Chapter 26: The Renunuciation
While the Italians toyed with capitulation and became entangled in its meshes, the Germans took further precautions against possible defection. Ambassador Rahn’s meetings with Badoglio and Ambrosio on 4 September, the day after Castellano had signed the armistice agreement, produced no mitigation of German suspicion. On the contrary, OKW on 5 September instructed Kesselring to keep his German units well in hand and ready for any emergency. Rommel’s Army Group B, which had the mission of eliminating the Italian military forces in northern Italy and occupying that part of the country, was ready to act. Contrary to Allied belief, the divisions under Rommel’s control were not intended to reinforce Kesselring’s troops in the south—on 6 September OKW specifically directed Rommel to remain north of the northern line of the Apennines.1
By 7 September, although the Germans still had no positive proof, indications of Italian obstructionism had become clear enough to make Hitler absolutely certain of eventual Italian “treason.” He therefore prepared to send an ultimatum to Badoglio, and he ordered Jodl to draw up a draft of the military portion of the paper. In compliance, Jodl listed five of Italy’s basic military policies that seemed fundamentally anti-German in purpose: (1) the concentration of Italian troops in northern Italy, particularly in the Alpine area; (2) the seizure by these troops of the commanding ground in the frontier zone; (3) the placement of demolition charges under bridges and other installations near the frontier; (4) the expressions of hostility toward Germany among the Italian troops, so widespread as to be inexplicable unless a central direction was assumed; and (5) the failure to reinforce south Italy even though troops were available in the north and around Rome. Jodl then listed eighteen specific measures he considered it necessary for Comando Supremo to take to remove the anti-German character of these policies. It was Hitler’s intention to serve the ultimatum on Badoglio on 9 September.2 Had Hitler done so, he would have left Badoglio no choice but to make a clear decision—for a break with Germany, or for complete cooperation. Acceptance of the ultimatum would have made Badoglio the gauleiter of Italy. Refusal would probably have signaled the start of German action to take over the Italian Government and the country.
But the ultimatum was never delivered. Hitler’s intended date of delivery turned out to be the same day on which the Allies landed on the Salerno beaches.
Proceeding systematically with their plans, the Allies had dispatched from North Africa on 3 September, the date when the Eighth Army crossed the Strait of Messina, the first of fifteen convoys which would leave Tripoli, Bizerte, and Oran. These convoys, carrying assault troops of the U.S. Fifth Army, were to take part in Operation AVALANCHE, the main invasion of the Italian peninsula.3 Elsewhere, other Allied headquarters worked on the planned airborne operation at Rome.
From the moment that General Ridgway had been summoned to Cassibile on 2 September to take part in the Italo-American planning, sudden change and frantic haste characterized 82nd Airborne Division plans and preparations. Already in the final stages of preparing to participate in AVALANCHE and execute GIANT I—securing the north flank of the Allied beachhead at Salerno—the division now faced a completely new assignment.
Those units of the division which had fought in Sicily had, soon after the campaign ended, been shuttled by air back to the Kairouan area in Tunisia. Fully reunited there the division engaged in some sketchy training. Troops scheduled to make an amphibious assault as part of the division’s role in AVALANCHE boarded landing craft on 3 September and were ready to sail. On this date GIANT I was canceled, and the entire division received word to prepare to move by air to Sicily.
Having completed the GIANT II plan as the result of the all-night session at Cassibile, General Ridgway on 4 September flew to Bizerte to brief his subordinate commanders and also to try to speed the division’s move to Sicily. The division staff and representatives of the Troop Carrier Command worked most of the night of 4 September and developed detailed plans for shifting the division back to Sicily. On 5 and 6 September the division returned by air.4
Ready on 5 September, the final plan for the airborne operation near Rome projected a combined drop and air landing of the entire division in successive lifts.5 On the first night, Colonel Tucker’s 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (minus the 3rd Battalion); Company C, 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion; Battery B, 80th Airborne Antiaircraft Battalion (with 57-mm. antitank guns); and signal, reconnaissance, and medical units were to land on the Cerveteri and Furbara airfields and push to Rome. On the second night, Colonel Gavin’s 505th Parachute Infantry RCT would drop on the Guidonia, Littoria, and Centocelle airfields.
On the same day, 5 September, with everything in a rush and while the division was preparing to move back to Sicily, a radio message from AFHQ modified the plan. Now, in addition to landing on the airfields near Rome, the division would also send a small seaborne expedition to land at the mouth of the Tiber River: an artillery battalion (the
319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion was chosen); three antiaircraft batteries (of the 80th Airborne Antiaircraft Battalion); an infantry company (of the 504th Parachute Infantry); and three platoons of the 813th Tank Destroyer Battalion (attached for the operation). General Ridgway chose Lt. Col. William H. Bertsch Jr., to command this force.
Leaving Col. Harry L. Lewis, commander of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, to supervise the dispatch of the seaborne expedition, Ridgway flew to Sicily to supervise the final arrangements for the airborne operation. Barely in time, Lewis diverted the artillery battalion and antiaircraft batteries from the air movement to Sicily, and after some searching located the tank destroyers, stationed about forty miles from Bizerte, and started them moving to the dock area.
After much negotiating by telephone on 6 September, Colonel Lewis secured the promise of two LCIs, two LCTs, and perhaps some additional British vessels (whereabouts uncertain) for the seaborne force. When the British ships did arrive, confusion developed over their availability. To meet this emergency, the Bizerte harbor commander provided several extra bottoms. Loading began on 7 September, and the men crowded aboard, though no one knew when the armada of three LCIs and one LST—the eventual composition of the task force—would sail. Having organized and loaded the seaborne force, Lewis flew to Sicily with the last remaining elements of the division, leaving Colonel Bertsch in charge of the seaborne troops then afloat in Bizerte harbor.6
In Sicily, the 504th and 505th Parachute Infantry Regiments were getting ready to head for Rome. Takeoff time was scheduled for 1830, 8 September, an hour selected to coincide with General Eisenhower’s announcement of the Italian surrender. According to the Allied timetable, Badoglio was to make his announcement of the armistice to the Italian people shortly thereafter. On the following morning, at 0330, 9 September, the amphibious assault troops of Operation AVALANCHE would hit the Salerno beaches. At the same time, the airborne troops were to be in the process of securing Rome against the Germans.
To be absolutely certain of Italian cooperation at Rome and to work out the final details of the arrival of the American airborne troops, General Eisenhower had selected two American officers to make the perilous trip to the Italian capital: General Taylor, the 82nd Airborne Division’s artillery commander, and Col. William T. Gardiner of the Troop Carrier Command. At a briefing conducted at 15th Army Group headquarters, the Allied leaders decided that unless word to the contrary came from Taylor and Gardiner, the airborne operation would go as scheduled. Taylor could recommend changes as well as cancellation, all messages to be made in code by means of the radio given to Castellano and currently operating in Carboni’s Military Intelligence Service in Rome. If Taylor was not satisfied with the Italian arrangements, if he judged that the airborne operation should be canceled, and if the Italian authorities refused to transmit that message, Taylor was
to radio to AFHQ a single word — “innocuous.”7
General Taylor and Colonel Gardiner left Palermo at 0200, 7 September, in a British PT boat and made rendezvous off Ustica Island with an Italian corvette. Escorted to a beach near Gaeta, the Americans came ashore. They entered a sedan belonging to the Italian Navy and transferred to a Red Cross ambulance on the outskirts of Gaeta. With their uniforms intentionally splattered with water to give the appearance of aviators shot down and rescued from the sea, they rode toward Rome without incident, though they passed several German patrols along the Appian Way. Just at nightfall, they entered the city.8
Taken to the Palazzo Caprara, opposite the War Office, the Americans found accommodations ready for them. Three officers met them: Col. Giorgio Salvi, chief of staff of Carboni’s Motorized Corps; Lanza, who had accompanied Castellano to Lisbon as interpreter and who had become Carboni’s aide; and Marchesi, who had accompanied Castellano to Cassibile.
Confronted with a surprisingly elaborate meal, the Americans dined with some impatience. Their hosts had not arranged to transact any business that evening, and it was only after becoming insistent that the Americans were able to get someone of high rank to come to see them.9
The Americans asked to see Carboni and Rossi. Only Carboni arrived at 2130. He proceeded to give his views of the military situation: the Germans had been building up their forces in Italy since Mussolini’s overthrow; they had increased their forces around Rome by 12,000 paratroopers equipped with heavy weapons, including 100 artillery pieces, mainly 88-mm. in caliber; they had raised the effective strength of the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division to 24,000 men with 150 heavy and 50 light tanks. In contrast, the Germans had ceased supplying the Italians with gasoline and munitions; the result was that his Motorized Corps, virtually immobile, had enough ammunition for only a few hours of combat.
As Carboni estimated the situation:
If the Italians declare an armistice, the Germans will occupy Rome, and the Italians can do little to prevent it. The simultaneous arrival of U.S. airborne troops would only provoke the Germans to more drastic action. Furthermore, the Italians would be unable to secure the airfields, cover the assembly and provide the desired logistical aid to the airborne troops. If it must be assumed that an Allied seaborne landing is impossible north of Rome, then the only hope of saving the Capital is to avoid overt acts against the Germans and await the effect of the Allied attacks in the South. He declared that he knew that the Allied landings would be at Salerno, which was too far away to aid directly in the defense of Rome. He stated that General Roatta shared his views.10
To the Americans, there was nothing new in the facts reported by Carboni. Castellano had explained fully at Lisbon and again at Cassibile. What was new was Carboni’s realization—and if Carboni was to be believed, Roatta’s too—that the main Allied landing would not be near Rome. What was disturbing was Carboni’s “alarming pessimism certain to affect his conduct of operations in connection with GIANT TWO.” Bypassing Rossi, the Americans asked to see Badoglio at once.11
Rossi, as a matter of fact, was on his way to meet with Taylor and Gardiner. Carboni had telephoned to tell him that Taylor had informed him that the armistice announcement was to be made the next day, 8 September. Rossi said he would be right over and started immediately for the Caprara Palace. Upon his arrival, Carboni met him in an anteroom. “Everything has been fixed up,” Carboni said. “We are now going to Badoglio to submit the telegram of postponement to him.” Rossi wished to accompany Carboni and the Americans, but Carboni dissuaded him, saying, “No, it is not necessary; everything is already arranged.”12
Carboni escorted the Americans to Badoglio’s villa. As the result of an air raid a few minutes earlier, around midnight, the household was awake. Badoglio received Carboni at once. The Americans waited in an antechamber. After about fifteen minutes, Badoglio admitted them and greeted them cordially.
Taylor and Badoglio spoke French, their conversation being supplemented by English and Italian translated by Lanza. Badoglio repeated the figures of German troop strength exactly as Carboni had stated them earlier and advanced the same proposals: the armistice would have to be postponed, the airborne operation canceled.
To Taylor and Gardiner, it seemed that Carboni had used the fifteen minutes during which he had been alone with Badoglio in order to bring the marshal around to his point of view—wait until they rescue us. Badoglio’s bland disregard of the terms signed by his accredited representative, Castellano, and his unwillingness to oppose the Germans were extremely disconcerting to the Americans.
When Taylor asked Badoglio whether he realized how deeply his government was committed as the result of the agreements already signed, Badoglio replied that the situation had changed—Castellano had not known all the facts. Italian troops could not possibly defend Rome. The only effect of an immediate announcement of the armistice would be a German occupation of the capital and the establishment of a neo-Fascist regime.
Taylor then asked whether the Italians feared a German occupation more than the possibility of full-scale Allied bombardment. With considerable emotion, Badoglio replied that he hoped the Allies would attack the Germans, that they would bomb the northern rail centers rather than the Italians, who were friends of the Allies and who were only awaiting the appropriate moment to join them.
When Taylor asked Badoglio how he expected the Allied leaders to react to his changed attitude, Badoglio made repeated professions of sympathy for the Allies and expressed the hope that Taylor would explain the situation and the new Italian point of view to General Eisenhower.
Taylor refused to do this. But he
added that if the Allied command instructed him to do so, he would serve as a messenger for whatever communication Badoglio might wish to send. What Taylor was angling for was a definite statement for Allied headquarters, over Badoglio’s own signature, of the Italian viewpoint and intention.
Badoglio thereupon wrote a message to General Eisenhower—a message canceling his earlier commitments. Written around 0100, 8 September, less than twenty-four hours before Eisenhower intended to publicize the armistice agreement, the message read:
Due to changes in the situation brought about by the disposition and strength of the German forces in the Rome area, it is no longer possible to accept an immediate armistice as this could provoke the occupation of the Capital and the violent assumption of the government by the Germans. Operation GIANT Two is no longer possible because of lack of forces to guarantee the airfields. General Taylor is available to return to Sicily to present the view of the government and await orders. Badoglio.13
At the same time, Taylor wrote a message of his own:
In view of the statement of Marshal Badoglio as to inability to declare armistice and to guarantee fields GIANT TWO is impossible. Reasons given for change are irreplaceable lack of gasoline and munitions and new German dispositions. Badoglio requests Taylor return to present government views. Taylor and Gardiner awaiting instructions. Acknowledge. Taylor.14
Imploring the Americans to trust him, Badoglio swore that there was no trickery in the change and spoke at some length of his honor as a soldier and officer. It was perhaps 0200, 8 September, when Taylor and Gardiner returned to the Palazzo Caprara and turned over both messages to Carboni for encoding and transmission.
To make certain that the Allied command understood the situation in Rome, Taylor sent a third message at 0820, a “summary of situation as stated by Italian authorities,” including the Italian request for a cancellation of the airborne operation.15
Not long afterwards Taylor learned that AFHQ had acknowledged receipt of Badoglio’s message. But he was concerned about his message recommending cancellation of GIANT II. Encoding long messages required, in some cases, three hours, decoding somewhat less. In order to be certain of stopping the airborne operation, scheduled to start at 1830 that afternoon, Taylor, at 1135, sent the message, “Situation innocuous.”16
Meanwhile, Badoglio had telephoned Roatta early that morning to ask whether he agreed with Carboni’s point of view. Roatta was cautious—he did not know what Carboni had said. On reaching Badoglio’s house, Roatta learned what had taken place during the night. He then suggested that a proper course of action would be to send a high-ranking officer to explain matters fully to General Eisenhower and to point out what help the Allies would have to give in view of the situation in Rome. Badoglio agreed.17
After driving to Comando Supremo headquarters, Roatta informed Rossi of his meeting with Badoglio and prepared a memorandum of instructions for whoever would be selected to meet with General Eisenhower.
Rossi then went to the railroad station at 1000 to meet Ambrosio, who was returning from Turin. Rossi informed him of the latest developments—Allied convoys were headed for Salerno, the armistice announcement was scheduled for that afternoon, and Badoglio was planning to send a high-ranking officer to Allied headquarters to request basic changes in the Allied plans.18
Shortly before noon the Italians took this request to the American officers and asked them to take along a representative on their return flight. As General Taylor later reported:
The Italians showed great concern over the possible reaction of the Allied Chiefs to their reversal of position on the armistice. The American officers reinforced their apprehension by emphasizing the gravity of the situation in which the Badoglio government found itself. The Italians repeatedly urged the American officers to return and plead their case whereas the latter declined to be anything other than messengers.19
Finally, however, the Americans agreed to have a senior Italian officer accompany them to AFHQ. Roatta was first proposed and then immediately withdrawn, for he was considered indispensable in dealing with the Germans. He had an engagement with Kesselring’s chief of staff, Westphal, an appointment which he felt he could not cancel without arousing German suspicion. Rossi was then selected to go to Algiers. At 1140, therefore, Taylor sent another message to AFHQ: “In case Taylor is ordered to return to Sicily, authorities at Rome desire to send with him the Deputy Chief of the Supreme General Staff, General Rossi, to clarify issues. Is this visit authorized?”20
Thus, Rossi’s mission, which had been inadvertently forecast a day earlier by the message to Castellano announcing a “communication of fundamental importance,” was not in bad faith. Indeed, Rossi acted entirely with the best of intentions. On the other hand, all members of the Italian High Command were naive in wishfully thinking that the Allies would, or could, alter their plans radically at the last minute. What they wanted was a delay in announcing the armistice until they were certain that the Allies would occupy Rome. And they had a basis in their belief that Eisenhower was not altogether certain of proclaiming the surrender on 8 September, for certain cues were lacking. Initial arrangements with Castellano had included a special BBC program of Verdi’s music as indicating the date of the announcement, a BBC discussion of Nazi activities in the Argentine as further indication, and finally a special message via the secret radio to give the Italians several hours specific warning.
In reality, AFHQ on 6 September had canceled the program of Verdi’s music. The Italians had acknowledged receipt of this information, but Carboni had apparently failed to disseminate it.21 As for the second cue, General Rooks, the AFHQ G-3, had on 6 September requested the BBC to discuss or refer to Nazi activities
in Argentina during its broadcast of 1130 or 1230 on 8 September.22 Yet for some unknown reason, London failed to make the broadcast.23 Finally, Rooks on 6 September also directed that the warning order be sent to Rome via the secret radio.24 But this too, apparently, was not sent, perhaps because by then General Eisenhower was in direct communication with Marshal Badoglio.25
Consequently, when Rossi left Rome in the late afternoon of 8 September in company with Taylor and Gardiner, he had the vivid impression that none of the signals warning of the date of the armistice announcement had been issued. AFHQ, he reasoned, must be holding up the proclamation pending his arrival there. And did he not have General Eisenhower’s permission to make the trip?26
Actually, he did not. Taylor’s message asking whether Rossi might accompany the Americans on their return had not yet reached AFHQ when Taylor received, at 1500, AFHQ’s message ordering the American officers to return to North Africa. Despite the lack of authorization for Rossi’s visit, Taylor and Gardiner decided to take Rossi—and an interpreter, a Lieutenant Tagliavia—with them on their own responsibility. Though a message from AFHQ later reached Rome granting Rossi permission to come, the party had already departed from the capital.27
Rossi therefore assumed that his mission had Eisenhower’s approval. The basic misunderstanding lay in the fact that the radiogram ordering Taylor and Gardiner to return was a portion of a message Eisenhower sent to Badoglio, a message encoded and sent in four parts. Had the complete message been revealed at once, Rossi would have known in advance the complete futility of his errand. Without such knowledge, he had the impression that he still had time to explain the situation to the Allied commander. And when the complete text of Eisenhower’s message became available in Rome, Carboni, more than likely, withheld the vital information from his superiors and associates.28
Meanwhile, after canceling an interview with Ambrosio scheduled for 1830, Taylor and Gardiner rode the Red Cross ambulance to the Centocelle airfield. Hoping that their messages recommending cancellation of GIANT II had reached AFHQ in time to stop the paratroopers,
they, together with Rossi and Tagliavia, boarded a tri-motored Savoia-Marchetti bomber. The plane took off at 1705. Several hours later it landed near Bizerte. The American and Italian officers were then driven to AFHQ to report to the Allied commander in chief.29
On the Allied side, two days before Taylor’s party arrived in Bizerte, intimations of the turmoil in Rome were completely lacking. The Allies informed Castellano on 6 September that arrangements were proceeding smoothly. The Italian military mission was to leave from Rome that evening. The Allies were working hard to complete the preparations for GIANT II.30
On that day General Eisenhower informed the CCS that he had made the final adjustments in his planning to take maximum advantage of the Italian surrender. The British Eighth Army was moving through the toe of Italy. The U.S. Fifth Army was on its way to the Salerno beaches—without the help of an airborne operation but with an increase in seaborne lift, secured by diverting some landing craft from the British assault across the Strait of Messina. The 82nd Airborne Division was preparing to assist the Italian Government in preventing the Germans from occupying Rome, the Italians having promised to protect the airfields selected for the airborne operation. Surrender of the Italian Fleet would make it possible to think of releasing some Allied cruisers and destroyers from Mediterranean duty. The Italians had offered to open the ports of Taranto and Brindisi in the heel of Italy, and Eisenhower planned to move the British 1st Airborne Division by warship to Taranto as soon as the Italian Navy was under Allied control.31
Optimism seemed in order. On 7 September, the secret radio in Rome acknowledged receipt of the stand-by warning order sent the day before. The Allies informed the Italians that two propaganda officers would accompany the first American troops into Rome in order to help the Minister of Information announce the change of sides to the Italian people.32
That afternoon the Allies brought Castellano from Cassibile (where he had remained since signing the armistice on 3 September) to Tunis. From here Castellano made a hurried flight to Bizerte where one designated member of the military mission, a Captain Giuriati of the Italian Navy, had refused to give information to British naval officers on the grounds that he had received no instructions. After informing Giuriati that the armistice had been signed and that he could in conscience give the information requested, Castellano flew back to Tunis.
The other members of the military mission had in the meantime arrived in Tunis. Although most of them were without instructions, some even being unaware of the signing of the armistice, a few members brought new instructions for Castellano: the text of Badoglio’s proposed armistice announcement for Eisenhower’s approval; also requests that the
Italian Fleet sail to Sardinia rather than to Allied ports, that the airborne operation at Rome be executed two days after the main Allied invasion, and that Castellano make sure of maximum Allied air support immediately after the armistice announcement.33
Castellano took up these points with General Eisenhower that evening. The Allied commander made a change in the wording of the last paragraph of Badoglio’s proclamation to encourage Italian military opposition to the Germans. He permitted no changes in the program as agreed upon by the armistice—the Italian Fleet was to follow instructions and not sail to Sardinia, the airborne operation would be launched simultaneously with the armistice announcement rather than two days after the invasion of the Italian mainland. He assured Castellano that all possible air support would be furnished operations in Italy.
Though the encoding process, which required several hours, was started promptly, these instructions were not transmitted to Rome until after midnight.34
Not long after the final portion of the instructions had gone from AFHQ, at 0530, 8 September, AFHQ received the message from Badoglio that Taylor had transmitted after midnight. Decoding the message took until after 0800. By that time, General Eisenhower had departed Algiers for a visit to the AFHQ advance command post at Bizerte.
When the contents of Badoglio’s message, which renounced the armistice, became known in Algiers, the AFHQ staff was thrown off balance. The staff forwarded Badoglio’s message to Eisenhower, and at the same time sent a message to the CCS asking whether or not to proceed with the armistice announcement and stating its own belief that the airborne operation would have to be canceled. Perhaps Ambrosio, whom Castellano and Zanussi had mentioned as the only possible successor to Badoglio, might be induced to depart from Rome, announce the armistice from another city, possibly Palermo, and carry out the provisions of the agreement. In any case, they urged, the Badoglio government itself deserved no consideration because Badoglio was retracting a signed document completed in good faith by his authorized representative.35
Already nettled by the action of his staff in referring the problem to the Combined Chiefs, Eisenhower was positively enraged by Badoglio’s conduct. He immediately drafted a strong reply.36
As for Castellano, it appeared to him that Badoglio had scuttled the success he had so patiently achieved. Around 1100, Strong called on him and showed him a copy of Badoglio’s message. Shocked,
Castellano prepared a message urging Badoglio to adhere to the original agreed-upon course of action. He then accompanied Strong to Bizerte.
After being made to wait for half an hour in a courtyard where he was completely ignored, Castellano was ushered into a room. At a table sat Eisenhower, flanked by Alexander and Admiral Cunningham and an impressive array of other high-ranking Allied officers. Castellano saluted. No one returned it. He had the feeling he was facing a court-martial.
Eisenhower motioned Castellano to be seated. Then he read Badoglio’s message. Finally, the Allied commander made a statement. If Badoglio did not announce the armistice that evening as agreed, he declared, the inference would be inescapable—the Italian Government and Castellano himself had played an ugly role in the armistice negotiations.
At these words, Castellano rose to reply. Neither he nor his government, he said, was guilty of bad faith. Something extraordinary must have developed in Rome. He begged General Eisenhower to reserve judgment until Badoglio should reply to Castellano’s message asking adherence to the armistice provisions.
General Eisenhower knew the content of Castellano’s message, he said, but he himself was sending a reply to Badoglio. He then read to Castellano his own message, which was in the process of being encoded for transmission:–
Part 1. I intend to broadcast the existence of the armistice at the hour originally planned. If you or any part of your armed forces fail to cooperate as previously agreed I will publish to the world the full record of this affair.
Part 2. I do not accept your message of this morning postponing the armistice. Your accredited representative has signed an agreement with me and the sole hope of Italy is bound up in your adherence to that agreement. On your earnest representation the airborne operations are temporarily suspended.
Part 3. You have sufficient troops near Rome to secure the temporary safety of the city but I require full information on which to plan earliest the airborne operations. Send General Taylor to Bizerte at once by aeroplane. Notify in advance time of arrival and route of aircraft.
Part 4. Plans have been made on the assumption that you were acting in good faith and we have been prepared to carry out future operations on that basis. Failure now on your part to carry out the full obligations to the signed agreement will have the most serious consequences for your country. No future action of yours could then restore any confidence whatever in your good faith and consequently the dissolution of your government and nation would ensue.37
General Eisenhower then dismissed Castellano, who returned to Tunis to spend the rest of the day in the greatest anxiety.
General Eisenhower informed the CCS of his course of action.38 He had no reason to be concerned with the action of his staff in informing the Combined Chiefs of Badoglio’s broken promise. Exchanges between London and Washington showed the Prime Minister and the President in full agreement. The CCS urged Eisenhower to make whatever public announcement would most facilitate military
operations, without regard for possible embarrassment to the Italian Government.39
Whatever else might be necessary, the airborne operation had to be canceled. AFHQ sent a message to the division headquarters in Sicily, but because this would take so much time for encoding, transmission, decoding, and delivery, a quicker method of getting word to the paratroopers was necessary. General Lemnitzer therefore flew from Bizerte to Sicily. His pilot, excellent at night flying, became confused in daylight. His take-off was shaky, his navigation worse. Not until Mount Etna loomed up was the pilot able to identify his location. He changed his course and flew toward the division command post, near Licata, but by then it was very close to the scheduled hour for the start of the operation.40
At various airfields in Sicily during the afternoon of 8 September, paratroopers had begun to load into about 150 aircraft. At Licata, where the headquarters of the division and of the Troop Carrier Command were located, General Ridgway waited near a radio. Eisenhower was planning to broadcast his armistice announcement at 1830, Badoglio was to make his announcement immediately afterwards. The latter was to signal the start of Operation GIANT II.
From Bizerte harbor, Colonel Bertsch’s small seaborne force had put out to sea that morning under sealed orders delivered to the flotilla commander. Though Bertsch suspected that he was bound for the Rome area, he in fact knew only that his destination was point “FF” on an unknown map (in actuality, a beach at the mouth of the Tiber River). If no one met him at “FF,” he was to move on to “GG” (a point halfway between the mouth of the river and Rome).41
At AFHQ there was nothing else to do but wait until the time of the surrender broadcast announcements. At 1830, precisely on schedule, though no word had come from Badoglio in reply to Eisenhower’s message, the Allied commander broadcast the news of the armistice from Radio Algiers:–
This is General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied forces. The Italian Government has surrendered its armed forces unconditionally. As Allied Commander-in-Chief, I have granted a military armistice, the terms of which have been approved by the Governments of the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Thus I am acting in the interests of the United Nations.
The Italian Government has bound itself by these terms without reservation. The armistice was signed by my representative and the representative of Marshal Badoglio and it becomes effective this instant. Hostilities between the armed forces of the United Nations and those of Italy terminate at once.
All Italians who now act to help eject the German aggressor from Italian soil will have the assistance and support of the United Nations.
Radio Algiers then broadcast a survey of the negotiations to explain how the armistice had been reached. But no announcement came from Badoglio over Radio Rome. After waiting ten minutes, Eisenhower authorized Radio Algiers to broadcast in English the text of Badoglio’s proclamation:–
The Italian Government, recognizing the impossibility of continuing the unequal struggle against the overwhelming power of the enemy, with the object of avoiding further and more grievous harm to the nation, has requested an armistice from General Eisenhower, Commander-in-Chief of the Anglo-American Allied Force. This request has been granted. The Italian forces will, therefore, cease all acts of hostility against the Anglo-American forces wherever they may be met. They will, however, oppose attacks from any other quarter.42
At Licata, Sicily, this broadcast signaled the start of GIANT II. Fortunately, only minutes earlier Lemnitzer’s pilot had brought his plane to ground. Sixty-two planes carrying paratroopers were already circling into formation to prepare to go to Rome when word of the cancellation came through. About the same time, the telegram sent earlier by AFHQ reached the division headquarters. As for Bertsch’s seaborne task force, news of the cancellation reached the flotilla in time to divert the force to the Gulf of Salerno and to a rendezvous with the AVALANCHE convoys.43
The atmosphere was tense in Algiers, where General Eisenhower and his staff waited for Badoglio’s voice over Radio Rome. Had the Germans already seized the Italian Government to prevent Badoglio from broadcasting? Could Ambrosio escape from the capital and make the announcement elsewhere?
The questions were disturbing because the AVALANCHE convoys were fast approaching the Gulf of Salerno. When the ground troops landed on the following morning of 9 September, would they find Italian and German units embroiled in conflict? Or would they find them joined together in overwhelming numbers ready to oppose the amphibious landing? Unless the voice of Badoglio came over the air, the Allies would not know until the moment the assault troops went ashore.