Wild peace rioting rages in Italy as Allies threaten new bombings (8-1-43)

The Pittsburgh Press (August 1, 1943)

Civilians, troops exhort Badoglio to yield at once

Virtual revolution reported in northern cities after warning from Africa that great air blitz is imminent
By Aldo Forte, United Press staff writer

Berne, Switzerland –
Riots approaching revolution broke out in northern Italy tonight as Allied radios announced that Italian cities were going to be bombed again because the government of Marshal Pietro Badoglio had ignored Allied peace offers and was dealing with the Germans.

Reports reaching Switzerland said that at many points, soldiers had joined civilians in bringing a state of “virtual revolution.” The demonstrators were demanding Badoglio’s immediate overthrow and peace.

The situation was reported to be particularly acute in the industrial city of Milan, scene of sporadic and violent rioting all this week. The reports said the street mobs there accused Badoglio of “betraying” them.

Italian reports reached Madrid that rioting was also occurring in Rome, Florence and Naples, the latter much bombed by Allied planes. They told of a number of clashes between Italian and German soldiers, mostly fistfights. They described women walking the street with squalling infants in their arms, crying:

We want peace. Badoglio, do something quickly! We don’t want our cities bombed again.

Rome churches were crowded day and night, these reports said, with thousands prying for peace.

The only troops remaining orderly, it was said, were the Carabinieri – military police – but they were unable to stem the wild wave of objection reported to be sweeping northern Italy.

Thousands were said to have jammed themselves into the principal squares and streets of Milan, Turin and other cities, angrily shouting their demands. Some had heard the Allied warning broadcast in Italian by the London and Algiers radios and had passed the word along.

A clandestine Italian radio station appealed to the people to support five left-wing parties banded in a united front against the Badoglio government since last Monday. The broadcaster, who said he was speaking from Leghorn, called upon workers to end the so-called “armed truce.”

He said:

Henceforth, refuse any collaboration with the Badoglio government and begin immediate active resistance.

A temporary return to normalcy in some Italian industrial centers had been reported earlier. Believed to have been a gesture by the workers to permit the government to negotiate some sort of peace, it was apparently broken when the Allied warning gained wide circulation.

There are many rumors concerning the whereabouts of former Premier Benito Mussolini, but best information was that he was confined in the Bracciano Fortress outside of Rome. Two generals, one of them the former commander of the Fascist militia, were said to have been transferred last night to the fortress where political offenders condemned by the Fascisti formerly were executed.

Mussolini’s wife, Rachele; his son, Vittorio, with his wife and children; his daughter, Edda, and her husband, Count Galeazzo Ciano, and the widow of his late son, Bruno, with his four-year-old daughter, were said to be under guard in a villa outside of Rome.

Air-raid holiday ended, Allies warn Italians

By William B. Dickinson, United Press staff writer

London, England – (July 31)
Allied broadcasts told Italians tonight the holiday from bombs was over because of the Badoglio government’s failure to oust the Germans, but other reports – via Madrid and without confirmation – said Italian emissaries had already contacted Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower for peace discussions.

An Allied spokesman said in repeated broadcasts to Italy over Radio Algiers:

Six days have passed since Mussolini’s fall. Instead of acting quickly, the Badoglio government played for time and thus helped the Germans.

We give you a solemn warning: The respite is over. The bombing of military objectives will resume. Keep away from factories, rail lines and German barracks.

Prefer to deal with U.S.

Although conditions in Italy were still obscured by censorship, reports reaching Madrid from France said emissaries, fully empowered by Badoglio to discuss peace terms, had arrived in North Africa aboard a special Italian plane and had established contact with Gen. Eisenhower.

The Madrid information said that Marshal Badoglio and King Victor Emmanuel were in control of the Italian situation and had agreed that Italy must come to terms with the Allies. However, it was understood that both preferred to deal with the United States rather than with Great Britain.

There were increasing reports that an armistice could be expected momentarily, perhaps during the weekend, and members of the British War Cabinet stood by for another sudden call such as occurred at 1:30 a.m. Friday.

The Daily Mirror’s headline, “Italy May Be Out Tomorrow,” reflected the general sentiment here that the Italian situation was fast approaching a showdown climax.

Rome announced that Count Galeazzo Ciano, Benito Mussolini’s son-in-law and Italian Foreign Minister for six years, had resigned as Ambassador to the Vatican.

Radio Rome said that the 39-year-old Ciano, who was made Foreign Minister in 1937 by Mussolini and figured in many of the most prominent Axis deals, had submitted his resignation to King Victor Emmanuel, who accepted it immediately. Ciano was “banished” to the Vatican last February when Mussolini effected a general shakeup of his government.

To force stand

There was little doubt that the Allies intended to force the Badoglio government to take a concrete stand, abandoning its policy of temporization.

The Algiers broadcasts said:

When Mussolini’s fall was first announced, the Germans were flabbergasted and feared they would be trapped if Badoglio made peace quickly. Then, day by day, the Germans observed the inactivity of the Badoglio government. You know better than we that, thus far, there has been no sign of evacuation of the Germans.

Italians, you know that immediately after Mussolini was chased from power, we stepped down the bombing of Axis targets in Italy. In this way, we wanted to give Italy a period of respite to unite for peace and liberty.

Rome blamed

But the Germans have profited by this period of respite in order to reinforce their position in Italy. Responsibility for this falls exclusively on the new Rome government.

If the Badoglio government had acted quickly, the Germans by now would be in full retreat from Italy. But instead, the Badoglio government played for time and thus allowed the Germans to restore their positions.

We cannot allow this state to continue. Very soon, the air offensive will be resumed in all its violence… When the bombs explode, remember the blood of each Italian hit falls on the heads of the Rome government who, in Italy’s decisive hour, have temporized instead of acting for honor, peace and liberty.

Policy reported

Observers were not completely discounting reports of peace discussions in North Africa despite the Allied warnings. They felt that perhaps Badoglio’s emissaries had offered capitulation on terms not reconcilable with the “unconditional surrender formula.”

A Zürich dispatch quoted a diplomatic source as saying that the following policy had been outlined by Marshal Badoglio:

  1. Neutralization of Italy controlled by military experts acceptable to both the Allies and Germany.
  2. Italy to guarantee immediate withdrawal of German troops and demobilization of Italian forces.
  3. Concession of Sicily to the Allies for the duration.
  4. Guarantees by both belligerents that the Italian mainland would not be used for military operations.

This source said that if these proposals were refused by either side, Badoglio would resign.

Meanwhile, a Stockholm dispatch said well-informed circles in Switzerland believed King Victor Emmanuel would abdicate in favor of Crown Prince Umberto and that Badoglio, as a result of his promises to continue the war, would be succeeded by Marshal Rodolfo Graziani, enabling Italy to negotiate peace without losing too much power.