World War II photos of Mussolini’s death

Beverlee Larabee recently rediscovered three photographs of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s body on display after he and his mistress were executed on April 28, 1945. These belonged to her uncle, Ernest Dunn, who was deployed in Italy during Mussolini’s execution. It was Larabee’s aunt who gave them to her in the 1990s.

Larabee, a retired Richmond Senior High School history teacher wants to donate the photographs to a museum or sell it to a private collector and wants to make sure that the future generations learn from the past.

Ernest Dunn, was born in 17 March 1910 and died in 1984 and served the US army from April 1945 to October 1946. During his service he was awarded the rank of corporal. Dunn seems to have taken those photos as per Larabee. Historians say the photos are authentic but they cannot say if Dunn was the man behind the camera or it belonged to someone else.

Dr. David Herr, associate professor of history at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg said, “In professional history, we would not credit Dunn as the likely photographer unless it is possible to independently determine his presence at the scene, no small task. If he was an army photographer, then it might not be unreasonable.” Larabee isn’t sure about her uncle’s profession in the army. Herr, noted that these photos have been widely reproduced and seems to have numerous copies shared amongst soldiers. Propaganda prints were very common during the World War II and their source is very hard to determine.

Dunn, after returning from the war worked as an engineer for the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. He served the Hamlet City council from 1967 to 1981 and was mayor pro-tem on the board during his last few years. Dunn was made honorary member of the Hamlet Fire Department and Rescue Squad in December 1981. Larabee recalls never speaking to her uncle about World War II but there has been a long family tradition of serving the military. Her father and uncles all served the military and even she enlisted in Navy in 1959. Later she started teaching at Richmond Senior school and retired in 2007, the Your Daily Journal reports.

Larabee has been fascinated with the World War II and the holocaust. She studied in a Hebrew language school in Israel and also visited Dachau concentration camp in Germany. She said to the, “I just have a heart for the Jewish people. I got to talk to some of the Holocaust survivors in Israel when I was there. It was very awesome to me because they were so humble. They are such humble people, I guess because of the horror of what they’ve gone through.”

Larabee said that she wants to donate the photos to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Larabee wants to make sure that her photos tell the story to the future generations about a fascist’s fall to ruins.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE