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Chapter 27: The Surrender

Badoglio’s Announcement

On the afternoon of 8 September, General Roatta, the Army chief, drove from Rome to Monterotondo, his headquarters just outside the city. He found a message from Kesselring. Because air observation indicated an imminent Allied landing near Naples, Kesselring asked permission, in accord with protocol, to move the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division southward to meet the invasion.1

Suspecting that the request disguised a desire to move the division closer to the capital, Roatta stalled. It would be well, he replied, to defer the movement until the following morning in order to avoid any incident between the German troops and the Ariete and Piave Divisions north of Rome. When Rintelen telephoned and renewed Kesselring’s request, Roatta yielded, though he limited the German movement to advance elements and, during darkness, to a certain line north of the capital.

Later that afternoon Kesselring’s chief of staff, Westphal, telephoned to confirm his appointment with Roatta for early that evening. Roatta said he would be waiting.

At 1800, Roatta received a telephone message from Ambrosio, who urgently requested Roatta’s presence at a conference with the King. Assuming that the conference would explore the methods of persuading General Eisenhower to postpone the armistice announcement, and hopeful of its success, Roatta felt it expedient to remain on good terms with the Germans a little while longer. He decided to stay in his office to meet with Westphal and sent his deputy, Generale di Corpo d’Armata Giuseppe De Stefanis, to attend the conference with the King.

Actually, the meeting with the King was prompted by Eisenhower’s message to Badoglio insisting that Badoglio keep his word and announce the armistice in accord with his agreement. The message had thrown the Italian Government and High Command into panic. Until the message arrived, at approximately 1730, 8 September, an hour before the scheduled announcement, the Italians had assumed that the climactic moment would be postponed, an assumption based on the fact that Taylor and Gardiner had agreed to take Rossi to North Africa. To them, this had meant that AFHQ was willing to enter into new discussion of joint Italo-Allied plans. Certainly, therefore, it appeared that General Eisenhower would take no decisive action until he heard Rossi’s “communication of fundamental importance.” And Roatta would have a few more days to complete his preparations for the defense of Rome.

Eisenhower’s telegram had destroyed

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these illusions. The opening sentence alone left no room for misunderstanding: “If you or any part of your armed forces fail to cooperate as previously agreed I will publish to the world full record of this affair.” This was precisely what Guariglia, the Foreign Minister, had feared when he learned that Castellano had put into writing Italy’s willingness to surrender. Worst of all, Eisenhower had the power to frustrate any attempt to patch things up with the Germans.2

Upon receiving the full text of the telegram, Badoglio summoned those most intimately involved in the armistice negotiations to assist him in presenting the problem to the sovereign. Attending the conference in the Quirinal Palace at 1815, 8 September, fifteen minutes before Eisenhower’s broadcast, were: the King; Acquarone, Minister of the Royal Household; Badoglio, Head of Government; Guariglia, Foreign Minister; Ambrosio, chief of Comando Supremo; Carboni, in his capacity as chief of military intelligence; Ammiraglio di Squadra Raffaele de Courten, Minister and Chief of Staff, Navy; Sandalli, Minister and Chief of Staff, Air Force; Sorice, Minister of War; De Stefanis, deputy chief of the Army General Staff and representing Roatta; Puntoni, senior aide-de-camp to the King; and, at Ambrosio’s insistence, Major Marchesi, who was asked to attend because of his familiarity with the negotiations Castellano had conducted in Sicily, at which Marchesi had been present.

Ambrosio opened the meeting with a short exposition of the military situation. The Allied armistice date, he said, had caught the Italians with their Army plans not quite complete.

Sorice, who knew little of the previous negotiations, and Carboni, who had followed the negotiations with great care, both agreed that the Allies had broken faith with the Italian Government by moving up the date of the announcement. Because of their brusque demand, Sorice and Carboni believed that the Allies deserved no consideration. Both urged rejection of the armistice, particularly since the German reprisals would be terrible. Carboni proposed that the King disavow Castellano’s negotiations, if necessary dismiss Badoglio, and thereby indicate that the pledges given in Badoglio’s name had not been authorized. Sorice thought this a good idea.

In the discussion that followed, some generals appeared blind to every aspect of the situation except the impossibility of having the Italian armed forces face the Germans alone. Eisenhower’s telegram, they maintained, was nothing but a trap to compromise them with the Nazis.

Though not asked to speak, Major Marchesi felt that his presence at the signing of the armistice justified his comments. He rose and presented to the senior generals and statesmen a grim picture of the consequences in store for the Royal Government if it failed to keep its pledge. He explained the import of General Eisenhower’s threat: if the Allies published the surrender documents, the government would have no chance of continuing the alliance with Germany.

After Marchesi’s remarks, Guariglia, seated at the King’s left, rose to speak. He had not approved the way in which the military negotiations had been conducted, he declared, but at this stage it would be absurd to disavow them. Disavowal would leave Italy in the position of facing simultaneously the hostility of

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both the Anglo-Americans and the Germans. Ambrosio expressed agreement with this view.

Thirty minutes had gone by when word arrived of a Reuters dispatch from London announcing the armistice. Carboni promptly proposed that the government issue an immediate denial. But a few minutes later, when the news came that Eisenhower himself was broadcasting a detailed statement of the armistice, the councilors’ spirits sank to the nadir. Support for Carboni’s proposal to disavow everything vanished.

In Monterotondo, Roatta was conferring with Westphal and the new German Military Attaché, Toussaint, on joint measures to meet the Allied invasion when the German Embassy telephoned. The American Government in Washington, the embassy spokesman revealed, had announced an armistice with Italy. Stunned by the timing of the announcement, Roatta had little difficulty convincing Westphal and Toussaint that he knew nothing of an armistice. He denounced the broadcast from Washington as an Anglo-American trick designed to embroil the Italians and Germans in warfare.3

Westphal and Toussaint departed immediately. Roatta decided to move his staff back to the Palazzo Caprara in Rome. Even before the Germans were out of the building, Zanussi alerted other members of the headquarters for the move and began to select papers to be burned. In the Quirinal Palace at the royal conference, Badoglio expressed no conviction, even at that late hour, on what course the government ought to follow. He did no more than explain to the King the alternatives which he faced. The sovereign might disavow Badoglio’s pledges, declare that Badoglio had contracted them without the King’s knowledge, and accept Badoglio’s resignation, which he, Badoglio, was ready to offer. Or, the King could accept the conditions on which General Eisenhower insisted, regardless of the consequences.

Both alternatives were staggering. The Allies demanded complete and abject surrender. They refused to believe that the Italian Government was not a free agent. They shared none of their plans. They had avoided giving assurance of their readiness to occupy the country whose surrender they demanded.

What the Italians were not aware of was the politico-military Allied strategy. They did not know that the Allies were assaulting the Italian mainland with limited means, in effect, a holding attack subordinate to a cross-Channel invasion of northwest Europe. Overestimating the strength available to AFHQ for commitment on the Italian peninsula, they did not realize how vital the armistice was to the Allies.

As for what the Italians could expect from Germany, there was only the grim prospect that the Germans would wage war to the bitter end. They expected to fight on the Italian peninsula and use it as the glacis of Fortress Germany. Yet they could not altogether conceal their intention to withdraw to the line of the northern Apennines. In this case, there was a basis at least for a slight hope that Rome might be spared the destruction of combat.

Since Badoglio could not or would not make up his mind on what the government

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ought to do, the King decided. It was no longer possible, Victor Emmanuel III concluded, to change sides once again. Italy was committed to the armistice.4

The decision made, Badoglio hastened to Radio Rome. At 1945, 8 September, an hour late, he read his announcement of the armistice, following exactly the text approved by AFHQ. The broadcasting station recorded the announcement and repeated it at intervals throughout the night.5

To the Italian people, Badoglio’s armistice announcement came as startling news. His only other public statement had been his declaration on assuming office that the war would continue. The abrupt change itself was a shock, and the announcement gave little explanation—no indication of swift and harsh German reprisals, no suggestion that Germany had become the enemy, no guidance for the future. Badoglio merely acknowledged Italy’s defeat, and this had been apparent for some time.6

As for the armed forces, the radio broadcast offered no strong and definite instructions for the behavior of the few hundred aircraft, the effective and powerful fleet, the sixty divisions of about 1,700,000 men who, though woefully ill-equipped, still comprised a disciplined force. Without clear directives from a central authority in Rome, the military forces did not know what to do. The vague orders issued before the armistice had reflected Badoglio’s indecision. He had not wished, and had not permitted, the armed forces to organize their plans and dispositions for real anti-German action. Hoping to the last to get an Allied guarantee to occupy Rome and protect his government, thereby gaining more time, Badoglio had refused to risk anything that might have brought a showdown with the Germans.

Flight of the King and High Command

At Monterotondo, as soon as Badoglio’s announcement confirmed the news of the armistice, Roatta telephoned OB SUED headquarters twice to assure the Germans on his honor as an officer that when he had given his word to Westphal, he had known nothing of the surrender.

Fifteen minutes later, Roatta issued an order to the three Italian corps defending Rome to man the roadblocks around the capital. German troops leaving the city were to be permitted to go; German columns moving toward the capital were to be stopped. All units were to “react energetically against any attempt to penetrate [into Rome] by force or against any hostile actions whatsoever.”7

The order was defensive in nature. Though reports had come in that two Italian sentinels had been killed by German

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troops nearby, Roatta declined to order his forces to attack. He apparently hoped that the Germans would withdraw to the north.

The initial reaction of the staff of the German Embassy to the news of the armistice encouraged this Italian hope. The announcement of the armistice had taken the Germans by surprise. Ambassador Rahn had had an audience with the King shortly before noon, 8 September, and though he attempted to discover some indication of future Italian policy, he had learned nothing. Embassy members burned papers in haste, made frenzied arrangements to evacuate civilians. About 2100, the Chargé d’Affaires requested Italian armed protection, and Rahn took his embassy staff posthaste by special train to the northern border. For the first two hours after the armistice announcement, the German civilians seemed intent on escaping, the German military forces appeared to be trying to withdraw.8 To expedite the hoped-for exodus, Ambrosio issued instructions around 2200 to let the Germans pass if they presented themselves at the roadblocks peaceably.9

The King, his family, and Badoglio had, in the meantime, taken refuge for the night in the Ministry of War, which had a detachment of armed guards. Ambrosio also installed his office there. By 2300, Roatta had transferred the key members of his staff and set up his command post in Rome.10

Soon after midnight, in the early minutes of 9 September, Ambrosio issued the first order to the Italian military forces. Because Promemoria 2, the order drafted several days earlier for the forces in the Balkans, Greece, and the Aegean Islands, had not reached the various headquarters in Tirana, Athens, and Rhodes, Ambrosio repeated and reaffirmed the provisions of the earlier directive. He made one addition: “Do not in any case take the initiative in hostile acts against the Germans.”11 Though the directive went to Roatta for his guidance, Roatta refused to transmit it to the Army troops under his command because he felt that the final prohibition contained in the addition was in conflict with his own Memoria 44, dispatched several days earlier.12

Ambrosio’s order had not yet gone out when the rosy picture of German reaction to the armistice announcement began to assume dark shadows. Reports coming in to Comando Supremo and the Army revealed that German paratroop units along the coast near Rome had surrounded Italian batteries and had begun to attack strongpoints of the Piacenza Division. From Milan came a telephone call reporting a German attack and asking for instructions. Though these could have been nothing more than attempts by the Germans to secure their lines of withdrawal to the north, the movement of the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division against the outposts

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of the Ariete Division seemed significant—and ominous, clearly not part of a northward withdrawal. Roatta then ordered the three corps in defense of Rome to close all barricades and oppose German moves with force. Not long afterwards, a telephone intercept between the German Foreign Office and the Embassy in Rome gave rise to greater alarm. The 2nd Parachute Division, the message stated, was disarming adjacent Italian units; the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division was marching south on Rome; and both divisions were confident of success.13

Should, then, Roatta put into effect Memoria 44, the directive that had alerted each army headquarters in Italy and Sardinia for specified offensive operations? Carboni, De Stefanis, General Utili (Roatta’s chief of operations), and Zanussi urged Roatta to issue the order. Roatta declined to take the responsibility since he would be contradicting and disobeying the latest Comando Supremo directive, but he put the question to Ambrosio. Ambrosio decided that such a serious decision needed the assent or concurrence of Badoglio. Badoglio could not be found.

The result was that Memoria 44 was never put into effect.14 Badoglio’s radio announcement, which had failed to launch the armed forces on an anti-German course, remained the determining guide. Having declined to resist the movement of German troops into Italy and having acquiesced in the movement of German troops to key positions, Badoglio now failed to authorize the attempt by Italian ground forces to save themselves and their honor. The only effort toward this end was an order issued by Ambrosio at 0220, 9 September:

The Italian Government has requested an armistice of General Eisenhower, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces. On the basis of the conditions of armistice, beginning today 8 September at 19:45 hours, every act of hostility on our part should cease toward the Anglo-American forces. The Italian Armed Forces should, however, react with maximum decision to offensives which come from any other quarter whatsoever.15

This directive too was strictly defensive, its limit precisely set, by inference at least, by the framework of Badoglio’s announcement. As for Roatta, he too confined himself to ordering his troops to react against force if hostile German acts were verified.16

Increasingly serious reports continued to pour into Rome—a concentric German attack against the capital, a 2nd Parachute Division advance against the Granatieri Division south of the city, threats against strongpoints along the Via Ostiense and Via Laurentina, clashes north of Rome between the Ariete and 3rd Panzer Grenadier Divisions, a movement in unknown strength north from Frascati, and about 0330, notice from the XVII Corps at Velletri that the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division was marching from the Garigliano River area north along the Via Appia

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with its forward point already seventy miles from the capital.17

The most dangerous threat was the situation arising from the clash of German paratroopers and the Granatieri Division south of Rome. To reinforce the southern defenses, Roatta at 0330 ordered two reserve groups of the Ariete Division to move from north of the city to the south, the separate bersaglieri regiment to move south as a reserve, and all antiaircraft and field artillery units along the right bank of the Tiber River to come into support of the forces defending along the Via Ostiense.18

Having taken these steps, Roatta spoke with Carboni. The latter estimated that a defense of Rome could last no more than twenty-four hours. Shortly thereafter, Roatta received word of German forces southeast of Rome engaged with Italian troops not far from the Via Tiburtina. Thus, the Germans were surrounding the capital, and the Via Tiburtina remained the only exit still open. Of an Allied approach to Rome, there was no sign. The sea south of Naples was filled with Allied ships; north of Naples, the sea was empty.19

Shortly before 0400, Roatta reported the situation to Ambrosio. Meeting Badoglio soon afterwards, Roatta, in the presence of Prince Humbert and the King’s senior aide, repeated his report. If the King and the government had any thoughts of escape, he added, they should move quickly. Only the Via Tiburtina remained open, and it too might soon come under fire.

Badoglio reached a decision: the King and the government would leave Rome; the military forces defending the city would withdraw to the eastern outskirts and consolidate on positions near Tivoli.20

This was a sudden decision, even though the removal of the King and the government from the German threat had been discussed on earlier occasions. Castellano had mentioned the matter at Lisbon. Badoglio had directed his Minister of the Interior as late as the morning of 8 September to prepare a plan to evacuate the government from Rome; he had canceled the order that afternoon.21 Similarly, the decision to withdraw the troops defending Rome to the Tivoli area east of the city was made on the spur of the moment. Ambrosio and Roatta had planned to defend Rome if the Allies landed a powerful supporting force within striking distance of the capital. But in the absence of immediate Allied support, Badoglio’s decision made sense. It implied only a temporary change. Certainly the Allies would sweep northward quickly and seize the city. Within a week or two, the King and Badoglio would return.

Now more than ever, the Italians depended on the Allies. Hoping to remove any residue of resentment that General Eisenhower might have, Badoglio sent a message about this time to AFHQ to explain

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why he had delayed making his announcement broadcast:

Missed reception signal agreed wireless and delayed arrival your number 45. He did not consent broadcast proclamation at agreed hour. Proclamation would have occurred as requested even without your pressure being sufficient for us pledge given. Excessive haste has however found our preparations incomplete and caused delay. ...22

Having revealed to Roatta his decision to evacuate Rome, Badoglio now told Ambrosio, then went to see the King. He found Victor Emmanuel III listening to his aide, who was reporting Roatta’s appreciation of the situation. The King quickly concurred in Badoglio’s decision, and determined to take with him Badoglio, Ambrosio, and the chiefs of the military services.23

Some time before 0500, the King, the Queen, Prince Humbert, Badoglio, and four military aides to the sovereign were ready to leave Rome. The King summoned Ambrosio and directed that he, the three chiefs of staff, and the three service ministers depart Rome by way of the Via Tiburtina and plan to meet the King’s party later that day at Pescara, on the Adriatic coast. Though Ambrosio protested that he could not leave immediately because he needed time to make final arrangements, the King insisted.

To provide for the civil government of Rome and the country during the absence of the Head of Government, Badoglio left instructions with General Sorice, the Minister of War, to inform the civilian ministers of the King’s and Badoglio’s departure and to charge the Minister of the Interior, Umberto Ricci, with the task of heading a caretaker, skeleton government. Perhaps the Germans would permit the Italian civil authorities to carry on, for, with the exception of Guariglia, the civilian ministers had no knowledge of the armistice negotiations and no responsibility for them. The departing group comprised those persons who were most directly involved in the surrender and who, therefore, had most to fear from the Germans.

Around 0500, five automobiles carrying the royal party left Rome.24 Ambrosio returned to his office, notified the Navy and Air Force chiefs, Admiral De Courten and General Sandalli, that they were to leave, and made arrangements for warships and planes to meet the royal party at Pescara. After leaving a message for Generale di Brigata Vittorio Palma to remain in Rome as Comando Supremo representative, Ambrosio, shortly after 0600, was ready to depart. Sometime during the night he had given Major Marchesi the diary and other compromising documents he had supposedly gone to Turin to get, and had asked Marchesi to destroy them.25

Roatta, after receiving the royal command to leave Rome, though with no destination specified, decided to move his staff to Tivoli to keep in contact with the troops. He went back to his office in the Palazzo Caprara and, about 0515, in the presence of Carboni and Zanussi, he wrote in pencil on a sheet of notebook paper the draft of an order to Carboni—turning over to Carboni command of the forces defending Rome and directing Carboni to

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withdraw those forces to the Tivoli area. Roatta read the order to Carboni and told him to have it typed for his, Roatta’s, signature.

After protesting that the order could not be carried out because the troops were already engaged and therefore could not break contact and withdraw, Carboni had a clean copy of Roatta’s draft order prepared. When he brought it back for Roatta’s signature, he found that the Army chief had gone.26

Roatta, it turned out, had hastened to the Ministry of War around 0545 and had discovered Ambrosio ready and anxious to depart. After dashing back to the Caprara palace for a last look, Roatta joined Ambrosio, and the two officers left in the same automobile. Not until they were safely out of Rome did Roatta learn that they were bound for Pescara, there to transfer to a plane or ship that would take them to southern Italy.

Other key figures followed. Zanussi got out in an armored car about the same time. De Stefanis left about 0700, Utili approximately 0815. General Sorice, Minister of War, remained.

Guariglia, the Foreign Minister, remained, too. He was busy all night long, giving instructions to representatives abroad and formally notifying Germany that Italy had concluded an armistice with the Allies. He had received no message whatsoever on the decision of the government to leave Rome.

In Roatta’s absence his deputy, De Stefanis, just before his departure, signed the order addressed to Carboni. It was in this fashion that Carboni, commander of the Motorized Corps, became the commander of all the forces assembled for the defense of Rome. By now, however, the mission was changed.

Roatta’s intention was to concentrate these forces—except for the police and carabinieri units, which were to remain in the city to maintain order—in the Tivoli area as a threat to the Germans, who would by then, Roatta expected, have seized Rome. He therefore had ordered Carboni to move his headquarters to Carsoli near Tivoli and had instructed his own staff to set up its command post there.

Carboni, however, had no clear concept of his mission. Assuming that he actually could get those forces engaging the Germans to break contact and withdraw—a difficult maneuver—what was he then supposed to do? The withdrawal would perhaps spare Rome a bombardment by German planes and reprisals on the civil population. Perhaps that alone justified Roatta’s order. But why Carsoli, unless the real purpose of the withdrawal and concentration was to protect the Via Tiburtina, the King’s escape route?27

Carboni’s chief of staff, Colonel Salvi, was bitterly critical of Roatta’s order. He started to rail against it, but Carboni cut him short. Carboni directed Salvi to prepare orders to the division commanders for the withdrawal to the Tivoli area and asserted that he himself intended to go there immediately as ordered.

After going to the Office of Military Intelligence Service to order certain documents destroyed, Carboni went home and changed into civilian clothes. He returned to the Palazzo Caprara to look once more for Roatta, went a second time

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to his office in the intelligence bureau, then drove toward Tivoli. His son, who was a captain, and two other junior officers accompanied him. To avoid difficulties from Fascist or German elements along the road, Carboni’s automobile bore diplomatic license plates. There were no incidents, and shortly before 0800, the party reached Tivoli.28

In Rome, Colonel Salvi, upon Carboni’s departure, went to pieces. Though he prepared the detailed orders for the withdrawal to Tivoli, he did not issue them. Suspecting that Carboni was going to Tivoli not to set up a headquarters but to join the King in escape, Salvi tried to get Roatta’s order revoked. At 0730 he went to General Utili, who would soon leave the capital, showed Utili Roatta’s order, declared that Carboni was dead, and asked who would sign the orders to the division commanders. Utili suggested that Salvi get the senior division commander to do so.

Salvi returned to his office and burst into tears. Embracing a captain who entered, he cried: “We are abandoned by everybody!” With tears streaming down his face, he told the commander of the Granatieri Division: “The cowards! They have all escaped and left me alone!” To everyone he saw, he shouted that Carboni had gone off with the King and Badoglio. Though he managed to inform two division commanders by telephone of the withdrawal movement, he appealed to them at the same time to get Roatta’s order nullified.

Salvi finally determined to call up the senior division commander, Generale di Divisione Conte Carlo Calvi di Bergolo, the King’s son-in-law, who commanded the Centauro Division. Carboni, Salvi said, could not be found; would Calvi di Bergolo take responsibility for the defense of Rome? Would Salvi, Calvi di Bergolo countered, put his statement and request in writing? Salvi declined. Calvi di Bergolo then said that he had no authority to assume command of the Motorized Corps and that the order for withdrawal must be confirmed.

Only then did Salvi issue, without equivocation, the order to withdraw to Tivoli. But by then, time had elapsed, making the maneuver infinitely more complicated. Furthermore, as the result of his antics, Salvi had disseminated distrust and pessimism in the minds of the troop commanders around Rome.29


In North Africa, no one knew that the Italian Government had fled Rome.

Having flown to North Africa with General Taylor and Colonel Gardiner, Rossi arrived at El Aouina airfield at 1905, 8 September, forty minutes before Badoglio went on the air. The Allies took Rossi to Castellano, who asked him why he had come to AFHQ. To obtain a postponement of the armistice announcement, Rossi explained. Furthermore, he had documents to show why a postponement was necessary. His shock was genuine when he learned that Badoglio had confirmed the surrender.

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The Allies then took Rossi and Castellano to Eisenhower. Rossi explained the difficulties of proclaiming the armistice at the same time that the Allies launched their invasion; he explained the advantages, both to the Allies as well as to the Italians, that would have been gained if the armistice announcement had been delayed.30

These arguments, and the “documents of fundamental importance,” were by now an old story to the Allied commander in chief. From the first meeting with Castellano in Lisbon, the Allies had stipulated in accordance with instructions from the Combined Chiefs of Staff that the announcement of the armistice was to precede the main invasion by a few hours. There had been no subsequent divergence from that condition.

General Eisenhower listened patiently to Rossi despite the irritation he must have felt. When Rossi charged Eisenhower with “anticipating” the date of the armistice announcement because he distrusted the Italians, General Eisenhower, according to Rossi’s later recollection, replied: “But we were enemies until two hours ago. How could we have had faith in you?”

At the end of the discussion, Eisenhower sought to establish mutual good faith as the basis for cooperation. “If some mistake has been made,” he said, “we ought now to accept the situation as it is.” No more than a courteous statement recognizing the lack of complete Italian understanding of Allied plans, the remark was an invitation to look forward. The Italians interpreted the sentence as an admission of error, as conceding that Eisenhower had, in actuality, advanced the date of the announcement.31

All the Italians involved in the surrender negotiations believed that the Allies had “agreed to,” “suggested,” or “indicated” a specific time for the surrender announcement and had then advanced the date. But the Italians displayed a lack of unanimity on the date allegedly given by the Allies. Badoglio expected the time to be the 12th or 15th of September; Roatta the 12th, as did Zanussi; Carboni awaited the 20th or the 25th.32

Prime Minister Churchill, speaking in the House of Commons on 21 September 1943, seemed to confirm the Italian belief when he said: “The date, which had originally been the 15th, was, however, in fact brought forward to the 9th—the night of the 8th and 9th.”33 In this remark Mr. Churchill was answering the charge, raised in Parliament and in the British press, that the Allies had been slow in taking advantage of Mussolini’s downfall. Precisely what Churchill had in mind was not clear. Perhaps he was referring to the belief at AFHQ during the earliest stages of the AVALANCHE planning that shortages of landing craft appeared to make it necessary to have a longer time interval between BAYTOWN (the Strait of Messina crossing) and the assault landings at Salerno.

Yet the only significant change in the Allied time schedule occurred between the preliminary planning in June and the final

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planning started in early August. In June, the earliest date for an invasion of the Italian mainland had appeared to be 1 October. In early August, when it appeared the Sicilian Campaign would be short, an earlier invasion date seemed feasible.

The Allies decided on the timing for the Italian invasion before the Italians had made significant contact with them. On 9 August, AFHQ forecast AVALANCHE for 7 September. On 16 August, three days before the first meeting with Castellano in Lisbon, AFHQ scheduled the Salerno invasion, AVALANCHE, for 9 September. No sudden change in schedule to surprise or take advantage of the Italians was ever made.