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Benito Mussolini

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Benito Mussolini had a large impact on World War II. He wasn't always a

powerful dictator though. At first he was a school teacher and a

socialist journalist. He later married Rachele Guide and had 5 children.

He was the editor of the Avanti, which was a socialist party newspaper

in Milan.

Benito Mussolini founded the Fasci di Combattimento on March of 1919.

"This was a nationalistic, anti liberal, and anti socialist movement.

This movement attracted mainly the lower middle class."1 Fascism was

spreading across Europe. Mussolini was winning sympathy from King Victor

Emmanuel III. Mussolini then threatened to march on Rome. This persuaded

King Victor Emmanuel III to invite Mussolini to join a coalition, which

strongly helped him gain more power.

Benito Mussolini brought Austria on Germany's side by a formal

alliance. "In 1937, he accepted a German alliance. The name of this

alliance was the Anti Comntern Pact. On April 13, 1937 Benito Mussolini

annexed Albania. He then told the British ambassador that not even the

bribe of France and North Africa would keep him neutral."2 The British

ambassador was appalled and dismayed.

On May 28, 1937, Mussolini strongly gave thought to declaring

war. He then attacked the Riviera across the Maritime. "On September 13,

1937 he opened an offensive into British-garrisoned Egypt from Libya."3

On October 4, 1937, while the offensive still seemed to promise

success, Benito Mussolini met Adolf Hitler at the Brenner Pass, on

their joint frontier. "The two of them discussed how the war in the

Mediterranean, Britain's principal foothold outside its island base,

might be turned to her decisive disadvantage. Hitler suggested to

Mussolini that Spain might be coaxed on the axis side, thus giving

Germany free use of the British Rock of Gibraltar, by offering Franco

part of French North Africa, and that France might be persuaded to

accept that concession by compensation with parts of British West

Africa".4

Mussolini seemed enthusiastic and very understandable why this was the

case, since this scheme included the gaining of Tunis, Corsica, and Nice

(annexed by Napoleon III in 1860) from France. Hitler then hurried home

to his house in Berlin to arrange visits to Franco and Petan. "Back in

the capital Hitler created a letter to Stalin inviting Molotov, the

Soviet Foreign Minister, to visit early, when Germany and the U.S.S.R.

might then agree among themselves how to profit from Britain not having

a defense.

A week later, on October 20, he left in his command train, Amerika, to

meet Petan and Franco. The meeting with Franco took place on October 23

at Hendaye on the Franco-Spanish frontier."5 It had become quite famous

in the history of World War Two for Hitlers furious parting shot that he

would "rather have three or four teeth extracted from than go through

that again." Franco, who was greatly supported by his Prime Minister,

Serrano Suner, stonewalled throughout the hours towards negotiation with

Franco. When his train left at two in the morning, Hitler had not

advanced an inch towards co-belligerency with Franco.

Petan met Hitler on October 24, and proved to be equally unresponsive.

Petan convinced Hitler that they had a meeting of minds. Petan had only

agreed to a promise to consult his government, Hitler decided to make a

bigger deal out of it and believed that they were united in a productive

hostility to Britain.

Hitler now had the outlines, despite Francos struggle, of a larger

coalition war to present to Molotov at his next visit. "When Hitler was

waiting for the Soviet Foreign minister to come, he was distracted by

the weird behavior of Mussolini, who then chose to mount an attack from

Albania (occupied by the Italian army in April 1939) into Greece."6

Mussolini said that he was motivated by the fear that the British would

establish positions in Greece if he did not. "He had good strategic

reasons for wishing to deny them naval and air bases any closer to his

own along the Adriatic that those who already possessed in Egypt and

Malta. He attacked Greece in October, 1937."7

Mussolini's participation in the Battle of France aroused the derision

of neutrals and enemies. He was determined to win in Greece his share of

the laurels which had fallen in a not proportionate number to the

Wehrmacht.

The failure of Mussolini's invasion of Greece

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