Graziani, Rodolfo

(1882–1955)
   Born in Frosinone just south of Rome, Graziani finished World War I as a colonel but left army service for private life after that war. He returned to active duty in 1922 and was sent to Libya, where he coordinated efforts at putting down Senussi irregulars, who had effectively slowed Italian colonization. By 1930, he had hanged their leaders in front of what remained of their clans after 60,000 of their number had been killed. When he returned to Italy in 1934, it was as a general commanding an army corps.
   In the following year, he was sent to Ethiopiato prepare the attack on that country. His brutal success in subduing the Ethiopian forces—including the use of poison gas—led to his promotion to marshal. In 1936, he replaced his archrival, Pietro Badoglio, as viceroy of Ethiopia. When Graziani was repatriated in 1937, he was styled Marquis of Neghelli.
   In 1939, Graziani became chief of the General Staff, and in 1940 he was put in command of Italian forces in North Africa. They numbered over 300,000 but were still equipped with rifles of an 1891 design and had but 160 aircraft at their disposal. Accustomed to putting down nomadic tribesmen and inordinately proud of having been the first commander ever to use armored vehicles in the desert, Graziani realized too late that the party placemen around him in command positions were lacking in military experience. Far less numerous British and Commonwealth forces (two divisions faced Graziani’s 10) were better led and far better organized, so much so that early in January 1941 they forced Graziani to retreat so rapidly that he was relieved of his duties and summoned to Rome by a Commission of Inquiry.
   Deprived of his command, Graziani resumed private life until September 1943, when he rejoined Benito Mussolini in the Republic of Salo, in which he served as defense minister. On being captured by the advancing Allies, he avoided execution but was tried by Italian courts in 1948 and sentenced to 19 years’imprisonment for “collaboration with the German invader.” Amnestied after just five years, he became honorary president of the Movimento Sociale Italiano/ Italian Social Movement (MSI). He died in 1955 in Rome.
   See also Libya.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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