How the mighty had fallen. When Benito Mussolini came to power in 1922, he had done so on a wave of immense popularity. Twenty years later, he was on his way out. A string of terrible military “adventures” in Africa, a disastrous invasion of Greece, the impending loss of Sicily, and the inevitable invasion of Italy by Allied forces had seriously eroded his support base.
On July 25, 1943, King Victor Emmanuel III told the embattled dictator, “Dear Duce, the situation is beyond remedy. At this moment, you are the most hated man in Italy. You have not a single friend left, except for me. I am sorry, but the solution could not be otherwise.”
Italy’s Grand Council had just passed, with the greatest of ease, a vote of no-confidence against Benito. The people were angry, the government was angry, and now the King’s words, coming from a man standing barely five feet tall, towered over the once-powerful Italian leader.
And as he left the King’s estate, he was met by armed men and arrested. The reign of Mussolini in Italy was over. The annoucement was broadcast over the radio shortly before midnight, leading to an impromptu after-hours pajama party in the streets of Rome.
Almost overnight, Facism in Italy vanished. Pietro Badoglio, who took over power, said, “Facism fell, as was fitting, like a rotten pear.” Even Mussolini’s own newspaper replaced Il Duce’s picture (shown prominently on the front page) with one of Badoglio.
In Germany, the news was met with anger and harsh words. For all his miserable economic failures and complete ineptitude as a military leader, Mussolini had Teutonic allies. In his diary, Joseph Goebbels would write about the deposed dictator, “…behind his massive figure a gypsy people has gone to rot. The only thing certain in this war is that Italy will lose it.”
And then the scheming to somehow free Mussolini began…
Recommended Reading: The Day of Battle