ITALY: Duce ( 1922-43)

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Over the Rome radio, at 11 p.m. of July 25, 1943, came 47 words:

The King has accepted the resignation from office of the Head of the Government, Prime Minister and State Secretary, tendered by His Excellency Cavaliere Benito Mussolini, and has appointed as Head of the Government, Prime Minister and State Secretary His Excellency Cavaliere Marshal of Italy Pietro Badoglio.

The crashing notes of Giovinezza did not end that evening's terse news. For the first time in more than two decades, the Fascist hymn was replaced by Italy's Marcia Reale.

The war had reached another of those points which Winston Churchill has called "climacterics." Fifteen days after the Allied invasion of Sicily, three years and 45 days after the Italian hand stabbed its French neighbor in the back, three years, ten months and 24 days after the Nazi march into Poland, the Rome-Berlin Axis tottered, and Italy's 46,000,000 war-sick, word-sick, hungry people strained toward an exit from bombardment, bombast and blockade.

For the United Nations, heady over the mounting triumph on the battlefronts, this was the headiest political event yet. Now the war's end, distant though it might be, seemed a long stride nearer.

The First Operation. No longer was there a Duce. But more than 20 years of Fascist power and preachment could not be wiped out in a day. Mussolini, as much as any man, had planted the cancer that had spread beyond his homeland into Germany, Spain, Central Europe and the Balkans. The removal of the Italian dictator was, in a sense, preliminary surgery on the malignance still afflicting mankind.

In Mussolini's place stood no democrat. Aging (71), stiff-backed Martinet Pietro Badoglio had never been counted an extreme Fascist. When the Blackshirts were marching on Rome he looked on contemptuously, offered to clean them up. He had opposed Mussolini's war against Greece, had become the scapegoat for the abject Fascist failure there. He had sided with high Italians who resented the alliance with Hitler and the swelling Nazi arrogance in Italy. The camera's eye had once caught him, alone and defiant among a group of officers, declining to follow the Duce in the Fascist salute (see cut). Yet, since 1936, he had been a member of the Fascist Party. He had acted as the unofficial leader of its right wing. He had paid public tribute to the Duce, masterminded the Fascist victory in Spain, defeated the Ethiopians and accepted from a grateful Mussolini the title of Viceroy and Duke of Addis Ababa.

The Final Decrees. Now Pietro Badoglio accepted from his King the task of governing Italy. First Vittorio Emanuele proclaimed: "Italians! I take over . . . the command of all armed forces. . . ." Then Pietro Badoglio proclaimed: "Italians! By order of His Majesty ... I take over the military government of the country with full powers. The war goes on.. . . Let us close our ranks around the King Emperor, the living soul of the fatherland. . . . Long live Italy! Long live the King."

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