Armistice with Italy Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

In October 1936, Italy entered a coalition with Germany known as the Rome-Berlin Axis, forming an alliance between the two fascist countries. The leader of the National Fascist Party in Italy, Benito Mussolini, ruled the country from 1922 until 1943 and sought to expand Italian territorial holdings, drawing the country into World War II. By July 1943, as the Allied forces encroached upon Italy, Mussolini had been ousted from his position as prime minister of Italy. His replacement, Marshal Pietro Badoglio, sought peace in Europe. He reached an armistice with the Allies on September 3, 1943. Among its twelve provisions, the armistice called for an immediate end to hostile activities by the Italian armed forces; refusal to cooperate with German troops; and free use by the Allied forces of any strategic locations and equipment. Within a few weeks of the armistice, most of the Italian armed forces had joined the Allies and worked with the Allied troops to expel German occupying forces from Italy.

Summary Overview

In October 1936, Italy entered a coalition with Germany known as the Rome-Berlin Axis, forming an alliance between the two fascist countries. The leader of the National Fascist Party in Italy, Benito Mussolini, ruled the country from 1922 until 1943 and sought to expand Italian territorial holdings, drawing the country into World War II. By July 1943, as the Allied forces encroached upon Italy, Mussolini had been ousted from his position as prime minister of Italy. His replacement, Marshal Pietro Badoglio, sought peace in Europe. He reached an armistice with the Allies on September 3, 1943. Among its twelve provisions, the armistice called for an immediate end to hostile activities by the Italian armed forces; refusal to cooperate with German troops; and free use by the Allied forces of any strategic locations and equipment. Within a few weeks of the armistice, most of the Italian armed forces had joined the Allies and worked with the Allied troops to expel German occupying forces from Italy.

Defining Moment

Between 1937 and 1945, nearly every country in the Northern Hemisphere fought in World War II. The European war officially began when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. The Allied forces were led by the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China. The Axis powers included most of the smaller Eastern European countries and were led by Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Elected in 1922, Prime Minister Benito Mussolini ruled Italy as a fascist dictator beginning in 1925. While Mussolini did not establish the fascist movement himself, he was a prominent member of the National Fascist Party in its early days and adeptly navigated into a position of power within its ranks. Fascism emerged in Italy following World War I and combined fierce nationalism with aggressive expansionism. Most of all, fascism advocated granting full economic, social, and military power to a dominant race led by a single dictator. These principles directly contradicted the democratic tenets that prevailed across most of Europe following World War I.

In October 1936, Mussolini and German Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler formally initiated their first “treaty of friendship,” forming the Rome-Berlin Axis. Over the next several years, they established additional cooperation treaties on behalf of their nations and with the fellow Axis member country of Japan. These treaties included the Anti-Comintern Pact, which Italy joined in November 1937 to neutralize the perceived threat of communism from the Soviet Union, and the Pact of Steel, signed by Hitler and Mussolini in May 1939 to formalize their alliance with military provisions.

During his time as prime minister, Mussolini gradually shifted the National Fascist Party's politics. Eventually, his association with Hitler and the Nazi Party led to significant policy changes in Italy. For example, early fascism embraced national liberation but rejected extreme imperialism and racism. But by 1937, Mussolini began to introduce racist and anti-Semitic legislation in Italy. These measures and their enforcement were in line with existing Nazi policies and procedures but were not well received by most Italian citizens.

Many Italians did not approve of Mussolini's alliance with Hitler from the beginning. Some disliked the Nazi influence on fascist ideals; others did not support fascism at all. By the time the Allied forces landed on the island of Sicily in July 1943, public support for the war—and for Mussolini in particular—was extremely low. Mussolini was forced out of his position as prime minister on July 25, 1943, and arrested shortly thereafter. His replacement, Marshal Pietro Badoglio, dissolved the National Fascist Party and reached an armistice with the Allies a few weeks later. On September 8, 1943, Italy became the first Axis nation to formally surrender to Allied forces.

Author Biography

The armistice with Italy was drafted by the United States, Great Britain, and the United Nations. At the time, the United Nations consisted of the twenty-six signatory countries to the Declaration by United Nations of January 1, 1942, that pledged to fight against the Axis powers during World War II. These included the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Yugoslavia, as well as several non-European nations. In 1945, these signatories plus twenty-four additional countries met at the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco to formally establish the United Nations Charter.

The armistice was presented to the acting Italian government by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the commander in chief of the Allied forces in Europe, acting by authority of the governments of the United States and Great Britain, and also on behalf of the United Nations. It was formally accepted on September 3, 1943, by Marshal Pietro Badoglio, the head of the Italian government.

Historical Document

SICILY

September 3, 1943

The following conditions of an Armistice are presented by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces, acting by authority of the Governments of the United States and Great Britain and in the interest of the United Nations, and are accepted by Marshal Pietro Badoglio, Head of the Italian Government.

1. Immediate cessation of all hostile activity by the Italian armed forces.

2. Italy will use its best endeavors to deny, to the Germans, facilities that might be used against the United Nations.

3. All prisoners or internees of the United Nations to be immediately turned over to the Allied Commander in Chief, and none of these may now or at any time be evacuated to Germany.

4. Immediate transfer of the Italian Fleet and Italian aircraft to such points as may be designated by the Allied Commander in Chief, with details of disarmament to be prescribed by him.

5. Italian merchant shipping may be requisitioned by the Allied Commander in Chief to meet the needs of his military-naval program.

6. Immediate surrender of Corsica and of all Italian territory, both islands and mainland, to the Allies, for such use as operational bases and other purposes as the Allies may see fit.

7. Immediate guarantee of the free use by the Allies of all airfields and naval ports in Italian territory, regardless of the rate of evacuation of the Italian territory by the German forces. These ports and fields to be protected by Italian armed forces until this function is taken over by the Allies.

8. Immediate withdrawal to Italy of Italian armed forces from all participation in the current war from whatever areas in which they may be now engaged.

9. Guarantee by the Italian Government that if necessary it will employ all its available armed forces to insure prompt and exact compliance with all the provisions of this armistice.

10. The Commander in Chief of the Allied Forces reserves to himself the right to take any measure which in his opinion may be necessary for the protection of the interests of the Allied Forces for the prosecution of the war, and the Italian Government binds itself to take such administrative or other action as the Commander in Chief may require, and in particular the Commander in Chief will establish Allied Military Government over such parts of Italian territory as he may deem necessary in the military interests of the Allied Nations.

11. The Commander in Chief of the Allied Forces will have a full right to impose measures of disarmament, demobilization, and demilitarization.

12. Other conditions of a political, economic and financial nature with which Italy will be bound to comply will be transmitted at a later date.

The conditions of the present Armistice will not be made public without prior approval of the Allied Commander in Chief. The English will be considered the official text.

MARSHAL PIETRO BADOGLIO

Head of Italian Government

By: GUISEPPE CASTEILANO

Brigadier General, attached to The Italian High Command

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

General, U.S. Army,

Commander in Chief, Allied Forces

By: WALTER B. SMITH

Major General, U.S. Army,

Chief of Staff

Present:

Rt. Hon. Harold Macmillan

British Resident Minister, A.F.H.Q.

Robert Murphy

Personal Representative of the

President of the United States

Royer Dick

Commodore, R.N.

Chief of Staff to the C. in C. Med.

Lowell W. Rooks

Major General, U.S. Army

Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3

A.F.H.Q.

Franco Montanari

Official Italian Interpreter

Brigadier Kenneth Strong

Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3

A.F.H.Q.

Document Analysis

The armistice with Italy establishes the terms of Italy's surrender to the Allied forces. It requires “immediate cessation of all hostile activity” by the Italian armed forces and immediate withdrawal to Italy of all its armed forces participating in the war. Italy must use its “best endeavors” to prevent German access to any facilities or equipment that might be used against the United Nations. Further, Italy must surrender Corsica and any other Italian island or mainland territory to the Allies, for use in any purposes the Allies see fit.

Any Italian prisoners who are citizens of the United Nations must be immediately released to the Allies and not evacuated to Germany under any circumstance. Italian ships and aircraft must be turned over to the Allies, and the Allies must be granted free use of all airfields and naval ports in Italian territory, including those occupied by German forces. The armistice also grants the Allied commander in chief the right to requisition Italian merchant shipping for military use if necessary.

The armistice further requires the Italian government to guarantee that it will employ all of its armed forces to ensure “prompt and exact compliance” with all of its provisions. It grants the Allied commander in chief the right to take any measures necessary to protect the Allies' interest in the war and requires the Italian government to take any actions the Allied commander in chief deems necessary to the military interests of the Allies. Finally, it establishes that the commander in chief of the Allied forces has the “full right to impose measures of disarmament, demobilization, and demilitarization.”

Essential Themes

The armistice agreement allowed the Allies to seize full control over the Italian military, its troops, supplies, materials, and territory. It also provided for full demilitarization of Italy at the command of the Allied leaders. However, this step proved to be unnecessary: Despite its significant involvement in starting World War II while under the leadership of Prime Minister Mussolini, Italy's new leader General Pietro Badoglio sought peace with the Allies. Within weeks of assuming his new role, he established the armistice, making Italy the first Axis country to formally surrender to the United Nations. Then, on October 13, 1943, Italy officially declared war on Germany.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Mussolini, the National Fascist Party had assumed significant control over Italy. In addition to liberating the United Nations from Axis occupation, the Allies fought to end the dictatorships in Italy and Germany and to restore democracy to both of these countries. After establishing the armistice with Italy, the United States, United Kingdom, and Soviet Union signed the Declaration of the Four Nations on General Security to formalize their intentions to expel all fascist influences from the Italian government and administration.

As it turned out, the Italians were largely willing to help the Allies accomplish this task. They had become disillusioned with Mussolini's fascist dictatorship and supported his ouster from his position as prime minister in 1943. But Germany had noticed the Italian public's waning support throughout the early 1940s and was prepared for this turn of events: Shortly after the armistice, German troops secured key defensive positions in Italy. In September 1943, two months after Mussolini's arrest, German paratroops rescued the former Italian prime minister, with whom they established a new fascist state in northern Italy known as the Italian Social Republic. The Allies continued to control much of southern Italy. For nearly two years, Italian troops fought alongside the Allies to expel the Germans. It took until May 1945 to complete this task. Germany surrendered shortly thereafter, following Hitler's suicide. Eventually, Mussolini attempted to flee to Switzerland, but he was captured by the Italian Partisan Resistance and executed on April 28, 1945.

Bibliography and Additional Reading
  • Atkinson, Rick. The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943–1944. New York:Holt, 2007. Print.
  • Paxton, Robert O. The Anatomy of Fascism. New York: Random, 2004. Print.
  • Wilhelm, Maria de Blasio. The Other Italy: The Italian Resistance in World War II. New York: Norton, 1988. Print.
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