Badoglio, Pietro (1871–1956)

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BADOGLIO, PIETRO (1871–1956)


Italian general.

Pietro Badoglio was born in Grazzano Monferrato (now Grazzano Badoglio) in Asti province on 28 September 1871 and died there on 1 November 1956. After completing his lycée studies he attended the Royal Academy of Artillery and Engineering in Turin and in 1892 he received the rank of lieutenant. Badoglio enlisted as a volunteer and served in the Eritrean campaign (1896–1898). Afterward he graduated from the War College and in 1904 was promoted to captain. With this rank he entered the General Staff; he participated in the Italo-Turkish War for the possession of Libya (1911–1912), earning the rank of major for his war record. He was promoted to colonel in February 1915. During World War I he was victorious in the August 1916 battle of Monte Sabotino in the Carso region, for which he became major-general and received the title of Marquis of Sabotino. He was a leading figure in the second battle of the Isonzo and in the famed defeat at Caporetto (24 October 1917), for which he found himself in the middle of a heated controversy that did not, however, prevent him from retaining his post and receiving a decoration. After serving as special military commissioner for the Venezia Giulia region during the Fiume affair (1919–1920), he returned to Rome, where he assumed the position of chief of staff until he resigned in 1921.

In the difficult circumstances that followed the end of World War I and of which Benito Mussolini (1883–1945) took advantage, Badoglio distanced himself from other military leaders in order not to be involved in profascist activities and to be ready to intervene with force against the fascist squads if King Victor Emmanuel III (r. 1900–1946) and the government ordered him to do so. During the fascist regime he accepted Mussolini's offer to head the Italian embassy in Brazil (December 1923–April 1925), which many interpreted as an exile. He later returned to Italy to assume the position of coordinator of the armed forces. Badoglio's malleability, his hostility toward any reform of the military structure, and his vulnerability on the ever-present question of Caporetto were, in Mussolini's opinion, sure guarantees of his total and uncritical subordination. On 4 May 1925 Badoglio thus became chief of staff of the army and simultaneously head of the general staff (until 1940) with vague supervisory powers over the three Armed Forces. In 1926 he was named Field Marshal of Italy. He held various offices, such as governor of Tripolitania and Cirenaica (now Libya) (January 1929–January 1934), High Commissioner for East Africa (November 1935), Viceroy of Ethiopia (1936), and chairman of the National Council for Research (1937–1941). The frequent changes that Mussolini made in high government posts did not harm Badoglio, who always obtained a position, probably because of the support of the king, to whom he had given repeated proofs of his loyalty.

On two occasions he demonstrated his independent professionalism: on the eve of the Ethiopian war (1935–1936) he pointed out the high costs of the operation and proposed a more reasonable plan of preparation; then, before World War II, he wrote a notable report on the state of the Armed Forces in which he denounced the failure to replace and modernize the military matériel lost during the Ethiopian and Spanish wars (1936–1939). He participated in the early phases of World War II, but the differences of opinion between him and Mussolini and the disastrous management of the Greek campaign (1940) led to a rupture and eventually to Badoglio's decision to retire. He returned to the political scene on 25 July 1943 when the king called upon him to replace Mussolini. He constituted an initial government composed of civil servants which—during the forty-five days from the fall of the fascist regime to the armistice with the Allies—attempted a painless disengagement from Germany.

The unrelenting bombardments of the Allies, however, persuaded Badoglio to seek the necessary agreements and to accept surrender. He authorized the armistice, which was signed at Cassibile, near Syracuse, on 3 September 1943 and made public on 8 September. Without leaving any orders for the Armed Forces and without organizing the defense of the capital, Badoglio, along with the king and the highest-ranking military officers, abandoned Rome and transferred to Brindisi, which became the seat of the government in the south. The "flight" of the king and Badoglio, which became the subject of endless debates, was undertaken in order to escape capture and to safeguard the continuity of the state. Beset by the nonmonarchical antifascist forces and by the Committee of National Liberation (Comitato di Liberazione nazionale [CLN]) because of his past and his ambiguous political stances, forced to accept the "long armistice" of 29 September, opposed to the abdication of the king, and having declared war on Germany on 13 October, he nevertheless had to reorganize the government in November 1943. When the leader of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), Palmiro Togliatti (1893–1964), returned from the USSR, he announced the "svolta di Salerno" (Salerno turning point, 31 March 1944), which had been suggested by Joseph Stalin (1879–1953). It opened the way for the first coalition government (22 April 1944) composed of the anti-fascist parties and led by Badoglio. This government lasted until the liberation of Rome (4 June 1944) and the formation of the first Ivanoe Bonomi (1873–1951) government. Badoglio retired to private life; a senator of the Kingdom since 1919, he was debarred in 1946, but the action was annulled by the Court of Cassation in 1948.

See alsoEthiopia; Italy; Mussolini, Benito; World War I; World War II.


Aga-Rossi, Elena. Una nazione allo sbando. L'armistizio italiano del settembre 1943 e le sue conseguenze. Bologna, 2003.

Badoglio, Pietra. Italy in the Second World War: Memories and Documents. Translated by Muriel Currey. London and New York, 1948; reprint Westport, Conn., 1976. Translation of L'Italia nella seconda guerra mondiale. Milan, 1946.

Biagini, Antonello, and Alessandro Gionfrida. Lo stato maggiore generale tra le due guerre: Verbali delle riunioni presiedute da Badoglio dal 1925 al 1937. Rome, 1997.

Pieri, Piero, and Giorgio Rochat. Pietro Badoglio. Turin, 1974.

Rainero, Roman, ed. Otto settembre 1943: L'armistizio italiano 40 anni dopo. Rome, 1985.

Vailati, Vanna. Badoglio racconta. Turin, 1955. Memoirs told toarelative.

Maria Teresa Giusti