Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Graziani, Rodolfo (Marchese di Neghelli) (1882–1955)

Title: Rodolfo Graziani
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Italian army marshal. Born at Filettino near Rome on 11 August 1882, Rodolfo Graziani joined the Italian Army and served in Libya in 1914 before being posted to the Italian Front during World War I. There he commanded a brigade, was wounded twice, and won promotion to major. A colonel at the end of World War I, Graziani earned a reputation as Italy's most successful colonial general. Distinguishing himself in Tripolitania in the 1920s, for which he was promoted to brigadier general in 1923, he was dispatched to Cyrenaica, where he conducted a brutal but effective pacification campaign against the Senussi in 1930–1932. Promoted to major general in 1930 and to lieutenant general in 1932, Graziani commanded a corps and then was appointed governor of Somalia in 1935. Graziani participated in the attack on Ethiopia in 1936 and destroyed the remnants of the Ethiopian army in February 1937. His successes earned him promotion to marshal and viceroy of Ethiopia on the departure of Marshal Pietro Badoglio. However, Graziani's savage rule provoked a widespread insurgency. He was severely wounded in an assassination attempt on 29 February 1937, and the Italian army crushed the uprising only with great difficulty. The Italians employed poison gas and were guilty of other atrocities.

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


Further Reading
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.
 

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