Ambrosio commanded Italian occupation forces in Yugoslavia following the German invasion of that country in April 1941. Appointed army chief of staff in January 1942, Ambrosio became involved in efforts to oust Marshal Ugo Cavallero, the inept supreme command chief of staff. In February 1943, Benito Mussolini (Il Duce) finally sacked Cavallero and replaced him with Ambrosio.
As the new chief, Ambrosio set three major goals: to pull back to Italy proper as much of the overextended army as possible, to dig in his heels against the Germans and their demands, and to lighten the top-heavy high command. He failed to achieve any of the three. Although the broken remnants of Italian forces in the Soviet Union were eventually repatriated, Mussolini refused to sanction an Italian withdrawal from North Africa or from the Balkans. Ambrosio's attempts to adopt a firmer posture vis-à-vis the Germans only antagonized Italy's Axis ally, and his attempts to restructure the high command foundered on the firmly embedded military bureaucracy.
Meanwhile, Italy's war effort staggered toward collapse. In May 1943, remaining Axis forces in North Africa surrendered in Tunisia, and in July, the Allies invaded Sicily. Skeptical both of Italy's prospects for victory and of the alliance with Germany, Ambrosio urged Mussolini to stand up to Adolf Hitler and to quit the war. Rebuffed by Il Duce, Ambrosio played a major role in the coup against Mussolini on 24–25 July 1943 by ensuring the army's support. Subsequently, he supported Marshal Pietro Badoglio's attempts to conduct armistice negotiations with the Allies while also trying to persuade the Germans that Italy would remain in the war.
The Allied armistice proclamation on 8 September 1943 forced Ambrosio to flee from Rome with Badoglio. He escaped German vengeance but left the army leaderless. He resigned on 18 November 1943 and became army inspector general until his retirement in November 1944. Ambrosio died in Alessio on 20 November 1958.
John M. Jennings
Ciano, Galeazzo. The Ciano Diaries, 1939–1943: The Complete, Unabridged Diaries of Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs. New York: Doubleday, 1946.; Deakin, Frederick W. The Brutal Friendship: Mussolini, Hitler, and the Fall of Italian Fascism. New York: Harper and Row, 1962.