28
Apr
09

On This Day, April 28: Benito Mussolini

April 28, 1945

Mussolini is executed

On this day in 1945, “Il Duce,” Benito Mussolini, and his mistress, Clara Petacci, are shot by Italian partisans who had captured the couple as they attempted to flee to Switzerland.

The 61-year-old deposed former dictator of Italy was established by his German allies as the figurehead of a puppet government in northern Italy during the German occupation toward the close of the war. As the Allies fought their way up the Italian peninsula, defeat of the Axis powers all but certain, Mussolini considered his options. Not wanting to fall into the hands of either the British or the Americans, and knowing that the communist partisans, who had been fighting the remnants of roving Italian fascist soldiers and thugs in the north, would try him as a war criminal, he settled on escape to a neutral country.

He and his mistress made it to the Swiss border, only to discover that the guards had crossed over to the partisan side. Knowing they would not let him pass, he disguised himself in a Luftwaffe coat and helmet, hoping to slip into Austria with some German soldiers. His subterfuge proved incompetent, and he and Petacci were discovered by partisans and shot, their bodies then transported by truck to Milan, where they were hung upside down and displayed publicly for revilement by the masses.

“Mussolini is executed,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=54053 [accessed Apr 28, 2009]

On This Day

0357 – Constantius II visited Rome for the first time.

1282 – Villagers in Palermo led a revolt against French rule in Sicily.

1788 – Maryland became the seventh state to ratify the U.S. constitution.

1818 – U.S. President James Monroe proclaimed naval disarmament on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain.

1910 – First night air flight was performed by Claude Grahame-White in England.

1919 – The League of Nations was founded.

1932 – The yellow fever vaccine for humans was announced.

1946 – The Allies indicted Tojo with 55 counts of war crimes.

1947 – Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl and five others set out in a balsa wood craft known as Kon Tiki to prove that Peruvian Indians could have settled in Polynesia. The trip began in Peru and took 101 days to complete the crossing of the Pacific Ocean.

1952 – The U.S. occupation of Japan officially ended when a treaty with the U.S. and 47 other countries went into effect.

1967 – Muhammad Ali refused induction into the U.S. Army and was stripped of boxing title. He sited religious grounds for his refusal.

1974 – The last Americans were evacuated from Saigon.

1997 – A worldwide treaty to ban chemical weapons took effect. Russia and other countries such as Iraq and North Korea did not sign.

April 28, 1969

De Gaulle resigns as leader of France

Following the defeat of his proposals for constitutional reform in a national referendum, Charles de Gaulle resigns as president of France.

A veteran of World War I, de Gaulle unsuccessfully petitioned his country to modernize its armed forces between the wars. After Henri Petain and other French leaders signed an armistice with Nazi Germany in June 1940, he fled to London, where he organized the Free French forces and rallied French colonies to the Allied cause. His forces fought successfully in North Africa, and in June 1944 he was named head of the French government in exile. On August 26, following the Allied invasion of France, de Gaulle entered Paris in triumph. Three months later, he was unanimously elected provisional president of France.

He resigned in January 1946, however, claiming he lacked sufficient governing power. De Gaulle formed a new political party that had only moderate electoral success, and in 1953 he retired. However, five years later, a military and civilian revolt in Algeria created a political crisis in France, and he was called out of retirement to lead the nation. A new constitution was passed, and in late December he was elected president of the Fifth Republic.

During the next decade, President de Gaulle granted independence to Algeria and attempted to restore France to its former international stature by withdrawing from the U.S.-dominated NATO alliance and promoting the development of French atomic weapons. However, student demonstrations and workers’ strikes in 1968 eroded his popular support, and in 1969 his proposals for further constitutional reform were defeated in a national vote. On April 28, 1969, Charles de Gaulle, 79 years old, retired for good. He died the following year.

“De Gaulle resigns as leader of France,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4955 [accessed Apr 28, 2009]

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