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Armistice Between Italy And Allied Armed Forces
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 1942 defeat of the Axis Powers in North Africa, the Allies bombed Rome on Sunday 16 May 1943, invaded Sicily on 10 July and began to land on the Italian mainland on 3 September 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 reputed to be more faithful to King Victor Emmanuel than to the Fascist regime. These moves by Mussolini have been described as slightly hostile acts to the king, who had been growing increasingly critical of the poor conduct of Italy in the conflict. After this sequence of decisions, Victor Emmanuel probably began to consider countermoves that in the end would lead to the Armistice and to Mussolini's downfall.
To help carry out his plan, the King asked Dino Grandi to get involved. 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.
Towards the signing
In particular, 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 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). Badoglio also dared to ask for access to Allied military plans. But this was clearly unreasonable, as the war was still ongoing and the Allied Staff could have done nothing but reject it.
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 Raffaele Guariglia declared that the Allied conditions were to be accepted. Other generals 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.
The way to the signing
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: Castellano, in lieu of Badoglio, and Bedell Smith, in place of Eisenhower, opposed their signatures to the accepted text. A bombing mission on Rome by 500 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 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.
When the armistice was publicly declared, on September 8, the majority of the Italian Army had not been informed about it. The King along with the royal family and Badoglio fled from Rome, taking shelter on the Allied side. No orders had been given at all about the line of conduct to be taken in the face of the German armed forces. The Italian troops, without instructions, collapsed and were soon overwhelmed while some units decided to stay loyal to the German ally. The Wehrmacht therefore occupied, without meeting great organized resistance, all of the remaining territory still not under Allied control except part of Apulia. On September 3, Canadian troops began 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).