|This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (January 2011)|
The Armistice with Italy was an armistice signed on September 3 and publicly declared on September 8, 1943, during World War II, between Italy and the Allied armed forces, who were then occupying the southern end of the country, entailing the capitulation of Italy. It is also referred to in Italy as the Armistizio di Cassibile (from the place in which it was signed) or the Armistizio dell'8 Settembre (more simply 8 Settembre).
Following the surrender of the Axis Powers in North Africa on 13 May 1943, the Allies bombed Rome first on May 16, invaded Sicily on July 10 and began to land on the Italian mainland on September 3, 1943.
In the spring of 1943, preoccupied by the disastrous situation of the Italian military in the war, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini removed from their positions in the Italian government several figures whom he considered to be more faithful to King Victor Emmanuel than to the Fascist regime. These moves by Mussolini were described as slightly hostile acts to the king, who had been growing increasingly critical of the poor conduct of Italy in the conflict.
To help carry out his plan, the King asked for the assistance of Dino Grandi. Grandi was one of the leading members of the Fascist hierarchy and, in his younger years, he was considered to be the sole credible alternative to Mussolini as leader of the Fascist Party. The King was also motivated by the suspicion that Grandi's ideas about Fascism might be changed abruptly. Various ambassadors, including Pietro Badoglio himself, proposed to him the vague possibility of succeeding Mussolini as dictator.
The secret frondeur later involved Giuseppe Bottai, another high member of the Fascist directorate and Minister of Culture, and Galeazzo Ciano, probably the second most powerful man in the Fascist party and also Mussolini's son-in-law. The conspirators devised an Order of the Day for the next reunion of the Grand Council of Fascism (Gran Consiglio del Fascismo) which contained a proposal to restore direct control of politics to the king. Following the Council, held on July 23, 1943, where the "order of the day" was adopted by majority vote, Mussolini was summoned to meet the King and dismissed as Prime Minister. Upon leaving the meeting, Mussolini was arrested by "carabinieri" and spirited off to the island of Ponza. He was substituted with Badoglio as PM. This went against what had been promised to Grandi, who had been told that another general of greater personal and professional qualities (Enrico Caviglia) would have taken the place of Mussolini.
The nomination of Badoglio apparently did not change the position of Italy alongside Germany in the war. However, it was another move of the Royal Savoia family towards peace. Many channels, in fact, were being probed to seek a treaty with the Allies. Meanwhile Hitler sent several divisions south of the Alps, officially to protect Italy from allied landings but in reality to control the country. General Giuseppe Castellano.== Towards the signing== Three Italian generals (including Giuseppe Castellano) were separately sent to Lisbon in order to contact Allied diplomats. However, to start out the proceedings the Allied diplomats had to solve a problem concerning who was the most authoritative envoy: the three generals had in fact soon started to quarrel about the question of who enjoyed the highest authority. In the end, Castellano was admitted to speak with the Allied diplomats in order to set the conditions for the surrender of Italy. Among the representatives of the allies, there was the British ambassador to Portugal, Ronald Campbell, and two generals sent by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the American Walter Bedell Smith and the British Kenneth Strong.
Initially, the Allies were not entirely happy about the proposal of a surrender of Italy. The military campaign against the Axis forces there seemed to have gained steam, and a defeat of Italy was considered only a matter of time. The surrender of Germany's weaker ally would certainly have accelerated that end; however, it would also have reduced the benefits gained by a total conquest of the Italian territory.
Ultimately, though, further examination of the possibilities after the end of the war in Italy led the Allies to seriously discuss the question. In particular, the United States wanted to avoid the possible consignment of Italy to Great Britain after the war, as this would have given the British absolute control over the strategic Mediterranean area (including control over oil trade routes).
On August 27 Castellano returned to Italy and, three days later, briefed Badoglio about the Allied request for a meeting to be held in Sicily, which had been suggested by the British ambassador to the Vatican.
To ease communication between the Allies and the Italian Government, a captured British SOE agent, Dick Mallaby was released from Verona prison and secretly moved to the Quirinale. It was vital that the Germans remained ignorant of any suggestion of Italian defection and the SOE was seen as the most secure method in the circumstances.
Badoglio still considered it possible to gain favourable conditions in exchange for the surrender. He ordered Castellano to insist that any surrender of Italy was subordinate to a landing of Allied troops on the Italian mainland (the Allies at this point were holding only Sicily and some minor islands).
On August 31 General Castellano reached Termini Imerese, in Sicily, by plane and was subsequently transferred to Cassibile, a small town in the neighbourhood of Syracuse. It soon became obvious that the two sides in the negotiations had adopted rather distant positions. Castellano pressed the relatively reasonable request that the Italian territory be defended from the inevitable reaction of the German Wehrmacht against Italy after the signing. In return, he received only vague promises, which included the launching of a Parachute Division over Rome. Moreover, these actions were to be conducted contemporaneously with the signing and not preceding it, as the Italians had wanted.
The following day Castellano was received by Badoglio and his entourage. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Baron Raffaele Guariglia declared that the Allied conditions were to be accepted. Other generals like Giacomo Carboni maintained however that the Army Corps deployed around Rome was insufficient to protect the city, due to lack of fuel and ammunition, and that the armistice had to be postponed. Badoglio did not pronounce himself in the meeting. In the afternoon he appeared before the King, who decided to accept the armistice conditions.
A confirmation telegram was sent to the Allies. The message, however, was intercepted by the German armed forces, which had long since begun to suspect that Italy was seeking a separate armistice. The Germans contacted Badoglio, who repeatedly confirmed the unwavering loyalty of Italy to its German ally. His reassurances were doubted by the Germans, and the Wehrmacht started to devise an effective plan (Operation Achse) to take control of Italian soil as soon as the Italian government had switched allegiance to the Allies.
On September 2, Castellano set off again to Cassibile with an order to confirm the acceptance of the Allied conditions. He had no written authorisation from the head of the Italian Government, Badoglio, who wanted to dissociate himself as much as possible from the upcoming defeat of his country.
The signing ceremony began at 2:00 p.m. on September 3 on board HMS Nelson. Castellano and Bedell Smith signed the accepted text on behalf of respectively Badoglio and Eisenhower. A bombing mission on Rome by five hundred airplanes was stopped at the last moment: it had been Eisenhower's deterrent to accelerate the procedure of the armistice. Harold Macmillan, the British representative in the Allied Staff, informed Winston Churchill that the armistice had been signed "without amendments of any kind".
Only after the signing had taken place was Castellano informed of the additional clauses that had been presented by general Campbell to another Italian general, Zanussi, who had also been in Cassibile since August 31. Zanussi, for unclear reasons, had not informed Castellano about them. Bedell Smith, nevertheless, explained to Castellano that these further conditions were to have taken effect only if Italy had not taken on a fighting role in the war alongside the Allies.
In the afternoon of the same day, Badoglio had a briefing with the Italian Ministers of Navy, Air Forces and War, and with the King's representatives as well. However, he omitted any mention of the signing of the armistice, referring only to ongoing negotiations.
The day of entry into force of the armistice was linked to a planned landing in central Italy and it was left to allied discretion. Castellano anyway understood that the date was intended to be September 12 and Badoglio started to move troops to Rome.
On September 7 a small allied delegation reached Rome to inform Badoglio that the day after would have been armistice day. He was also informed about the arrival of an US airborne division into airports around the city. Badoglio told to this delegation that his army was not ready to support this landing and that most airports in the area were under German control; he asked for a deferral of the armistice of a few days. When General Eisenhower knew this the landing in Rome of US troops was canceled but the day of the armistice was confirmed since other troops were already sailing to southern Italy for other landings.
When the armistice was announced by the allied radios, in the afternoon of September 8, the majority of the Italian Army had not been informed about it and no orders had been issued about the line of conduct to be taken in the face of the German armed forces. Some of the Italian divisions that should have defended Rome were still in transit from the south of France. The King along with the royal family and Badoglio fled from the capital city in the early morning of the 9th, taking shelter in the town of Brindisi, in the south of the country. The initial intention had been to move army headquarters out of Rome together with the King and the PM but only few staff officers reached Brindisi. In the meanwhile the Italian troops, without instructions, collapsed and were soon overwhelmed while some small units decided to stay loyal to the German ally. German forces therefore occupied between the 8th and the 12th of September, without meeting great organized resistance, all of the remaining Italian territory still not under Allied control except Sardinia and part of Apulia. In Rome an Italian governor with the support of an Italian infantry division nominally ruled the city until September 23 but practically speaking the city was under German control since September 11.
On September 3, British and Canadian troops had begun landing in the southernmost tip of Calabria. The day after the armistice declaration, September 9, the Allies also disembarked at Salerno (Operation Avalanche) and Taranto (Operation Slapstick) but they failed to take full advantage of Italian armistice and they were quickly checked by German troops. It took twenty months for the allied forces to reach northern borders of Italy.
Some of Italian troops based out of Italy, in the occupied Balkans and Greek islands, were able to stand some weeks after the armistice but without any determined support by Allied forces they were all overwhelmed by the Germans by the end of September 1943. Only in the islands of Leros and Samos, with British reinforcements, resistance lasted until November 1943 while in Corsica Italian troops, reinforced by French units, forced German troops to leave the island.
While Italy's army and Air Force virtually disintegrated when the armistice was announced on September 8, the Allies coveted the Italian navy which contained 206 ships in total including such formidable battleships as the Roma, Vittorio Veneto and Italia (formerly Littorio). There was a danger that some of the Italian Navy might fight on, be scuttled or, more importantly for the Allies, end up in "German hands." As such the truce called for Italian warships on her west coast, mostly located at La Spezia and Genoa to sail for North Africa (passing Corsica and Sardinia) and for those at Taranto, in the heel of Italy, to sail for Malta.
At 2:30 a.m., on September 9, the three battleships, Roma, Vittorio Veneto, and Littorio "shoved off from La Spezia escorted by three light cruisers and eight destroyers." When German troops who had stormed into the town to prevent this defection became enraged by these ships' escape, "they rounded up and summarily shot several Italian captains who, unable to get their vessels under way, had scuttled them." That afternoon, the ships, sailing without air cover, were attacked off Sardinia by German bombers with guided bombs; several ships suffered damage and the Roma was sunk with a loss of nearly 1,400 men. Most of the remaining ships made it safely to North Africa, "while three destroyers and a cruiser which had stopped to rescue survivors, docked in Minorca." The Italian navy's turnover proceeded more smoothly in other areas of Italy. When an Allied naval force headed for the big naval base of Taranto, they watched a flotilla of Italian ships sailing out of Taranto harbour towards surrender at Malta.
- Military history of Italy during World War II
- Allied invasion of Italy
- European Theatre of World War II
- Italian Co-Belligerent Army
- Italian military internees
- King Michael's Coup
- Bulgarian coup d'état of 1944
- Moscow Armistice and Lapland War
- Italian Army in Russia
- Badoglio Proclamation
- ^ Marks, Leo (1998). Between Silk and Cyanide. London: HarperCollins. chapter 47. ISBN 0-00-255944-7.
- ^ a b c d e f g h Robert Wallace & the editors of Time-Life Books, The Italian Campaign, Time-Life Books Inc, 1978. p.57
- Aga Rossi, Elena (1993) (in Italian). Una nazione allo sbando. Bologna.
- Bianchi, Gianfranco (1963) (in Italian). 25 luglio, crollo di un regime. Milan.
- Marchesi, Luigi (1969) (in Italian). Come siamo arrivati a Brindisi. Milan.
- (Italian) Il diario del generale Giuseppe Castellano, La Sicilia, 8 settembre 2003
- (Italian) 8 Settembre 1943, l'armistizio Centro Studi della Resistenza dell'Anpi di Roma
- The Avalon Project at Yale Law School: Terms of the Armistice with Italy; September 3, 1943