Italy Betrayed

Title:                      Italy Betrayed

Author:                Peter Tompkins

Tompkins, Peter (1966). Italy Betrayed. New York: Simon and Schuster

LCCN:    66021823

D763.I8 T58


Date Posted:      February 28, 2017

Caveat. Perpendat itaque lector cavendum (civilis).[1]

From the New York Times[2]

Some barely flickering embers in Italy‘s political fireplace may get a touch of the bellows next month [September 1966] when a book called Italy Betrayed is published in New York It is by Peter Tompkins, a U.S. intelligence agent in Rome prior to its liberation in June 1944.


Tompkins contends King Victor Emmanuel and Field Marshal Badoglio, who became Chief of Government after disgruntled Fascists ousted Mussolini in 1943, double-crossed the Germans, the Allies and the Italian people when arranging to quit the Axis, Tompkins writes:

“Victor Emmanuel, fully aware that he and his coterie were responsible for the war against the Allies, and knowing that the anti-Fascists intended to hold them responsible for these actions, considered their best hope not only to get safely onto the Allied side without annoying the Germans, but better still to do so by abandoning to the German terror the anti-Fascists who were such a thorn in their side—thousands of whom, including the most gallant leaders, were to be caught and shot by the S.S. while the Royalists took refuge with the Allies, counting as they could on the naiveté and counter-revolutionary phobia of the Allies to support them.”

The Italian monarchist movement has dwindled to nothingness and the last brief ruler, Umberto, Victor Emmanuel’s heir, inhabits the tiny regal enclave near Lisbon where several dispossessed or aspiring sovereigns have recently chosen to dream royal dreams.

Nevertheless, in an understandable attempt to add luster to their tormented World War II role, conservative Italians have sought to incorporate into the national myth a pleasant version of the Victor Emmanuel-Badoglio plot that took Italy from one belligerent camp to the other and established a provisional government under the Field Marshal which even Moscow recognized.

Tompkins writes: “The personal files of Mussolini, captured by the Allies at the end of World War II but only recently declassified, show Badoglio not only to have been a grafting lackey of Fascism for a good twenty years, but to have had a military dossier that was far from savory.”

He claims Badoglio—then commanding a corps—was principally responsible for Italy’s greatest World War I defeat at Caporetto but, “as was to be the case with his abandonment of Rome on Sept. 9 (1943), Badoglio got off scot-free by having history rewritten to suit his needs.”

Tompkins asserts Victor Emmanuel was pro-Fascist to the end, when this did not interfere with his personal safety, and quotes him as telling his physician subsequent to Il Duce’s fall: “Mussolini can still be useful. After a few years’ pause he’ll return to power.” Tompkins depicts the King-Badoglio switch to the Allies as particularly sordid, focused on their own personal escape with a few friends.


He claims both leaders promised Hitler’s Ambassador they had no intention of breaking the German alliance and adds: “It was true. All they wanted was to escape!” He says that a week after the armistice whose secret clauses committed Italy to becoming an Allied co-belligerent, Badoglio said: “It was our intention to lay down our arms and abstain from hostilities against anyone.”

Thanks to what Tompkins labels a “royal betrayal,” the author argues some ninety Italian divisions in and out of Italy were pulverized, and the Germans took over the northern two-thirds of this country plus the Balkans where there were large Italian garrisons.

For Tompkins’ “the whole royalist plot” was “simply a device to get from the German to the Allied side without firing a shot—and, more important, without having one fired at them”

The Most Valuable Trump

He cites arguments that Victor Emmanuel and Badoglio made a deal following announcement of the armistice under which the high command would not defend Rome against the Nazis, would not issue resistance commands to the troops in Italy and he Balkans, and would not bring with them to the Allies that valuable trump, the still-imprisoned Mussolini.

The tale is dirty and the implications far-reaching. Certainly the royal family had lost most of its popularity by the time Umberto was forced out by public opinion, and the monarchist movement has never since succeeded in capturing much support. This account helps explain why.


This dramatic, easily-read and entertaining history of Italy from the fall of Mussolini to the Allied invasion is by Peter Tompkins, author of The Murder of Admiral Darlan (1965)[4] and A Spy in Rome (1962)[5]. He uses both documentary evidence and personal experiences to recount how poor Italy suffered through the Duce’s disposal and the betrayal of the King and his ministers. The Badoglio interim government was manned by Fascists even smaller in mind than Mussolini. Their counter-plots and double dealings concerning efforts to make a separate armistice with the Allies—while the German army closed in on them across the Alps—go on while Italy flounders through a year of the King’s collusion. When he and his cohorts flee—thus the betrayal—leaving Italy between the pincers of Germany and the Invasion Force, the rape of Italia, as Peter Tompkins sees it, is complete. Good history need not remain neutral. Tompkins’ observations, based on his presence as an OSS agent at the fall of the Badoglio government, prove that. It makes him a passionate partisan and that passion informs the pages of this account.

[1] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance — at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]

[2] C. L. Sulzberger, “Foreign Affairs: Footnote to a Sordid Tale,” The New York Times (August 19, 1966, p. 32).

[3] Kirkus, downloaded February 28, 2017

[4] Tompkins, Peter (1965). The Murder of Admiral Darlan, A Study In Conspiracy. New York, Simon and Schuster

[5] Tompkins, Peter (1962). A Spy in Rome. New York: Simon and Schuster

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One Response to Italy Betrayed

  1. Pingback: OSS—The U.S. Office of Strategic Service, Chapter 18 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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