Who's Who - Benito Mussolini

Benito Mussolini Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini (1883-1945), Italy's fascist dictator from 1922-45, served for a time on the Italian Front during the First World War.

The son of a blacksmith, Mussolini worked as a teacher and journalist before turning to political agitation.  Initially a socialist he resigned from the Italian Socialist Party in 1915 over its declared opposition to war against Austria-Hungary; the party favoured neutrality while Mussolini was clear in his belief that support for the Allies could only serve to boost Italy's claim to recover lost Austro-Hungarian territory.

Having joined the Italian Army he saw service on the Isonzo before being wounded and returning home.  Once back in Italy he resumed his journalistic activities, editing the Milan newspaper Il Popolo d'Italia.  While out of the fighting personally he nonetheless remained firmly in favour of continued Italian participation in the war, and advocated suppression (through means of his journalism) of those who espoused anti-war rhetoric.

Mussolini's extreme right-wing views, while prominent, were secondary to those of the eccentric nationalist Gabriele D'Annunzio (with whom Mussolini took care to foster good relations even after the latter's rise to power).

In 1922 Mussolini, his influence in the ascendant, led a march upon Rome, which succeeded in destabilising the government.  Asked to form an administration by King Vittorio Emanuele III in October 1922 the movement towards dictatorship was increasing; he became Il Duce ('The Leader') some three years later.

Once Mussolini had assumed dictatorial powers a concerted effort was launched to mythologize his somewhat limited role in the First World War.

Mussolini - who was active overseas in the 1930s, a period which included the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 - led Italy for much of the Second World War, having carved an unequal alliance with Adolf Hitler's Germany.

Mussolini's fascist regime ultimately collapsed in 1945; he was murdered shortly thereafter.

A "salient" is a battle line that projects into territory nominally held by enemy forces.

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