Gladio in Italy

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While "stay-behind" anti-communist networks existed in all NATO countries, the Italian branch of Operation Gladio was the first one to be discovered. It was set up under Minister of Defense (from 1953 to 1958) Paolo Taviani's supervision.[1] Prime minister Giulio Andreotti (DC) publicly recognized it on 24 October 1990, speaking of a "structure of information, response and safeguard", with arms caches and reserve officers.

Giulio Andreotti's revelation[edit]

Prime minister Giulio Andreotti (DC) publicly recognized the existence of Gladio, a NATO stay-behind anti-communist organisation, on 24 October 1990. He gave to the Commissione Stragi, the parliamentary commission led by senator Giovanni Pellegrino in charge of investigations on bombings committed during the years of lead in Italy, a list of 622 civilians who according to him were part of Gladio. Andreotti also assured that 127 weapons caches had been dismantled, and claimed that Gladio had not been involved in any of the bombings committed from the 1960s to the 1980s (further evidence implicated neofascists linked to Gladio, in particular concerning the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing, the 1972 Peteano attack by Vincenzo Vinciguerra, the 1980 Bologna massacre in which SISMI officers were condemned for investigation diversion, along with Licio Gelli, head of Propaganda Due masonic lodge, etc.). Andreotti declared that the Italian military services (predecessors of the current SISMI had joined in 1964 the Allied Clandestine Committee created in 1957 by the US, France, Belgium and Greece, and which was in charge of directing Gladio's operations.[2] However, Gladio was actually set up under Minister of Defense (from 1953 to 1958) Paolo Taviani (DC) 's supervision.[1]

Vincenzo Vinciguerra, a far-right terrorist, had already revealed Gladio's existence during his 1984 trial. Gladio was involved in the "strategy of tension" (Italian: strategia della tensione) during the "lead years", which started with Piazza Fontana bombing in December 1969. Thirty years later, during a trial of right-wing extremists, General Giandelio Maletti, former head of Italian counter-intelligence, claimed that the massacre had been carried out by the Italian stay-behind army and right wing terrorists on orders of the CIA in order to discredit the Italian Communist Party (PCI).

After the discovery by judge Felice Casson of documents on Gladio in the archives of the Italian military secret service in Rome, Giulio Andreotti, head of Italian government, revealed to the Chamber of deputies the existence of "Operazione Gladio" on 24 October 1990, insisting that Italy has not been the only country with secret "stay-behind" armies. He made clear that "each chief of government had been informed of the existence of Gladio". Former Socialist Prime Minister Bettino Craxi claimed that he had not been informed until he was confronted with a document on Gladio signed by himself while he was Prime Minister. Former Prime Minister Giovanni Spadolini (Republican Party), at the time President of the Senate, and former Prime Minister Arnaldo Forlani, at the time secretary of the ruling Christian Democratic Party claimed they remembered nothing. Spadolini stressed that there was a difference between what he knew as former Defence Secretary and what he knew as former Prime Minister. Only former Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga (DC) confirmed Andreotti's revelations, explaining that he was even "proud and happy" for his part in setting up Gladio as junior Defence Minister of the Christian Democratic Party. This lit up a political storm, requests were made for Cossiga's (Italian President since 1985) resignation or impeachment for high treason. He refused testifying to the investigating Senate committee. Cossiga narrowly escaped his impeachment by stepping down on April 1992, three months before his term expired.[3]

In addition to preparing for a Soviet invasion, the stay-behind also was to act in case of a communist government being elected in Italy. Since Italy was the country most likely to vote into power a communist government (with the communist party receiving up to 36% of the popular vote, being at times the strongest party in parliament), the Italian branch of Gladio also became the largest NATO "stay-behind" organization.[citation needed]

1969 Piazza Fontana bombing and others massacres[edit]

1969 Piazza Fontana bombing, which started Italy's anni di piombo, and the 1974 "Italicus Expressen" train bombing were also alleged to be committed by Gladio operatives. According to Avanguardia Nazionale member Vincenzo Vinciguerra: "The December 1969 explosion was supposed to be the detonator which would have convinced the politic and military authorities to declare a state of emergency".[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Philip Willan, Paolo Emilio Taviani, The Guardian, 21 June 2001 (obituary)
  2. ^ Gladio: et la France?, in L'Humanité, 10 November 1990 (French) (See for machine translation)
  3. ^ Daniele Ganser, "The Secret Side of International Relations: An approach to NATO's stay-behind armies in Western Europe" - Political Studies Association Conference, Leeds, United Kingdom. 7 April 2005, 66pp at the Wayback Machine (archived February 5, 2012)
  4. ^ Piazza Fontana anniversary in La Repubblica

Further reading[edit]