On this day in 1943, the government of Italy declares war on its former Axis partner Germany and joins the battle on the side of the Allies.
With Mussolini deposed from power and the collapse of the fascist government in July, Gen. Pietro Badoglio, Mussolini’s former chief of staff and the man who had assumed power in the Duce’s stead by request of King Victor Emanuel, began negotiating with General Eisenhower regarding a conditional surrender of Italy to the Allies. It became a fact on September 8, with the new Italian government allowing the Allies to land in Salerno, in southern Italy, in its quest to beat the Germans back up the peninsula.
The Germans too snapped into action. Ever since Mussolini began to falter, Hitler had been making plans to invade Italy to keep the Allies from gaining a foothold that would situate them within easy reach of the German-occupied Balkans. On the day of Italy’s surrender, Hitler launched Operation Axis, the occupation of Italy. As German troops entered Rome, General Badoglio and the royal family fled to Brindisi, in southeastern Italy, to set up a new antifascist government.
On October 13, Badoglio set into motion the next stage of his agreement with Eisenhower, the full cooperation of Italian troops in the Allied operation to capture Rome from the Germans. It was extremely slow going, described by one British general as “slogging up Italy.” Bad weather, the miscalculation of starting the operation from so far south in the peninsula, and the practice of “consolidation,” establishing a firm base of operations and conjoining divisions every time a new region was captured, made the race for Rome more of a crawl. But when it was over, and Rome was once again free, General Badoglio would take yet one more step in freeing Italy from its fascist past-he would step down from office.