Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Marshal of Italy Emilio De Bono
General De Bono was always a patriotic Italian and a loyal subject of his King who, unlike Mussolini, believed in the monarchy as the embodiment of the history of Italy. De Bono became very close friends with Prince Emanuele Filiberto, Duke of Aosta who was also, of course, a monarchist but who also supported a more Italian nationalist position to strengthen, unite and embellish the country. De Bono had no experience in politics and no real interest in politics but he gave his support to the Fascists simply because they seemed to be in the best position to save Italy from the Marxist revolutionaries and build a more strong and proud country. Because he was so respected, and a general, the Fascists used De Bono to add respectability to their movement and capitalize on his fame. He was made inspector of the Blackshirt squads but was unimpressed with their discipline. Still, he served as one of the “Quadrumvirs” in the Fascist “March on Rome” on October 28, 1922. After the Fascists took power, De Bono was put in charge of turning the Blackshirts into a part of the national establishment, the result being the formation of the MVSN or National Security Volunteer Militia. This upset some of the older hard-line Fascists as it meant that many army veterans, who were royalists, being put in command of Blackshirt units.
This was a cautious, effective strategy intended to save Italian lives. However, the sanctions imposed on Italy by the League of Nations forced a more aggressive approach. Mussolini feared, and the League of Nations hoped, that if the Ethiopians could carry on the war long enough, the Italian people would be crippled by the sanctions and it would not only force them to retreat from Ethiopia but possibly bring down the Fascist government as well. This was a real possibility as most military experts and observers expected the war against Ethiopia to take about two years at minimum to complete. To avoid this, Mussolini replaced De Bono with General Badoglio. It was a blow to the dictator who had planned the Ethiopian War to be carried out primarily by his Blackshirt militia with a Fascist general in charge. Instead, he had to turn it over to a career army man and De Bono was, as the saying goes, “kicked upstairs” with congratulations for the victories he had won and a promotion to Marshal of Italy. A new strategy was adopted and the war that was supposed to last two years ended with the Italian conquest of the Ethiopian Empire in seven months.
Mussolini would not listen and went to war anyway and even when Marshal De Bono was made commander of the Southern Armies, this was mostly a ceremonial position. The Marshal had disapproved of almost every action taken by Mussolini in the build-up to the war and the Duce had come to view the Marshal as being overly cautious, overly pessimistic and essentially the opposite of everything he wanted to be seen as. Sadly for Italy, Marshal De Bono was proven correct during the course of the war, particularly the crucial year of 1942 when Axis fortunes began to reverse everywhere. When Sicily itself was invaded in 1943 the Fascist Grand Council, of which Marshal De Bono was a member, was called together. De Bono, quite bravely, first proposed that Mussolini hand over the responsibilities for the military and foreign policy to someone else. When Dino Grandi boldly proposed that Mussolini step down altogether Marshal De Bono was among those who voted in favor of the proposal that Mussolini had to go. Nonetheless, he was shocked when Marshal Badoglio, appointed by the King to replace Mussolini, banned the National Fascist Party and disbanded the MVSN.