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Ugo Cavallero (September 20, 1880 – September 13, 1943) was an Italian military commander before and during World War II.


Born in Casale Monferratomarker, Piedmont, Cavallero had a privileged childhood as a member of the Italian nobility.

After attending military school, Cavallero was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in 1900.

Cavallero later attended college and graduated in 1911, earning a degree in mathematics.

Still in the army, Cavallero fought in Libyamarker in 1913, during the Italo-Turkish War, and was awarded a Bronze Medal for Military Valor.

World War I

In 1915, Cavallero was transferred to the Italian Supreme Command. A brilliant organizer and tactician, Cavallero became a Brigadier General and Chief of the Operations Office of the Italian Supreme Command in 1918. In this capacity, Cavallero was instrumental in forming plans that led to Italian victories at Piavemarker and Vittorio Venetomarker during World War I.During his time as chief of the plan of Italian General Staff he developed an antipathy with Pietro Badoglio the Sottocapo di Stato Maggiore ( vice chief of the staff ) of the army.

Interwar period

Cavallero retired from the army in 1919 but later rejoined in 1925, at which time he became Benito Mussolini’s Undersecretary of War. A committed Fascist, Cavallero was made a senator in 1926 and in 1927 became a major general. After leaving the army for a second time, Cavallero became involved in business and diplomatic enterprises throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Cavallero rejoined the army for the third and final time in 1937. Promoted to Lieutenant General, he became Commander of the combined Italian forces in Italian East Africa in 1938 and was made a full General in 1940.

World War II

After Italy entered World War II in June 1940, Cavallero was made the Commander-in-Chief of the Italian Army Group in Albaniamarker. In October, when Italy invaded Greece, he was the commander of the invading Italian forces. In December, he replaced Pietro Badoglio as the Chief of the Italian Supreme Command (Comando Supremo). Italian military activities in Greecemarker remained part of Cavallero's responsibilities and oversight was added immediately of campaigns in the Western Desert and East Africa.

As Chief of the Italian Supreme Command, Cavallero worked closely with Germanmarker Field Marshal Albert Kesselring and often asked for Kesselring’s advice on military matters. Cavallero opposed Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s invasion of Egyptmarker and campaigned for Rommel’s dismissal in 1942. But he was ignored by both Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Under Cavallero’s leadership, Italy’s military forces performed poorly during the war. Nonetheless, he was promoted to Marshal of Italy (Maresciallo d'Italia) in 1942 after the promotion of Rommel to Field Marshal. During his tenure as chief of general staff, his performance were very bad and he become famous for his optimistic view of the course of the war.

In July 1943, after several serious Italian setbacks (such as the Allies’ capture of Libyamarker), Cavallero was dismissed as Chief of the Supreme Command (Commando Supremo) and replaced by Vittorio Ambrosio. In response to Cavallero's dismissal, members of the Fascist leadership like Galeazzo Ciano expressed their joy.

At the same time as Cavallero's dismissal, Mussolini’s government was toppled by the King and newly appointed Prime Minister Pietro Badoglio . Cavallero was arrested by Badoglio for his Fascist and pro-German views. In his own defense, Cavallero wrote a letter to Badoglio claiming he despised Mussolini and Fascism. But Badoglio did not believe him.

In September, when Badoglio’s government surrendered to the Allies, the Germans invaded Romemarker and rescued Cavallero. They planned to make him a commander of Italian military forces still loyal to Fascist ideals. However, the Germans found his anti-Fascist letter in Badoglio’s abandoned office and believed him to be a traitor.

Now hated by both the Germans and by the forces loyal to Badoglio, a desperate Cavallero committed suicide. On 13 September, he shot himself in the head. Whether he did so willingly is still a matter of some debate.


See also


  1. Scherzer 2007, p. 258.


  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.

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