Emilio De Bono

Emilio De Bono (19 March 1866 – 11 January 1944) was an Italian general, fascist activist, marshal, war criminal, and member of the Fascist Grand Council (Gran Consiglio del Fascismo). De Bono fought in the Italo-Turkish War, the First World War and the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. He was one of the key figures behind Italy's anti-partisan policies in Libya, such as the use of poison gas and concentration camps, which resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians and have been described as genocidal.[1]

Emilio De Bono
Emilio De Bono.jpg
De Bono in 1937
Minister of the Colonies
In office
12 September 1929 – 17 January 1935
MonarchVictor Emmanuel III
Preceded byBenito Mussolini (act.)
Succeeded byBenito Mussolini (act.)
Governor of Tripolitania
In office
3 July 1925 – 18 December 1928
Preceded byGiuseppe Volpi
Succeeded byPietro Badoglio
Governor of Eritrea
In office
18 January 1935 – 22 November 1935
Preceded byOttone Gabeli (act.)
Succeeded byPietro Badoglio
Personal details
Born(1866-03-19)19 March 1866
Cassano d'Adda, Lombardia, Italy
Died11 January 1944(1944-01-11) (aged 77)
Verona, Veneto, Italian Social Republic
Cause of deathExecution by firing squad
Political partyNational Fascist Party
Alma materScuola Militare Teulié
Military Academy of Modena
Military service
Allegiance Kingdom of Italy (1915–1943)
Branch/service Royal Italian Army
Years of service1884–1920; 1935–1943
RankMarshal of Italy
Battles/warsItalo-Ethiopian War of 1887–1889
Italo-Turkish War
World War I
Second Italo-Ethiopian War
World War II

Early life and careerEdit

De Bono was born in Cassano d'Adda, a son of Giovanni de Bono and descendant of the Counts of Barlassina, and Elisa Bazzi. His family "suffered under the Austrian yoke".[2] He entered the Royal Italian Army (Regio Esercito) in 1884 as a second lieutenant, fought in the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1887-1889, and had worked his way up to the General Staff by the start of the Italo-Turkish War in 1911. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Military Order of Savoy for his conduct during the war.

De Bono then fought in the First World War in which he distinguished himself against Austria-Hungary on the Karst Plateau in 1915 (as Colonel in the Bersaglieri corps), in the capture of Gorizia in 1916 (as commander of the "Trapani" Infantry Brigade), in the Second Battle of the Piave River in June 1918 and in the battle of Monte Grappa in October 1918 (as commander of the IX Army Corps). He was also the author of a popular patriotic song, Monte Grappa tu sei la mia patria ("Mount Grappa, you are my Fatherland"). During the war he was awarded three Silver Medals of Military Valour; in 1920, he was discharged with the rank of Major General.[3][4]

Fascist supportEdit

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

After the march, De Bono served as Chief of Police and Commander of the Fascist Militia.

In 1925, De Bono was tried for his role in the 1924 death of the leftist politician Giacomo Matteotti. De Bono refused to implicate his superiors and was unexpectedly acquitted in 1925. Later that year, De Bono was appointed governor of Tripolitania, in Libya. De Bono was one of the key figures behind Italy's anti-partisan policies in Libya, such as poison gas and concentration camps, which resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians and have been described as genocidal.

In 1929, De Bono was appointed Minister of Colonial Affairs, also referred to as the Minister of Colonies. In 1932, King Victor Emmanuel III and De Bono visited Eritrea.[5]

Second Italo-Ethiopian WarEdit

In November 1932, at Benito Mussolini's request, De Bono wrote a plan for an invasion of Ethiopia. The plan outlined a traditional mode of penetration: a relatively-small force would move gradually southward from Eritrea, establish strong bases and then advance against increasingly weak and disorganised opponents. The invasion that De Bono envisioned would be cheap, easy, safe and slow.[6]

Mussolini separately involved the Army in planning, and over the next two years, the army developed its own massive campaign, which would involve five to six times the number of troops as required by De Bono. In 1934, Mussolini pulled the uncoordinated plans together into one that emphasized the military's idea of full-scale war.[7]

In 1935, De Bono became Supreme Commander of the Italian operation against Ethiopia during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War. De Bono was appointed because Mussolini wanted the victory in Ethiopia to be not just an Italian victory but also a fascist, hence the appointment of a well-known fascist general. In addition, he was Commander-in-Chief of the forces invading from Italian-held Eritrea on what was known as the "northern front". De Bono had under his direct command a force of nine army divisions in three corps: the Italian I Corps, the Italian II Corps and the Eritrean Corps.[8]

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

On 8 November, the I Corps and the Eritrean Corps captured Mek'ele, which was to be the limit of Italian advances under De Bono. Increasing world pressure on Mussolini brought a need for fast glittering victories, and he was not prepared to hear of obstacles or delays.[9]

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

Second World WarEdit

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

In 1940, De Bono commanded a southern defense corps headquartered in Sicily and was opposed to the Italian entry into the Second World War; he filed a scathing report about the condition of the troops in Sicily, pointing out that the "mobile battalions" were not mobile at all, and harshly criticizing both the Maritime Artillery Militia and the Anti-Aircraft Defense Militia.[3] However, he kept a low profile and in 1942 was appointed Minister of State.

On 24 and 25 July 1943, De Bono was one of the members of the Grand Council of Fascism who voted to oust Benito Mussolini when Dino Grandi, put a nonconfidence motion to the vote of the Grand Council of Fascism. That led the King to get rid of the dictator, ordering his arrest and imprisonment.

Later in 1943, Mussolini was freed by Nazi Germany during the Gran Sasso raid and installed in Northern Italy as head of a new state, the Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana, RSI). Mussolini had De Bono and others who voted against him arrested and tried for treason at Verona in what became known as the "Verona trial".[10]

On 11 January 1944, the 77-year-old De Bono was executed by firing squad at Verona. He was shot along with Galeazzo Ciano, Luciano Gottardi, Giovanni Marinelli and Carlo Pareschi. Ciano was the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mussolini's son-in-law. Gottardi was the former president of the Fascist Confederation of Industrial workers. Marinelli was the former chief of the Fascist militia and Pareschi was the former Agriculture Minister. The only person on trial who escaped from capital punishment was Tullio Cianetti, the Minister of Corporations, who was sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment by the RSI judges.[10] De Bono and the other condemned, tied to chairs as it was in use in Italy, suffered the humiliation of being shot in the back as traitors. After hearing the sentence, De Bono reportedly remarked "You barely got me; I am seventy-eight", but later complained about being shot in the back, which he considered a stain to his honour as a soldier.[11][12]

Personal lifeEdit

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

His siblings were Edmondo, Agostino, Constanza, Gerardo and Marella. He had no children.

In popular cultureEdit

In Florestano Vancini's film The Assassination of Matteotti (1973), De Bono is played by Mario Maffei.


From the article in the Italian Wikipedia

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ John Gooch: Re-conquest and Suppression: Fascist Italy’s Pacification of Libya and Ethiopia, 1922–39. In: Journal of Strategic Studies, Band 28, Nr. 6, 2005, S. 1005–1032, hier S. 1009; Aram Mattioli: Experimentierfeld der Gewalt. Der Abessinienkrieg und seine internationale Bedeutung 1935–1941. Zürich 2005, S. 42–45.
  2. ^ De Bono, Laguerra, p. 302
  3. ^ a b "Emilio De Bono". ANPI.
  4. ^ "La Canzone del Grappa compie 90 anni".
  5. ^ Mockler. Haile Sellassie's War, p. 27
  6. ^ Baer, Test Case: Italy, Ethiopia, and the League of Nations, p. 12
  7. ^ Baer, Test Case: Italy, Ethiopia, and the League of Nations, p. 13
  8. ^ Barker, A. J., The Rape of Ethiopia 1936, p. 33
  9. ^ Barker, A. J., The Rape of Ethiopia 1936, p. 36
  10. ^ a b Bosworth, R. J. B., Mussolini's Italy, p. 514
  11. ^ Biagi, Enzo (18 August 2011). I quattordici mesi. Rizzoli. ISBN 9788858600214 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ "25 luglio 1943: la caduta del fascismo e i suoi protagonisti". Panorama. 25 July 2017.


  • Baer, George W. (1976). Test Case: Italy, Ethiopia, and the League of Nations. Stanford, California: Hoover Institute Press, Stanford University. ISBN 0-8179-6591-2.
  • Barker, A.J. (1971). Rape of Ethiopia, 1936. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-02462-6.
  • Bosworth, R.J.B. (2005). Mussolini's Italy: Life Under the Fascist Dictatorship, 1915-1945. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-303856-6.
  • Mockler, Anthony (2003). Haile Sellassie's war. New York: Olive Branch Press. ISBN 978-1-56656-473-1.
  • Nicolle, David (1997). The Italian Invasion of Abyssinia 1935-1936. Westminster: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-85532-692-7.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by Italian Minister of the Colonies
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of Tripolitania
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of Eritrea
Succeeded by