May 1

This Day in History

World War II

May 1, 1887:

Alan G. Cunningham, British liberator of Ethiopia, is born

On this day, General Alan Gordon Cunningham, commander of the British forces that captured Ethiopia, liberating it from its Italian invaders, is born.

The younger brother of Admiral Andrew Cunningham, the man who effectively eliminated the Italian naval threat in the Mediterranean as early as 1940, General Alan Cunningham did virtually the same to the Italian threat in Ethiopia. Overcoming topographical and administrative obstacles, Cunningham's forces entered Italian Somaliland, occupied the ports of Chisimaio and Mogadiscio, and then pursued the Axis enemy into the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. On May 20, 1941, along with General Sir William Platt, whose army was advancing on the Italian invaders from the north, Cunningham received the surrender of Amadeo di Savoia, commander of the Italian armies. The way was paved for the return of Ethiopia's emperor, Haile Selassie.

Cunningham was less successful in campaigns in Libya and was finally relieved of his command. He returned to England and in 1941 was knighted for the successes he had enjoyed. He went on to become British high commissioner in Palestine from 1945 until Israel's independence in 1948.

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