2. Benito Mussolini
With the collapse of its sixth coalition government in three years, Italy was paralyzed by a general strike called by the Trade Union council and the Railwaymen's Union. Mussolini, as head of the Fascists, demanded that the government take action. When the king refused to give his approval to the Facta cabinet's proclamation of a state of emergency, the squadristi of the party moved in and took over the operation of vital services. The mail was delivered, the trains ran, farms were tilled, factories remained open; the Socialist-sponsored strike collapsed. In-stead of the planned protest march on Rome, a victory parade was held instead. On 29 October 1922, King Victor Emmanuel III called upon Benito Mussolini to form a new cabinet. At the age of 39, Mussolini was the youngest man to ever hold the office of Prime Minister of Italy. By and large, the Italian people now felt the nation was at last on the road to economic and political recovery—and indeed it was.
As Hitler would do in Germany in the '30s, Mussolini spent the 1920s melding the fortunes of domestic policy, foreign policy and the military of Italy into a single entity (only to lose all in a bid for dominance in the Mediterranean). Thus, the discussion here cannot but revolve around the role of the Italian army as reflected in the foreign policy of Italy, of the Fascists, and of it Duce. While Mussolini often harkened back to the glory that was ancient Rome, the history of the Italian military is more correctly traced to the regiments that served Prince Eugene in Napoleon's campaigns across Europe. More recently, the exploits of the Italian army during the First World War served to high-light both its strengths, and its weaknesses. During that conflict, Italy mobilized some 5.6 million men and suffered casualties on the order of two million. Of these, 462,000 were killed or died, 947,000 were wounded, and some 600,000 were taken as prisoners (or were otherwise unaccounted for). Even given the disaster that was Caporetto (1917), Italian morale proved steadfast, given capable troops capably led. Indeed, the Italian army was shown to be able to secure Italy's borders, and even carry the war to the enemy. But after the war, the military, due in part to the political discord and in part to the disrepute of military means to settle international affairs and in part to economic necessities, languished and declined.
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