Friday, January 04, 2008


Rick Atkinson on Italy's September 8, 1943, surrender to the Allies in his The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (2007), at 196:
In the hours following [Italian Field Marshal] Badoglio's announcement, jubilation and confusion radiated from Rome to the remotest hamlet of every Italian province. Citizens exulted at the presumed arrival of peace. But no intelligible orders had been issued to the Italian fleet or to the sixty army divisions of 1.7 million troops. . . No effort was made to stop six battalions of German paratroopers tramping into the capital from the south. . . Rome's police chief estimated that six thousand German secret agents infested the capital, and within hours the only open escape route was on the Via Tiburtina to the east. It was on this poplar-lined avenue that the royal family fled by night in a green Fiat: the king--"pathetic, very old and rather gaga," according to a British diplomat--carrying a single shirt and two changes of underwear in a cheap fiberboard suitcase; the beefy queen, ingesting drops of uncertain provenance; and the middle-aged crown prince, Umberto, head in hands, muttering, "My God, what a figure we're cutting." . . . In a suitable epitaph, a Free French newspaper observed, "The House of Savoy never finished a war on the same side it started, unless the war lasted long enough to change sides twice."

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