On This Day

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Associated Press
Italian soldiers surrender to British troops in 1943.

On This Day: Italy Declares War on Nazi Germany

October 13, 2011 06:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Oct. 13, 1943, just over a month after surrendering to the Allied Powers, the Italian government declared war on Nazi Germany, its former ally.

The Fall of Fascist Italy

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Benito Mussolini rose to power in 1922 and his fascist government was quick to align itself with Nazi Germany. In 1936, Italy joined the Axis Powers, an alliance formed mainly between Germany, Italy and Japan. In 1940, Italy entered into World War II with Nazi Germany, attacking British Somaliland in East Africa.

By 1943 the Allied Powers had made significant gains in Europe. Allied forces landed on the island of Sicily in July 1943 and captured it six weeks later. Over 500,000 Allied troops were then stationed on the island, launching bombing attacks on Rome and readying for an invasion of the mainland.

Support for the war in Italy waned, and Mussolini’s position was put in jeopardy. On the night of July 24, the Grand Council of Italy’s fascist government met in Rome and, with Mussolini in attendance, passed a vote of no confidence in the prime minister. The next day, King Victor Emmanuel III appointed Field Marshal Pietro Badoglio to replace Mussolini, who was then arrested.

Badoglio was given the task of getting Italy out of the war. He agreed to an armistice with Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower on Sept. 3, which was announced five days later. The following day, Sept. 9, the Allied forces made a large, unopposed landing at Salerno, beginning its move north toward the Germans.

On Sept. 29, Badoglio reached a second agreement with the Allies that amended the armistice of Sept. 3 to promise cooperation in the Allies’ fight against Germany. The Italian government, in pursuance of the agreement, declared war against Germany on Oct. 13, 1943.

Historical Context: Italy in World War II

PBS’s companion Web site for “The War,” a documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, explains the fighting in North Africa, the invasion of Sicily and the mainland, and the Italian campaign.

HyperWar has a collection of public domain material, primarily from the U.S. Army Center of Military History, written on the North African and Mediterranean theaters of World War II.

Key Player: Pietro Badoglio

Pietro Badoglio joined the Italian army as a teenager in 1890 and distinguished himself while serving in World War I, emerging as the chief of staff after the war. He did not agree with Mussolini’s strategy at the outset of World War II and chose to resign and “disavowed responsibility for Mussolini’s acts,” according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

He served for less than a year as prime minister after Mussolini’s ouster, choosing to resign in June 1944 so that a new cabinet could be formed.
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