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Benito Mussolini was born on July 29th, 1883 in the town of Varnano dei Costa near the village of Predappio. His mother Rosa Maltoni was married to a blacksmith named Alessandro Mussolini. Alessandro, being an admirer of the Mexican revolutionary Benito Juarez, named his son after the patriot and hero. Benito Mussolini was an avid writer and after he finished his schooling, he became an editor for the Milan socialist paper “Avanti”. He became well known among the Italian socialists, but soon started promoting his views for war against Germany in World War I.
This infuriated the Socialists who were against Italy’s entry into the war. In 1915 he formed his own paper, Il Popolo d’Italia, and continued his promotion for war. When Italy finally joined the Allies to fight Germany, Mussolini enlisted into the “Esercito” (Army). Mussolini achieved the rank of Corporal, the same rank as Adolf Hitler, but was discharged in 1917 due to shrapnel wounds while in a trench.
He returned to his career in journalism in which he began to develop his ideas that would soon become known as Fascism. After the war, Italy was in turmoil. The economy was shattered and there were strikes and protests everywhere.
On March 23, 1919, Benito Mussolini and several other veterans formed the National Fascist Party. This party grew in popularity among the people of Italy, who were disenchanted with the chaos surrounding them.
Mussolini seemed to have the answers to bring their country into order. During this time, he adopted the Roman salute and the Black Shirt militia, which Hitler later copied from the him as the Brown Shirts. On March 15th 1921, Benito Mussolini along with 35 other Fascists were elected to the Italian Chamber of Deputies.
In August of 1922, The ruling Leftist party ordered a general strike in the nation. Mussolini was enraged and issued an ultimatum that if they did not end the strike, his Fascist party would. The Leftist claimed he was trying to siege the government, but the armed forces wanted nothing to do with stopping the fascists from preventing the strike. On October 29, 1922, King Vittorio Emanuele III (1869-1947) phoned Benito Mussolini to come to Rome and form a government. Mussolini insisted on a telegram and it was wired soon afterwards. Benito Mussolini boarded a train to Rome and was greeted by thousands of Fascist Blackshirts awaiting his arrival.
His first act was to send the strikers back home to their families and their jobs. Benito Mussolini managed to assume the powers of all the government offices in order to regain control of the economy. In a short period of time, he was successful in stabilizing the economy and taking his country out of economic turmoil. He became known as “Il Duce” (the leader).
His first international crisis as head of Italy made him an Italian hero. The crisis was a border dispute between Greece and Albania. Benito Mussolini sent several men to the area representing Italy as part of an International Commission to dispute the issue. On August 23, 1923, all the Italians were murdered and discovered in Greek territory. In a rage, Mussolini sent the Greek government a list of demands, including a public apology, immediate inquiry into the killings, death sentence to those convicted and payment of 50 million Lira within 5 days. The Greeks refused the demand, since they did not know if it was Greeks who committed the murders.
Benito Mussolini ordered the Italian navy to bombard Corfu (Kerkyra) off the Greek coast. The shelling was then followed by an amphibious landing of Italian marines. After the League of Nations condemned the act, Mussolini threatened to pull Italy out of the League.
He insisted that the Conference of Ambassadors, who formed the original mission in the first place, must arbitrate the dispute. France, wanting Italy’s support over the mineral rich Ruhr Valley, sided with Italy. As a result, the Conference of Ambassadors endorsed most of Italy’s position. The Greek government gave in and agreed to Il Duce’s demands. This victory was immediately followed by Mussolini sending elements of the Italian Esercito into the city of Fiume and annexing it from Yugoslavia. Benito Mussolini was eventually made a British Knight of the Bath, but that was canceled in August of 1940.
Although Mussolini quenched his thirst for power, he was still enraged by the treatment Italy received for their part in defeating the Germans and Austrians in World War I. He had visions of a new Roman Empire and he could see the day when the Mediterranean Sea became the “Mare Nostrum”(Our Sea). The invasion of Ethiopia, commanded by Field Marshal Pietro Badoglio, in many ways a revenge against the Italian defeat at Adwa in 1896, and the Italian military assistance in Spanish Civil War, saw his dreams coming to life. But Benito Mussolini found his country blacklisted by the League of Nations and it forced his relationship closer to Nazi Germany, which was also isolated for their actions. Mussolini soon realized that the League of Nations did not have the backbone to stop Hitler or himself in gaining new colonies, so he pressed forward. On the April 7, 1939, Benito Mussolini invaded Albania and on May 22,1939, Italy and Germany cemented their alliance with the Pact of Steel.
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