My father saw too much malfeasance happen in WWII. Especially the turncoat drama of the Fascist leaders reorganizing into something else. The transfer was managed by the British Head of the Allied Control Commission. (Wikipedia listed it thus: "Supreme Allied Commander Mediterranean" --as of July 1, 2012, my first serious update to this page).
I expect it is likely that organized religious systems have always been used to exonerate and financially promote the highest achievers, within organized crime. Dad actually would mention under his breath that a form of rebaptizing was used to cover up the fascist crimes. To provide criminals new starts in life. To covertly keep the old titles or pillaged riches, within the same hands. He also reflected that Rome, had witnessed at least 17 'liberations' in history. As i child, it was hard to learn of this from my dad. My other siblings did not absorb my dad's mutterings, as i had. Or they do not wish to remember any such things. I came to expect that ancient arts of deception always fester in the ruins of empire.
Dad witnessed this malevolence as a "laison-officer". Dad unwittingly participating as a scapegoat of war. A US liaison officer of US 5th Army, eventually placed directly under the command of Harold Macmillan. Dad sadly learned that true facts of war will never be admitted. His hopes for human up-lift-ment struggled onwards, during my childhood years in Rome. I came to hate dad's dissimilarities to other dads who all had regular jobs (and whose moms were always home). Dad never seemed to earn money, but rather always worked at home. Typing away on his Smith-Corona typewriter. I expect he eventually became mind-suppressed, to some extent, with all sorts of promises, never received. I got over my hate for dad at about age 19. I started to become aware of and to learn about mind-control, at around the same period. (It has taken decades to study this subject and ultimately to survive the consequences). Will society overcome mind control, dear reader of this page? I expect my free-mindedness provoked a murder attempt on my own life. Except that the murderous technology of today is achieved remotely. Remotely and also somewhat ineffectively, if one develops a degree of mind-independence.
From my childhood, i recall dear mom, sighing over her career-fatigue. The powers that be gave my mom the 'breadwinner' job, to raise my 3 siblings and myself. She worked long days, at tiresome economic statistics, working for FAO (Food & Agricultural Organization, of the United Nations, newly headquartered in Rome, Italy, just after WWII.) In order to overcome the exasperation of demanding young kids (like me), she occasionally said: "I can hardly wait until dad publishes his (war) book! I will get a lovely round-shaped a Jaguar sedan! After dad sells movie rights to his book!" Our family car throughout my early childhood was a warn-out Willy's Jeep station wagon. In 1960 we got a brand new Willys Jeep, though. I never returned 'home' to Italy, after 1967. Dad passed away in the early 1970s, after some brain surgery, which also seems questionable to me. Mom retired from FAO around 1980 and followed me to settle in Maine. I had gradually settled in Maine, (beginning in 1970). My Maine life story is posted here.
It has taken me years to reflect upon these recollections. Finally all the dots seem to connect more logically. Mom and dad both were "played" or "strung along". Likely even lied to about publishing dad's tiresome book-publishing efforts. His publisher must have kept them both fooled-- Likely saying: that success was immanent! -To continuously edit dad's manuscript! I'm sure the publisher kept misdirecting dad's editing work which continued throughout my childhood. Even though this manuscript was in the early days, already at the level of ordinary WWII 'fiction' books. Decades passed us by. Dad never made a cent on this book. Originally he simply had wanted to write more of a journalist's account. His 'publisher' forced him to shift it into a silly war drama. Except dad didn't even like writing silly dramas. Go figure. Deception rules our world and always has. This is my humble opinion.
Robert Guy Atkinson (Also known as Bo) July 2012 (+ Typo edits June & August 2013)
Son of John Wells Atkinson
Grandson of Lynn S Atkinson
(Dad named me in honor of his brother Robert W. Atkinson and his uncle Guy F. Atkinson)
Politics And War In The Mediterranean", St Martins Press, Harold
my father, John W Atkinson. A most helpful
email in 2004 informed me as follows: "The references to your father in the
Macmillan diaries appear in the last 100 pages, covering late winter and early
was particularly impressed by your father's adroitness in seeing to it that
HM's activities -- some of which, it appears, your father ginned up on his
own initiative -- came off smoothly and pleasantly. It's intriguing to speculate
on your father's opinion of HM, who was a middle-of-the-road Tory but one who,
for pragmatic rather than ideological reasons, regarded Badoglio and the King
as necessary, and temporary, expedients. Judging by the excerpt on the Web,
your father shared the views of many Americans journalists in Italy, who had
passionately supported the Loyalists in Spain and would have welcomed a Left-Socialist
regime in place of the Badogliani. Perhaps the most celebrated of these correspondents
was Peter Tompkins, whose memoir A SPY IN ROME is a spine-tingling account
of the German occupation. Tompkins had nothing but contempt for the Allied
policies HM was so deftly implementing."
Dad simply impressed upon me that war is not a lasting guarantee for peace with questions to the effect of: "If it took 17 liberations to liberate the Eternal City, is it really free?"
First Updated 2008.
Latest Update July 1, 2012
Following is dad's 1947-48 manuscript:
If the U.S. Army had placed you, gentle reader, in charge of a beautiful
and trusting war victim, what would you have done?
In the spring of 1943 I was plucked out of the military government school
for junior officers at Fort Custer, Michigan, and plunked down behind the
two allied armies which were then beginning the hard, two-year-long advance
up the lovely body of Italy from Sicily to the Alps. I thought my mission
included helping the fallen nation back to a better way of life. This was
my first mistake.
In this book I have recorded some other mistakes, but some are not my own,
and they were deliberate. Even so, it is better to charge our broken trust
to youth and ignorance. Then hope is left.
CONFESSIONS OF AN AMG OFFICER
WE CALLED IT LIBERATION
Joe liked the girls in their summer dresses. And no wonder. The moving picture
extras from suburban Cinema City and the sophisticated career girls from the
shops and government offices didn't just stand there. "Ciao bello," they said.
Thus addressed, Good Looking turned tiredly under his infantry pack and
grinned through his beard. It was good fun and more like home than the Americans
had known in a long time. As a matter of fact he liked it so much that later
he took the matter up with the editor of the Mediterranean edition of The
Stars & Stripes. "The Joes who are fighting this war should get more
leaves to visit the historic monuments," he wrote, omitting all reference
to the fact that on June 5, 1944, most Joes had marched around one side of
the Coliseum and smack through the center of the forums and market places
of ancient Rome.
So quickly had the American Fifth Army swept over the last German delaying
actions, down the gradual slopes of the Alban Hills and across the intervening
Tiber plain that the main elements of the 34th and 45th divisions were foots logging
single file along the New Appian Way toward St. John's Gateway and the inner
city before the cry went up: "Here come the Americans!" Drowsing in the moist,
early morning heat at the bottom of the ancient river valley, the tired European
capital suddenly woke up.
In every grey stone apartment and pastel colored tenement along the line
of march, heavy wooden shutters banged open, revealing the whole family just
out of bed and wide-eyed with joy. Moments later great iron latch bars clanged
loudly in the corridors and inside patios, massive street doors swung inward
and civilians of all ages surged out to greet the Joes, Jims, Johns, and Georges
who now in their ninth month on the mainland had come to be known to Italians
on both sides of the fighting front as simply "JOH."
"Hallo, Joh," a tumult of voices cried. "Take some wine."
Joe smiled quizzically through his sweat and dirt. For nine weary months
he'd been fighting practically every yard of the hard, long two hundred eighty
miles from Salerno and this was the first town you didn't enter by walking
around the remains of buildings piled or scattered about the streets. The
well-wishers were well dressed, too, and didn't have the haunting hungry look
that was in the eyes of the threadbare people in the ruined towns further
south. But the children still scrambled for the paper-wrapped squares of hard
candy and the men gladly accepted cigarettes. This was the same. Sugar and
tobacco were scarce everywhere.
The main troop movement through town was northward along the Corso Umberto,
jammed to the store windows with civilians except for narrow lanes along each
curb where Joe walked single file through a never-ending gantlet of welcome.
As he approached, more flowers and straw covered flasks full of the good
white wine from nearby Frascati were thrust in his face. As he walked away,
Italians made interesting remarks about this new kind of soldier from far
"Their shoes have rubber heels," they whispered incredulously, as though
the fact were something beyond belief. After being informed by their press
that America was immobilized because Japan had captured all of her sources
of rubber it came as something of a shock to see unending lines of khaki-clad
Americans walking on it.
After the pompous goose-step of the Germans, and Mussolini's almost as ear-jarring
imitation called the Roman Step, the easy way the Fifth's two American divisions
ambled through town received immediate attention and comment. "Look," surprised
Romans exclaimed to one another, "at the Americans' undulating walk." The
uninhibited gait Americans have picked up on the playing fields of Yale and
Sleepy Hollow sometimes does something to their posterior that is strictly
outside the European military tradition.
"How strange," Italians said, "but it is practical."
In odd, human little ways not always known to himself, Joe walked into the
hearts of Romans as no conqueror could ever have done. But before he had an
opportunity to alter his good first impression, we came--AMG.
People in America and England had already heard something about us. We were
a new experiment in allied military government, designed to carry out the
work of liberation started by the two armies, one American and one British,
in Italy. We were not all cast in the heroic mold of the almost legendary
Major Joppolo, that Paul Bunyan of AMG achievement described by John Hersey
in A Bell for Adano. Nor were there many of us in the original Allied
Military Government Occupied Territory, or AMGOT an we were then popularly
called, who were, as critics joyously alleged, Ancient Military
Gentlemen On Tour. We were neither young Galahads, nor
old men. Primarily, we were made up of average officers and enlisted men and
now some of us, at the end of our first year of work and halfway up the Italian
peninsula, were becoming uneasy at the signs of our gradually increasing failure.
Italians noticed it first. The little people in Italy's biggest city had
awaited our arrival as they had awaited the coming of the troops, but with
more apprehension among the strongly anti-fascist elements than might be expected
at the approach of an allied military government representing two allied
armies at war with fascists. It wasn't that AMG officers and enlisted men
hadn't done anything for Italians. Too many times, particularly during the
early days in Sicily, an officer alone, sometimes equipped with no more than
a Jeep and a smattering of the language, but often neither, had entered ruined
villages before the shooting was over and had started helping the wounded,
burying the dead, and lessening in what ways he could all the known and the
unimagined horrors brought by modern war to civilians. When he could, the
British and American AMG-men who followed the famous British Eighth Army up
the east coasts of first Sicily and then Italy, and the American Fifth Army
across Sicily and from Salerno up the west coast of Italy, organized bomb
and mine disposal squads and civil police forces, found water, established
a local administration, gave it flour, gave it funds, cleaned up debris, organized
transport,opened shops and schools, cared for war orphans and displaced persons,
established hospitals, fought the black market, set up courts, tried cases,
looked out for the hungry and homeless and generally attempted to be all
things to all civilians within a radius of twenty and sometimes forty war-scarred
Our knack for order helped Italy and sped victory, but it wasn't enough
for those Italians who, while we were still separated by a battle line, had
willingly risked their lives to listen to the glib promises of democracy
coming from political warfare experts ensconced behind Psychological Warfare
Branch microphones and radio transmitters in Allied occupied Italy. So far
as politically conscious Italians could see, the military government of the
Allies had no system for making democracy work. To be sure, the mayors we
appointed we called "sindaci" and the hated fascist title "podesta" we abolished.
But was not a sindaco, puzzled, middle-aged Italians wondered, a mayor chosen
by the wishes of a majority of the townspeople? And, among the anti-fascists,
doubt turned to suspicion when so many of our well-groomed, patronizing appointees
turned out to be the very men in each village hierarchy the fascists had
not made "podesta" only because they were not good administrators.
When, through our own or Italian initiative some of us began to choose mayors
from among the less wealthy and more rugged membership of the local Committees
of National Liberation, whose nationwide organization comprised the best anti-fascist
leadership in Italy, these pioneers of modern Italian democracy were almost
certain to meet with frowns and outright obstructionism from the allied military
bureaucracy from which we all depended. This was particularly true of mayors
who belonged to the Committees' most violently anti-fascist political parties,
which supplied most of the partisans to Italy's fast growing and later Europe's
most successful resistence movement. As for the partisans themselves, whose
battalions later formed the vanguard of the allied advance through northern
Italy, they were regarded officially as little more than brigands until they
surrendered all their tommy guns, pistols, hand grenades and other arms to
us--often under circumstances which made these heroic fighters for Italian
democracy seem like criminals and left them deeply bitter.
Romans had heard, too, that with regard to the collection and distribution
of wheat for bread, the staff of Italian life, affairs had gone badly. Down
in Sicily, the great land owners had taken advantage of the breakdown in the
fascist collection system and had refused to deliver their grain for milling.
Soon hunger in the cities had forced us to commandeer trucks and go after
it. But we didn't go as liberators. Instead, we raided the bare stone dwellings
in desperate haste, gruffly ordered the uncomprehending peasants to sack
and pile their master's grain onto waiting army trucks and then drove off
before their bewildered gaze without so much as a "grazie" to relieve
their abject serfdom. For twenty centuries prior to our arrival in Sicily,
precisely the same thing had happened under seventeen successive foreign
dominations. And when we took no pains to distinguish our operation from
the former invasions, we, too, had to resort to the mutually exasperating
road patrols, searches and criminal prosecutions.
Later, when we reached southern Italy, we attempted to popularize the compulsory
fascist system of collecting grain by changing the name "Il Ammasso" (The
Pile Up) to "Il Granai del Popolo" (The Peoples' Grainary). The Italians,
seemingly knowing what to expect, never became very enthusiastic. Sure enough,
well remembered faces began to reappear around the same collection depots
and, just as the people expected, almost all the land continued to belong
to the Sir Master--as it had belonged to the Sir Master's father and his father's
father before him. So the people lost interest in Il Granai del Popolo. Meanwhile,
the owners of most of the agricultural land in Sicily revived their own private
police force to guard their huge estates. We approved the practice. Soon
the lawlessness of Sicilians and southern Italians became a regular theme
in our reports to headquarters, while outside our doors remarks began to
be passed to the effect that for all our good sayings we resembled the fascist
This not intentional badgering of the little people who farmed the land
and fought fascism was at first accepted philosophically by Italy's democratic
leaders as a by-product of war, which it partly was. Military necessity imposed
certain logistic and practical tasks first; if existing fascist systems of
meeting the problems of supply and distribution met the army's need at the
moment we used them. And our latent desire to bring democracy was often thwarted
by the handicaps of the very people we were trying to help. Probably the main
blow most of us ever struck for Italian democracy happened when the always
agitated roar element of the daily crowd of petitioners and litigants outside
our windows, and its constantly elbowing main body in the adjacent rooms
and hallways, pushed the unwashed bodies of its advance echelon onto our
On such occasions we might shout: "Why don't you Italians learn to govern
But It did no good. The words always stumped the villagers who could attach
no meaning to them. "Yes, sir officer," the ranking official in the communal
administration would always say, "I am at your orders."
But what military necessity and southern Italians not yet free from the
bonds of their feudalism forced us to do was unnecessarily harsh and prolonged
because of one thing we did not do. The great bundles of proclamations and
general orders we pasted on the walls of every town and village we entered
prescribed the limitations on civilian liberty necessary to achieve tactical
security in the area; they gave Italians no instructions about self-government.
And, for the most part, neither did we. Sometimes a conscience-stricken American
officer would think back to his training days to see if he was overlooking
some clue whereby he might bring more democracy to the people he was supposed
to be liberating; but he found that besides a vague idea about the enemy regime
he was replacing the main instruction about government received by AMG majors
and colonels at the University of Charlottesville, Virginia, and the only
knowledge of it revealed to AMG lieutenants and captains at Fort Custer,
Michigan, had to do with the absolute sovereignty of commanding officers.
Democracy, as a program of economic and political reorientation for people
in occupied territories, had simply been left out of our Table of Organization.
None of us ever learned why. Being average Americans and, except for a sprinkling
of mayors and one ex-governor, equipped with a completely authoritarian briefing
about administration, it must have been expected that most of us would go
about our job of establishing and maintaining order behind the lines somewhat
as a benevolent gauleiter might do it, if a little less efficiently. Certainly,
the American public hadn't known about this, nor had anti-fascist Italian
leaders expected it; if it had been realized that we were sent to bring order
without democracy there would have been much less surprise and bitter disappointment
at the bigger events already beginning to happen on very much higher echelons
of authority, events which punctured even the official hide of AMG in a good
On July 25, 1943, while the Allies swept across Sicily toward the toe of
the Italian peninsula, the Italian king and late Emperor of Ethiopia, Victor
Emanuele III, acting on the advice of the Fascist Grand Council, had Mussolini
arrested. He chose as his now prime minister, Marshal Pietro Badoglio, conqueror
of Ethiopia and Duke of Addis Ababa, and carried on the war against the Allies.
On September 8, six weeks and many thousands of allied and Italian casualties
later, General Eisenhower finally persuaded the stubborn little king and his
reluctant marshal to abide by the terms of an armistice signed by their emissaries
five days earlier, whereupon Victor Emanuele III and Badoglio immediately
fled across Italy to the port of Pescara on the Adriatic. Boarding an Italian
cruiser, they arrived at Taranto on the heel of the Italian boot about the
same time the British Eighth Army's Fifth Corps landed there on the morning
of September 9. During the night the American Fifth Army had assaulted the
beaches a third of the way up the western side of the peninsula at Salerno
and the next anybody heard the withered old king had his bandy legs thrust
under the royal table at his luxurious villa in Possillipo outside of Naples
and Pietro Badoglio, a member of the Fascist party, was making frequent visits
aboard the British battleship Nelson riding at anchor in the harbor of Malta.
His hosts were Harold Macmillan, Winston Churchill's good friend and British
Resident Minister in the Mediterranean, and the U.S. State Department's Robert
Murphy, architect of Oran.
A few weeks later, on October 14, the government of fascist Italy's Pietro
Badoglio declared war on Germany, and collaboration was complete--even to
the retention of General Mario Roatta as Italian Army Chief of Staff. Roatta
was and still is wanted by the Yugoslav government to stand trial for war
crimes and atrocities.
At first, Victor Emanuele III and Badoglio seemed remote and unimportant
to Italians fighting Germans. But when the Allies finally authorized the Committee
of National Liberation to hold its first congress at Bari the following January,
Badoglio's "government of technicians" across the peninsula at Salerno was
found to have a long arm.
"Owing to the danger of epidemics, I must ask for your health certificates,"
the Prefect of Bari told the partisans' delegates when they tried to enter
When the delegates angrily brushed aside the prefect's protests, they found
themselves confronted by General Roatta's troops and subjected to indiscriminate
and unexplained arrests and detentions. When enough delegates did succeed
in entering Bari anyway and proceeded to put Allied-occupied Italy's first
congress on record as being unalterably opposed to the continuance of the
monarchy, the Allies formally handed over administrative authority in southern
Italy to the former Emperor of Ethiopia and to the Duke of Addis Ababa whom,
just two years before, British troops in Africa had dispossessed with the
usual blood, sweat and tears.
So, unpleasant memories of what their recent rulers had told them about
pluto-democracies were mingled with Italian hopes for a better future, as
we rode into Rome on the heels of the infantry on that bright June morning
It was entirely owing to a tactical error that we started out by giving
an impression of remoteness and unimportance. Following the established and
heretofore practical occupational procedure of setting up administrative headquarters
in the principal municipal building in a metropolitan area, our Rome planning
group had assumed that the Campidoglio (Capital Building) would be just the
place for us. Contrary to the eminent professors and historians on the planning
staff who made this decision, however, the public life of Rome for the past
twenty-two years had not centered upon the historic site on the Capitoline
Hill that gave the word "capitol" to the world. It had been down at nearby
Piazza Venezia, the great square in the heart of the city whose spaciousness
afforded, so Mussolini thought when he stood on the balcony of his adjoining
Palazzo Venezia, an auditorium sufficiently large for the eloquence of a
dictator. And so, for the first day, our headquarters military government
contingent of several hundred officers and men was left holding a seventy-five
page top secret plan for governing Rome in comparative solitude. Meanwhile,
beyond an adjoining museum, past a little church on the site of Juno's ancient
temple, and on the other side of a huge monument to King Victor Emanuele
II, thousands of curious Romans milled about Piazza Venezia in search of
the missing military government of the Allies.
Our administration and prestige wasn't helped when the first arrival at
our lonely headquarters on liberation morning turned out to be a septugenarian
general from Badoglio's headquarters. "What...?" I started to ask the American
nearest me when a procession containing apparently all of the sedans left
in Rome by the retreating Germans drew up at the steps or the Campidoglio.
But State Department Political Advisor Samuel Reber was already hastening
to open the door of the first car to help its elderly occupant, General Roberto
Bencivenga, up the steps to his office. With the Allied Control Commission's
approval, Badoglio had appointed General Bencivenga civil and military commander
of Rome for the interval between the departure of the enemy and the arrival
of the allied troops. A young woman, apparently his secretary, held the carefully
dressed old gentleman's other arm.
A little late, Bencivenga proceeded ambitiously about his duties, however,
so that by sundown, posted on walls throughout the city alongside the proclamation
of Fifth Army's Rome Area Commander, Major General Harry H. Johnson, which
specified the obligations and duties of Roman citizens under the allied occupation,
there appeared an equally impressive proclamation signed by General Bencivenga.
With equal insistence it commanded Romans to observe a different set of rules
and regulations. After stopping to peruse the conflicting announcements for
a few moment, civilians usually uttered the expressive Roman "Beh?" as they
lifted their hands in helpless little gestures and walked away.
Fortunately, it became our policy to remove Bencivenga from the Capitoline
and his proclamations from Rome, but his presence during the next few days
had the magic quality of making our cramped, musty offices fairly hum with
Early the second morning another general, Angelo Cerica, Commander in Chief
of the Royal Carbineers when the king and Badoglio fled Rome, but missing
from his post since that date, strode into our hastily rigged AMG police office
with the story that he had been living in the hills leading partisans. He
requested that, as senior officer of the Italian civil and military police
corps he would like his old job back. Actually, General Cerica's military
government experience consisted of a tour of duty with his good friend and
fascism's Rodolfo "The Desert Wolf" Graziani when, ten years before, the two
of them had pacified the Senussi tribes of eastern Libya by dropping captured
chieftains bound hand and foot from airplanes onto the market places of their
rebellious villages. Now he counted on our demonstrated friendliness toward
his king, and the fact that we relied almost exclusively upon the Royal Carbineers
to help us restore and maintain order in the towns we liberated.
But the commanding officer of the two thousand eight hundred carbineers
we had brought into the city the night before, tired, worn Italian Colonel
Peronetti, drew me aside, pointed to the fat, shaven face above the pressed,
beribboned uniform and growled scornfully: "That one has just come from the
Vatican where he has been hiding all these months."
I moved across the room, and whispered this information to our AMG chief
of public safety, former London Police Superintendent Lieutenant Colonel John
R. Pollock. He immediately motioned the general off the chair he had set
before him and escorted him to our commanding officer, American Brigadier
General Edgar Erskine Hume. The fact that Angel Cerica actually had been cooling
his heels on the Pope's one hundred and forty-four luxurious acres, while
the Germans subjected his brave successors in office to prolonged torture
and death and disbanded the carbineers, induced the decision that the General
was unfit for a command in Rome. So with regrets suitable to one of his rank
and distinction in the Badoglio regime, General Hume said no, we couldn't
use him now, but...perhaps later...in the north.
Cerica, who had never once stopped smiling, smiled even more broadly and
easily. It was not to be hard then; some Americans only talked collaboration
with difficulty. It was the same way with the English. The Anglo-Americans
didn't mean anything by it. Four months later, as he sat in comfortable headquarters
in Florence in charge of disarming partisans in the Fifth Army's area of occupation,
Cerica was sure that it was a thing that didn't make any difference.
A tall, gaunt, sun-burned Italian in a light brown uniform was standing
in the middle of our office when we returned. "I am General Presti," he said,
and paused. A black handled dagger in a black metal sheath attached to a shiny
black belt, and polished black boots, completed the introduction. Presti represented
the Italian Africa Police, the dread fascist colonial militia whose allegiance
to fascism had never been compromised by "Italianism"-- an instinctive loyalty
to Italian traditions and interests which in the end had made the carbineers
unsuitable for Nazi police work in Rome.
"My troops wish to serve the Allies,," the fascist said haltingly. And then,
as though realizing the enormity of his request, he implored, "Think of our
wives and little children." His twelve hundred assorted desperadoes and cutthroats
could well be proud of their versatile chief, for six hours later they were
handing over their arms and uniforms in return for an allied pardon returning
them to civilian life unhandicapped by their recent career against it.
Finally, through the crowd of collaborators and aristocrats pressing into
our office seeking privilege, three Italian civilians with their hats in their
hands made their way to the Colonel's desk. They said they represented the
Rome Committee of National Liberation, and would the military governors like
their advice on conditions in the city and their help on matters pertaining
to the liberation? Also, would we please instruct our officers to stop arresting
the Committee's partisans and taking their arms needed for the killing of
"Where did you get your over-night police authority?" AMG's Scotland Yard-trained
Lieutenant Colonel Pollock demanded.
"From the Committee of National Liberation which fights fascism," one saids.
"Which we represent," another added.
"I am in charge here," Pollock replied authoritatively. "It is in the public
interest that your police agents be stripped of their illegal authority at
once. Tell your
partisans that. We mean business."
The Colonel spoke in excited English rising toward a shout, and the delegates
needed no translation. It was just as clear as the negative shake of Badoglio's
bald pate had been when, immediately after the fall of Mussolini, the Central
Committee of National Liberation had risked coming into the open to ask the
new premier of Italy to join the Allies and declare war on Germany. Tight-lipped,
the three representatives of Rome's seventeen thousand active partisans, and
the dead and the living dead who had fallen into German hands during the
long, desperate, pain-filled underground fight turned and, looking at nothing
in particular walked through the silent, curious crowd and out the door.
I never saw them again.
Far up the shop-lined Via Nazionale, inside the Grand Hotel, ornate hostelry
for visiting diplomats, British Lieutenant General Sir Noel Mason Macfarlane,
D.C.B., D.S.O., M.C., Deputy President and Chief Commissioner of the Allied
Control Commission for Italy, the Allied Control Commission's Executive Commissioner,
Brigadier Maurice Stanley Lush, C.B.E., M.C., and its Deputy Executive Commissioner,
Colonel Norman E. Fiske, A.U.S., were having a different kind of problem.
It centered around the old difficulty of pretending to keep faith with the
Committee of National Liberation whose partisans the Allies did not like but
needed while collaborating with the enemies of a free Italy whom they did
not need but wanted. The dilemma had its origin in the Allied Control Commission's
fledgling days when, as head of the Allied Military Mission which negotiated
the final armistice terms with the Badoglio government, General Macfarlane
persuaded the king and Badoglio to leave their cruiser and return with him
as the governing heads of Allied-occupied Italy--"the King's Italy" our British
colleagues immediately began calling it. But the commander of the allied
forces in Italy, General Sir Harold R.L.G. Alexander, whose American Fifth
and British Eighth armies were now working up the western and eastern sides
of the Italian peninsula, needed the continued support of the approximately
two hundred thousand armed partisans on the German side of the fighting line.
Allied leaders agreed therefore, that the base of the Italian government
had to be broadened. The question before the Allied Control Commission meeting
the delegates of the Committee of National Liberation in the lobby of the
Grand Hotel in Rome for the first time on June 8 was, how much of the collaborationist
structure upon which the Allies were building the peace could be saved?
If State Department careerist Samuel Reber had followed less closely the
opinions and actions of his counterpart in the British foreign office, and
if the latter had not been so
determined to see and report only what he wanted to believe about Italian
politics, both political advisors would have known that the people of Italy
wanted a new world without fascism or fascists. As it was, they had to be
told. After the allied advisors had gone through the motions of assuring the
delegates that the Allies wore not trying to force Marshal Badoglio into their
government, while at the same time clearly establishing the point that we
did, however, favor his retention "under present conditions," the delegates'
premier-elect, white-haired Ivanoe Bonomi, seventy-year-old ex-premier of
one of the last pre-fascist Italian governments and chairman of the Rome Committee
of National Liberation stood up.
"I have no place in my cabinet for anybody who has been compromised by fascism,"
In a red plush chair provided by his allied friends, the ex-duke of Addis
Ababa squirmed. It had not been pleasant for the septugenarian collaborationist
who still wore the incriminating uniform of the Italian armies he had led
into Ethiopia and Greece to answer the continuous chorus of inquiries coming
from the civilian delegates who wanted to know what he was doing there. Now
he rose, and, surrounded by aides and a cordon of allied officers, left the
With Badoglio finally off the agenda, the British foreign office spokesman
reminded the delegates of their obligation as Italians to the Savoy monarchy.
This time the usually preeminent glory and magnificence of British oratory
was somewhat dimmed by Italian candor.
"We cannot consent to refashion a political virginity for Victor Emanuele,"
one delegate loudly announced, above a melee of accusations and supporting
statements from his colleagues.
Wisely, King Victor Emanuele III's advisors had long foreseen the Committee's
objections and twenty-four hours after the Allies entered Rome, after months
of pleading, they finally had succeeded in persuading the mulish king to hand
over at least the perogatives of his office to his son, middle-aged Prince
Umberto, who became Lieutenant General of the Realm. Not so wisely, the interim
successor to his father's dynasty, who had known no better than to accept
a general's commission from Mussolini and to command the Italian troops that
stabbed France in the back, appeared on the balcony of the Royal Quirinale
Palace in Rome on the morning of June 9 and announced to a largely monarchist
crowd of about five thousand that he had appointed Ivanoe Bonomi new premier
Of course, a few already knew and more would learn that the Lieutenant General
of the Realm lied. It was he who had been appointed, by his father with the
consent of the Allies, and, instead of having called Ivanoe Bonomi and asked
him to form a government, it had been the Italian liberation parties that
had nominated Bonomi without consulting the Lieutenant General. Completely
out of patience, an unidentified republican almost settled the monarchical
issue for the time being by opening up with a small caliber pistol while Umberto
was still on the balcony. The half dozen shots were wild.
London was appalled when word came that Pietro Badoglio, chief hope of the
Italian monarchy, was now outside the government. Sunday afternoon, forty-eight
hours later, Bonomi and his cabinet found themselves flying back to Salerno.
Within another forty-eight hours General Macfarlane, who had permitted the
new goverment to form without the fascist marshal, was in another plane speeding
toward London. Thanks to their constituents--tens of thousands of armed and
anti-fascist Italians--the trip of the Bonomi cabinet turned out best. After
contemplating the panorama of Naples and its bay from an unfurnished villa
on a hill near Salerno for nine days the Bonomi goverment didn't die--instead
it kept Badoglio out, agreed to let Prince Umberto stay as Luogotenente of
the Realm until an election could be held in a liberated Italy. On July 15,
more than a month after we had occupied Rome, the new Italian government representing
all six parties of the Committee of National Liberation was allowed to return
to the capitol to administer Italian affairs under the direction of the Allied
When General Macfarlane arrived in London many of his friends in Rome were
surprised to learn that "for some time," as the Allied Control Commission's
director of public relations inadvertently revealed, "Mason Mac" had been
suffering severely from a spinal complaint. So far as we who never saw him
again know, his condition remained critical until the following year when
as a result of the British national elections in June, 1945, he was elected
to parliament by the Liberal Party. He never came back to Italy.
It seems there is a kind of providence in the lives of correspondents who
return to enemy held capitals on liberation day. Invariably, it brings them
into the arms and embraces of former underground friends before the smoke
of battle has lifted. At this critical juncture (for I had been a correspondent
in Italy before the war) I must ask the reader to face with me the fact that
no such thing happened to me.
How could it? All foreign correspondents in Italy came under the watchful
eyes of fascism's alert Ministry of Popular Culture and the so-called Voluntary
Organization for the Repression of Anti-fascism, the dread OVRA secret police.
We of the United Press did in particular after our bureau chief, Bud Ekins,
telephoned a story to London describing Mussolini's stomach ulcers. After
Bud had been escorted out of the country by two secret-service men, less than
five weeks after his arrival in Italy, his successor, Reynolds Packard, quipped
that Bud had established an all-time speed record for expulsion from Italy,
never realizing that the OVRA's chief consultant on American baseball slang,
in which Ekins had couched his message, was now his, Packard's, own highest
paid Italian staffer. What we didn't know then didn't hurt us too much. But
no conscientious underground worker who knew what he was doing made a practice
of enlisting the moot aid of foreign journalists in the cause of anti-fascism
if it involved revealing himself to us. We were constantly watched, our friends
known. Contact with us by an anti-fascist brought him overwhelming risk of
investigation, arrest, torture, death--and danger of arrest of not one, but
many men and women of the underground.
The friends I found when I returned to Rome had never fought fascism.
"You can't go in there, lieutenant." It was an American sergeant who accosted
me, as I approached the home of a dear Marchesa whose vivas for Mussolini
and contempt for President Roosevelt in the easy-going days before the war
had somehow never seemed subversive.
"Oh," I said, for the first time noticing the soldier's self-consciously
furtive manner, the usual mark of the American attached to one of the secret
societies of Uncle Sam's World War II army. "What's up?"
"Search me, lieutenant," said the sergeant who, it turned out, belonged
to the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps. He rested the butt of his carbine
on the ground. "I just can't lot anybody in, that's all I know."
I returned next day and apparently the crisis had passed. For I entered
the familiar apartments by the front door. As I stood at the head of the
short flight of steps that led into the spacious front room where my Marchesa
sat with her faithful companion, Bianca, she eyed me coldly. Suddenly she
recognized Me. "John!" she exclaimed. And then she commanded, "Get those
wretches out of my house!" The Marchesa meant the United States Army counter-intelligence
officers and agents billeted in some apartments she owned which were adjacent
to her own living quarters.
"Quiet, dear. If you must, speak Italian," Bianca gently urged the Marchesa
whose large, dark eyes, with more exasperation in them than I remembered,
never left my face as I descended the steps and came across the room.
"Well," the Marchesa went on in English when I had embraced both women and
sat down, "I do not suppose I need ask you what you have been doing."
"But Marchesa," I said, thinking to reassure her, "I am with the Allied
Military Government. We do all we can."
"Poof!" she exclaimed, obviously as ignorant of what really was going on
in Italy as she ever had been.
Gently stroking the Marchesa's hand Bianca said to me, "Gioia is still gone,
you know." I hadn't known, but if I had thought much about the changing fortunes
of fascism during the past year, I might have guessed as much.
"What can I do to help?" I immediately asked the Marchesa, who loved her
absent niece as her own daughter.
"Who, you?" she said. "Try and get those American wretches out of my home."
The next morning at Counter-Intelligence Corps headquarters on the Via Sicilia
I told an American major all I knew about the Marchesa and ended with my opinion
that she was harmless for all her ranting. "I wouldn't worry, lieutenant,"
he said. "She'll get used to us. I guess she never told you how many of the
Gestapo were living there before we arrived."
Gioia reacted differently than her aunt when a few nights later she returned
to her home where I found her. This gifted young aristocrat had been my open-sesame
to the circle of younger generation fascists which had revolved about Mussolini's
daughter Edda Ciano and her unlucky husband, Galeazzo--ordered shot by his
father-in-law a few weeks before U.S. troops landed at Anzio.
"Oh," she exclaimed. "How wonderful." Then I was embraced.
Gioia wanted to visit some friends she hadn't seen since her apparent abduction
from Rome. "What beasts they were," Gioia told me as we drove across the city.
"They took me with them, but I got away." Since she meant that her abductors
had been those fascists who had grouped themselves around Mussolini when
the Germans had whisked the dictator to northern Italy a few weeks after his
arrest by the Badoglio government, and who now were fighting us under the
banner of the Fascist Republic, I showed considerable interest.
"How did you get away from them?" I asked.
"Oh no you don't," Gioia laughed. "I'm saving that for my memoirs."
We arrived at one of those little apartments in the artists quarter on the
Via Margutta, whose diminutive size and drab exterior always leaves you unprepared
for the opulence and comfort inside. I had released Gioia to her joyous conferees
and was reaching for a second pastry when I saw Colonel Norman Fiske, then
the senior American Allied Control Commission officer in Rome, sitting at
a nearby table looking at me.
"Would you care for some tea," an elegantly gowned Italian woman speaking
English with a continental accent asked, beginning to pour the stuff out of
a polished silver pitcher into a delicate porcelain cup.
"Thanks," I said, grasping the saucer too firmly and jiggling the half-full
cup of tea as I brought it to me. The Colonel had seen me first and to my
surprised nod of recognition he had returned only a cold, impersonal stare.
"Do you take sugar, or would you prefer a slice of lemon," I heard my hostess
"Oh, yes," I said. "Thank you." Did the Colonel remember me from before
the war, I was thinking. He had been our military attache then, but this
was the first time mutual Roman acquaintances had brought us together.
"Cookie?" The hostess was tentatively holding a plateful toward me and looking
at me a bit strangely. I had ignored both the sugar and the lemon.
"Thank you," I smiled, picking up a spoon from the table. The hostess quickly
put a cookie on my saucer and I slopped tea on it while crossing to the other
side of the room where there was a group of young people about Gioia.
"I had a terrible time," a languid young man was saying, smoking a short
stubby cigarette of German origin. "I just got back." Apparently everyone
was speaking the precise English learned in continental European schools and
in foreign capitals from English governesses. I remembered it well from before
the war. It had a nice sound, but you could never be sure what you were going
A half hour later when Gioia was ready to leave, I had already had a long
evening. No line of duty, this, I kept thinking. Or was it? I had chatted
on friendly terms with Gioia's friends and, to use another expression inspired
by the uniform of a British officer I spotted in an upstairs alcove, "carried
on" as though that were the thing to do. Evidently it was. For six months
later when the British Resident Minister in the Mediterranean came to Rome
to take up his duties as Acting President of the Allied Control Commission,
I became his military aide.
I felt better when a few nights later, I turned into a familiar tenement
district near the Coliseum and ascended six flights of cold, stone steps to
Nonna's flat. This had been my first home in Rome and "grandma's" wrinkled
face was soon wet with tears as she held on to me and asked about Alan Cranston.
Six years before, when I was a free-lance correspondent for The Christian
Science Monitor and Alan an International News Service staff correspondent,
we had shared this kindly old landlady's best front room and as much affection
and care as she lavished upon any of her many children and grandchildren.
But no sooner had I distributed my present for each wide-eyed child and protesting
adult than I began to notice subtle changes. Where was the inevitable chicken
that would be served with the spaghetti on the following Sunday, clucking
and scratching and fattening on top of the garbage heaped behind the little
wooden barricade directly under the kitchen sink? And what was Nonna's middle-aged
son, Romeo, doing at home?
"The transport business," Romeo replied in answer to my question, "it went
well at the beginning, but now the farmers are being returned to Italy from
all East Africa." We were sitting about the large square table in the room
next to the kitchen which by custom served as sitting room, dining room and
one end of it, set off by a faded green screen, contained a bureau, a large
crucifix and Nonna's bed.
I didn't say anything. I should have known better than to ask Romeo why
he was back in his poor mother's home. Quietly, since military government
in East Africa was a British affair, British military authorities were liberating
Italy's colonies from Italian farmers and colonists. Of the approximately
200,000 Italian colonists in Africa, most of those returned thus far were
still held in military encampments in southern Italy, under the supervision
of what the Allied Control Commission called its Displaced Persons and Repatriation
Sub-commission. A few of the refugees who had homes to go to were making their
way north after the troops as best they could.
"Listen a bit, Giovanni," Romeo suddenly said, leaning toward me. "Can you
get cigarettes easily?" The little boy who was the oldest nephew quickly looked
at his uncle and then at me with bright, expectant eyes.
"No," I said slowly, looking at a spot on the table's unfinished wood surface.
I was afraid this question was coming, or one like it. You had to eat somehow,
and by the scrubbed appearance of the few dinner plates Nonna had been clearing
away when I came in Romeo hadn't found out how yet. A teen-age girl whom I
remembered as a child sat still at her place at the table and she was watching
the spot too. I felt that Romeo was studying my face.
"It is not important," Romeo said finally. "I forgot that you don't smoke,
I had an American cigarette just the other day and it seems the taste is still
in my mouth. Mama!" He called to Nonna who had gone into the kitchen. "Bring
the wine there in the cupboard and let us drink to Giovanni's return."
I went away after that. Outside, the swallows that had been diving, dipping
and shrilly peeping over the rooftops at sunset were gone. I thought about
them as I walked along the cobbled side-street in the moonlight. Were these
the only part of the Rome I knew, the good as well as the bad, that wasn't
changed so that now even the good seemed bad? Romeo was good, and so was his
home and family watched over by his wonderfully good mother. Just the same,
I never went back. The one thing better than not to help people you love,
I had learned, is not to watch them suffer.
I transferred out of the AMG police unit with which I came to Rome and into
the Public Relations Branch of the Allied Control Commission the last week
in June, when criticisms of allied policies were beginning to mount in the
Rome press. In their turn Romans, too, were beginning to wonder editorially
why fascists weren't being purged, and why the poor seemed to be getting poorer,
and hungrier. But when newspapers representing groups beginning to smart
under the loss of privileges and emoluments they had always enjoyed under
fascism began complaining of shortages of electricity and transportation,
my new chief and the head of the allied Psychological Warfare Board got the
same idea at the same time. I was given a PWB station wagon, a Jeep, drivers,
rations for a week, eight Italian correspondents and instructions to cover
the large section of Italy between Rome and Naples where the war struck hardest.
When the correspondents' vivid descriptions of towns where human life had
been all but snuffed out by war began to appear in print, the few Romans who
had missed luxury were quiet, and the many anxiously awaiting fulfillment
of allied promises were awed by the realization of the price others, both
allied and Italian, already had paid. During the whole period the eight gullible
correspondents and I were negotiating this moratorium on the delivery of the
Four Freedoms to Romans, there was only one important misunderstanding. "Radio
Fascista," broadcasting nightly on a shortwave band from somewhere across
the lines, kept alleging that the whole thing was a "nauseous Anglo-American
WHO KILLED DONATO CARRETTA
One day about three weeks before Cassino fell a young civilian stood at
the juncture of a cobblestone alleyway called the Via Rasella and Four Fountains
Avenue, which some extremely sentimental Italians who have been to New York
say is the Fifth Avenue of Rome. Shortly, a platoon of German soldiers whose
duties regularly took them down Four Fountains Avenue and through the Via
Rasella made its scheduled appearance. When the soldiers, marching four abreast,
reached a point about a hundred yards from where the young man stood, he slowly
scratched the top of his head with one hand and sauntered off. As he did
so another Italian dressed as a street cleaner standing beside a refuse cart
about two hundred yards down the Via Rasella hastily blew on the tip of a
half-burned cigarette, quickly held it against something inside the cart,
and then disappeared. About two and a half minutes later as the platoon came
abreast of the abandoned trash cart a terrific explosion shook the neighborhood;
when German police arrived on the scene they found the torn and mangled bits
and pieces of what had been thirty-two German soldiers strewn all over the
little Roman backstreet for about fifty yards in each direction.
The German reprisal against the Italian underground was swift and awesome.
Selecting two hundred seventy captive partisans and resistence workers from
the German SS and Gestapo torture and interrogation chambers on Via Tasso,
and taking fifty political prisoners held by Italian fascist authorities in
the Regina Coeli prison, a German police squad transported the total of three
hundred twenty Italians--ten hostages for each murdered German soldier--to
the Ardeatine Caves near the ancient catacombs of Janarious, where they were
taken inside singly or in small groups, shot in the back of the head with
pistols, machine gunned and afterward the tunnels blown shut with mines.
Almost all of the prisoners delivered to the German execution squad from
the ancient Roman prison situated on the north bank of the Tiber near the
Vatican, which is called for no apparent reason "Queen of Heaven," were the
personal choice of Pietro Caruso, a conscienceless Black Shirt militiaman
whom Mussolini sent to Rome as chief of police early in 1944, partly to strengthen
the fascist-republican war effort and partly to revenge himself on Romans
because they had never mourned his absence; on the contrary, from the moment
of his first fall from power on July 25, 1943, Romans had continued to live
quietly and observe their usual unchanging habits, until increasing acts of
violence such as the Via Rasella killings began to mark the Allies' slow advance
toward Rome. The trial of Caruso, the first major fascist war criminal to
be tried by Ivanoe Bonomi's newly constituted six-party coalition government,
began on September 18, 1944. Five days later some thirty allied newspaper
and cameramen witnessed Caruso die tied to a chair before an Italian firing
squad in Rome's medieval Fort Bravetta, in much the same fashion as he had
supervised the execution of Mussolini's son-in-law Galeazzo at Verona nine
But on the first day of Caruso's trial the government's star witness, Donato
Carretta, was lynched. Herbert Matthews, the New York Times correspondent
who witnessed the former warden of Rome's Regina Coeli prison beaten senseless
in front of the Palace of Justice, thrown into the Tiber and his lifeless
body hung head downward from the bars of a first floor window in the Regina
Coeli, wrote in his recent book "The Education of a Correspondent" that the
cowardly atrocity so shocked and infuriated him that he swore that morning
to write a story which would forever blacken the name of contemporary Romans
and do the Italian government as much harm as possible. At least, the story
was not a disappointment to Matthews. It not only almost burned through the
paper on which it was printed, which is Matthew's own modest claim for it,
but it unleashed a fury of indignation upon the head of the fledgling democracy
already deep in the crisis into which the event plunged it.
Two smaller voices, one from each side of the Atlantic, approved the lynching.
The day it occurred Randolfo Pacciardi, who led the Italian Garibaldi Legion
against the fascists in Spain and now head of the Italian republican party,
wrote in the editorial columns of his party's La Voce Repubblicano that some foreign newspapermen (meaning Matthews) did not understand that
even Italians have blood and souls and expressed regret that their dispatches
would cause further harm to Italy. Three days later, Lewis Mumford, in a letter
to the editor of The New York Times rebuked Matthews for not understanding
that what he had witnessed was punishment close to what the theologian calls
the "Judgment of God."
Whatever their differences of opinion, it is symptomatic of the achievement
of the Allied Control Commission in Italy that each of these moulders of world
opinion agreed in one thing: they attributed the act of violence to the Italian
people. But the people of Rome, where a lynching had not occurred in the
past one hundred and fifty years, were not to blame for what happened to
"I pronounce you dead," Lieutenant Colonel Pollock had said with the impeccable
efficiency of the London police superintendent as he got to his feet after
briefly examining Carretta's body, still dripping blood and water on the stone
floor behind the heavy portals of the prison where we dragged it after cutting
it down from the window grating. As my former chief ordered an Italian jail
official to certify in writing this fact he had just discovered, I looked
at the lifeless face of the man who had been torn from my grasp in the rioting
courtroom. First conscience and then reason told me that Donato Caretta's
blood was on our hands.
Why had AMG's chief of public safety turned up at Italy's first war crimes
trial almost an hour after it was scheduled to begin? The night before Lieutenant
Colonel Pollock had been sufficiently aware of the possibility of violence
to lock Caruso securely in a vault-like chamber beneath the courtroom where
he was to be tried. Why had I, a lone lieutenant attached to the public relations
branch of the Allied Control Commission, been the only allied official in
the courtroom when the riot began? And the sixty-four dollar question--why
had one of the most successful operators in the Italian resistence movement,
a man who as prison director had daringly engineered the escape of over eighty
political prisoners from Regina Coeli's dread sixth wing, been lynched when
he came to testify against his hated former chief?
At first I blamed myself, and then slowly, because such things are hard
enough to believe, much less discover, I learned who killed Donato Carretta.
The separate events pieced together form a plot no one expects to occur outside
of fiction; but when I learned how this brave Italian came to be murdered,
and understood it well enough so that my knowledge of it could not be shaken
by any instinct of decency or patriotism, I began to understand a great deal
about war and peace, and especially liberation, in our time.
On August 11 Prime Minister Churchill had arrived unannounced in Rome and
that same morning there had been a display of posters throughout the city
charging that the days of the government of Premier Ivanoe Bonomi were numbered
because it did not enjoy the confidence of the Allies. The sudden appearance
of the prophetic posters on the morning of the British Prime Minister's precipitate
arrival In the Italian capital, four weeks after the fall of Badoglio's government,
had not been due entirely to coincidence. From the moment the delegates of
the six national liberation parties forced the fascist marshal out of the
government and the Allied Control Commission's Lieutenant General Sir Wool
Mason Macfarlane was permanently recalled to London, Italy's former ruling
classes, whose hope Badoglio was, had continued to receive open support and
encouragement from conservative and British elements in the Allied Control
By working through such channels as His Excellency the Marchese Enrico Cittadini-Cesi,
fascist foreign office careerist who was in Mussolini's Venice Palace office
before the Allied Control Commission took him in as its chief of liaison with
the new Italian government, the enemies of Italian democracy succeeded within
the first month of the birth of the Bonomi government to bring about that
chronic state of crisis which was to characterize its short, unhappy life.
In the meanwhile, a comparatively small but highly articulate section of
the press, led by the blatantly monarchist Italia Nuova, had been busy
sowing defeatism and rebellion among Italians by blaming the government for
chaotic economic conditions no post war Italian government could help and
which, later events were to show, the Allied Control Commission deliberately
The posters surprised no one, but it probably increased thoughtfulness in
some quarters when it was demonstrated that Bonomi's government had no intention
of giving up. All Badoglio got out of the long conference at the British Embassy
to which both he and Bonomi were called by Winston Churchill (upon Churchill's
return from Greece two weeks later) was a more bountiful lunch than was then
generally available in Rome. As for turning over his government or sharing
it with Marshal Pietro "I am the Duke of Addis Ababa" Badoglio, all the persuasive
force of the British king's prime minister hadn't convinced Ivanoe Bonomi
that this was the thing to do. Churchill himself now had Bonomi's word for
it that even if the Allies did not, Italy did intend to break its ties with
The evening of the next day, August 25, an orderly and good natured crowd
gathered on the Piazza Farnese in front of the French Embassy to celebrate
the fall of Paris. When about five thousand persons were assembled on the
square, one of them helped by others, had climbed to the balcony of a carbineer
police station fronting on the piazza, torn down the Italian tri-color bearing
the arms of the House of Savoy in the white, middle stripe and thrown it among
the crowd. He had started to put up a red flag with the hammer and sickle
when a carbineer rushed to the balcony, grabbed it from his hand and flung
it after the monarchist flag. By the time the noise of the scuffling and
the shouts and cries of a small group of agitators had attracted the attention
of practically everyone on the square, Lieutenant Colonel Pollock and his
deputy, also an AMG veteran from Sicily, big Major Percy Coxhead, calmed
the disorder. While 250-pound Coxhead, unarmed, had quieted the hecklers,
Pollock ordered that three flags--Savoy, Communist and French--be raised which,
when done, seemed to satisfy everybody.
Besides being a good example of the competence of AMG's British police personnel,
most of whom had been London policemen in civil life, and for whom, despite
their occasional and possibly unwitting complicity in high-level decisions,
I have great admiration and respect, the incident an the Piazza Farnese is
important for two other reasons. First, the act of throwing the monarchist
flag from the balcony evoked a great deal of cheering and other favorable
comment from the crowd, thus illustrating the underlying cause of the public's
widespread dislike and distrust of the carbineers, and serving as a warning,
such as we had had before, that if ever a serious crisis in public order should
occur Italy's oldest, biggest and best, but monarchist, police organization
would be helpless. Second, the incident happened about the time Italy's twenty-fifth
political party began to poke its queer-shaped head into the confused arena
of Italian political life and, as Italians said of the predatory fascist party,
began to "eat."
To Italians who early became aware of its existence, however, there was
more to the frequent charges of graft and corruption laid to Unione Proletaria's
door than met the eye. Apparently, in keeping with changed conditions, the
dubious party met daily expenses by blackmailing wealthy fascists for "protection."
But in the personality of its leader and his program seasoned observers of
Italian political life sensed something strange and a little ominous.
Umberto Salvarezza, "professore" as he explained to the allied authorities
who found him in the Regina Coeli soon after our arrival, was by his own account
an ex-secretary of a former Liberian delegation to the League of Nations.
Nevertheless, he was a tough looking character with a crossed left eye and
a long prison record for blackmail, forgery and theft. In addition, as the
investigating authorities could see when he took off his shoes, the Germans,
as he alleged, for reasons that are not entirely clear, or somebody, had
burned his feet. Shortly after his release from prison the resourceful professor,
making himself out to be a patriot, began to be heard on both sides of the
Roman political forum by publishing simultaneously "La Frusta," a newspaper
so fascist in tone that he printed and distributed it clandestinely, and
a so-called leftist paper, which he falsely alleged had been in circulation
clandestinely before we arrived. The latter publication became the organ of
his political party whose name appeared on the newspaper's masthead.
If Salvarezza's claim to the command of eleven partisan groups fighting
under the banner of his political party in German-occupied Italy for an unspecified
number of months is waived, the Party of Proletarian Union was born, at least
so far as public knowledge of it is concerned, on September 8, 1944, when
Professor Salvarezza held a press conference in a modest second floor front
room on the Via Fornovo. On this occasion Salvarezza told representatives
of the Italian press that his proletarian unionists were bent on uniting the
forces of the proletariat "in a solid block beyond doctrinal disagreements
and controversies on a common platform more economic than political, more
practical than theoretical." The professor stated that his party did not care
whether Italy remained a monarchy or became a republic; what mattered, he
said, was that Italy get rid of the six parties making up the government as
quickly as possible and establish, as he characterized it, "a Government composed
of experts capable of operating for the welfare of the Country." Contrary
to what one might be led to expect from a political party as far to the left
as its name indicated, Salvarezza closed with a few words on Italian foreign
policy in which he put the Party of Proletarian Union on record as favoring
closer ties with Great Britain and the United States whose interest in Italian
affairs, he said, would be a blessing for Italian recovery.
Politically, the event had no importance whatever, but Roman police and
AMG public safety personnel remember the last week in August and the first
week of September, 1944, as the beginning of a major crime wave which, in
its way, exceeded anything that happened under the German occupation. Before
the end of September the streets of Rome became unsafe for civilians at night,
allied personnel began wearing side-arms for the first time since coming to
the city, the American successor to the head of the Allied Control Commission,
U.S. Naval Captain Ellery W. Stone, twice severely jolted the Bonomi government
with urgent communications on the subject of law and order and, a short time
before thousands of common criminals almost escaped from Regina Coeli when
rioters set fire to its roof, there occurred the event I have set out to describe
in this chapter.
Early on the morning of September 18 in a large villa on the outskirts of
Rome an American officer in civilian clothes hurried through breakfast and
hastily departed in the direction of the Palace of Justice. Rome headquarters
of the U.S. Army's Office of Strategic Services had just received word through
one of its Italian operators that Salvarezza's "mob" had been alerted. The
agent had been unable to supply further details, but he knew that his American
employers considered any information about Salvarezza important. Only a short
time ago they had shown an interest that bordered on consternation when he
informed them that their British counterpart, SO or Special Operations, by
whom he was also employed, had Umberto Salvarezza in its pay.
I arrived at the Palace of Justice with two jeep loads of allied correspondents
about 8:35 A.M. Looking back on it now I wonder if the OSS observer whose
understanding of contemporary events had brought him there shared my own casual
surprise at the fact that the front entrance was then almost deserted. However,
Italy's highest court, a narrow, vaulted chamber in the middle of a courtyard
formed by the ornate sides of the three story high Palace of Justice, was
nearly filled with an all-Italian audience of several hundred persons, each
an invited guest of the Italian government, including some families of Ardeatime
massacre victims, witnesses and members of the Italian press.
We had been in the courtroom about a quarter of an hour and I was talking
with Elvezio Bianchi whom Reynolds Packard sent to cover the story for United
Press, when the restlessness and confusion which had seemed to be growing,
from the moment the allied newspapermen entered caused me to look up and see
Robert Hadfield of The London Times struggling to get through a crowd
of persons now completely blocking the main aisle. I left Bianchi and started
toward the door where several public security police assisted by civilians
were trying to halt the entry of more people into the already crowded chamber.
I remember feeling as perplexed as the spectators looked who were beginning
to rise from their seats and stare back at the confusion about the doorway.
According to explicit instructions from the public relations branch of the
Allied Control Commission that morning, I was to leave the courtroom before
the trial began which, I saw by my wrist watch, was just about ten minutes
off. No allied official shall be present, the directive had said: it was to
be an Italian trial by the Italian High Court of Justice with no allied supervision
of any kind. Despite the Allied Control Commission's three staff sections,
four administrative sections, twenty-four sub-commisions, a half dozen departments,
branches, divisions and committees, and a huge military personnel which permeated
and managed every aspect of Italian economic, political and social life,
it had been decided that on this morning the fiction of an Italian government
was to be elaborately preserved.
That is, the authority that one would expect an allied control commission
to exercise at the first war crimes trial to be held in Europe during World
War II, was utterly lacking. As I started to push through the crowd now milling
about me I noticed on a balcony above the main floor of the court a battery
of allied army and civilian cameramen and photographers. Attracted by the
disorder, they were already beginning to record the event of the morning for
the eyes and ears of the world.
Once outside the door, whose massive wooden portals the despairing security
police were now trying to hold shut by main force, the logic of events nullified,
as far as I was concerned, the headquarter's order which had left this trial
unprotected in the face of an oncoming riot. Along the intervening hallways
and corridors leading from the main front entrance to the Palace of Justice,
a turbulent crowd of Romans, led by agitators shouting death to Caruso, was
converging upon the court. Rallying five carbineer privates and a carbineer
corporal whom I found eddying about in the stream of persons going past us
I helped them form a line at the foot of the narrow stairway leading to the
"Let me in. Let me in," a coarse faced woman in a dirty black dress shouted
waving a slip of paper in the air. "I have the permission."
More shouts and cries came up from the crowd and as newcomers constantly
added their weight to those in front who now began to push against the carbineers,
the Italian military policemen began to be forced slowly up the steps. In
one of those crazy gestures that sometimes happen in emergencies, I reached
past the straining police line and took the slip of paper from the charwoman
whose voice had mounted to a piercing shriek. It was a forgery of the typed
government pass I had distributed to the correspondents an hour ago.
"It is not good," I had just managed to say when one of the carbineers lost
his footing on the top step, went down, and the crowd exploded against the
courtroom door which the security police had meantime managed to lock from
the inside. For a moment it held the shouting, struggling crowd. Then slowly
the fastening and all at once the policemen on the other side gave way and
a mass of people poured into the packed court.
When the vanguard of the crowd began to lose its initial momentum long enough
for me to get my bearings I found myself about halfway down the center aisle
rubbing shoulders with Rome Area Command's G-3, Lieutenant Colonel Howard
Dodgen. During the five months the Fifth Army's Rome Area Command and the
Allied Control Commission's AMG unit had planned together at Caserta for the
occupation of Rome, we hadn't anticipated anything like this.
"Do you want a hundred M.P.'s," the Colonel shouted.
"Against orders, sir," I shouted back as I went on by him in the wake of
a group of determined characters who seemed to be making for the anterooms
behind the judge's bench, in one of which, unknown to me and never discovered
by the rioters, Pietro Caruso and an accomplice, Roberto Occheto, sat sheet-white
throughout the remainder of the morning. While groups began searching the
rooms, and even the cellar where Caruso and Occhetto had spent the night,
I entered the first room I came to, picked up a telephone and dialed Lieutenant
Colonel Pollock's office in Colonel Charles Poletti's AMG headquarters, two
blocks away from Fascism's sumptuous ex-Ministry of Corporations Building
on the tree-lined Via Veneto where the Allied Control Commission sat.
"Alright, old boy," the Colonel said when I told him what was happening
and repeated Lieutenant Colonel Dodgen's offer of American military police.
"I'll be right over, but no M.P.s. Don't do anything until I get there."
As soon as I came back into the courtroom, Eduardo Longo, editor of PWB's
Italian language newspaper Corriere di Roma, grabbed my arm and implored
me for the love of God to do something. The excitement and pressure of the
crowd pouring in through the still open front door had made people climb onto
chairs and the tops of benches and tables. Fortunately, the raised platform
on which the judge's bench was located put me in full view of everyone in
the room when I climbed onto the desk and stood up.
"Italians," I shouted holding up my arms. The sudden appearance of my uniform
coupled with able seconding from Mario Berlinquer, the government prosecutor,
and Italian newspapermen nearby, who shouted "silenzio" and "attenzione" while
holding up their hands for silence, brought a magic calm to the room.
"Italians," I repeated, instinctively reverting to the days in Sicily when
in similar fashion we used to protect ex-fascist grain manipulators in front
of the People's Granaries, "you must maintain order in this court. Justice
cannot be done with mobs."
As I continued to stand on the judge's desk, people quietly remained where
they were and finally even the commotion about the front door subsided. For
a moment the hysteria was gone, but not its cause.
"We want Caruso," a man shouted.
"Death to the fascist," another answered him.
Shouts and imprecations began to come from all parts of the room, but the
mass of the crowd, once they had gathered their wits after the break-through
into the courtroom, were slow to be provoked into new and useless turmoil.
Meanwhile, at intervals of not more than ten seconds, the tight, little chamber
was subjected to brilliant flashes of light as the photographers, apparently
reluctant to let their subjects forget the dramatic event they were enacting,
exploded one flashbulb after another.
Getting word that I was wanted in the judge's chamber, I got down from his
desk and entered an anteroom where I found Lieutenant Colonel Pollock who
had just come in through a rear exit. Also unarmed, and without an escort,
he was listening to the presiding judge, Annibale Venturi, earnestly pleading
that we adjourn and clear the court before it was ruined. In one corner of
the room a large woman, in a black dress and wearing a wide brimmed black
hat and dark glasses, stood quietly listening to all that was being said.
"Look out, sir lieutenant," an Italian whom I took for a court attendant
whispered into my ear, "that one is a spy."
"Here, John," Pollock said, catching sight of me. "Go out there again and
repeat what I tell you." My quickly mumbled words about the woman in black
were lost in what appeared to be the Colonel's brisk handling of the situation.
"Roman citizens," I began this time, standing beside the judge's bench so
I could hear what the Colonel wanted me to say in Italian. "The allies sympathize
with your feelings toward Caruso and we will see that justice in done. Go
tranquilly to your homes and an announcement will be made in the newspapers
when the trial will be held."
I had finished speaking and the Colonel was beginning to gently urge the
people nearest us to leave when a woman somewhere behind me suddenly cried
out, "There he is!"
The next I remember a struggling mass of bodies began to move away from
the witness bench and away from where we stood toward the center of the court.
I reached the disputants and got one arm around the head of a short, stocky
man who was being slugged, kicked and beaten with chairs. Others protested
he was not Caruso and they and one or two carbineers tried vainly to help
him while all the time his attackers, who were in greater force, constantly
kept taking him up the aisle toward the door. Then came shouts and cries from
all parts of the room and the thing that had held most of the people quiet
during the last quarter of an hour broke. In an instant the courtroom was
a howling bedlam and somewhere into the mass of pushing, shoving, hysterical
people the little man with the bloody face disappeared.
After some minutes during which I had difficulty staying on my feet, I saw
that Pollock was accomplishing my general purpose by means of a short stick
with which he was vigorously but harmlessly tapping and prodding people off
tables and chairs and into some semblance of reason. It was a long process.
And when the panic began to subside nobody in the still almost full courtroom
wanted to leave.
"It is as we heard," sobbed the mothers and wives of Ardeatine Caves victims
in the mourner's section, referring to a rumor started by the Fascist radio
the night before. "The trial will not be held."
In the uproar created by the vortex of bodies which had swept the length
of the courtroom and out the door in a matter of seconds the majority of the
crowd including myself completely forgot about the little man who had been
in the middle.
"Outside the courtroom, the crowd was monstrous," Zara Algardi takes up
what happened next in his semi-official account prepared after an Italian
commission of inquiry published its findings. "It wanted a victim," he states
describing the mob emotion which now governed it, "and it would have one."
Instead of helping him escape up a stairway and into hiding in one of the
upper chambers of the Palace, the Italian writer says of the policemen around
Carretta when he suddenly appeared in the courtyard, they tried to take him
through the crowd which immediately scattered them and hurled itself upon
the bruised and trampled man. "No one could save him," Algardi continues,
noting the futile efforts of one or two courageous carbineers. "Carretta had
tried to defend himself; now he covered his face without a cry."
"Before this account goes any farther," Herbert Matthews
states almost halfway through his understandably purple story which appeared
in The New York Times the next day, "it will be best if I describe
what I saw...I hung around the entrance of the palace, which faces the Umberto
Bridge, and suddenly shouting was heard inside the court--that unmistakable,
angry sound of mob fury.
"Inside, a few carbineers were trying, without force and without opposing
the mob, to usher out a short, stocky man with thick lips, fuzzy hair and
a face literally covered with blood. This was Carretta. Near the entrance,
while his back was turned, a young man jumped on him with his feet, knocking
him down, and others began kicking him. I asked a carbineer why he did not
try to stop this.
"Someone grabbed a cane from an old man and began viciously beating Carretta
over the head with the curved handle. The carbineers were standing around
by the dozens, not more than a few yards from one another.
"Carretta tried desperately to get away from the blows and ran down to the
end of the courtyard, where he was trapped. This went on for at least ten
minutes, until the only Italian who showed any decency or courage--Lieutenant
Borgomaneri of the Carbineers--asserted enough authority to get a few other
police to help him rush the badly hurt but still conscious Fascist outside
and into a car standing in front of the palace.
"He might have been saved then, but no one had the courage to drive the
car away. The mob kept pressing around it, and men reached in to hit Carretta
as well as they could. Lieutenant Borgomaneri then called on a dozen finance
guards on horseback to clear the crowd away from the car. They timidly pushed
their horses up amid the boos and whistles of the mob, but only one of them
dared to draw his thin sword and hit a few men gently with the flat of it.
"However, the mob kept pushing in, and finally someone opened the car door.
Carretta was dragged out, thrown on the ground, jumped on and kicked until
unconscious. When I bitterly kept telling the crowd around me that this was
worse than fascism and that Italy would get a black name throughout the world
for this sort of thing, some shamefacedly admitted that it was bad."
Matthews next observes an American soldier at the wheel of a command car
and British soldiers in a British truck refuse Lieutenant Bergomaneri's and
another carbineer lieutenant's desperate pleas to take the senseless Carretta
away in their vehicles. At this point there is an interval in the lynching
which Matthews describes one way and Algardi another.
"For a while," Matthews states, "the crowd stood around the body on the
street. One young girl with black hair and sunglasses, dressed well in a
white summer outfit and looking like a student, had been one of the ring-leaders,
kept kicking Carretta."
"A group of assassins," Algardi wrote, "put Carretta on some car tracks
in front of a streetcar held up by the crowd. Then they shouted for the conductor
to go ahead." When he refused and the crowd began shouting that he was a fascist,
the conductor, "with utmost calm," according to Algardi, "presented the ring-leaders
with a membership card in the Italian Communist party."
Algardi, then notes that after failing to get the tram in motion by pushing,
the crowd bore Carretta away once more. Here, in Algardi's account, occurred
what Matthews next describes "the last horrid act of this terrible tragedy.
"Someone shouted: 'Throw him into the Tiber!' The limp
body was dragged, not lifted, across the wide street to the beginning of the
Umberto Bridge. Then it was lifted up and heaved into the water, some thirty
"The shock of the cold water apparently revived Carretta. As he was near
the bank, he managed to crawl to the side and hang on, half in the water,
just below the bridge. Some of the mob got a rowboat, went up to where he
was and pushed him back into the water. Whenever he tried to struggle to the
bank they hit him with their oars and pushed him back."
As faithfully as they attempt to describe what followed both Matthews and
Algardi fail to notice certain important details that are a matter of pictorial
record: the large rowboat, which appeared at once, was equipped with a full
complement of three heavy oars; all Carretta's attackers in the Tiber wore
bathing trunks; and what held Carretta'a body by the feet to the window grating
of the prison was a length of rope--a hard thing to come by in Rome those
days when so few shopping parcels bore even string. These facts agree with
an earlier assertion by Algardi who said that the crowd in the courtroom was
constantly incited by "agenti provocatori."
Owing to the correspondent's limitations of time and space, Algardi's account
is the most accurate. After noting that a man and a boy kept pushing Carretta's
head under water with their feet when he next tried to hold onto a series
of upright posts near the bank, Algardi describes Carretta's attempt to swim
out into the Tiber and the approach of the boat.
"When the prow of the boat came near the scarcely bobbing head," Algardi
wrote, "Carretta twice succeeded in saving himself by swimming under water."
Then, exhausted, Algardi continued, he feebly attempted to climb aboard, but
was pushed away with an oar. As Matthews then notes, Carretta, his efforts
to survive growing weaker and weaker, floated downstream and "mercifully died
just about as his body floated under the Sant' Angelo Bridge" (about three
hundred yards below Umberto Bridge).
Algardi states that two persons "fished out the corpse" and then there were
shouts from the crowd: "To the Regina Coeli!" (a half mile farther down the
Lungo Tevere thoroughfare which parallels the right bank of the Tiber).
"Rome never saw such a macabre procession," Algardi continues. "Carretta's
body, held by the feet, is dragged to the prison, followed by at least ten
thousand persons dominated by brute passions." Algardi then describes how
Carretta's wife barely escaped the crowd's fury when, hearing what was happening
in a nearby store, she tried to get to her husband.
At the prison Matthews states "howling men...strung the body up from the
bars of a window... Inevitably thoughts of the Bastille rose in all observers'
"However, this was not a courageous mob. The prison police, who kept the
inner doors closed, soon cut down Carretta's body and carried it off."
The prison police whom Matthews describes taking down the body, acted on
the orders of Lieutenant Colonel Pollock who had just arrived accompanied
by Major Coxhead, Rome's new chief of police Enrico Morazzini, and myself.
Shortly before noon Coxhead and Morazzini had met the Colonel and me in the
shambles of the courtroom as we were ushering the last few persons outside
and we had walked to the front of the Palace of Justice. On the way I'd wondered
about the drops of blood on the stone and marble floors of the corridors and
called the Colonel's attention to them but he appeared not to notice them.
We were standing idly on the front steps facing Umberto Bridge, each thinking
his own thoughts, when I first heard Morazzini say something about a lynching.
When I told the Colonel of Morazzini's own vague idea of what had happened,
we climbed into Coxhead's AMG requisitioned civilian passenger car and drove
to Regina Coeli.
The crowd was already dispersing and we had no trouble taking charge of
the body. The Colonel had consigned it to the prison authorities and we had
started back to our cars when a half dozen U.S. Army two-and-one-half-ton
trucks loaded with M.P.'s approached along the Lungo Tevere.
"Send them back, John," the Colonel said to me.
As the two British officers, accompanied by Morazzini, then drove off I
climbed the embankment to the Lungo Tevere just in time to wave down the
leading truck and give my instructions to a lieutenant on the front seat.
Puzzled, he finally told the driver to move on and, turning the convoy around
at the intersection of Mazzini Bridge and Lungo Tevere, started back in the
direction from which he had come.
"Obscenity it, Atkinson!" the American Provost Marshal Lieutenant Colonel
William Huntzinger thundered at me coming up from behind. "What the hell are
you doing?" As soon as I explained he tore off in a Jeep after his disappearing
M.P.'s. At the top of a little stone stairway leading down from the Lungo
Tevere to the front entrance of the prison I saw Reynolds and Eleanor Packard
monkeying with a camera which seemed unfamiliar to them. I turned and walked
back to headquarters.
"Did Colonel Pollock order you to return the Provost Marshal's M.P.'s?"
The U.S. Navy's Captain Stone had gotten up from his desk at the far end
of his office and stopped me just inside the door when I entered in response
to his summons.
"Yes sir," I replied in as subdued a voice as he had asked the question.
The darkness never left Captain Stone's face as he returned to his desk to
receive the balance of Lieutenant Colonel Pollock's report, who now suddenly
seemed rattled for the first time that morning. The M.P.'s were not mentioned
again but I got the impression that Lieutenant General Mark Clark's all-American
Rome Area Command had not approved of the Allied Control Commission's handling
of the trial.
For four days the Italian government faced a major test which observers
freely predicted it might or might not pass. If the government does not speedily
assert its authority and maintain order within the next few days, Matthews
wrote, it must resign. "The (Italian) Government is painfully deficient in
authority," John Lumby advised the readers of The London Times. Deeply appreciative,
but not to be outdone by Britons and Americans, Rome's rabidly reactionary
and monarchist Italia Nuova collected Italian press comment on the lynching
and with a good deal of editing, proclaimed that the press, the only possible
substitute for a parliament, had voted the government out by a vote of 12
But on the fifth and last day of the Caruso trial, September 22, President
Roosevelt, back from the Quebec Conference, made a statement which somehow
didn't censure Italy, "I don't like lynchings," he told newspapermen. Then
he announced the beginning of a new allied policy toward Italy which, he said,
would confer new powers upon the Italian government in a way in which all
parties would be represented in the rebuilding of the nation for the welfare
of its people. Almost as if he had heard what the High Commissioner for the
Punishment of Fascist Crimes, Count Carlo Sforza, said to Matthews--"men who
eat only one meal daily can with difficulty be expected to act as they should"--Roosevelt
announced a second program which had this objective: That the Italian people
should not starve or freeze that winter.
One does not know with what thoughts President Roosevelt's Hyde Park house
guest, Winston Churchill, affixed his signature to their joint statement on
Italy which, appearing simultaneously in Washington and London four days later,
declared that the onerous word "Control" would be dropped from the title
of the Allied Control Commission, that diplomatic representatives with the
rank of ambassador would shortly be exchanged between Rome, and Washington
and London, and gave Italians their first promise of aid from the United Nations
Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. One does not know what the Prime
Minister really was thinking about Italy when the American President acted
so quickly and unexpectedly in Italy's behalf, but when Churchill mentioned
his recent visit to Italy in a speech before the House of Commons on September
28 he left hardly anything to conjecture.
Disclosing for the first time that he had met the leaders of all the parties
represented in the government while in Rome, Churchill told the British parliamentary
representatives they ranged "from the extreme right to the extreme Communist."
After this oblique reference to the Communist party, which throughout actually
had conciliated the Catholic church and party and alone among the parties
making up the government had backed his, Churchill's, support of the Italian
monarchy, the British Prime Minister stated that "all six parties registered
in the Italian Government came into the British Embassy and I had the pleasure
of making the acquaintance of all these different minorities. (They) are working
together as well as they can," he said of the six national political parties
whose delegates polled approximately ninety percent of the twenty-three million
registered votes in Italy's first free election almost two years later.
"I had conversations with Prime Minister Signor Bonomi, and also talked
with him and Marshal Badoglio together--they are friends." After briefly
mentioning the head of the Italian government in this interesting connection,
Churchill then concerned himself exclusively with the merits of the man Bonomi's
government had repeatedly repudiated. "The Marshal faithfully has done his
best... His behavior on leaving office and in giving cordial support to his
successor is most creditable. Finally," Churchill said of the last person
who was to stand between the Italian people and their republic, "I had an
interview with the Lieutenant of the Realm, whose sincerity and ardor in
the Allied cause and whose growing stature in Italian eyes are equally apparent.
"It would be a miserable disaster," Churchill continued, revealing his concern
for the events surrounding the lynching of Donato Carretta, "if the Italian
people, after all their maltreatment by their former allies and the Fascist
elements around Mussolini, were to emerge from the European struggle only
to fall into savage and violent internal feuds. It is for that reason that
(in) Rome I tried to set before the Italian nation some of the broad safeguards
which are the breath of our nostrils in this country, of that which sustains
our lives--freedom of the individual against all forms of tyranny, no matter
what liveries they wear or slogans they mouth.
"We were all shocked by the horrible lynching outrage in the streets of
Rome a week or so ago...This shameful incident was a baffling factor in the
The British head of the Local Governments Sub-Commision of the Allied Control
Commission believed that prefects should be appointed from Rome, and not chosen
by any process of popular representation in the provinces which they governed.
This totalitarian method of administration was first seriously challenged
by the highly individualistic citizens of Florence who abhorred the careerist
prefect we appointed for them because of his fascist record and bureaucratic
ways and because of the fact that he had never been to Florence before we
sent him there. This chapter will describe how the Tuscan Committee of National
Liberation's refusal to accept the Rome-sent prefect helped pave the way
toward more democratic government in Italy in spite of allied military government,
not because of it.
During the almost two years the overwhelming majority of the Italian nation
helped us defeat the common enemy, the U.S. War Department and the British
War Office fed the Italian people by what is known in army parlance as a "disease
and unrest formula." For reasons which will be explained, forty-six million
Italians were given only enough food to keep them from serious sickness and
rebellion. A lot of people suffered, infants and children especially, but
women, if they were young and pretty, had a way open to them whereby they
could get food, if they could bring themselves to it. This chapter concerns
some of the daughters, sweethearts and wives from decent Italian homes whom
I knew--not prostitutes who were carefully barred from the army "rest" hotels--who
were willing to do what was required of them in order to be fed.
This chapter will show how Britain's determination that Italy should have
a royalist army deprived the Italian army of its best troops, caused riots
during the call-ups in Sicily, mutiny among Sardinian troops in Italy, and
in the end brought forth what was primarily an army of mule-skinners.
After Umberto Salvarezza murdered the Italian underground hero, Donato Carretta,
for Britain, he was almost unheard from until the Italian government finally
succeeded in bringing the one-time Italian Himmler, Mario Roatta, to trial.
This time Salvarezza himself almost got killed but, as the British Resident
Minister and Acting President of the Allied Control Commission, Harold Macmillan,
said to me with a radiant smile, "Roatta did escape."
HIS MAJESTY'S SERVANT, A.U.S.
When Harold Macmillan, Churchill's war-cabinet Resident Minister in the
Mediterranean Theatre of Operations, arrived in Rome to become Acting President
of the Allied Control Commission, I was assigned to him as his American military
aide. My mission, as explained to me by two of the highest ranking American
officers in the Allied Control Commission, was to gain information for them
they normally would not get. This chapter will describe what happened while
I lived and worked with this astute British book-publisher during the four
months he was in Rome implementing the Tory policy upon which the Allies based
their peace in Italy and in the Mediterranean generally.
After the allied military government had persecuted ex-partisans in southern
and central Italy over a period of almost two years, two hundred thousand
partisans in northern Italy led two allied armies through the Po Valley and
to final victory in a manner that inspired Field Marshal Alexander, the British
commander of the two armies, to comment afterwards that Italy's partisans
constituted the best organized and most effective resistence movement in Europe.
This chapter will show how Italians kept the faith, despite the fact that
we did not, and will conclude the Italian fighting forces theme begun in
chapter VI, entitled PUPPETS WITH SWORDS.
While partisans were busy helping the Allies defeat the German and Fascist
armies in northern Italy, French troops, acting according to a strategic plan
laid down by Allied Force Headquarters, invaded northwest Italy. But after
entering Italy to an average depth of fifty miles from the Franco-Italian
border and finding the male population in pursuit of the common enemy, the
French forces did not set about establishing more or less orderly military
government on the Anglo-American pattern as they had been authorized; instead,
they took immediate steps to annex the strategic and valuable Briga Tenda,
Val d'Aosta and other Italian areas for France. This chapter will describe
how the French army under the guise of military government undertook what
were territorial seizures; how I, a lone American AMG officer unexpectedly
turning up in Briga Tenda, was treated by the vexed Frenchmen; and finally,
how the American Fifth Army quickly improvised a military government task
force of 100 combat officers who halted the French anchluss-a thing which
the foreign ministers currently meeting at Paris do not seem able to do.
Freeborn was the code name used to describe the assumption of civil and
military control of northern Italy by the local Committees of National Liberation
during the interim Period between the collapse and surrender of the enemy
and the arrival of the Allied Military Government. Thus, the occupation of
Milan, with which this chapter is primarily concerned, finds the new democratic
Italy in a stronger position vis a vis the Allied Military Government than
during the occupation of Rome the year before, and it concludes the Italian
government theme begun in chapter IV, entitled PUPPETS WITH PENS.
A few years ago Herman Finer wrote a book describing fascist Italy which
he called "Mussolini's Italy." This chapter, which will be in the nature of
a recapitulation, will show that now there are good reasons to speak of this
country as Britain's Italy, a possibility which apparently
the U.S. State Department already concedes.
This manuscript written by our father in 1947-48.
His agent urged him to complete this novel in which he describes his prewar
and wartime experiences in Italy. While he did try to finish it over the
ensuing quarter century, our father never seemed to be satisfied with it.
He died in 1977. We, his family, publish our father's manuscript, to make
it available to the interested public
for its historical and artistic value. Finally a grandson, Manuel
Gimond, digitized the manuscript for our family (leaving typos intact).
The manuscript dedication reads: FOR KIM,
who was born about the time
these events began to take place.
Copyright held by the family of the author, John Wells
Atkinson. This document is protected by US and international copyright laws.
It may be printed for purposes of circulation only with the written permission
of the copyright holder(s). Requests for permission to print and circulate
this document should be addressed to:
Tel : 207 342 5796 . . . (Maine)