Duce of Fascism
The next vinette in our series is a counterfactual history of what life would be like had Mussolini avoided an alliance with Germany. Contrary to popular opinion there was nothing natural to an alliance between Hitler and Mussolini or the Empire of Japan for that matter. Mussolini had come to power a full decade or more before Adolph Hitler had risen to power in Germany. For that matter Benito Mussolini had a successful government for over a decade when Hitler even entred the picture in Germany.
Delivered at the Rotunda of the Pantheon Imperial courtyard during the State Funeral of Benito Mussolini on March 15, 1965 by Dino Grandi, First Consul of Italy:
Mrs. Mussolini, Your Excellencies, friends of Benito Mussolini in Italy and throughout the world:
We gather today in mourning, but also in gratitude. We mourn Benito Mussolini’s death, but we are grateful for his life. We gather, also, conscious of the fact that in paying tribute to Il Duce, we celebrate greatness. When we think of his place in history, we think, inevitably, of the other giants of those days of World War II; and we think of the qualities of greatness and what his were that made his unique among all.
In an eloquent address on the day of Germany’s defeat, Benito Mussolini said: “I come from the heart of Italy.” Perhaps no one sentence could better sum up what Il Duce meant to a whole generation of Italians. He did come from the heart of Italy, not only from its geographical heart, but from its spiritual heart. He exemplified what millions of parents hoped that their sons would be: strong and courageous and honest and compassionate. And with his own great qualities of heart, he personified the best in Italy. It is, I think, a special tribute to Benito Mussolini that despite all of his honors, despite all of his great deeds and his triumphs, we find ourselves today thinking, first, not of his deeds but of his character. It was the character of the man, not what he did, but what he was that so captured the trust and faith and affection of his own people and of the people of the world.
He touched something fundamental in Italy which only a man of immense force of mind and spirit could have brought so vibrantly alive. He was a product of Italy’s soil and of its ideals, driven by a compulsion to do well; a man of deep faith who believed in God and trusted in His will; a man who truly loved his country and for whom words like “homeland” and “fascism” were not cliches, but they were living truths.
Some men are considered great because they lead great armies or lead powerful nations: And, yet, he remained through his final days the world’s most admired and respected man–truly, the first citizen of the world.
As we marvel at this, it leads us once again to ponder the mysteries of greatness.
Benito Mussolini’s greatness derived not from his office, but from his character, from a unique force that transcended national boundaries, even as his own deep concern for humanity transcended national boundaries.
His life reminds us that there is a force in this world more powerful than the might of arms or the wealth of nations. This man who led the most powerful nation in the world, this essentially good and kind man that moral force was his greatness.
For a quarter of a century to the very end of his life Il Duce exercised a moral authority without parallel in Italy and in the world. And Italy and the world are better because of it. And so today we render our final salute. It is a fond salute to a man we loved and cherished.
It is a grateful salute to a man whose whole extraordinary life was consecrated to service. It is a profoundly respectful salute to a man larger than life who by any standard was one of the giants of our time. I can see him now standing erect, straight, proud, and tall as he led the Greater Italian Empire for nearly forty years. We salute Benito Mussolini standing there in our memories, first in war, first in peace, and, wherever homeland is cherished, first in the hearts of his fellow men.
With that ending eulogy Benito Mussolini was laid to rest and now the future of the Italian Empire must be decided by a handful of men. As Dino Grandi had given a very eloquent eulogy for his good friend he began to think back over the extraordinary life of the father of Fascsim Benito Mussolini.
Dino Grandi (June 4, 1895 – May 21, 1988), Count di Mordano, was minister of justice, minister of foreign affairs, president of parliament, and for the last ten years First Consul of the Empire. Born at Mordano, province of Bologna, Grandi was a graduate in law and economics at the University of Bologna in 1919 (after serving in World War I), Grandi started a career as a lawyer in Imola. Attracted to the political left, he nonetheless became impressed with Benito Mussolini after the two met in 1914, and became a staunch advocate of Italy’s entry into the World War. He joined the Blackshirts at age 25, and was one of 35 Fascist delegates elected, along with Mussolini, in May 1921 to the Chamber of Deputies.
Benito Mussolini (July 29, 1883 – March 11, 1965) was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism. Mussolini became the 40th Prime Minister of Italy in 1922 and began using the title Il Duce by 1925. After 1936, his official title was “His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Duce of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire”.
Mussolini was among the founders of Italian Fascism, which included elements of nationalism, corporatism,expansionism, social progress, in combination with censorship of subversives and state propaganda.
In the years following his creation of the Fascist ideology, Mussolini influenced, or achieved admiration from, a wide variety of political figures. Among the domestic achievements of Mussolini from the years 1924–1939 were: his public works programs such as the taming of the Pontine Marshes, the improvement of job opportunities, public transportation, and the so-called Italian economic battles.
Mussolini’s early political views were heavily influenced by his father, Alessandro Mussolini, a revolutionary socialist who idolized 19th century Italian nationalist figures with humanist tendencies such as Carlo Pisacane, Giuseppe Mazzini, and Giuseppe Garibaldi. In 1902, at the anniversary of Garibaldi’s death, Benito Mussolini made a public speech in praise of the republican nationalist. In early 1918, Mussolini called for the emergence of a man “ruthless and energetic enough to make a clean sweep” to revive the Italian nation. Much later in life Mussolini said he felt by 1919 “Socialism as a doctrine was already dead; it continued to exist only as a grudge”. On March 23, 1919, Mussolini reformed the Milan fascio as the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento (Italian Combat Squad), consisting of 200 members.
Fascism supported nationalist sentiments such as a strong unity, regardless of class, in the hopes of raising Italy up to the levels of its great Roman past. The ideological basis for fascism came from a number of sources. Mussolini admired The Republic, which he often read for inspiration. The Republic held a number of ideas that fascism promoted such as rule by an elite promoting the state as the ultimate end, opposition to democracy, protecting the class system and promoting class collaboration, rejection of egalitarianism, promoting the militarization of a nation by creating a class of warriors, demanding that citizens perform civic duties in the interest of the state, and utilizing state intervention in education to promote the creation of warriors and future rulers of the state.
The Fascisti, led by one of Mussolini’s close confidants, Dino Grandi, formed armed squads of war veterans called Blackshirts with the goal of restoring order to the streets of Italy with a strong hand. The Blackshirts clashed with communists, socialists, and anarchists at parades and demonstrations; all of these factions were also involved in clashes against each other. The government rarely interfered with the blackshirts’ actions, owing in part to a looming threat and widespread fear of a communist revolution. The Fascisti grew so rapidly that within two years, it transformed itself into the National Fascist Party at a congress in Rome. Also in 1921, Mussolini was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time.
The March on Rome was a coup d’état by which Mussolini’s National Fascist Party came to power in Italy and ousted Prime Minister Luigi Facta. The “march” took place in 1922 between 27–29 October. On 28 October King Victor Emmanuel III refused his support to Facta and handed over power to Mussolini.
As Prime Minister, the first years of Mussolini’s rule were characterized by a right-wing coalition government composed of Fascists, nationalists, liberals, and two Catholic clerics from the Popular Party. The Fascists made up a small minority in his original governments. Mussolini’s domestic goal was the eventual establishment of a totalitarian state with himself as supreme leader, Il Duce.
In 1923, Mussolini sent Italian forces to invade Corfu during the “Corfu Incident.” In the end, the League of Nations proved powerless and Greece was forced to comply with Italian demands. A law passed on Christmas Eve 1925 changed Mussolini’s formal title from “president of the Council of Ministers” to “head of the government”. He was no longer responsible to Parliament and could only be removed by the king.
The Grand Council of Fascism selected a single list of candidates to be approved by plebiscite. The Grand Council had been created five years earlier as a party body and became the highest constitutional authority in the state. Only Mussolini could summon the Grand Council and determine its agenda. To gain control of the South, especially Sicily, he appointed Cesare Mori as a Prefect of the city of Palermo, with the charge of eradicating the Mafia at any price. Over the next three years Mori took measures to dismantle the Mafia through brutal force as many promising Mafiosi felt encouraged to relocate to other countries especially the U.S. Mori did not hesitate laying siege to towns, using torture, and holding women and children as hostages to oblige suspects to give themselves up. These harsh methods earned him the nickname of “Iron Prefect”. By January 1, 1930 the Mafia in Italy was dismantled and put out of business. In this alternate history the Italian Mafia is extinguished and presumably the American Mafia would have been even stronger, at least in number as many more Sicilian Mafiosi would relocate to the United States presumably.
In an effort to create an Italian Empire – or as supporters called it, the New Roman Empire – Italy set its sights on Ethiopia with an invasion that was carried out rapidly. Italy’s forces were far superior to the Abyssinian forces, especially in regards to air power, and they were soon victorious. Emperor Haile Selassie was killed in battle with Italy entering the capital Addis Ababa to proclaim an empire by May 1936, making Ethiopia part of Italian East Africa.
Italian military help to Nationalists against the anti-clerical and anti-Catholic atrocities committed by the Republican side worked well in Italian propaganda targeting Catholics. On July 27, 1936 the first squadron of Italian airplanes sent by Benito Mussolini arrived in Spain. This was an active intervention in 1936–1939 on the side of Franco a Facist of Spain in the Spanish Civil War. Mussolini’s closest advisors were advising him not to enter in an alliance with Germany and Mussolini agreed to follow their advice. He would maintain his alliance with Britain and France even though they weren’t happy with his choice of aiding Franco in Spain, they did understand that his relationship as a Facsist did play into his thinking. This most imortant point of divergence is in Mussolini following his advisers advice in not aligning with Hitler’s Germany. This will form the very basis of how Mussolini might have developed and impacted others around him.
Hitler personally went to Italy to have Mussolini give his support for full annexation of Austria. Hitler arrived on the 1st of November in Rome, where he met Mussolini. While Hitler did not get what he wanted, he realized Mussolini would not actually go to war unless provoked too much. He guaranteed Mussolini he would not violate Italian sovereignty, and would avoid conflict if possible.
January, 1937, Mussolini, Franco, and several Fascist leaders visited Rome, where they met several important figures of the Roman Catholic Church, who proclaimed their support for the two in a new propaganda campaign. The two leaders met with several Cardinals who were loyal to Mussolini and Franco to start giving more harsh messages about the Germans, who they feared would be a future threat to Italy.
Mussolini ordered Generals Graziani, De Bono, Badoglio and Balbo to prepare for a new invasion of Albania to be planned for 1937. He knew the world would not go against him with his new ally in Spain, which held a strategic position in the Mediterranean. The invasion began on May 15, 1937, after several months of assembling troops. On the 17th of May, Italian troops began to make their way towards Tirana, while troops from the south began to capture border towns along the Greek border. Mussolini announced the Invasion of Albania, saying that the Albanian government is a threat to fascism, and that Albania is rightfully Italian territory. The international community, not wanting to be threatened by a war with Italy, backed down, especially with increased rhetoric by Hitler.
On the 4th of September, 1937 German troops crossed the Austrian border, and marched into Vienna with Hitler. The invasion was unopposed, and even welcomed in most areas of Austria. On that day, in Vienna, Hitler announced that as of that date, Austria was part of Germany.
On October 18th, 1937, Hitler made it clear in a radio address to the German people that he wanted the Sudetenland, a Czech territory, to become part of the rising German Reich. Mussolini, during an address to the Fascist Council, said that Hitler was just acting strong since he just got Austria, and was making strong remarks. The Fascist Council simply shrugged it off. Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and his son-in-law, was leary of the Germans, and feared that the Germans were in fact militarily strong.
In July of 1938, the Germans called for British, French, and Italian leaders to meet with Hitler in Munich to come to a decision over the Czech crisis. All sides agreed, and the Munich Conference would discuss what to do over the Sudetenland Crisis. The meeting began on the 22nd of July, and would end on the 2nd of August, where the Munich Pact was signed between Chamberlain, Mussolini, Hitler, and the French leadership. The agreement gave Hitler the Sudetenland, and Hungary, an ally of Germany, parts of Southern Slovakia and parts of Eastern Slovakia.
Fascist leaders arrived in Rome on October 30, 1938, and the meeting would last until the 6th of November. The meeting outlined a strategy for various parties to take power in their respective countries, or how current Fascist governments can improve their power within their nations. Of the fascist parties in attendance, parties came from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, Brazil, Argentina, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Persia, and South Africa. Italy and Spain’s leadership were also in attendance for the first Fascist International meeting. It was the great hope on the part of Benito Mussolini to expand the reach of Fascism and to further it’s acceptance imternationally.
September 1st, 1939, the world forever changed. Early in the morning, German forces led an invasion of Poland. On the 3rd of September, France and Britain declared war on Germany. World War II had begun. World War II with Germany and the allies and for now a neutral Italy would be counterfactually different though no less violent or harsh.
The world of 1940 was a greatly different place. Poland was occupied by Germany and the Soviet Union, France and Britain were fighting the Phony War against the Germans, and the Italians were busy preparing for their next conquests. Constant debates took place with Mussolini’s Inner Circle, on whether or not to take part in the war. Anti-German factions led by Ciano wanted to invade Austria, and to force Southern Germany into Italy. Others like General Balbo and Dino Grandi wanted to avoid the Germans as long as possible, knowing that they would eventually be drawn into the conflict. Others, like Mussolini, knew that the Germans were doomed, and decided to, according to the diary of Ciano, “Wait for the West to crush the Germans and then we move in to feast with fresh battle hardened troops.”
Mussolini’s decision came on the 3rd of April, 1940, and thus, military capabilities were starting to go to the borders and seas of Yugoslavia, to prepare for the inevitable invasion of the country. Mussolini knew that it was an opportune time to invade Yugoslavia, since the West and Germany were occupied with war, so much so that any Italian intervention would probably be second page news to most people, and the fact that the Italians controlled the Balkans, instead of the the Tripartite Pact, which was signed by the German Reich, Hungary, and the Empire of Japan. The Pact was signed on the 12th of April, and was followed hours later by a Declaration of War by Hungary on France and the United Kingdom. On the 12th of April, 1940 Mussolini ordered several of his Generals to draw up an invasion plan of Germany in case war was declared.
Mussolini, in July of 1940, was preparing for his Balkan Campaign. Over 350,000 Italian troops were prepared for the invasion by land in Northern Italy, and 125,000 in Albania. Over 50,000 were prepared to land along the Yugoslavian Adriatic Coast, to prepare for naval landings when the war was to begin. On the 15th of July, Operation Adriatic Wind began, the Invasion of Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav War began officially on the 15th of July. A month before, France surrendered to the Germans, and the neutral Italy gained many lands in Europe and Africa as a result. Savoy, and parts of Southern France were given to Italy if they promised to remain neutral, and support the Allies in some ways. Corsica, Tunisia, and Djibouti were also given to the Italians, with rumors of Somaliland, a British Colony in Africa, will soon become Italian as well.
Over the next three years Mussolini and his Italian Empire was in expansion mode. Yugoslavia fell in less than a month by August 14, 1940. Nearly 80,000 Yugoslavian troops were killed during fighting, with 20,000 Italian troops killed. Some 60,000 civilians were killed during the battles in some of the major cities, or due to resistance fighting in some parts of the Adriatic Coast.
On the 5th of October, the Invasion of Greece, known as Operation Odyssey, was launched. A force of nearly 600,000 troops began the invasion of Greece, Italian troops began a new offensive under Mussolini’s direct orders to capture Athens by the end of the month, which his Generals were dedicated to doing. Emilio De Bono led Italian forces on the 2nd of November, 1940 into Athens, which had surrendered before the Italians even reached the city. The war was over in less than one month.
While the Italians were consolidating their gains in Yugoslavia and Greece, was continuing all across Europe. The Battle of Britain ended, and Winston Churchill was now seeking another nation to assist his war against Nazism. Already, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary were under the Axis banner, and there were rumors that Hitler was attempting to contact the Turkish government.
On December 1st, 1942 German Artillery attacks and air raids on Italian cities however began in the early morning. Italian positions along the border were overrun by German troops in the Alps, partially due to the surprise of the invasion. The invasion was two pronged, with a massive force crossing at Nice, in Southern France, as well as at Savoy. The other large force crossed from Tirol into Northern Italy. The main targets of the attack were Turin, Milan, and Venice. On the 5th of December, the Battle of Merano began with Graziani taking control of Italian forces on the border regions. The battle ended on the 9th of December with an Italian retreat into Bolzano. The Battle of Bolzano began on the 12th of December, with Italian forces holding out from German attacks. This however allowed for German forces to surround the city, allowing for German troops to continue south out of the alps towards Trento.
On the 19th of January, 1943 Mussolini visited FDR, Stalin, and Churchill in Jerusalem, where they agreed to invade Northern France in 1944 to put pressure on German forces. The Jerusalem Conference set together a plan for the demise of Germany, and while the Italian situation was still to be settled, Mussolini knew Italy was guaranteed survival in the Post-War world.
Germany on the 2nd of February 1943 founded the State of Italy, a puppet state based in Brescia, with a claimed capitol in Venice. Along with that, the first transportation of Italian Jews to German concentration camps began that day. The Italians broke out near Monza on the 16th of March, and began a push East in a stunning offensive across German held land. Civilians who were armed joined the Italian breakout, bringing the number up to nearly 50,000 Italians involved in the surprise offensive from Milan. Milan itself fell on the 20th of March when the Germans realized only a small token amount of Italian troops remained within the city. Four Italian battleships which were grounded in Venice became weapons platforms essentially, allowing for the Italians to defend the city.
On the 5th of June, 1943 rumors that the Pope was going to call a Crusade filled the mindset of heavily Catholic regions. American General George S. Patton was placed in charge of American forces in Italy, and started to aid in setting up defenses for Rome, and sending American airborne forces to Venice to aid with defending the city.
On the 20th of June, Benito Mussolini announced to the public the formation of the Greater Italian Empire. 5 major states were founded, the Italian Social Republic, the Greek Social Republic, the Dalmatian Social Republic, the Libyan Social Republic, and the Abyssinian Social Republic, which would be the 5 major subdivisions of the Greater Italian Empire. Mussolini named himself Il Duce of the Empire. The Empire was immediately recognized by most Allied nations, and with the Germans continually speeding towards Rome, they began sending troops to help defend the city.
Mussolini on the 11th of August 1943 signaled for the first time publically that Rome would be the site of a future battleground. He placed Badoglio in command of Rome’s defenses, sending Graziani to take his place in Venice. De Bono would also be placed in command of Italian reserve forces in the mountains and to the south of Naples, to serve alongside General Patton. The German forces on the 17th of August captured Terni, Viterbo, and Ancona, leaving only small towns between the German army and Rome. On the 19th of August, Mussolini made his famous “Defense of Rome” speech, calling for everyone of every faith and government to come to the defense of Rome.
The Pope on that day refused to leave Rome as well, calling for the “Soldiers of Christendom and the civilized world to fight for the city of Rome.” While the Pope and Mussolini remained in Rome, much of the Italian Government and College of Cardinals were relocated to Palermo, where if Rome was lost, Italian actions would continue there. On the 20th of August, 1943 the Italians held one last massive military parade to celebrate their Italian Empire, before the city of Rome was dragged into war. Mussolini and the Pope personally took part in the parade, showing that they were remaining in Rome. Over 600,000 Italian troops, and 200,000 Americans, as well as nearly 250,000 largely untrained civilians from across the Catholic world were preparing for the battle.
The Battle for Rome began on the night of August 20th, 1943, when German artillery hit the outskirts of Rome. Every day during the battle, German bombs fell over Italian and American positions within the city. The fighting continued on the outskirts until on the 1st of September, General Kesselring broke through Italian defenses, and started to capture areas within central Rome. On the 3rd of September, the Battle of the Vatican began, with Italian troops fighting reportedly to the last man alongside American troops. German troops on the 9th of September surrounded the Castel, and crossed the Tiber at Augustus’ Tomb, where heavy fighting once again took place between Italian and German troops. On the 11th of September, German troops continued to push south towards the Trevi Fountain, where once again, heavy combat took heavy casualties on both sides. On the 16th of September, German troops reached the Coliseum, where Mussolini’s personal command center was located. Fighting continued until on the 20th of September, General Patton and De Bono’s surprise offensive came into play.
General Patton and Marshal De Bono launched their surprise offensive on Kesselring and Rommel on the 20th of September, sending hundreds of thousands of American and Italian troops towards the north of Rome from the mountains. Their objective was to cut off the German line of supply, and force a large scale retreat. Their armies managed to march into Rieti and Terni with little opposition on the 22nd, cutting off roads from Perugia into Rome. The Germans as a result started to lose their gains inside Rome, retreating from the Quirinal Palace on the 25th of September, and the Coliseum on the 1st of October. Italian troops under Badoglio launched massive attack to recapture Ostia, which was liberated by Italian troops on the 4th of October. Other counter attacks by Italian and American troops quickly regained control over the Vatican on the 9th of October, and the Pantheon on the 11th of October. Patton’s and De Bono’s troops, at the order of Mussolini and Eisenhower, continued North towards Perugia, which they believed would end the Battle of Rome.
Kesselring ordered an immediate retreat from Rome on the 3rd of November, and relocated his headquarters back to Milan. Hitler flew into a rage, and accused Rommel of the defeat, sentencing him to death. Rommel defected to Italian troops on the 6th of November, the same day the Battle for Rome ended in Italian victory. For the remainder of 1943, Italian troops continued to push north, finally capturing Perugia on the 10th of November, and Ancona on the 22nd of November. By the end of 1943, Italian troops were ready to push back into Northern Italy. The Roman Campaign, left nearly 3 million people dead. Over 1,500,000 soldiers on both sides were killed, around half German, and half Italian, with nearly 100,000 additional American deaths. 2 million civilians were reportedly killed during the offensive.
On the 5th of January, 1944 rumors were circulating all across Italy, and Europe, that Erwin Rommel was made a General in the Italian Imperial Army, Italy’s new Army established in Mid-1943 following the founding of the Greater Italian Empire. Mussolini, speaking at a Dinner with Reporters and American Generals, said that “Erwin Rommel was not made a General in our Army, but he has instead been placed in command of the German Co-Belligerent Army, which was founded last night. Their objective is to help liberate Germany to the fascist cause, and the cause of eliminating Adolf Hitler’s rule over Germany. Over 40,000 German defectors and POWs, most having served under Rommel before, are members of this Army.” A strong and independent Italy gives rise to all sorts of possibilities, and one possibility is as a potential super power in the new world order when this war comes to an end.
Italian Operations to liberate Northern Italy began on January 14, 1944, with the launch of Operation Varus. 3 large armies, led by Emile De Bono, Pietro Badoglio, and George S. Patton. With Erwin Rommel’s Co-Belligerent Army being merged with Badoglio’s Coastal portion of the front, launched large scale attacks all across the Perugia Line, Germany’s main line of defense against the Italians. Pietro Badoglio was the first to begin operations on that day, sending his armies, along with Rommel’s army, to push up the coast against Kesselring’s depleted forces.
On the 9th of March, a new front in the war opened. Not in Africa, which was still being fought, nor in Europe, but in the Levant. Vichy France still held territory in Syria and Lebanon, where a Pro-German government was set up. While occasional raids took place from German and Vichy troops into Palestine, barely any action took place until 1944, until the Italians decided to expand their claims in the Mediterranean. Even with the Germans on Italian soil in Germany, and fighting in Italian Tunisia and Italian Libya, he still wanted to ensure the British promise of gaining control over Palestine and Jordan. In a speech to his Generals in late February, Mussolini claimed that since the French surrendered to Germany, all French territory liberated by the Italians would be made Italian territory following the war. He organized an invasion force of Syria and Lebanon.
Henri Dentz was the commander of Vichy forces in Syria and Lebanon, and Giovanni Messe, a famed Italian General from West Africa and Tunisia, were the two big names during the War of March. It was a surprise to the Vichy and German forces, as well as the Western Allies, who were shocked that Mussolini was able to pull off the invasion. The Italians on the 11th of March, after landing enough troops pushed on into Lebanon, moving on towards Damascus on the 16th of March. Vichy French troops quickly surrendered, and on the 27th of March, Henri Dentz signed the surrender of his forces in Syria to the Italian Imperial Army.
The Battle of Milan began on the 26th of May with Badoglio’s troops liberating the Milan Concentration Camp south of the city. He quickly encircled nearly 150,000 German troops in the city, along with Albert Kesselring. On the 28th of May, Mussolini offered Kesselring a chance to surrender, which he immediately refused. Rommel, who joined in on the Siege of Kesselring’s forces, attempted to make an overture to other German troops, saying that if they defected to his Co-Belligerent Army, they would be spared. On the 1st of June, Kesselring was captured by Italian troops, and nearly 50,000 troops defected to the Co-Belligerent Army. On the 2nd of June, 1944 Milan was liberated by Italian forces. On the 4th of June, Italian troops reached the Swiss Border. On the 5th of June, a civilian uprising in Torino, along with Italian troops entering the city, forced a German/Vichy retreat from Piedmont, into Southern France. On the 6th of June, early in the morning, Italian and American forces reached and captured Trento, effectively ending Germany’s puppet government in Italy, as well as any German chance for success in Italy.
The war in Italy sprung Mussolini into the heart of the Italian people, and the people living in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other nations in the free world. His successes in Italy, particularly by freeing most land lost to the Germans in less than 2 years managed to force the Allies to organize meetings throughout 1944 to plan for the final downfall of Hitler, as well as to draw up a Post-War map of Europe. The 6th of June also saw the Allies opening their 3rd Front in Europe as The Americans and Brittish landed at Normandy France in what would become known as D Day.
In February of 1945 at the Yalta conference Mussolini attended joining Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. During this meeting it was decided and concessions were made that would allow Soviet influence in some of her neighboring countries. The U.S. and England would oversee the liberation of Europe. Now the world would move into a new paradigm of four great super powers. The United States, Britain, Soviet Union and Italian Empire would decide the fate of post World War II.
After World War II the only prize that Fascist Italy had to give up was Southern France. It was agreed to that France should be reunited as it’s own free nation. Mussolini had gone as far as he could and decided it wasn’t worth more war to take France into it’s sphere. So on June 4, 1946 the new flag of Italy unfurald as 10 stars representing the new Italian Empire of Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Albania, Libya, Sudan, Tunisa, Ethiopia, Somalia and Italian East Africa.
On October 28, 1946 the anniversary of Benito Mussolini coming to power as Il Duce he assembled ten men including himself to form his new inner circle of advisors to administer the Italian Empire. The group consisted of Benito Mussolini his right hand Dino Grandi as Deputy Consul, Galaezzo Ciano his son in law as Foreign Minister, General Emilio DeBono as Grand Marshall of the Army, Generals Pietro Badoglio, Rodolfo Grazziani and Italo Balbo. Along with Giovanni Marinelli a longtime Fascist leader and his son Vittorio Mussolini Minister of Justice. These men would form the basic structure for the advice and consent of the Fascist Empire of Italy.
By March of 1950 Il Duce had decided to set up a succession plan to elevate someone to the title of First Consul of the Empire upon his death. For now he would designate his best friend and possibly the best friend of Fascism as well Dino Grandi the deputy Consul. Between 1948 and 1956 Generals DeBono, Graziani and Badoglio would all die of natural causes only the great General of the air Italo Balbo was still alive and he was serving as Governor General of Libya.
In 1954 Benito Mussolini went to Moscow to meet with Josef Stalin and to tour the city. He was received warmly by the Soviet people. Italy and Soviet Union signed a non aggression pact on June13, 1954. The 71 year old energetic Mussolini continued on to Paris to meet with Charles Degaulle and once again pledged his love and affection for the French people. He was warmly greeted as a hero of France. He also visited London and Washington that September to throngs of adoring or curious people who wanted to get a glimpse of Il Duce, the man who first stood up to Hitler and probably shortened the war in Europe. On his trip to Washington he addressed a joint session of Congress called by President Eisenhower in honor of Il Duce. It was at that meeting on September 28, 1954 that Mussolini gave his famous “Pax Romana” speech where he pledged to be “free of war but always prepared for it.”
The Italian economy was booming after the war and now the 1950s would be a time for the whole empire to become more modern and financially viable. Each of the parts of the Italian empire were going through a massive economic boom especially in Greece which was flourishing. All of this was suddenly interrupted when Turkey attempted to take over Cyprus on July 12, 1959 as they sent 15,000 troops to occupy. To counter this Mussolini sent 100,000 troops to the tiny island and in four days destroyed the Turkish army. The Italian troops were led by General Bruno Battaglia the 60 year old veteran of World War II. Cyprus now will belong only to Greece as was declared by Il Duce himself.
With the knowledge of Il Duce his son in law Ciano, his son Vittorio and Dino Grandi were all jockeying for Mussolini’s favors. For Ciano he was advocating his long loyalty to the cause and of course his familial position. For Vittorio he was pushing the fact that as his son he could be assured of a Mussolini dynasty. For Grandi he was pressing there long friendship and many battles both political and military.
March 12, 1965 was a day like any other in Rome, it was sunny and bright and had the feel of spring in the air. As Benito Mussolini walked to his offices at the Pantheon he fell over grabbing at his chest. Within minutes he was dead from a massive coronary. Now it was time for the nation to mourn. Now Grandi stood in front of the massive crowd who had attended the funeral ceremony and great eulogy given by Il Duce’s greatest friend. Now it would fall upon Dino Grandi to begin his rule of the Empire as First Consul of the Empire. He was now 70 years old but in good health and very energetic and fit.
As Galaezzo Ciano boarded a flight to London on March 26, 1965 to meet with the Prime Minister he didn’t realize that his flight would never arrive as it mysteriously crashed into the Atlantic upon it’s approach to England lost near the cliffs of Dover. Almost immediately Grandi went to work naming Vittorio Mussolini age 49 as deputy Consul and an old family friend and rising political star Pino Romualdi age 52 as Foreign Minister.
In the end Vittorio Mussolini would never become First Consul of the Empire as he too was involved in a tragic death by a viscious car accident in April 1968. Dino Grandi would consolidate his power and cutoff every connection that wasn’t immediately loyal to him. After all Grandi had learned from the best and he would have to try to leave his mark on the world stage. On October 28, 1968 Dino Grandi would take one more step toward history as he declared himself Il Duce of the Italian Empire. Now all power would flow to him and his new inner circle of advisors.
The Fascist government still lives and the Great Italian Empire still exists, though it has been tested in recent years by rebellion and rioting especially in North Africa, but also in Greece and Yugoslavia as well. Yes Fascism is alive and well in Italy and it has lasted nearly 100 years. As people have gained in standard of living and technological evolution people have expressed a greater need for freedom and possibly democracy…but not yet… not yet.