Graziani left Ethiopia in January 1938 and was made honorary governor of Italian East Africa. In October 1939, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini appointed Graziani army chief of staff. Mussolini sent Graziani to Libya to replace Italo Balbo, who was killed in an airplane crash on 28 June 1940.
Although the 250,000 Italian forces in North Africa vastly outnumbered the scanty British troops there, Graziani refused to launch an offensive into Egypt, citing serious deficiencies in supplies and equipment. Infuriated by Graziani's timidity, Mussolini ordered him to attack. The subsequent tentative Italian offensive sparked a devastating British counteroffensive that drove the Italians from Cyrenaica in February 1941, and Graziani returned to Italy in semidisgrace and resigned from the army.
Because Graziani was the only general of note to remain loyal to the fascist regime after its collapse in 1943, that September Mussolini appointed him defense minister and chief of staff of the rump Italian Social Republic. Graziani spent the remainder of the war attempting unsuccessfully to rebuild the army in an atmosphere of intensifying civil warfare and German domination. In 1950, Graziani was sentenced to 19 years in prison for war crimes, but he was released after only a few months. He then headed the neofascist Italian Socialist Movement. Graziani died in Rome on 11 January 1955.
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.; Mack Smith, Denis. Mussolini's Roman Empire. New York: Viking Press, 1976.