Execution of Mussolini
During the last days of the war in Italy, Dictator Benito Mussolini attempted to escape the advancing Allied Army by hiding in a German convoy headed toward the Alps. Partisans stopped and searched the convoy at Dongo. They found him in the back of a truck wearing a private's overcoat over his striped general's pants. The partisans took him prisoner and he was later joined by his mistress, Clara Petacci. A few days later, both were executed near Mezzegra. Then, on April 29, 1945, their bodies were hung at an Esso gas station in the Piazale Loreto in Milan, along with several other Facists leaders.
I've included these photos as a final closure to the costly struggle that our servicemen had to endure. Also, it is of interest as my Dad said he heard about Mussolini's capture, so he and some buddies jumped in a truck and drove over to Milan to see the grissly scene.
Scroll down for a longer Version of the Capture and Execution, including a list of all the Fascists who were executed with Mussolini.
In medieval Italy it was the custom to hang crooks or embezzlers,
by one foot.
And finally, I found proof that American GI's were there in Milan to witness this gruesome
scene. I count 8 helmets in this photo.
Who knows; one of the GI's in this photo could be my Dad.
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Capture and Execution of Mussolini
Mussolini spent his last 7 days in power in Milan, which was the site of his rise to power. Then on April 20, 1945, he disbanded his government offices. On April 21, Bologna was captured by the Allied troops and the Fascist chief Arpinati was slain. Duce's staff and friends tried to persuade Duce to flee to Spain but he refused to leave his country.
Duce submitted a proposal to the Socialist part of the Liberation Committee, that was flatly refused. On April 24th, Cardinal Schuster made contact but nothing became of that as Duce became more apethetic to surrendering to his destiny. He told the Cardinal, "I have no illusions". A meeting was held with the Liberation Committee at the Archbishop's palace, where they informed him of the impending surrender of the German army in Italy. Mussolini's reaction was:
"They have always treated us like slaves, and now they betray us".
On April 25th, they left Milan in a convoy headed for the lakes near Como with their desitnation as Valtelline. The column consisted of some cars and German armored cars, followed by Clara Petacci and her family. At Como, they discussed htier options over supper. Duce wrote the last letter to his wife, Rachele, urging here to flee to Switzerland. He signed it:
"Your Benito, Como, 27th April, 1945
Year XIII of the Fascist Era".
They left Como on 26th and stopped at Menaggio. A column of Fascists troops, lead by Pavolini, left Milan to join up with their leader. News reached them of the decree from Liberation Committee calling for the death peanilty for Fascists responsible for the 1922 "insurrection" and those guilty of crimes against the state since September 8, 1943.
On April 27th, Pavolini went on ahead of his troops and reached Mussolini. Accompanying him were Angela Curti, the former mistress of Mussolini. At the same time a German anti-aircraft unit, commanded by Lt. Fallmeyer, arrived in Menaggio headed for Tyrol. Duce decided once more to seek refuge with his German ally and head north--only to escape capture, not to leave Italy.
At 7am, they reached Masso, whee the partisans had blocked the road. Lt. Fallmeyer went to negotiate with the partisan commander, Pier Luigi Bellini delle Stelle (Pedro) of the 52nd Garibaldi Brigade. The partisans would let the Germans pass but not the Italians.
Duce was persuaded Mussolini to don a German greatcoat and helmet and hide out in the back of a truck. The German column left at 3:00 with Mussolini now all alone. It was stopped at Dongo and searched. Il Duce was easy to find, either because he still wore general's riding pants with a red stripe or information was leaked to the partisan band. Later, Clara Petacci and her brother, Macello, were captured, but Clara's identity wasn't detected.
The partisans Liberation Committee was informed of the Duce's capture. Immediate orders were given for fair treatment of the prisoners with strict orders not to shoot them even if they attempted escape. As the Committee discussed the fate of their captors, the partisans nervously moved Duce and the Fascists to different locations to keep them concealed. Duce was once wrapped in bandages to disguise him as a wounded partisan.
The proceedings of the Liberation Committee is now hidden in secrecy. However, it is known that Togliatti, the secretary of the Communist Party and the Vice-Premier of Italy ordered the execution of Duce. Colonel Valerio was entrusted with this important mission in the name of the National Liberation Committee. When he arrived at Dongo at 2pm, there was some confrontation between the Communist leader and the partisan leader, Pedro. Colonel Valerio damanded to see the list of Fascist prisoners. He then revealed he had orders to execute Mussolini. He arbitrarily selected 15 names from the list for execution. (See The Fifteen, below.)
On April 28, Colonel Valerio broke into the room where Mussolini and Clara had been resting. Valerio told them he had come to rescue them. They hurried to the awaiting car. They drove about a mile away and stopped near the Villa Belmonte. They were ordered to get out of the car and stand next to a stone wall. Machine guns were raised and both were shot. A guard was placed over their bodies, and Valerio drove back to Dongo, where he rounded up the remainder of the 15 prisoners selected for execution from the list. They were hurriedly brought out to the square and given 3 minutes for the ministrations of a priest. They were shot down by a partisan squad. Immediately afterwards, Marcello Petacci was also executed.
On April 29th, the bodies were brought to the Piazalle Loreto in Milan. There, six of the corpses were hung by their feet from a girder of an Esso gas station. These included: Benito Mussolini, Clara Petacci, Francesco Barracu, Alessandro Pavolini, Fernando Mezzasomma and Paolo Zerbino. To the pile of bodies lying beneath them was added Archille Starace, who had just been captured and summarily executed on the spot. The crowd vented their anger on the corpses. When they got out of hand, the police turned on water hoses to control the situation*. The Allies ordered the bodies removed for burial.
(See photo at top of page. One source said Starace was hung at Mussolini's left. The above photo only shows six bodies, not seven. So, I'm a little confused at this point.)
When Adolf Hitler heard of how Mussolini was executed and put on public display, he vowed he would not let this happen to him. Hitler shot his mistress and new wife, Eva Braunn, and then swallowed some poison and shot himself in the mouth. Following Hitler's orders, their bodies were placed in a shell hole outside of his Berlin bunker and burned. The Russians found remains of his teeth.
* This incident was my Dad's eye witness account of what he saw when he arrived at Milan.
The Fifteen That Were Executed
Benito Mussolini, Il DuceReturn to Custermen Main Menu.
1 Francesco Barracu - Undersecretary in cabinet office
2 Fernando Mezzasomma - Ministry of Popular Culture(i.e. propoganda), Sept 1943
3 Nicola Bombacci - Minister of Interior. Former communist.
4 Luigi Gatti - Duce's private secretary after organizing his new cabinet.
5 Pisenti Liverani - Minister of Communications
6 Alessandro Pavolini - ex-Ministry of Popular Culture. Editor of Rome's "Messagero". Pushed for speedy execution of Ciano in January, 1944. Tried to organize the Fascist Army to make a last stand near Alps.
7 Paolo Zerbino - Minister of Interior, Dec 1943
8 Ruggero Romano - Minister Public Works
9 Paolo Porta - Head of Fascist Party in Lombardy
10 Alfredo Coppolo - Rector of the Bologna University
11 Ernesto Daquanno - Director of Stefani agency
12 Mario Nudi - President of Fascist Agriculture Association
13 Colonel Vito Casalinuovo - Mussolini's adjutant
14 Pietro Calistri - Air Force pilot
15 Utimberger - an obscure journalist, selected at random from the prisoners.
16? Archille Starace - Secretary of Fascist Party 1931-1939. Killed on the spot and, one source says, he was hung to left of Duce.
17 Clara Petacci - Mussolini's mistress. She refused to leave Mussolini and followed his convoy into the Alps. She met up with Mussolini and was at his side when he was gunned down. Her brother, Marcello, was executed at his capture.
Some refrences incorrectly list the names of Salustri and Hintermayer.
Early Italian Propaganda showing bombing of London