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Who is Who in Italian History

Benito Mussolini
1883 - 1945
Benito Mussolini - "Il Duce"

Benito Mussolini's full name was Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini.  He was born in July of 1983 in Predappio, a small town in the province of Forli, which is located in the regionof Emilia Romagna

In 1922, King Umberto, under pressure,  appointed Mussolini to  became Italy's first Prime Minister.

Shortly thereafter, Mussolini turned intop Italy's feared dictator, known by his byname "Il Duce".

Chronology of the Rise and Fall of Benito Mussolini


Benito Mussolini was born on July 29 in Dovia di Predappio (Emilia Romagna) to father Alessandro, a black smith, and mother Rosa Mussolini;


Mussolini enrolls to a boarding school in Faenza (Emilia Romagna);


Following a knifing, he is expelled from the boarding school and transfers to a high school in Forlimpopoli near his home town;


Mussolini graduates to become an elementary school teacher. He joins the socialist party of Italy, “Partito Socialista Italiano” (PSI);


He works as an elementary school teacher in Gualtieri near Reggio Emilia;


To avoid mandatory military service, he moves to Switzerland where he holds jobs as a regular construction worker, office clerk and translator;


Mussolini receives a pardon for his desertion and returns to Italy to serve in the military;


He works again as a school teacher and becomes an activist in the socialist movement;


Mussolini moves to Trieste where he publishes a newspaper for workers. Only a few month after his arrival, he is deported by the Austrian-Hungarian authorities. He moves to Forlì (Emilia Romagna), where he publishes his own socialist newspaper;


He starts a relationship with the 17-year old Rachele Guidi who bares his first child;


In opposition to Italy’s expansionist war in Libya, Mussolini calls for a general strike and is arrested and convicted to serve 5 months in jail. (Between 1911 and 1915 He is arrested and jailed eleven times);


In July, Mussolini is elected to the executive committee of the socialist party. In November he is hired as Chief Editor of the socialist daily newspaper “Avanti” in Milan. He is able to increase the papers distribution from 20,000 to over 100,000;


On July 29, Mussolini signs a non aggression/anti war manifest on behalf of his party. However, in October he joins the proponents of war and calls for Italy’s participation in WW1. He is consequently expelled from the socialist party. He resigns from the newspaper “Avanti” and publishes his own national newspaper “Popolo d’Italia”. Together with the poet and writer Gabriele D’Annunzio he leads the movement for Italy’s participation in the war;


On August 31 Mussolini joins the army. He marries Rachele Guidi;


In February, Mussolini is promoted to master sergeant and is severely wounded shortly thereafter. He returns to Milan in August where he resumes as managing editor of his newspaper;


On March 23d Mussolini co-founds the “fasci(a) di combattimento”, a right-wing association of veterans with who call for an authoritarian order and the revision of the peace accords, more favorable for Italy.


May 15th, the “fascists” gain 34 seats in the Italian parliament. Mussolini, now the recognized leader of the Italian right-wing, transforms the “fasci” to the “National Fascist Party” known as the Partito Nazionale Fascista (PNF);


At the heights of the political crises between October 27 and October 30 (which is also plagued by a mass strike), Mussolini takes advantage of the wide-spread fear for a revolution and openly threatens to overturn the government. (March on Rome). King Victor Emanuel III by-passes the parliament and appoints Mussolini Prime Minister;


April 6, following Mussolini’s new election law the “fascists” gain a two thirds majority during parliamentary election;


January 3, Mussolini claims fascist’s responsibility for the murder of Giacomo Matteotti (1885-1924), a member of the [socialist] opposition. During the following months Mussolini’s dictatorship is further solidified in part promoted by several royal decrees;


Ban of all parties other then the Fascist National Party (“PNF”), establishment of special courts focusing on suppression of any opposition. Several attempts on Mussolini’s life are unsuccessful;


Foundation of the “Fascist Council”


February 11, the Vatican and Italy recognize each others sovereignty after 58 years of isolation. The reconciliation with the Vatican and the catholic church results in a high approval rating Mussolini’s among Italians;


June, first meeting between Mussolini and Adolf Hitler;


October, Italy starts the war against Ethiopia;


May 9, following victory in the war against Ethiopia, Mussolini proclaims the “Italian Empire” and claims Italy’s supremacy over the Mediterranean region;

November 1, following the alliance with Hitler, Mussolini announces the creation of the “Rome-Berlin Axis”;


September 29, Mussolini is able to mediate an agreement between Hitler and the Western Alliance. In spite of this success, Mussolini becomes increasingly dependent from Hitler and eventually introduces anti Semitic laws in Italy;


Italian forces occupy Albania;


June 10, Italy declares war to France and Grate Britain. October, following the three-country pact between Italy, Germany and Japan, Italy attacks Greece;


Italy is forced to withdraw from Ethiopia;


July 9, the Allied invasion of Sicily weakens Mussolini’s position and strengthens the anti fascist movement;

The Fascist Council deposes Mussolini on July 24/25 and King Victor Emmanuel III orders his arrest;

September 12, German Paratroopers free Mussolini from his jail in Gran Sasso (Abruzzi) and take him to Hitler’s HQ, the “Wolfschanze”. 


September 23, with Hitler’s help, Mussolini forms a fascist shadow government and proclaims the “Social Republic of Italy”. Operating from Salo (lake Garda), Mussolini attempts to regain power over Northern and Central Italy. He remained a puppet of the German forces.


June 5, Allied forces occupy Rome; Germany’s power in the region is rapidly shrinking;


April 27, forces of the Italian underground detain Mussolini at lake Como as he attempts to flee to Germany;

April 28, Mussolini and his mistress Clara (Claretta) Petacci are shot and beaten. Their bodies are hung in public upside down

Death of Mussolini and his Mistress Claretta Petacci

Towards the end of World War II, the Italian people had grown to passionately hate the previously revered “Duce”, mainly fueled by the unjustified execution of dicidents, who in most cases disappeared without trace.

Mussolini himself, along with his mistress Claretta (Clara) Petacci, were executed by partisans on April 28, 1945 while attempting to flee Italy.

Their bodies were taken to the Piazzale Loreto in Milan, a symbolic place where countless partisans were executed previously. Their corpses were beaten, urinated on and hung upside down in the midst of a large crowds cheering the demise of the Duce. The People wanted to make sure the hated dictator of over 20 years was indeed no longer.

Duane Cann's (USAF ret.) note about his personal wittness of Mussolini's death

In the late 80s, I met J. Duane Cann, a member of the US Air Force who was stationed in Italy during WWII. He was on special orders to assess the bomb damage in Northern Italy and was sent by US command to witness and confirm Mussolini’s death.


I have the original pictures Duane took and attached to his note, but I decided that they are too graphic to publish here. Should you be interested in copies of the pictures for research purposes, feel free to email me

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