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This Day In History: General Dwight D. Eisenhower Announces Italy’s Surrender To The Allies In World War II

September 08, 2016

This day in history, September 8, 1943, General Dwight D. Eisenhower publicly announced the surrender of Italy to the Allied forces during World War II.

With Mussolini removed from power and the earlier collapse of the fascist government in July, Gen. Pietro Badoglio, the man who had assumed power in Mussolini’s stead, began negotiating with Gen. Eisenhower. Weeks later, Badoglio finally approved a conditional surrender, allowing the Allies to land in southern Italy and begin attacking the Germans back up the peninsula.

Operation Avalanche, the Allied invasion of Italy, was given the green light and the next day Allied troops landed in Salerno.

The Germans then responded with Operation Axis, the occupation of Italy, which launched on September 8. Ever since Mussolini had begun to falter, Hitler had been making plans to invade Italy to keep the Allies from gaining a foothold that would situate them within easy reach of the German-occupied Balkans.

As German troops entered Rome, General Badoglio and the royal family fled Rome for southeastern Italy to set up a new antifascist government. Italian troops began surrendering to their former German allies where they resisted, as had happened earlier in Greece. The troops were slaughtered (1,646 Italian soldiers were murdered by Germans on the Greek island of Cephalonia, and the 5,000 that finally surrendered were ultimately shot).

One of the goals of Operation Axis was to keep Italian navy vessels out of the hands of the Allies. When the Italian battleship Roma headed for an Allied-controlled port in North Africa, it was sunk by German bombers and more than 1,500 crewmen drowned. The Germans also scrambled to move Allied POWs to labor camps in Germany in order to prevent their escape. In fact, many POWS did manage to escape before the German invasion, and several hundred volunteered to stay in Italy to fight alongside the Italian guerillas in the north.