Restive after the war, De Bono, who had never evinced attention to or interest in politics, was tempted by the bombast of Gabriele D'Annunzio's nationalistic expedition to occupy Fiume in 1919 to join that campaign. However, ambivalent careerist instincts held him in check. Still lacking any warrior role or prospects, by 1921 De Bono settled for membership in the Fascist Party as a vehicle for self-promotion. Although his military skills were pivotal in organizing the October 1922 March on Rome, they did not advance him politically despite his appointments as chief of public security in November 1922 and commander of the Fascist militia in January 1923.
After his perceived failure to prevent the June 1924 murder of socialist leader Giacomo Matteotti by the militia, De Bono was indicted but refused to implicate his superiors. Acquitted in 1925 and rewarded with the governorship of Tripolitania, by 1928 De Bono was planning the eventual war with Ethiopia. He had some success early in that war, including a victory at Adowa, but his recalcitrant pace irked Italian leader Benito Mussolini, who replaced him in November 1935 with his rival Pietro Badoglio. De Bono demanded and received promotion to marshal immediately thereafter.
Serving ignominiously in largely ceremonial or honorary posts for the remainder of his career, De Bono soured on Mussolini, decrying Italian-German war plans, and eventually joined in the Fascist Grand Council's July 1943 ouster of Il Duce, for which he was arrested by the German occupation 4 October 1943. Tried at Verona, the old general was sentenced to death with, among others, Mussolini's son-in-law Galeazzo Ciano, whom he joined before a firing squad on 11 January 1944.
Gordon E. Hogg
Dizionario biografico degli Italiani. Vol. 33. Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1987.; Cannistraro, Philip. Historical Dictionary of Fascist Italy. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1982.; Corvaja, Sani. Hitler and Mussolini: The Secret Meetings. New York: Enigma Books, 2001.