The Pittsburgh Press (July 26, 1943)
MUSSOLINI DEPOSED, FATE A MYSTERY
Italy under martial law
Badoglio, new Rome ruler, is reported seeking deal with Allies
By Harrison Salisbury, United Press staff writer
London, England –
Marshal Pietro Badoglio, new Premier of Italy, proclaimed countrywide martial law today and unconfirmed reports circulated that ousted Premier Benito Mussolini had fled into exile or had been arrested by the army as a “war criminal” to be turned over to the Allies.
An authoritative source said that Britain was ready to talk peace terms with the new Italian regime, but there was still deep mystery around. Badoglio’s intentions regarding a separate peace as well as around the fate of the fallen Duce.
Rumors circulating in Stockholm, however, suggested that the new Italian Premier might desire to make a deal with the United Nations and turn Mussolini over to them for trial – if he could get out from under German domination. The rumors lacked any official support.
It appeared likely that the true position of the new Italian government would emerge only after considerable delay, although an expected speech by Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the nest sitting of the House of Commons may clarify the outlook.
The outstanding question regarding Italy concerned the position of German Armed Forces in that country and of Italian troops in the Nazi-occupied Balkans. It was estimated that the Germans from 7-9 divisions (possibly 130,000 men) in Italy and Sicily and there has been much speculation that the Nazis would eventually seek to set up a defense line protecting the northern industrial area of Italy above the Po River.
Although Marshal Badoglio was known to have opposed the Nazis as well as the Fascists in the pasts, there was no concrete evidence that he would try to oust the Germans and seek peace with the Allies. The nearest the Rome radio came to hinting at an anti-German stand was the discontinuance of daily lessons in the German language and failure to broadcast any foreign news, omitting even the daily Nazi war communiqué.
Marshal Badoglio emphasized that the Fascist organization was being liquidated as such by removing Blackshirt guards at the Swiss border and replacing them with regular military police, but he gave no hint as to the whereabouts of Mussolini, who has frequently been reported thin and gaunt recently as a result of illness.
Stockholm newspapers, usually a center for Axis propaganda feelers, also appeared to be without information of a definite nature, but did produce the usual rumors and speculation. One such rumor was that Mussolini had fled to Switzerland or Germany. No source was indicated.
Another conflicting rumor in Stockholm was that Badoglio had arrested Mussolini and other high Fascists and that he would later seek to use them in negotiations with the Allies, possibly offering to turn the Fascists over to the United Nations for trial on “war guilt” charges.
Madrid reports said that Mussolini and other Fascist leaders are under police protection at a villa believed to be in the Rome area.
There was also speculation that Mussolini might have sought to save himself by some negotiations through the Vatican, where his son-ion-law, Count Galeazzo Ciano, has been ambassador and where the Ciano family was expected to take refuge.
The Nazi broadcasts took the position that Mussolini was ill and that the government would fight on with Germany. This position was taken by Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels after considerable delay. The Japanese broadcasts even delayed 16 hours in announcing Mussolini’s resignation.
Badoglio quickly established a drastic military regime in all of Italy.
He ordered a dusk-to-dawn curfew and banned all public meetings in what may have been a move to prevent a civil war between ousted Fascists and supporters of the new Royalist regime.
If the Badoglio government does ask for terms, an authoritative British diplomatic commentator said, Britain will be prepared to deal with him “provided that it is evident he exercises full authority in Italy.”
The only “terms” acceptable to the Allies, as specified by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, will be “unconditional surrender.” Both the United States and Britain had refused even to discuss a separate peace for Italy so long as Mussolini remained at the helm.
The British Cabinet will soon meet to examine the implications of Mussolini’s deposal and decide its attitude toward the new government, the commentator said. The government was said to be watching closely to see whether the Badoglio regime will overthrow the Fascist system or merely substitute a new figurehead for Mussolini.
Unofficial observers said it was well within possibility that the Italians have already indirect contacts with the Allies. Reports circulated that Italian delegates attended the Roosevelt-Churchill Casablanca Conference last winter and only the past fortnight, similar delegates were said to have been in Algiers. None of these reports was confirmed.
With Mussolini out of the way, the Allies were expected to intensify their military and propaganda campaign to knock Italy out of the war and leave Germany alone to face the onrushing Russians from the East and the Allies from the West “before the leaves of autumn fall.”
Germany was also believed to determine the path to be chosen by the Badoglio government. Swedish newspapers quoted the Rome radio as saying that Marshal Albert Kesselring, German commander in Italy, and Hans-Georg Viktor von Mackensen, German Ambassador to Rome, had conferred with Badoglio.
There had been no authentic reports of widespread disorders in Italy preceding Mussolini’s ouster last night, but major trouble is expected when army Royalists take over power from the Fascist hierarchy.
Nearly 300,000 Fascist Blackshirt troops are believed stationed in Italy.
Marshal Badoglio announced the appointment of Raffaele Guariglia, Ambassador to Turkey, as Foreign Minister, an additional portfolio taken over by Mussolini last spring following the removal of his son-in-law, Count Galeazzo Ciano.
Guariglia was reported by Radio Rome to be en route to the Italian capital by plane from Ankara, where he easily could have arranged informal third-party contacts with Allied nations, possibly to extend peace feelers.
The Fascist rule of Mussolini, who gave Italy her greatest modern empire and then lost it all in a mad gamble for additional lands, ended last night with his “resignation,” 20 years and nine months, lacking four days, from the time of his famous “Blackshirt” March on Rome that made him Premier and dictator.
Rigid censorship cloaked any repercussions within Italy from Mussolini’s deposal, but earlier reports from neutral capitals had told of increasing strikes and unrest in his homeland as the Allies turned the full weight of their aerial assault against Italy, rolled across Sicily and threatened the mainland with invasion.
The British and American governments remained silent officially on the sudden shift in the Italian government.
Prime Minister Churchill worked at his desk until the early hours of morning awaiting developments and discussing implications. Cabinet members hurried to Whitehall.
Perhaps significantly, President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill had told the Italian people in a joint statement only 10 days ago that the deposal of Mussolini was one of the cardinal conditions to a possible peace with Italy.
But Mussolini’s removal alone will not satisfy the allies, sources here emphasized, and the government-controlled BBC told the Italian people:
Now Mussolini has gone. But those to whom he handed over the Italian people, the Germans, are still in Italy… Peace and liberty will not come to the Italian people before the last German soldier has been chased from Italian soil.
Marshal Badoglio’s proclamation of martial law and establishment of a curfew was announced in a manifesto issued through commanders of army corps and territorial defense forces and broadcast by Radio Rome.
Military in charge
The manifesto provided that:
The commander in each province will take over all armed forces including police, militia, citizens’ armed groups, and similar organizations.
All powers for maintaining public order have passed to the military.
The militia will be incorporated in the army.
All public places, such as movie theaters and the like, will be closed.
Meetings of more than three persons anywhere or at any time are prohibited.
Sales of arms and ammunition are banned.
Use of autos, boats or planes except in public or military service with special permit is banned.
All bill-posting except that of Catholic Churches is prohibited, as is signaling of all kinds.
All permits for carrying arms are revoked.
All citizens must carry identification documents.
Only one edition daily of newspapers will be permitted.
The manifesto ordered all troops and other forces to carry out the provisions of the manifesto even if it became necessary to use arms. All arrested will be given a military trial, the Italian broadcast said.
Only priests, doctors, midwives and nurses carrying out their duties were specifically exempted from the terms of the curfew.
Marshal Badoglio, in his new capacity as chief of government over 40 million Italians, also issued a proclamation – the second since he took office last night – calling on the Italian people to resume their “posts of work and responsibility.”
This is not a moment to abandon ourselves to demonstrations which will not be tolerated. The present grave hour imposes upon everyone seriousness, patriotism and acts of devotion to the supreme interests of the nation.
Assemblies are prohibited and public forces have been ordered to disperse them ruthlessly.
The drastic measures invoked by Badoglio enhanced the impression that Mussolini’s disposal may have been more of a “palace revolution” than first was indicated.
They also indicated that Italy may have been on the verge of complete internal collapse.
Mussolini’s deposal was revealed in a series of proclamations broadcast by the Rome radio last night.
The first announced that King Victor Emmanuel had accepted Mussolini’s resignation as chief of government, Prime Minister and Secretary of State and had appointed Badoglio, Italy’s greatest soldier, to the three posts.
Proclamation by King
Next came a proclamation from the King, countersigned by Marshal Badoglio, in which the monarch assumed command of the nation’s armed forces and called on the Italian people “in the solemn hour which has occurred in the destinies of our country” to take up again their “post of duty and of fighting.”
The King said:
No deviation must be tolerated. No recrimination must be allowed. Every Italian must stand firm in the face of the grave danger which has beset the sacred soil of the fatherland.
Badoglio, in proclaiming that he was taking over the military government of the country with “full powers,” said:
The war continues. Italy, hard hit in her invaded provinces, in her destroyed cities, loyally keeps her given word, jealous custodian of her military traditions. All must group themselves around His Majesty, the King Emperor, living image of the fatherland and an example for all.
Thus ends Duce’s career
Thus ended the career of Mussolini, who literally rose from the gutter to make Italy a leader among the world powers and then plunged her into her darkest hour by entering the war on the side of his country’s World War I enemy Germany.
His deposal was made all the more complete by the selection of Badoglio, who in 1922 asked the King to permit him to throw Mussolini and his “Blackshirt upstarts” into the sea with a single company of police. Instead, the King turned over the government to Mussolini.
Badoglio, despite his open dislike for Fascism, responded to a call from Mussolini when Italy’s Ethiopian campaign speared on the point of failure, rallied the flagging armies and completed the conquest.
Made army’s scapegoat
He was made chief of the Italian General Staff and retained the post until 1940, when he was made scapegoat for the dismal Italian showing in Greece and Africa and replaced. He has since lived in retirement.
It was noteworthy that the King and Badoglio in their proclamations gave only the date July 25, 1943, and not the usual “year twenty-one of the Fascist era.” Likewise, Rome radio followed the proclamations only with the royal march, omitting for the first time since the advent of Mussolini the Fascist anthem, “Giovinezza.”
Though there was no sign that Italy would withdraw from the war immediately, it was noted that the King in his proclamation calling on the people to do their duty, made no reference to continuing the war.
Devotion to duty stressed
Marshal Badoglio said the war “would continue,” but laid much greater emphasis on devotion to duty, possibly in an attempt to persuade the Italian people to end their strikes and internal dissension.
The authoritative British Press Association commented that Italy’s days as an Axis partner were numbered.
It was virtually impossible to overestimated the repercussion of Mussolini’s ouster, particularly throughout the Balkans.
The encouragement given the guerilla forces in Yugoslavia and Greece is bound to be tremendous and even more serious, from Berlin’s viewpoint, will be the tendency of Romania and Hungary to refuse further demands from Germany for troop levies and to increase their peace feelers through Turkey.
May be aid to Russia
Germany has been dependent upon the Italians and other satellites for the bulk of troops defending Southeastern Europe. If suddenly required to take over responsibility for the defense of the Balkans as well as northern Italy, there is no question but what Germany would be forced to withdraw major forces from Russia.
An American source said the crisis in Italian affairs may have stemmed directly from the meeting a week ago today of Hitler and Mussolini at Verona, in northern Italy. He believed that Mussolini may have entered a final plea for reinforcements to defend Italy, only to be refused because of the Russian offensive on the Eastern Front.
When Mussolini reported this to King Victor Emmanuel, it was said, the King called for and received his resignation.
Another major factor in Mussolini’s ouster may have been his illness. The former Duce has been in poor health for the past five years and has appeared in public less and less frequently. Recent photographs disclosed that he has lost almost entirely his former prominent paunch.