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Emilio De Bono
Emilio De Bono in 1929.
Born (1866-03-19)March 19, 1866
Died January 11, 1944(1944-01-11) (aged 77)
Place of birth Cassano d'Adda, Italy
Place of death Verona, Italy
Allegiance  Kingdom of Italy (1915–1943)
Service/branch Royal Italian Army
Years of service 1884 - 1920; 1935 - 1943
Rank Marshal of Italy
Battles/wars Italo-Turkish War
World War I
Second Italo-Ethiopian War
World War II

Emilio De Bono (March 19, 1866 – January 11, 1944) was an Italian General, fascist activist, Marshal, and member of the Fascist Grand Council (Gran Consiglio del Fascismo). De Bono fought in the Italo-Turkish War, World War I, and the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.

Early life

De Bono was born in Cassano d'Adda. Son of Giovanni de Bono, descendant of the Counts of Barlassina, and Elisa Bazzi. His family "aveva penato sotto il giogo austriaco" (De Bono, Laguerra, page 302). He entered the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) in 1884 as a Second Lieutenant and had worked his way up to General Staff by the start of the Italo-Turkish War of 1911. De Bono would later to go on to fight in World War I, where he distinguished himself against the Austrians in Gorizia in 1916 and Monte Grappa in October 1918. In 1920, he was discharged with the rank of Major General.

Fascist support

During the early 1920s, De Bono helped organize the National Fascist Party. In 1922, as one of the four Quadrumvirs, he organized and staged the "March on Rome." This event signalled the start of the Fascist regime in Italy.

In the period following the march, De Bono served as Chief of Police and Commander of the Fascist Militia.

In 1925, De Bono was tried for his role in the 1924 death of the leftist politician Giacomo Matteotti. He refused to implicate his superiors and was unexpectedly acquitted in 1925. Later that year, De Bono was appointed Governor of Tripolitania in Libya.

In 1929, De Bono was appointed Minister of Colonial Affairs (also referred to as the Minister of Colonies). In 1932, King Victor Emmanuel and De Bono visited Eritrea and found, they said, a peaceful, loyal, and contented colony.[1]


In November 1932, at Mussolini's request, De Bono wrote a plan for an invasion of Ethiopia. The plan outlined a traditional mode of penetration: a relatively small force would move gradually southward from Eritrea, establish strong bases and then advance against increasingly weak and disorganized opponents. The invasion De Bono envisioned would be cheap, easy, safe, -- and slow.[2]

Mussolini separately involved the Army in planning and, over the next two years, the Army developed its own massive campaign which would involve five to six times the number of troops required by De Bono. In 1934, Mussolini pulled the uncoordinated plans together into one that emphasized the military's idea of full-scale war.[3]

In 1935, De Bono became Supreme Commander of the Italian operation against Ethiopia during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War. De Bono was appointed because Mussolini wanted the victory in Ethiopia to be not just an Italian victory, but a Fascist one as well, hence the appointment of a well known Fascist general. In addition, he was Commander-in-Chief of the forces invading from Italian-held Eritrea, on what was known as the "northern front." De Bono had, under his direct command, a force of nine Army divisions in three corps: The Italian I Corps, the Italian II Corps, and the Eritrean Corps.[4]

On October 3, forces under De Bono's command crossed into Ethiopia from Eritrea. On October 6, his forces took Adowa, officially avenging the humiliating 1896 Italian defeat. Soon thereafter, De Bono entered the historically significant city of Axum, riding a white horse. After these initial triumphs, however, De Bono's advance slowed.

On November 8, the I Corps and the Eritrean Corps captured Mek'ele. This was to be the limit of Italian advances under De Bono. Increasing world pressure on Mussolini brought a need for fast, glittering victories; he was not prepared to hear of obstacles or delays.[5]

On November 16, De Bono was promoted to Marshal of Italy (Maresciallo d'Italia), but Mussolini grew ever more impatient with the invasion's slow progress and, on December 17, De Bono was relieved of his command via State Telegram 13181 (Telegramma di Stato 13181), which stated that, with the capture of Mek'ele five weeks before, his mission had been accomplished. His place was taken by Marshal Pietro Badoglio, and De Bono was appointed Inspector of Overseas Troops.

World War II

A photograph of De Bono taken in Rome on 21 November 1940. He is between Heinrich Himmler and Rodolfo Graziani and is easily identified by his signature beard. Reinhard Heydrich is to be seen, second from the left.

In 1940, De Bono commanded a southern defense corps headquartered in Sicily and was opposed to the Italian entry into World War II. But he kept a low profile and, in 1942, he was appointed Minister of State.

On July 24 and July 25, 1943, De Bono was one of the members of the Fascist Grand Council who voted to oust Benito Mussolini when Dino Grandi, in collaboration with Pietro Badoglio and King Victor Emmanuel III, put a no confidence motion to the vote of the Grand Council of Fascism. This led to the dictator's downfall, arrest, and imprisonment.

Later in 1943, Mussolini was rescued during the Gran Sasso raid and returned to power by Nazi Germany. He was set up in northern Italy by the Germans as the "Duce of the Nation" of a new Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana, or RSI). Upon his return to power, Mussolini had De Bono and others who voted against him arrested. He then had Alessandro Pavolini try them for treason at Verona in what became known as the "Verona trial." De Bono was convicted in a trial where the outcome was known prior to its start.[6]

On January 11, 1944, the 77-year old De Bono was executed by firing squad at Verona. He was shot along with Galeazzo Ciano, Luciano Gottardi, Giovanni Marinelli and Carlo Pareschi. Ciano was the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mussolini's son-in-law. Gottardi was the former president of the Fascist Confederation of Industrial workers. Marinelli was the former chief of the Fascist militia and Pareschi was the former Agriculture Minister. The only person on trial who escaped from capital punishment was Tullio Cianetti, the Minister of Corporations. Cianetti was sentenced to thirty years by the RSI judges.[6]

Nazi support

According to historians , De Bono, since 1940, provided weapons for the Nazis, without the express permission of Mussolini.

He transformed idle land into gigantic factories, and used airplanes to transport the completed goods. It is estimated[by whom?] that between 1935 and 1943, Emilio exported arms to about 308,000 German soldiers. He also imported Tungsten from Portugal and sold it to the Nazis. Tungsten was vital to the manufacture of lethal weapons in concentration camps.[citation needed]

Personal aspects

Religion: Likewise his maternal grandfather, Emilio was reportedly an atheist, as stated in his "Memoirs" in 1941: "Atheism is enlightened and rational, based on scientific principles. I, as a member of the military, admire reason, and for that I'm an atheist".

Family: He had the following siblings: Edmondo, Agostino, Constanza, Gerardo and Marella. He had no sons or daughters.


From the article in the Italian Wikipedia

  • Knight of the Order of the Most Holy Annunciation (3 October 1937)
  • Knight Grand Cross with the Grand Cordon of the Colonial Order of the Star of Italy
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Military Order of Savoy (19 June 1936; Grand Officer: 10 August 1928; Commander: 19 September 1918; Knight: 28 December 1913)
  • Grand Officer of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus (8 April 1923; Commander: 30 December 1919; Officer: 12 January 1919; Knight: 3 April 1913)
  • Grand Officer of the Order of the Crown of Italy (1 June 1919; Commander: 13 September 1918; Officer: 13 September 1917; Knight: 7 November 1907)

See also


  1. Mockler. Haile Sellassie's War. p.27
  2. Baer, Test Case: Italy, Ethiopia, and the League of Nations, p. 12
  3. Baer, Test Case: Italy, Ethiopia, and the League of Nations, p. 13
  4. Barker, A. J., The Rape of Ethiopia 1936, p. 33
  5. Barker, A. J., The Rape of Ethiopia 1936, p. 36
  6. 6.0 6.1 Bosworth, R. J. B., Mussolini's Italy, p. 514


  • Baer, George W. (1976). Test Case: Italy, Ethiopia, and the League of Nations. Stanford, California: Hoover Institute Press, Stanford University. ISBN 0-8179-6591-2. 
  • Barker, A.J. (1971). Rape of Ethiopia, 1936. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-02462-6. 
  • Bosworth, R.J.B. (2005). Mussolini's Italy: Life Under the Fascist Dictatorship, 1915-1945. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-303856-6. 
  • Mockler, Anthony (20032). Haile Sellassie's war. New York: Olive Branch Press. ISBN 978-1-56656-473-1. 
  • Nicolle, David (1997). The Italian Invasion of Abyssinia 1935-1936. Westminster: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-85532-692-7. 

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