United States and American History: Late 1943 & WII

About the history of the United States in 1943, the U.S. in World War II, air raids on Germany, Mussolini resigns from Italy.


July 24 Air attacks on Hamburg, Germany, conducted jointly by the Royal Air Force and the U.S. 8th Air Force, and delivered in 4 massive raids ending on August 3, destroyed over 75% of the city, killing 43,000 people and injuring as many more. In the 2nd raid, the mixture of incendiary and high-explosive bombs was so intense that a new phenomenon called the "fire storm" was born. The numerous searing fires from the bombs created an air column 2 1/2 mi. high and nearly 2 mi. in diameter, so hot that it sucked in cooler air at ground level, producing tornado-like winds which spread the fires with uncontrollable speed.

These raids and other operations by the British, Canadian, and American air crews (7 for RAF, 10 for U.S. bombers), eventually cost almost 160,000 Allied flyers their lives during the war.

July 25 Benito II Duce Mussolini "resigned." Weary of military disasters and acutely aware that mainland Italy would soon be conquered by the Allies, the Fascist Grand Council convened for the 1st time since 1939. The session was set for Saturday, July 24. One week earlier, General Ambrosio, accompanying Mussolini to an urgent meeting with Hitler near Rimini, had urged Il Duce to tell the German leader that Italy would not continue the war. Mussolini, either from sheer fright or stubbornness, had kept silent. Ambrosio and his fellow generals then realized they could no longer depend on Mussolini's leadership, and the Grand Council meeting was used to issue an ultimatum: Bring the King out of his current obscurity to lead the demoralized armed forces, and then form a new national Government. King Victor Emmanuel III was willing to resume Italy's leadership.

Mussolini listened to the proposal of his chief opponent, Count Dino Grandi, former Ambassador to Great Britain, and a man of strong will who had deplored the war privately. But Mussolini could not be swayed. Instead, he mouthed meaningless words about intensifying his own control. The discussion, at times emotional, continued until 2 A.M., with Musolini's son-in-law, Count Ciano, supporting Grandi. Then, the Council took a vote, and it was 19 to 7 in favor of Grandi's motion to restore the King. Mussolini promptly declared the meeting to be at an end, and the men present left in silence. As a precaution against being arrested by Mussolini's personal bodyguard during the rest of the night, they all slept away from their homes.

On Sunday, July 25, Mussolini went to see the King. He found, everywhere, carabinieri brought in as reinforcements. King Victor Emmanuel III, wearing his marshal's uniform, came to meet him. For the 1st time, Il Duce learned that Marshal Pierot Badoglio had already replaced him as the head of the military Government. The now ex-dictator was taken into "protective" custody, and spirited away in an ambulance, heavily guarded by 6 policemen carrying machine guns. Within 48 hours, Benito Mussolini was interned on the island of Ponza, thus ending his 21 years of one-man rule in Italy.

Aug. With Italy facing collapse, Germany rushed in strong reinforcements. The Italians' bargaining, to get terms better than "unconditional surrender," delayed the final agreements with the Allies long enough for the German High Command to establish strong defense positions.

Sept. 12 In a daring landing by glider in the mountains of central Italy, Col. Otto Skorzeny and 90 men rescued Mussolini from the hotel to which he had been moved, and flew him to Munich. The former dictator was declared by Hitler the new head of a puppet Fascist Government: the Republic of Salo. Near the 1st of October, Mussolini was taken to his "seat of Government" on Lake Garda, to begin his "Hundred Days" of rule. Here, with his mistress Clara Petacci, he was closely watched by German guards and German doctors, carefully chosen.

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