority of Germans or Volksdeutsche n), while Serbia was subjected to German protectorate;

•Italy’s (green), which was already present in Zadar, he annexed the Carniola (Italian Province of Ljubljana), and part of Dalmatia and the Bay of Kotor (Governorship of Dalmatia);

•Hungary’s (brown) instead occupied the western sector of Vojvodina (Bačka), the Prekmurje Slovenian plus some smaller territories in Croatia that he had lost at the end of the First World War (Medjimurje, Baranja).

Croatia (red color), which included most of the territories of present Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, was declared an independent kingdom and entrusted, nominally, the Prince Aimone of Savoy-Aosta, but in fact it was ruled by a pro-Nazi Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic. In Serbia, was created a puppet state under the leadership of General Milan Nedić.


Italians also obtained the protectorate over Montenegro, the birthplace of Queen Elena, while Albania (occupied by Italy since 1939) acquired a large part of Kosovo, the western part of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Dibrano) and, at the expense of Montenegro, extended its borders to the north, in the region of Metohija.

At the same time the attack against Yugoslavia, the Germans penetrated into Greece from Bulgaria and soon reached Thessaloniki, cutting off the greek contingent stationed in Thrace. Advancing towards the west coast of Greece, the Wehrmacht cut out the Greek divisions in Albania and, overwhelmed with rapid maneuvers to circumvent the defensive lines British, the Germans quickly got the collapse of all resistance.

With the signing of the surrender and the subsequent conquest of the island of Crete, the Hellenic country was divided between the forces of Italian, German and Bulgarian. As shown in the map on the right:

•Germany (red) militarily occupied Macedonia Central and Eastern Europe with the important port of Thessaloniki, the capital of Athens, the islands of the ‘North Aegean and the island of Crete.

•Bulgaria (green) obtained Thrace.

•Italy, which was already present in ‘with the possessions of the Aegean Dodecanese Italian (dark blue), gained control of almost all of mainland Greece and the islands of Corfu, Zante and Kefalonia and to the eastern part of Crete (color light blue).

Athens was established a military government greek, under the control of Nazi Germany and of the ‘fascist Italy, headed by General Georgios Tsolakoglu.

The end of the

Meanwhile, in East Africa, Italy suffered the British counter-offensive. In January 1941, Italian forces were still outnumbered, even though they were isolated from the mother country, and thanks to the recruitment of Italian and Ethiopian citizens could rely on about 340,000 men, while the British forces possessed of 250,000 men and Ethiopian guerrilla forces.

On the northern front, the British pressure led Italians to evacuate the city of Kassala in Sudan, won a few months before, and fall back to Eritrea on fortified positions before Agordat (Battle of Agordat), then Cheren (Battle of Cheren), where resisted until March 27. To the south, conquered Somalia in March 1941, British troops repelled toward the center of the Italian ‘Ethiopia, until reaching the yield, with the’ honors of war, Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, Viceroy of Ethiopia, on the heights Amba Alagi (Second Battle of Amba Alagi).

On April 6, Haile Selassie went to Debra Marcos, while the avant-garde of Alan Gordon Cunningham had arrived at the gates of the capital of the empire. A Combolcià, a few kilometers south of Dessie, were Italian defensive positions, the group of South African brigade of General Dan Pienaar engaged the Italian artillery with its guns, while the infantry reached the hills at an altitude of 1,800 meters. The South Africans took three days to reach the goals and, after a group of Ethiopian guerrillas had joined them, stormed and captured the Italian positions (22 April). The South Africans had 9 dead and 30 injured and made ​​8,000 prisoners.

In Addis Ababa, where they lived some 40,000 Italian civilians, the British government entrusted the departments of PAI (Police of Italian Africa), which caused several incidents: Ethiopian fired on prisoners not yet released, killing 64, while a group of auxiliary recruited from among the civilians killed and 7 others Ethiopians during a brawl. Then the British and Italian soldiers disarmed entrusted public order to the newly reconstituted Ethiopian police. The final victory of Ethiopia and its liberation depended too much of Ethiopian opposition continues to the Italian government with a war (and warfare) that actually did not stop for all five years of Italian occupation until the total liberation. On 5 May 1941, Negus Haile Selassie entered Addis Ababa on an Alfa Romeo discovery, preceded by Colonel Wingate on a white horse.

Even after the Allied conquest of Addis Ababa and the episode of Amba Alagi, resisted for several months, the Italian garrison of Gondar, about 40,000 men strong and commanded by General Guglielmo Nasi. The general administered very well and its outpost until October, the situation of the Italian soldiers was relatively good, but after the fall of the garrison of Uolchefit and to step Culqualber, November 27, at the Battle of Gondar, the Italians were defeated and forced to surrender.

Italians in Russia

With the ‘Operation Barbarossa, Hitler had unleashed June 22, 1941, the conflict witnessed a decisive turn has an impact on the history of the world. The attack began at dawn across the front line, from the North Sea to the Black Sea, the German forces included 3,200,000 men (divided into 153 divisions, including 19 armored and 15 motorized), 3,400 tanks, 250 self-propelled, 7,150 guns, 600,000 vehicles, 625,000 horses and 3,900 aircraft. German forces was flanked by about 690,000 soldiers of the Allied countries: Finland, Romanians, Hungarians, Slovaks and “volunteers” Spanish and French.

Mussolini, impressed by the first great acclaim Nazis, rushed to offer Hitler the help of a large Italian expeditionary force, although Hitler had kept in the dark until the last and the beginning of the invasion had initially attempted to reject the offer of help: “The decisive help, Duce, but it can always provide you with the strengthen your forces in North Africa … as well as intensifying the air war and, where possible, that of the submarines in the Mediterranean.” The sending of the summer of 1941 CSIR (Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia) under General John Messe (three divisions, 62,000 men, 5,500 vehicles, 4,600 quadrupeds, 220 artillery pieces, 83 planes), was mainly a political : not influenced, if not the least, the balance of power in the countryside; represented, however, the will of Mussolini to defend his role as first among the allies of Hitler in what was expected to be the triumphant and decisive victory.

The divisions of the CSIR railroad arrived in the Russian border, then moved forward in Ukraine partly on foot and partly in the truck. Were included in the group armored Von Kleist (then I armed battleship), and used in Autumn in the region of the rivers Dnieper and Donets for the elimination of pockets of resistance that the progression of motocorazzate German forces had left behind. Were subsequently deployed on the front with the task of static defense and the end of December and then in January, managed to repel attacks some Russian infantry. The following months saw only minor fights. The losses of up to 30 July 1942 were 1,792 dead or missing and 7,878 wounded between and frozen.

The following year, the Italian expeditionary force was reinforced by other six divisions and became the eighth army, known as ARMIR (Italian Army in Russia) and placed under the command of General Gariboldi, that the fall of 1942 there were 230,000 men, 16,700 vehicles, 1,150 artillery tractors, 4,500 motorcycles, 25,000 quadrupeds, 940 guns and 64 aircraft. The new Italian divisions came in the summer of 1942 railroad to the area of ​​Kharkov and then go from 500 to 1,000 km up to the front line with their own means: on foot or by truck.

The assault craft and torpedo bombers

Subordinate conduct in the war from Italy, were only torpedo bombers of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy assault craft to achieve some significant victory.

As already mentioned, the night of 26 March 1941, the assault craft penetrated the Italian navy in the bay of Suda and managed to sink the heavy cruiser York and severely damage the tanker Pericles that was abandoned during the trailer to Alexandria.

On 23 July 1941 Italian torpedo bombers of the 280 th and 283 th suadriglia a large British convoy attacked repeatedly hitting the cruiser Manchester and a merchant ship and sinking the destroyer Fearless.

On September 26, following the British convoy Halberd sailed from Gibraltar to supply the base of Malta. The next day he was attacked by several squadrons of torpedo bombers, concentratesi to Sardinia to deal with it, who managed to sink the steamer Imperial Star by 12,000 tons and damaging several other ships, including the battleship Nelson hit in the bow. Throughout 1941, the torpedo bombers of the Royal Air Force were able to sink nine ships, plus four probable, and more or less severely damaging another thirty, with the loss of 14 aircraft out of a total of 260 employees.

On the evening of December 18, 1941, the submarine Scire led to the entrance of the port of Alexandria 3 pigs (torpedoes driven), whose crews, fallen into the harbor, they managed to place explosive charges on the bottom of the battleships Queen Elizabeth (33,550 t) and Valiant (27,500 t), sinking the first and severely damaging the latter. In the same action was sunk tanker Sagona (7,750 t) and damaged the light cruiser Jervis (1,690 t).

The British counter-offensive in North Africa

In North Africa, during the long period of stagnation of operations from July to November, the British forces were strengthened much more than Italian-German: approximately 600 aircraft and 400 tanks between Italy and Germany were opposed to 1,300 aircraft and 800 tanks British . On 15 August, General Rommel had assumed command of all Axis forces, which included 7 Italian divisions (200,000 men), including the Aries, battleship, and 67,000 German soldiers with two armored divisions.

On November 18, the British attacked in the direction of Sidi Rezegh starting a very complex battle that continued until January 10, 1942 and which can be divided into three phases: between 18 and 26 November in Sidi Rezegh that the attack was repulsed , from 27 November to 2 December, the Battle of Bir el Gobi, after which the British, very hard after clashes with security forces and the German armored division Aries, arrived in Tobruch, from 7 December to 10 January 1942, the German-Italian , who were left with about seventy wagons around (40 Germans and 30 Aries), we dropped by the enemy and withdrew from Cyrenaica.

America is at war

In the fall of 1941 the world situation had changed considerably: the Soviets after a long period of failures had not left overwhelmed by the Germans and the United States, attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor on December 7, had entered the war.

On December 11, Mussolini announced with the usual speech from the balcony of the Palazzo Venezia, Italy declared war on the United States, and at 14:30 the same day, the American charge d’affaires George Wadsworth was convened by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Cyan Italian feel to communicate the declaration of war: “I have called you to tell you, in the name of my king and the Italian government, which today is considered Italy at war with the United States.” “It’s very tragic” (“It’s very tragic”), was the response of Wadsworth.

The dirty war of Mussolini

From June 1940 to September 1943, the Italian army fought the same war of aggression of Nazi Germany.

The manner of Italian occupation of the conquered territories was not dissimilar from the others practiced at that time, not to mention that it was applied in regions where Italians were perceived by the local population as aggressors and as such were opposed and thwarted.

The fight against the “bandits” Slavic or Greek, were conducted with how hard war, sometimes ruthless, and Greece were made even more bitter by the food shortages, while in Yugoslavia were made dramatic by fierce ethnic and political conflicts that opposed Ustasha Titoists Chetniks and the iron will to transform into Italian native land, territories inhabited by Italians, if not part of Dalmatia.

The Greek authorities signaled mass rapes. The German command in Macedonia came to protest with Italians for the continuation of violence against civilians. The police chief of Elassona, Nikolaos Bavaris, wrote a letter of complaint to the commands Italian and the International Red Cross: “You boast of being the most civilized country in Europe, but how these crimes are committed only by barbarians.” Was interned, tortured and deported to Italy.

On February 16, 1943 in Domenikon, a small village in Central Greece located in Thessaly, the entire male population between 14 and 80 years was slaughtered. What’s Near Domenikon, shortly before his death, a partisan attack had caused the death of 9 Italian soldiers. The general of the 24th Infantry Division “Pinerolo”, Cesare Benelli, ordered the crackdown, hundreds of men surrounded the village, the people rounded up and captured more than 150 men aged 14 to 80 years. Held them hostage until, in the middle of the night, they proceeded to the shooting. The episode is one of the most heinous war crimes committed by Italy during the Second World War.

This episode was not sporadic: according to the historical Lidia Santarelli was the first of a series of episodes of repression during the spring and summer of 1943 resulting in a circular of General Charles Jealous, commander of the Italian forces of occupation, for which the fight against rebels adopted the principle of collective responsibility: to destroy the partisan movement were destroyed local communities. As of July 1942 the Italian divisions in Yugoslavia, with large mopping up operations to hunt partisan, emptied the territory in which they were no longer present, deporting the population of the villages in concentration camps made specially. They were mainly women, children and elderly, since the “good men” fled into the woods at the sight of Italian troops, to avoid being taken hostage and shot in the daily reprisals decreed by military tribunals of war.

But from the documents of the same general Italian also shows the determination that reprisals against civilians had to be a weapon of pressure against the partisans of the Liberation Front, which were held in check a large part of the Italian army. Between the summer of 1942 and that of 1943 were active seven concentration camps for civilians under the control of the Second Army (which had jurisdiction over Slovenia and Dalmatia). Determine the number of deportees today is very difficult, both for the fragmentation of the archives consulted, and because the Italian authorities themselves wrote about not having a clear picture of the situation. According to some estimates it would count at least 20,000 civilians interned Slovenes. As a document of the Italian Ministry of the Interior, dated to the end of August, 1942, shows a group of about fifty items, cleared from the territories of the eastern border as a result of police operations in progress, half of which are women and children.

The main causes of deaths in concentration camps were hungry and cold. Already in May 1942 a letter from a Catholic leader of Ljubljana signaled to the Italian military authorities, that “in the concentration camp of Gonalston … the inmates suffer terribly hungry.” In July 1942, He established Italian occupation regime in Rab (more precisely in the town of Campora), a concentration camp for civilians Slavs occupied areas of Slovenia (there were also some civilians interned in nearby Venezia Giulia). Later there were also hosted Jews who fled from Croatia. Altogether there were interned more than 10,000 civilians, mostly old men, women and children, a figure that does not include those who passed in transit to other camps in the occupied territories or in the Kingdom of Italy. The field was characterized by the hardness of the treatment meted out to inmates of Slavic ethnic group, of which a large number perished of starvation and disease. According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the camp was home to 15,000 prisoners, of whom 4,000 died. The total number of victims has not been established, but it is estimated that only in the winter of 1942 – 1943 about 1,500 people lost their lives due to malnutrition, cold, epidemics and ill-treatment. The field of Rab was completely run by Italians.

The July 12, 1942 in the village of Podhum, in retaliation were shot by Italian military units by order of the Prefect of the Province of River Head Themistocles all the village men aged between 16 and 64 years. On the monument that stands today near the village are given the names of 91 victims of ‘massacre. The rest of the population was deported in the Italian internment camps and homes were set on fire.

In Montenegro, the division Alba burned whole villages and massacred the inhabitants; 6 villages were burned in the CEVO. The 5th Alpine Division “Pusteria” he scorched earth: the witnesses told horrendous crimes, children killed by the mountain like a turkey shoot.

In Ljubljana in the month of March ’42 Italians were shot 102 hostages. An Italian soldier in a letter sent home on 1 July 1942 wrote: “We have destroyed everything from beginning to end without save the innocent. Kill entire families every night, beating them to death or shooting at them. If you are just trying to move pull mercilessly and who dies dies.  Another wrote: “We have orders to kill everyone and burn everything that we encounter on our journey, so that we hope to finish it quickly.

According to sources Slovenian and Yugoslav, in 29 months of occupation of the Italian Province of Ljubljana, were shot as hostages or during mopping up operations, about 5,000 civilians to which must be added 200 massacred or burned alive in a different way, 900 partisans captured and shot and more than 7,000 (of 33,000 deportees) people, mostly elderly, women and children who died in concentration camps. In total, therefore, we arrived at a figure of about 13,100 people killed out of a total population of about 340,000 people, or 3.9% of the population.

The new offensive Rommel and the Battle of El Alamein

After receiving reinforcements, January 21, 1942 Rommel drove the offensive with two German armored divisions and two Italian divisions (including the Ariete Armoured Division) and the 90th light infantry division of Germany. On 23 January reached Ajdabiya, Benghazi on 29, February 1, Cyrene and 4 Ain el-Gazala. Then, until May Rommel halted the offensive to rearrange his forces.

Meanwhile, between January and April, the German air force base in Sicily, with a modest competition of the Italian, Malta submitted the basis of a series of continuous attacks that slowed the British pressure vessel traffic between Germany and Italy allowing supplies arrive in Libya virtually no contrast. In this period the Italian and German forces in the Mediterranean, despite many difficulties, they reached their maximum power and efficiency. In June, the need to supply Malta provoked the so-called battle of mid-June, two naval convoys sailed from Alexandria (Operation Vigorous) and Gibraltar (Operation Harpoon) and they threw themselves against the Italian and German air force and naval Italian: only two ships, the first convoy managed to reach Malta, while the second after suffering heavy losses preferred to reverse course and return to base. In August, with the ‘Operation Pedestal, the British tried again to supply Malta: a convoy of 14 merchant ships sailed from Gibraltar escorted by two battleships, three aircraft carriers, three cruisers and 14 destroyers. Between 11 and August 14 (battle of mid-August), the convoy was subjected to the attack of the Italian and German air forces, nine merchant, I would take Eagle, two cruisers and a destroyer were sunk, only five cargo ships, two of which are badly damaged, they managed to reach Malta.

On the Earth, taken the offensive, 28 May Rommel broke the British lines between Ain el-Gazala and Bir Hachéim, June 21 and June 30 took Tobruch reached the advanced positions of El Alamein, on which the British troops had fallen back and where they had been prepared defenses very strong. June 31, Rommel launched the first attack against the British defenses (First Battle of El Alamein), without artillery preparation and the first troops arrived, the 90th light infantry division of Germany and the division Trent, but the attack failed. Also a British counterattack failed July 22, the situation was stabilized without any major action until the end of August.

In the long stagnation of the operations corresponding to the month of August, Rommel tried to settle and reorganize its forces, receiving reinforcements in aircraft and armored vehicles, but the other side of the British forces (to which was added the direct intervention of the Air Force U.S.), had reached a clear superiority.

On August 30, Rommel went on the offensive: first attack carried out a survey in the afternoon of the 30th, and then in the night between 30 and 31 sent forward the mass of tanks: Rommel’s plan was to penetrate deep into the British defenses and then tighten north to accerchiarle, but the minefields, the British artillery and aviation Anglo-American delayed the advance of the armored forces of the Axis that came with 12-hour delay on the positions from which he had to leave the conversion to north. On the evening of September 1, Rommel stopped the attack on the positions reached, partly because of his chariots had consumed three times the expected fuel because of the difficult terrain, counting to restart as soon as he received supplies. However, on September 2, the British air force sank in front of the tanker Tobruch Fassio and severely damaged the ‘Abruzzi, so we could no longer hope in the essential supplies of gasoline, on September 3, Rommel ordered the retreat.

The months of September and October were used by the Anglo-American Allies to strengthen beyond any possibility of confrontation with the Italian-German: 195,000 soldiers, 1,000 guns, 1,200 tanks and 1,585 airplanes Anglo-Americans were opposed to 104,000 soldiers , 480 guns, 500 tanks and 700 aircraft between Italy and Germany. And while the Mediterranean became virtually impassable for the Italian ships, the Allies made ​​their reinforcements arrive through the secure communication line that was owned by African Takoradi in the Gold Coast.

On the night between 23 and 24 October the 8th army of Montgomery went on the offensive: after two hours of artillery preparation, with the support of large formations of bombers and night preceded by the bagpipes of the Scots, the 8th Army attacked on a front of ten kilometers breaking the first resistance lines. The next day the armored forces of the Axis were able to rectify the situation and for eight days, with a series of counterattacks, stopped the British, but not counting on replenishment of its losses, Rommel in the night of November 2, despite orders against Hitler and Mussolini, he broke contact with the enemy began the retreat.

The debacle in Russia

The ARMIR took part in the 1942 German summer offensive, dubbed Operation Blue. Arrayed employed by the German Army Group B, was designed to protect the left flank of the troops engaged in the battle of Stalingrad. It was therefore lined up along the basin of the Don, between the 2nd Hungarian Army to the north and the 3rd Romanian Army in the south. On 20 August, Soviet troops attacked the area defended by the XXXV Corps, managing to establish a bridgehead across the Don. The Italian counterattack launched on 23 (during which he played the famous episode of the office of Isbuscenskij) somehow managed to contain the action of the Soviets, who were, however, able to consolidate the positions won.

September and October passed quietly, with the Italian troops prepared to defend a stretch of 270 km along the face: the breadth was such that all divisions were deployed in the front line, with the exception of Vicenza (committed to combat the partisans in the rear) and the reverse Barbò (deemed unsuitable for the role of static defense). On 19 November, the ‘Red Army launched a massive offensive (Operation Uranus) designed to encircle the German troops at Stalingrad. The action led to the annihilation of the 3rd Romanian Army, deployed south dell’ARMIR. On 16 December, the Soviet offensive (Operation Little Saturn) broke even against the lines held by the II Corps and XXXV dell’ARMIR. The first Soviet attack was content, but on the 17th the Soviets launched their attack the armored divisions overwhelming the lines held by the Italians and forcing them to retreat. Almost no means of transportation, infantry divisions dell’ARMIR ended up largely annihilated.

The Soviet offensive did not involve the Alpine Corps, which continued to hold its positions on the Don. The Division Julia, replaced on the front line by the Division Vicenza, was repositioned on the right side of the body along with the Alpine German XXIV Corps, managing to contain the breakthrough enemy. On January 13, 1943, the Soviets attacked and overran the 2nd Hungarian Army (Offensive Ostrogorzk-Rossos), completing the encirclement of the Alpine Corps. The order was given to retreat from the Don (very late), until 17 January. In ten days, the three mountain divisions, the Division Vicenza, some German units of the XXIV Corps and a great mass of stragglers Italians, Hungarians and Romanians, and covered more than 120 km in retreat, clime conditions (snow and temperatures between -35 º and -42 º), with few means of transport and inadequate clothing, subjected to incessant attacks by the regular troops and Soviet partisans. On 26 January, the Division Tridentine managed to break the Soviet encirclement at Nikolajewka, while the divisions Julia, Cuneense and Vicenza ended almost annihilated.

January 30, 1943 when the survivors gathered in Schebekino, where they could finally rest after 350 kilometers of grueling marches and after thirteen battles, the Russian campaign came to an end for the Italian troops. Were serious losses, particularly alpine divisions: the Alpine 57,000 who went to Russia, they returned only 11,000: all the others died during the battles during the retreat through the desolate Russian steppe or in Soviet prison camps.

The end in Africa

On November 8, 1942, six days after the end of the battle of El Alamein, with the landing in Morocco and Algeria of an Anglo-American invasion force of over 100,000 men strong (Operation Torch), began the last act of war in North Africa. Both in Morocco and in Algeria the resistance of the French departments loyal to the collaborationist Vichy government did not last long and the invading forces were able to quickly move on objectives. The weak point of the operation was represented by the Anglo-American Tunisia, where landings were not foreseen and where they were heading towards the Axis forces of Rommel retreating along the Libyan coast. As part of a defensive strategy worked for some time, between 9 and 10 November, Italian and German troops landed in Tunis, Bizerte, Sousse and Sfax by sea or air transport.

On November 11, the Italian troops landed at Bastia in Corsica, while the Germans proceeded to the occupation of the southern part of France (Operation Anton), then under the authority of the Vichy government. Occupation of France also took part in the 4th the Italian army that occupied the Provence to the Rhone, including the cities of Toulon, Aix-en-Provence, Grenoble, Avignon, Chambery, Marseille. As of May 31, 1943, the 4th Army in France consisted of four infantry divisions, two alpine, coastal three divisions and other departments, for a total of 142,000 men. The VII Corps in Corsica was instead made ​​up of two infantry divisions, a coastal and other departments, for a total of 68,700 soldiers.

One of the goals of the German-Italian was the capture of the French fleet concentrated in the port of Toulon (Operation Lila), but the French commander, Admiral Jean de Laborde, managed to get from the ships of the fleet and hidden in the harbor or just autoaffondò offshore. They went so deep 3 battleships, 7 cruisers, 28 destroyers and 20 submarines.

The Italian-German retreat began on November 2 at El-Alamein was continued through Cyrenaica and Tripolitania. On January 23, three days after Tripoli fell Rommel crossed the borders of Tunisia to organize a last stand with departments survived the attacks of the 8th British army, which, however, had never been able to transform the withdrawn route. About a hundred kilometers over the Tunisian-Libyan border, Rommel’s troops took position on a defensive line, the line of Mareth, running between the coastal road and the town of the same name that closed in the south of the front line established on 1 December between Cap Serrat and Gafsa. On February 4, Rommel began an attack in the direction of Kasserine (in Tunisia) and Tébessa (in Algeria). The attack came as a surprise, the Anglo-Americans, however, having broken through the American defenses in Kasserine, Rommel failed to exploit the initial success and continue the advance towards Tébessa to a lack of coordination with General von Armin Jürgin, which commanded the Italo-German troops in the north and against the orders of the Supreme Command that Italian, from Rome, Rommel authorized to continue the advance towards the north, towards Le-Kef, rather than westward. On February 17, the Afrika Korps took the airfield Thelepte, the main allied air base in the south, capturing thirty aircraft adversaries intact and three days later the German tanks forced the Kasserine Pass (Battle of the Kasserine Pass), on mountainous ridge to the west of the town of the same name, destroying 22 of the 30 tanks that were blocking and capturing 30 trucks that had transported thither tracked infantry of the U.S. Army. However, due to the misunderstandings with von Arnim and the Italian Supreme Command, 22 February Rommel decided to give up to continue the advance towards Le-Kef and retreated to the starting line.

On 6 March, in an attempt to prevent the British attack on the Mareth Line, Rommel launched a new attack, this time to the east, in the direction of Medenine. After ups and downs, the Italo-German troops vennnero overruled by the enemy and managed to escape annihilation retiring, March 27, on the line dell’Uadi Akarit, to the north. Meanwhile, however, on March 9, Rommel had been called back and replaced by General von Arnim, while the Italian 1st Army, which also included the remains Afrika Korps and two German infantry divisions, was placed under the command of General John Messe. On 6 April the 8th British army also broke through the line dell’Uadi Akarit, and on 22 April the 1st allied army from the west and the 8th British army attacked from the south, the last Axis forces attested in mountainous areas between Cap Serrat Enfidaville and managing to overcome the defenses and penetrate into the plain. On May 7, fell Bizerte and Tunis, departments of German Hermann Goering Panzer Division managed to hold up to 10 May and the 1st Army deployed to block the Italian peninsula of Cap Bon resisted until May 13. Approximately 130,000 Germans and 118,000 Italians took the road of his imprisonment. The end of the war in Africa was announced Italians May 13: “The First Army has ceased resistance this morning by order of the Duce”.

Towards the Civil War

Operation Husky

The loss of Tunisia left Italy at the forefront in front of an opponent overpowering that he could stick it where he wanted, having 35 motorized divisions perfectly equipped for war, a battle fleet that included 6 ships of the line, 25 cruisers, more than 100 destroyers, 1800/2 from landing and a merchant fleet of 2 million tons.

The attack on Italy was decided by Americans and the British during the Casablanca Conference of January 14, 1943 (in this regard, the definition of Italy remained famous by Winston Churchill: “Italy is the soft underbelly of the Axis”) and the planning and organization was entrusted to General Dwight Eisenhower. In June, the British landed on the islands of Pantelleria and Lampedusa.

Preceded by intense shelling, July 10, 1943 began the landing in Sicily VII of the American army of General George Patton and Montgomery’s British Eighth Army (respectively in the Gulf of Gela and in that of Syracuse). In 3000/2 a day from landing on the Sicilian coast poured more than 150,000 men. A garrison the island was the VI Italian army, reinforced by a German contingent – an armored division and a parachute – that Hitler had ordered to fight independently from the ally. On the slopes of Etna Montgomery met more resistance than expected on its way to Messina, while Patton was advancing rapidly towards the northern coast of the island. On the military Operation Husky was not a success: when more than one month after the Allies entered Messina, most of the quotas of the Axis had already crossed the strait undisturbed. The conquest of Sicily cost the Allies about 22,000 men for the U.S. 2,237 dead and 6,544 wounded and missing between, the British had 2,721 dead and 10,122 wounded and missing between the cumulative loss instead amounted to 2,410 Canadians, including 562 deaths and 1,848 between wounded and missing. Of an entirely different significance, however, were the political consequences of an invasion that give you the latest jolt to a system for a long time in the balance.

Bombs over Rome

Nine days after the landing in Sicily, the bombing of Rome had a dual purpose, military and political hit the capital would have been a clear sign that the fascist regime had lost everything. Monday, July 19, 1943, 1,134 º day of the war, he arrived in Rome the largest fleet that had ever sailed the skies Italian, 662 bombers escorted by 268 fighters: around 930 aircraft, including the famous B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 Liberator, the B-26 Marauder, the P-38 Lightning fighter, powerful tools, the best sfornasse the war industry in the United States. They arrived on the share capital of 20,000 feet, equivalent to over 6,000 meters. Rome remained under the bombs to 152 minutes, from 11:03 to 13:35. San Lorenzo was the area most affected by the first, until then, Allied bombing of Rome ever made, along with the Tiburtino district, the Prenestino at Casilino to Labicano in Tuscolano and Nomentano.

The 4,000 bombs (about 1,060 tons) dropped on the city, caused about 3,000 deaths and 11,000 wounded, 1,500 dead and 4,000 wounded in the only district of San Lorenzo. To those planes superarmati, supercorazzati, escorted by fast hunting, Italians put up a flak exceeded, sometimes with pieces dating back to the First World War, and a handful of planes piloted by true heroes. Flew up knowing you have a good chance of not coming back. The Americans had estimated losses of around 1 per cent were actually even lower: 0.26. At the end of the bombing Pope Pius XII went to visit the affected areas, blessing the victims on the Piazzale del Verano.

The collapse of the fascist regime

The agenda was one of three Big OdG. presented the secret session of the Grand Council of Fascism called for Saturday, July 25, 1943, which would be the last. The OdG. was approved and brought about the fall of Benito Mussolini by opening the last phase of the fascist regime, characterized by the Italian Social Republic.

The Grand Council of Fascism met with 17 of the 24 July. The counselors were all in uniform with fascist Saharan black. The secretary of the Fascist Party, Carlo Scorza called the appeal, but for the rest of the session the secretarial work was carried out by the staff of the Chamber of Fasci and Corporations in the wake of Dino Grandi, president of that branch of Parliament. After Mussolini summed up the war situation, Big Farinacci and illustrated their OdG. In essence both demanded the restoration “of all state functions” and invited Mussolini to return the Command of the Armed Forces to the King

They took the word certain leaders, but not to address the arguments of OdG., but to make explanations or clarifications. We were waiting for a decisive Cape government. Mussolini, however, said impassively that they have no intention of giving up the military command. He started the debate that lasted until after eleven o’clock at night. Great gave a sample of his great oratorical skills: cleverly concealing the real purpose of his OdG., was produced in both a praise of Mussolini that the King

Subsequently Carlo Scorza gave reading of two letters addressed to Mussolini in which the party secretary asked the Duce to leave the direction of the military prosecutors. Those present were very impressed with both the content and by the fact that Mussolini himself had authorized Zest to read in that forum. When it arrived it was well past eleven o’clock at night, the sitting was suspended. At the resumption, Bottai was in favor of the OdG. Grandi. Then he took the word Carlo Scorza, instead invited the councilors not to vote for him and introduced its own OdG. in favor of Mussolini.

The 28 members of the Grand Council were called to vote by roll call.After approval of the OdG. Grandi, Mussolini saw no need to vote on the other motions and took his seat. At 2:40 those present left the room.

The next day, July 25, Mussolini went to interview with the King, who told him his replacement by the Italian Marshal Pietro Badoglio. At 22.45 the same day the radio stopped broadcasting and distributed the following statement:

Badoglio, in order not to arouse suspicion against the Germans, he spoke in a radio address to the nation, these words:

The announcement of the armistice

After the collapse of the fascist regime, the Italian government began secret negotiations with the Allies. On September 3, was signed the armistice Cassibile, which was announced on the radio on September 8:

The military leaders, the head of government Pietro Badoglio, the King Vittorio Emanuele III and his son Umberto abandoned the capital and accomplished an escape ignominious first to Pescara, then to Brindisi. The Italian army was left without orders and disbanded, and the land was abandoned to the mercy of the Nazi troops, that on September 9 crossed the Brenner Pass. The same day, gave birth to the anti-fascist National Liberation Committee, calling the people “the struggle and resistance.” For the announcement of the Italian army was a debacle: more than 600,000 men were deported to labor camps in Poland and Germany, among the survivors, many fled to the house, gave birth to many other guerrilla bands that will enliven then Resistance.

The Germans occupied Italy

Although the announcement of the armistice seemed to surprise the Germans, they actually had already prepared the necessary countermeasures and avoided taking steps untimely until midnight on 8 September. But, when it moved from the left and from the Alto Adige Brenner adjusting their journeys as they came the all-clear signal. So, while the Italian soldiers were waiting for orders, the Germans were advancing with clockwork regularity and punctuality. The first consequence of this was that on the morning of September 9, the major road and rail, as well as the border areas, were now firmly in German hands. Assicuratisi shoulders and platforms from which to build on, the Germans set about disarming Italian soldiers, without orders and demoralized, within the country. There were some, however, many instances of heroism of which furno protagonists Italian officers and soldiers.

On September 9, for example, was already dead at Eboli General Ferrante Gonzaga, who had refused to surrender their weapons. In the same area the divisions “Mantua” and “Piceno” faced German armored troops on the march towards Salerno. A Bitetto the Germans tried to disrupt communications with Bari, but the command of the 9th Army Corps sent an infantry unit under the command of Captain Richard D’Ettore and the threat was averted. A Barletta resistance was tenacious though the Germans attacked with artillery and even with aircraft to occupy the city: here 2 battalions Italians forced the Germans to retreat. A Canosa a coastal regiment was instead forced to withdraw, but only after having engaged the Germans hard and forcing them to call for reinforcements. At Trani, during a confrontation, an officer, a noncommissioned officer and a soldier of the 9th Regiment Genio fell, one after the other, committed to the same machine gun and 16 other soldiers made ​​their kill, but the Germans were not able to pass. A price of similar acts of heroism, King Vittorio Emanuele III and the head of the Badoglio government managed to get free from Brindisi presence in Germany.

Despite the uncertainty of orders, which favored the surprise and the German penetration to Rome, the Divisional arranged to defense departments around the city contrasted and repulsed the repeated attacks Germanic inflicting substantial losses. During the night between 8 and 9 September was fought in Rome, particularly in the Magliana and eighth kilometer of the Ostiense, where he was deployed the first regiment of the division of Grenadiers. Three quarters of an hour after the announcement of the Armistice, a division of German paratroopers hit the benchmark number 5 manned by the grenadiers of the Magliana the bridge, near a fuel depot in the locality Mezzocamino. It is the beginning of the battle for Rome. Meanwhile, came to the capital, from Ostia and Fiumicino, the bulk of the 2nd Fallschirmjäger division, and shortly after one in the morning of September 9, one of its three kampfgruppe was already able to groped a frontal attack on the bridge of the Magliana. At the cornerstone of the police reinforcements arrived and agents of the PAI. The station was lost and rinconquistata. They fell 38 Italians and 22 Germans. The day of September 9, recorded still a lot of fighting.

The 132nd Armored Division “Ariete”, lined up on the Cassia, withstood a severe attack in the area of Monterosi, where he was preparing a defensive stronghold, a protection which the Lieutenant Hector Red and a group of engineers of CXXXIV Battalion mixed genius were posing a mine field. Upon arrival of the kampfgruppe Grosser of the 3rd Panzergrenadier-Division, consisting of thirty floats and two motorized infantry battalions (about the equivalent of a regiment) Red put two trucks across the road to block the pass. The Germans then ordered him to clear the way within fifteen minutes: Red, instead of obeying, he used the time to complete the dam, and the advance of the Germans opened fire and then flashed the dam along with four volunteers, the engineers selected Pietro Colombo, Gino Howitzers, Gelindo thrombin and Zaccanti Augustus, who had kept with him after having sent back the rest of the department, in the time taken by the Germans to regroup, the cornerstone was apprestato the defense. In the clash that followed, the Second Cavalry Regiment of Lucca and the Group III 135 º Regiment of Artillery howitzers 149/19 contrasted the German advance, with losses on both sides, the budget was 4 tanks lost 20 dead and fifty wounded on the Italian side, about as many men and a few more in the wagon on the German side, the German advance was stopped for the rest of the day. For the episode, Lieutenant Red was awarded the Gold Medal of Military Valour.

The division fought in Monterotondo and Mentana Piave forced to surrender a battalion of German paratroopers.

However, the spontaneous resistance of the Italian soldiers was destined to shatter before the onslaught of the German panzers. On the 10th the German action became more violent. Porta San Paolo became the center of the last fierce resistance. Also participated in the fighting on civilians to whom the commanders of the divisions had distributed weapons. But at the end of the day the last strongholds were overwhelmed: 10 September the Germans obtained the surrender of the Italian contingents placed in defense of Rome and accepted the capitulation limited disarmament of the military.

Departments that on its own initiative opposed the invader did not spare in the extreme defense of the city: 1,167 dead were counted among the military (among them, 10 were decorated with gold medal for military valor, and 27 with silver medal military valor) and about 120 civilians, including dozens of women and even a nun committed as a nurse on the front line.

The liberation of Mussolini

On September 12, a department of German paratroopers, commanded by Major Otto Skorzeny, rescued Mussolini, who had been confined in a hotel in Campo Imperatore, Gran Sasso (“Operation Eiche”).

The release of the prisoner was conducted perfectly, in fact occurred – surprisingly – without a single shot being fired. Skorzeny was in fact the idea to bring the Corps general of police officers Fernando Soleti that by becoming recognized by the police who guarded the fortress on the Gran Sasso, charged them not to shoot. The Italian soldiers were left totally bewildered by the presence of the general. At the sight of Mussolini himself, who had appeared at the window and said, “Do not shoot, do not you see that everything is in order? There is an Italian general. ”

On the refuge there was virtually no reaction from the Italian it was attempted an escape to the Teramo. Instead Assergi killed two soldiers, heroes almost unknown, the only ones who do not evaded their duty in that circumstance: the forester Pasqualino Vitocco had tried to alert police of the presence of the German column and was dismissed with a burst of machine gun after he had been ordered to stop. Died the next day to the Civil Hospital of L’Aquila. The second victim was the policeman John Natali, a guard in the middle station of the cable car, seen coming of the Germans had started shooting and was shot to death.

After a few photos, Mussolini had to share with the captain of the Luftwaffe Gerlach on a Storch (Stork), short takeoff and landing aircraft, led by the captain on the plateau. The aircraft could carry only two passengers, especially from a runway so short, why it had been expected to carry another Skorzeny. The aircraft but failed to land. Skorzeny, do not lose heart, and despite its considerable weight, he was able also to obtain permission from the higher-Otto Harald Mors (the real commander of the operation) and the pilot being able to get on the Storch.

A Practice Sea, where it landed, Mussolini was boarded a Heinkel He 111, which took him to Vienna, and then to Monaco. On September 14, in Rastenburg, he met Hitler.

The landing of Salerno

The same evening of September 8, Badoglio announced after the armistice, a powerful naval force allied pointing toward the Gulf of Salerno. On board of the 463 units that had set sail from the ports of Algeria and Sicily 100,000 British and 70,000 American soldiers that made ​​up the body from landing entrusted to the command of U.S. General Mark Wayne Clark were completely unaware of what had happened in those days and they were all convinced that the landing would meet fierce resistance of the Italians and the Germans. In Salerno, that day, had been hit by the latest bombing: at 19:45 all residents were locked up in the air raid shelters, where they learned from the radio and Marshal Pietro Badoglio that the Italian Government had asked for an armistice to General Dwight D. And Eisenhower had signed the unconditional surrender. The news was also learned from the soldiers that made up the body of landing: it aroused great demonstrations of joy and had unfortunate psychological consequences, as the soldiers were convinced that they would find in Salerno crowds in celebration. They were the officers to mitigate the enormous and misplaced power loss, which could have caused unimaginable consequences upon landing.

Restored order on board, a few hours after the operation began. L Operation Avalanche included two landings on the north and south of the river Sele.The British Commandos were to occupy the airport Montecorvino, Battipaglia and the steps that lead to Naples, while the American Rangers had to gain control of the main roads in order to establish contact with the army of Montgomery who landed in Calabria on September 3, he was going up the peninsula. The time X snapped at 3:30 on September 9, the moment of maximum darkness, useful for the concealment of the landing force, although, on the other hand, disadvantageous for maneuvers when approaching the coast. Were over 40 kilometers of coastline affected by the Avalanche. The soldiers took the floor with relative ease and without conflict, but suddenly and to their surprise was unleashed violent German reaction. The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) began a series of air attacks on ships in the harbor and on the landing craft, causing heavy casualties among the ranks allies. The VI Corps and the 36th Division, however, managed to overcome those harsh attacks and commando of the Special Service Brigade landed without difficulty in Marina di Vietri. Meanwhile the other special body, the Rangers, had landed at Maiori. The appearance of dawn allies had arrived at the gates of Cava de Tirreni and their patrol had a first exchange of fire with the Germans on the bridge of St. Francis.

L ’11, the Colonel Lane took possession of the military government, but two days later the Germans launched a counterattack, regaining Eboli, Battipaglia and Altavilla Silentina. General Clark then decided to call in the paratroopers of the ’82nd Airborne Division U.S. but without the expected results.The final offensive was born Sept. 23: In that day, he was overcome with the weapons of Molina di Vietri Pass, along the SS18, to come to free the ‘Agro Nocerino Sarnese and bring the latest attack to Naples. The German resistance was strong, especially when, after passing Molina, allied units headed Cava de ‘Tirreni. On the morning of 23 September, a German tank was about to climb to the Abbey for retaliatory action against the refugee population there, but in the narrow road that takes in Sant’Arcangelo, was not able to go any further. Some inconsiderate stopped to watch, and the Germans tank, angered by the inconvenience or perhaps intention is to do equally retaliation, unloaded on those reckless a hail of machine gun fire.

Before leaving Cava, the Germans took care to blow up the bridge of St. Francis on the national highway and the railway bridge at Villa Alba, in order to delay the advance of the Anglo-Americans, which, however, in a few hours they threw a bridge of iron and wood bridge on the St. Francis immediately re-establishing communication with Salerno, while the advance of their tanks had used the railroad that the Germans had not touched. Other mines were laid by the Germans to the other decks of Cava and on road junctions, but did not have time to make them shine. On 28 September the battle of Cava had ended and the Allies, proceeding towards the Agro and overcoming him, after twenty-two days and 54 km from fighting, at 9:30 am on 1st October ’43, they went to Naples: the operation was Avalanche ended.

The massacre of Kefalonia

With the armistice of 8 September 1943, the Italian troops in the Balkans remained without specific orders from the government and the supreme command. The capitulation of the Germans occurred sometimes after negotiations, sometimes after clashes learn, which led to the death and capture of Italian soldiers. The most heroic episode, ended in tragedy, was that of the Acqui Division, stationed in the island of Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea, which about 10,000 men, with a plebiscite held on 13 and 14 September, the German command decided to send a statement in which he made reference to the collective will significantly: “By order of the Supreme Command and the will of the officers and soldiers of the division Aqui not give up arms.” In the terrible days of clashes following Italians put up a stiff resistance, without any help of the army, and were decimated. Almost all of the survivors were shot between 22 and 24 September. Those who managed to escape joined the Greek resistance.

The war of liberation

The phenomenon of the Italian Resistance developed in conjunction with the German occupation of Italy. The partisan struggle was carried out by a diverse anti-fascist front, composed of communists, democrats, Catholics, socialists, liberals and anarchists. The partisan warfare was born in a spontaneous and disorderly, but later the Resistance was coordinated by the National Liberation Committee (CLN). In the North, was born on the Italian Committee of National Liberation High (CLNAI). The CLNAI, chaired from 1943 to 1945 by Alfredo Pizzoni, coordinated the armed struggle in occupied Italy, led by formations called brigades and divisions, such as the Garibaldi Brigades, formed on the initiative of the Communist Party Matteotti Brigades, linked to the Socialist Party; Justice and Freedom Brigades, linked to the Action Party, the Autonomous Brigades, composed primarily of ex-military and devoid of political representation, sometimes sympathetic to the monarchy, and listed as.

The Four Days of Naples

With the name of Four Days of Naples (27 to 30 September 1943) indicates that the uprising of the population, with the help of soldiers loyal to the so-called Kingdom of the South, succeeded in liberating the city of Naples from the occupation of the armed forces Germany, supported by fascists loyal to the Republican National State newborn.The event, which earned the city of Naples assignment of the Gold Medal for Military Valour, allowed allied forces to find on arrival, October 1st 1943, a city already liberated from Nazi occupation, thanks to the courage and all ‘heroism of its inhabitants, now exasperated and exhausted by the long years of war. Naples was the first among the major Italian cities, to rise up against the Nazi occupation.

Since the days immediately following the Armistice of Cassibile, in the city you went intensifying episodes of intolerance and resistance to the Nazi occupation and armed actions, more or less organized, made ​​following the student demonstrations of September 1, 1943 in the square of Plebiscito and the first meetings in the Liceo Classico Sannazaro to the Vomero.

On September 10, 1943, between Piazza del Plebiscito and the gardens below, happened on the first bloody encounter with the Neapolitans who were able to prevent the transit of some German vehicles; 3 sailors died in the fighting and 3 German soldiers.

When the news came that the Allies had landed at Salerno, the Italian soldiers, believing imminent liberation, resisted the Germans in Castel dell ‘Ovo, to Fort St Elmo, the Palace of the phones. Alongside them fought nuclei of civilians, without any organization, mobilized for the fight. Then, on September 27, began a wide sweep of the Germans: the roads were blocked, and all men, regardless of age, were loaded to force the trucks to be sent for forced labor in Germany. At this point, for the Neapolitans there was no alternative if they wanted to escape deportation had to fight against the Germans and carried out remedial prevent their plans.

The Neapolitans came out of the closet in the early hours of 28 September, they were the better armed with old rifles, pistols, grenades, incendiary bombs that had quickly learned to build and some light machine gun hidden in the days of the armistice. Other weapons procured if the fighting. They resisted the enemy artists, poets, writers, and singers like Sergio Bruni (who was wounded). The first confrontation was at the farm Pagliarone in via Belvedere, in the Vomero: A group of armed men stopped a German car, killing the sergeant who was driving. Then other episodes, first at the crossroads between Via Cimarosa and via Scarlatti (where a sidecar German was overturned, killing the two occupants and the German reprisal), so in Piazza Vanvitelli, where a dozen young vomeresi, after it had come to an Vomero the news of the death of a sailor, shot dead with a gunshot from a Nazi out of a bar attacked three German soldiers who occupied a truck, forced them to come down and set fire to the medium.

A Porta Capuana a group of 40 men settled, with rifles and machine guns, in a sort of checkpoint, killing six enemy soldiers and capturing another 4, while fighting has started in other parts of the city as the Angevin, and at the Broad monteoliveto. The Germans proceeded to other raids, this time to the Vomero, amassing 47 civilians inside the Campo Sportivo del Littorio under threat of death. On September 29, near the ‘Capodichino Airport, a German patrol killed three Italian airmen and set up a roadblock in the central Piazza Ottocalli: a palace came about twenty young men who waged a battle with the Germans. The shooting was thick, short, and the clash ended with the death of the Germans. Later, the bodies of the three airmen were loaded into the back of a pickup truck and taken in procession through the streets of the city: the sight of the dead and the story of the atrocities committed by the Germans provoked new emotion, magnified the hatred and fueled the insurgency. In the hours that followed the uprising swept: the fighting now in the suburbs and in the center, and to fight were men of all ages and from all walks of life, women and even children.

In the same hour, at the German headquarters in Corso Vittorio Emanuele (among other things repeatedly attacked by insurgents), the negotiations took place between the Colonel and Lieutenant Walter Schöll Enzo Stimulus for the return of prisoners from the Campo Sportivo del Littorio, with a ploy the insurgents did not believe the Germans to be in overwhelming numbers, and so, after lengthy negotiations, Colonel Walter Scholl was forced to order the abandonment of the city. The 47 hostages were freed and the Germans received in exchange for the guarantee to evacuate Naples starting from 7 o’clock the next morning without further harassment. It was the first time in Europe that the defeated Germans were forced to negotiate the surrender with the insurgents.

The Italian Social Republic

The liberation of Mussolini from prison on the Gran Sasso was the prelude to the creation, in northern Italy, a puppet state controlled by the German Reich: thus was born, September 23, 1943, the Italian Social Republic (RSI), commonly known as the Republic of Salo, named after the town on Lake Garda which housed some offices and where was the residence of Mussolini. Driven by the government formally chaired by the Duce-that with the creation of the Republican Fascist Party (whose secretary was Alessandro Pavolini) attempted to propose a renewed fascism – CSR was not really a sovereign state: the territory was controlled by the military German, the acts of the government requiring the approval of two German advisers, and the military Germans controlled in fact the central and local offices. Hitler decided even the annexation to the Reich part of northeastern Italy, granting the Gauleiter of Tyrol and Carinthia to annex many areas of Triveneto masking everything behind the “facade” of two areas of operation: that of the Alps or Alpenvorland (consisting of from the provinces of Trento, Bolzano and Belluno) and that of the Adriatic coast or Adriatisches Küstenland (provinces of Udine, Gorizia, Trieste, Pula, Rijeka, Ljubljana).

On November 15, in Verona, the party congress approved the manifesto of the new regime, and the themes and Republicans nazionalfascisti flanked demagogic content socialistic and called for a return to the origins of fascism. With the call to arms in November 1943, it tried to rebuild an army, but only 40% of young people said, and many of them deserted later. Overall, considering the other military formations, CSR could count originally of about 200,000 men in arms. One of the most emblematic events of the 600 days Salo regards the Italian Jews, considered as aliens and enemies in the manifesto of Verona. The fascist authorities actively collaborated with the Nazis for their deportation to the death camps, and took their own initiatives: November 30, 1943 the Minister of the Interior decided the creation of special concentration camps in Italy.

The Gustav Line

Taking advantage of the orography of the Italian peninsula, the X German army of Field Marshal Albert Kesselring ordered along the Apennine Mountains and the foothills leading down to the Adriatic and the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The Allied advance along the beautiful country met the tenacious German resistance: the British troops edged up from Calabria and ricongiuntisi the American beachhead at Salerno entered in Naples on 1 October. Abandoned the idea of an Allied landing on the Italian east coast, the main theater of operations was the strip of land between Naples and Rome, where l ‘Organisation Todt had erected the Gustav line. The latter consisted of a set of fortified points that ran from the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenian Sea (extended from the mouth of the Garigliano at the mouth of the Sangro river, south of Pescara, through Cassino) and bisected Italy: North it were the Germans, to the south the Allies. The Allied bridgeheads north of Naples could not bend the Germans holed up in the Abbey of Montecassino. In addition, the weather conditions, the morphology of the terrain and the slowdown in operations caused by numerous streams in full prevented the Allies to move quickly on Rome, at the end of 1943, there was still more than 100 kilometers from the front line.

Retaliation in Rome

On March 23, 1944, at approximately 15 hours, a group of 16 partisans belonging to the GAP (Patriotic Action Groups) attuò, in broad daylight, a sensational attack on a department armed with 160 SS marching along Via Rasella. An explosive charge hidden in a cart, was detonated in the center of the German column, while other partisans threw bombs and fired volleys of gunfire towards the tail of the department. Immediately after the event 32 German soldiers were killed and 110 were wounded, in addition to 2 civilian casualties. Of the injured, one died shortly after admission, while it was being prepared of retaliation, which was therefore calculated on the basis of 33 victims Germanic. In the following days would have died and 9 others wounded soldiers, bringing to 42 the total of those killed. The Nazis wanted to implement immediately a dreadful retaliation to punish and terrorize the whole town: Hitler ordered him shooting, within 24 hours, ten Italians for every German killed.

The massacre was organized and executed by Herbert Kappler, at the time SS officer and commander of the German police in Rome, former head of mopping the Ghetto of Rome in ‘October 1943 and torture against the partisans imprisoned in Via Tasso. The execution order of 320 people looked again, because initially they were killed 32 German soldiers. During the next night attack by Rosella died and another German soldier Kappler, on its own initiative, decided to kill another 10 people. Erroneously, due to the “rush” to complete the number of victims and carry out the reprisal, were added 5 more people in the list and the Germans, to remove inconvenient witnesses, killed them too. The Germans, after the massacre, raging about the victims, they blew up several mines to bring down the quarries where the massacre took place and hide, or rather make it more difficult, the discovery of such a massacre.

The survivors of Polizeiregiment “Bozen”, refused to avenge that way his comrades killed.

The performance began after only 23 hours of the attack in Rosella Street, and was made public after their completion. The same secrecy enveloped the official news of the attack suffered by the occupying troops, news released together with that of retaliation for propaganda reasons, according to a directive of the ministry official.

The liberation of Rome

For the last months of 1943 the Gustav Line was the main obstacle in the advance towards the north of the Allies, blocking, in fact, the initial momentum. In an attempt to unblock this impasse, the Allies landed some forces at Anzio (Operation Shingle), it still managed to capture the desired objectives. The front was broken only after a frontal attack on Monte Cassino, in the spring of 1944, and the subsequent capture of Rome in June. On June 5, the Americans entered Rome declared an “open city”, and evacuated by the Germans without any destruction, and with its bridges intact. The operation “Diadem” that led to the liberation of Rome had cost 18,000 losses to the Americans, the British and 11,000 to 14,000 Germans. In Rome occupied by the Allies Victor Emmanuel III abdicated in favor of his son Umberto II, who assumed the governorship general Badoglio resigned and was replaced antifascista Ivanoe Bonomi at the helm of government, an expression of the parties gathered in the National Liberation Committee.

The breakthrough of the Gothic

At the end of 1944 the Allies had settled near the Gothic line with the U.S. 5th Army el ’8th British army. Favored by a clear air superiority, the Allies also benefited from the operations of disturbance to the occupants by partisan groups. The Canadian Corps 8th Army took Ravenna and pushed on the River Senio, the 5th army was instead stops near Bologna, while on the Tyrrhenian side of the Americans Mark Wayne Clark was already in Pisa. The skilled defensive behavior of the Germans – who also engaged in the suppression of partisan resistance and often accomplished real massacres of the civilian population during the mopping up operations or in retaliation for the actions of partisans – cost the Allies a high number of losses: the conditions of the terrain favored the defense of the occupants, and the march proceeded ally everywhere slowly (because with the decision of the Normandy landings took on the Italian theater of war for the Allies of secondary importance).

After months of stalemate and the partial failure of ‘Operation Olive, during the spring of 1945, the Allies began the’ final offensive against the German troops and those of the Republic of Salo, to conquer northern Italy. In the middle of April 1945, the American armored vehicles broke through the German line of defense and the Allies swept in the Po valley and reached the Po pending negotiation with the Americans by the command of the SS in Italy, Karl Wolff to avoid partisan insurrection, safeguard the industrial plants in the country and ensure a painless transition of power gave no result.

The insurgency in the North

With the Gothic Line route and now retreating Germans from all over the forehead, April 21 Italians in the battle group “Legnano” of the shooters of the “Friuli” and Polish units went in first in Bologna, already arisen and cleared by the Germans (from two days had penetrated the partisan forces). The 21 Ferrara rebelled, but the next day the partisans could not prevent that the city was crossed by large German forces retreating towards the Po Modena, Reggio Emilia and Parma were liberated by the patriotic forces, thanks to the unanimous brigades flocked from countryside and towns of the formations. In the countryside and in smaller cities the uprising was very much an overwhelming, thanks to the support of the majority of rural populations. The Germans retreated hastily north of the Po, but many were captured by the Allies and partisans, and about 6,000 of them, were surrounded in the valley of the Taro, surrendered to the Americans. The partisans of Piacenza long fought against the Germans hindering the retreat until the city was liberated completely on the morning of April 29.

Meanwhile, the American Fifth Army, which had freed Carrara April 12, he had begun to advance in Liguria, in the direction of Genoa, which, however, rose up on April 23. Although outnumbered by the German garrison, the GAP, the SAP Genoese and some brigades came down from the mountains, gradually penetrated into the city, the port saved by removing and isolating the mines postevi by the Germans, saved the industrial plants, defeated the fascists who attempted to stand in the center of the city, forced to surrender the commander of the German garrison, they made ​​6,000 German prisoners, who surrendered to the Allies when they arrived in Genoa on April 28.

The day before the entry of Americans in Verona, ie 25 April, took place the ‘general insurrection of the partisan forces, which began to attack the Germans everywhere. All mountain passes were blocked by April 28, the day when Benito Mussolini and Claretta Petacci along with some leaders of the regime fleeing to the Swiss border, were arrested and executed in accordance with the decisions of the CLNAI at Lake Como. April 25 was also the day of the liberation of Milan and Turin. By 1 May, then, all of northern Italy was liberated: Bologna (April 21), Genoa (April 26), Venice (April 28).

The German troops were now surrendering en masse, and after 25 April, the Allied pursuit met almost no resistance anywhere. The 29 New Zealanders reached Venice and Trieste on May 2, where the main concern is not revealed the presence of the Germans, but the Yugoslavs.

Italy after April 25, 1945

In parallel, the Republican fascism and Mussolini tried to find a “political solution” to the performance of the war, but they met with distrust and allied with the firmness of the political leaders of the Resistance, which demanded the immediate and unconditional surrender. In the turbulent days that followed the spread of the allied troops in northern Italy, the epilogue came the story of the Republic of Salò and consumed the personal tragedy of Mussolini. Drop any possibility of negotiation with the Resistance, while the partisan unleashed a general insurrection, Mussolini left Milan Direct in Switzerland, but was stopped at a checkpoint near Como and then be executed by partisans on April 28.

On 29 April 1945 at Piazzale Loreto in Milan, the city that had been the cradle of fascism, on the corner of Corso Buenos Aires, were exposed corpses of Benito Mussolini, Claretta Petacci and other members of the Social Republic. With this gruesome incident closed forever to Italy twenty years of dictatorship, five years of war and two years of Nazi occupation. On April 29, the Germans signed the unconditional surrender.

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