The World War II Multimedia Database

For the 72 Million

The Surrender of Italy, September 1943

The invasion of Sicily was the preliminary step in the invasion of the Italian mainland. The Allies hoped to knock Italy out of the war.

The Italian government was fed up with the war and the invasion of Sicily threw it into crisis. UK Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill and United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed Italy on July 16, calling on her people not to die for Adolf Hitler but to “live for civilization.” That day, the Italian Fascist leaders opposed to Mussolini began to agitate for his removal. While Benito Mussolini and Hitler met on July 19 in Northern Italy, American warplanes bombed Rome and killed 2,000. On July 25, King Victor Emmanuel had Il Duce arrested and replaced him with Marshal Pietro Bagdoglio, the Army Chief of Staff.

Bagdoglio immediately started secret negotiations with the Allies to take Italy out of the war. Elated, the Allies wrongly concluded that Italy would be an easy conquest. Plans were made to drop the 82nd Airborne on Rome. Lieutenant General Maxwell D. Taylor, the 82nd Airborne Artillery officer, secretly parachuted into Rome to negotiate with the Italian government in September. The new Italian government kept him waiting while he avoided capture by German Gestapo agents. Taylor helped the new government conclude an armistice with the Allies on September 3. The deal was announced September 8, while the Eighth Army landed in Southern Italy.

Taylor found the Allied plans wildly optimistic. The Germans has occupied Rome on September 10, and any paratroops that landed on the Roman airfields would be cut to pieces. Barely getting word to the Allies in time, the mission was scrubbed. Bagdoglio and King Victor Emmanuel fled to Allied-controlled Italy. Taylor stayed with them to help Bagdoglio form a government-in-exile in Bari and declare war on the Axis on October 13, 1943.

The Allies found little support among the confused and disoriented Italian Army for operations against the Germans. While the Italian Fleet limped into Malta under air attack by German guided missiles, losing the battleship Roma and 1,254 sailors, other units fought the Germans and were sent to POW camps when captured. 500,000 were sent to the camps, but thousands never returned to Italy. 10,000 Italian soldiers died in Greece when the Italians choose to fight the Germans.

Hopes ended for a quick end to the campaign. The Germans waited for he expected Allied landings. United States Army General Mark Clark, in command in Italy, would find the terrain better suited to defense and would slog up the Italian mainland in heavy fighting. Months of harsh combat still remained for all sides in Italy.

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