Incompetence, Stupidity, and Cowardice: The Royal House of Savoy and the Governance of Italy, 1861-1946

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Marshal of Italy Pietro Badoglio


When last we left Dumb and Dumber, King Victor Emmanuel III had finally removed Mussolini in what amounted to a bloodless military coup d’état. In his place, the king appointed Army Marshall Badoglio as Prime Minister.

His only task: make an unconditional surrender to the Allies and get Italy out of the war. And yet, he hesitates. For five weeks. Five weeks! God forbid the king would have urged him on. The Italian people are weary. They want out of the war. Not to mention they are beginning to starve. But Badoglio’s man, General Castellano, dickers with Eisenhower’s representatives in neutral Portugal, a country with more spies during World War Two than any other place in the world.

All of this would be fine except for the one big problem: Italy is still allied with Nazi Germany. Are the Italians aware that the Germans have a contingency plan to seize all of Italy in the event the Italians surrender? Presumably. I mean, someone must know. Do the Italians know the Germans are moving troops and supplies through the Brenner Pass into Northern Italy? Yes. They know that. Why don’t they do something? “Because the Germans stole our gasoline.” Or something along those lines which becomes the excuse they give the Americans in a few days for not doing anything. This is the military equivalent of “the dog ate my homework.”

Cut to the Germans. Do they know exactly what the Italians are doing and planning and thinking? Yes, they know everything. Why? Because there are still German sympathizers in the Italian government and armed forces — a fact Badoglio and the king are well aware of. Further, not one official in Italy seems to be able to keep his mouth shut when he learns something confidential. The moment he learns something secret, he blurts it out.

Writes historian Gerald Weinburg in A World At Arms: A Global History of World War Two:

In the ensuing race between Badoglio and his associates and the Germans, the Italians did almost everything as stupid and as slowly as possible.

[Image courtesy of Wikimedia.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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