Italian attempts to reach an armistice with the Anglo-American forces were attempted several times and on personal initiatives since 1942. This article describes some of the people who were involved in the attempts to make an armistice happen.
1. Maria Josè
Twice Maria Josè, daughter-in-law of King Vittorio Emanuele III, tried hard to accomplish an armistice. She was relegated with her family to a small village in Piedmont for having taken an interest in political matters and for asking for Vatican mediation.
2. Galeazzo Ciano
Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano tried it in November 1942, when General Alexander’s counter-offensive in North Africa was still to take place and the military situation was not yet ruinous for Italy.
The Italian request, indeed, was favorably viewed by the British government, which promised assistance for the reconstruction of the country after the war but posed two preliminary requirements: the end of the fascist dictatorship and the abdication of Italy’s king in favor of his son.
Ciano’s attempt was muffled because, with the government reshuffle in Italy, he was ousted from the post of foreign minister. Mussolini, his father-in-law, took the lead.
3. Amedeo d’Aosta
The peace initiatives undertaken by the Duke Amedeo d’Aosta, the king’s cousin, seemed to initially have good results.
Through contacts in Switzerland he brought to the British government the possibility that Italy would demand the armistice by ensuring the demolition of the fascist dictatorship, the breaking of the pact with the Axis and the establishment of a new government in Sardinia. In return, he asked for the protection of the monarchy.
This potential agreement stalled on the British side, and a good opportunity was lost.
4. Giuseppe Bastianini
In July 1943, a week before the “Grand Council” dismissed the “Duce,” the diplomat Bastianini, undersecretary for foreign affairs, asked for permission to proceed with the armistice request. The negotiation could not even be initiated because of lack of time: Mussolini was thrown out and Bastianini ceased his work.
5. Pietro Badoglio
The first attempt of Marshal Pietro Badoglio to reach an armistice dates back to May 1943. On that occasion he proposed the establishment of an Italian government in Libya and the setting up of an army of the Italian prisoners of war abroad to militarily assist the Anglo-Americans. The offer was ignored, for by that time Italy could only ask for unconditional surrender.
6. Vittorio Emanuele III
After the dismissal and arrest of Mussolini, King Vittorio Emanuele III gave Marshal Badoglio the task of forming the government that should have led Italy out of the war. Badoglio broadcasted a message to the nation that said: “Italians, by order of H.M. the King Emperor, I assume the military government of the country with full powers. The war continues.”
So, that day, the Italians knew that the figurative director had changed, but the music was the same: “The war continues.”
Only after five days of hesitation Badoglio decided to start negotiations for the armistice. However, his action was cumbersome: he tried to reach the goal without raising an alarm among their German allies. His emissaries were the consuls Blasco and Berio, and the general Castellano.
However, the Chief of Army Staff General Roatta and General Carboni, Commander of the Maneuver Army Corps for the defense of Roma, decided to undertake another diplomatic initiative by assigning the task to General Zanussi, accompanied by De Wiart, an English general captured by the Italians.
As a result, the diplomatic channels overlapped so much that they created confusion in the negotiations. In the end Castellano reached a conclusion. On September 3, 1943 in Cassibile, he signed the armistice document.
The negotiations had been long and difficult–the continuously changing Italian requests clashed with those of the Allies. The offers of military cooperation were not taken into consideration, which was unfortunate since any support in the fight against the Germans would have been considered favorably in the application of less punitive clauses at the end of the war.