Ugo Cavallero

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Ugo Cavallero
Ugo Cavallero
Born September 20, 1880
Casale Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy
Died September 13, 1943 (aged 62)
Frascati, Lazio, Italy
Allegiance  Kingdom of Italy
Service/branch  Royal Italian Army
Years of service 1900–1943
Rank Marshal of Italy
Commands held Chief of the Defence Staff
Battles/wars Italo-Turkish War
World War I
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Ugo Cavallero (September 20, 1880 – September 13, 1943) was an Italian military commander before and during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded by the Third Reich to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.


Born in Casale Monferrato, 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 Libya in 1913, during the Italo-Turkish War, and was awarded a Bronze Medal for Military Valor.

World War I[edit]

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 Piave and Vittorio Veneto 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[edit]

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[edit]

Cavallero with Erwin Rommel.

After Italy entered World War II, on 6 December 1940 Cavallero replaced Pietro Badoglio as Capo di Stato Maggiore Generale; shortly after, he was sent to command the Italian forces involved in the unsuccessful Greco-Italian War until the spring of 1941. While he managed to halt the Greek advance, Cavallero was unable to break the stalemate until the German intervention. In the meantime, his role as Chief of Staff was filled by General Alfredo Guzzoni.

As Chief of the Italian Supreme Command, Cavallero worked closely with German Field Marshal Albert Kesselring; he had a rather conflicting relationship with Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, whose advance into Egypt after his success at the Battle of Gazala he opposed, advocating instead the planned invasion of Malta; his opinion was however discounted. Under Cavallero’s leadership, Italy’s military forces continued to perform rather 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 (largely to prevent Rommel to claim rank before him). Despite having a good grasp on the problems inherent to the war in the Mediterranean that Italy had to fight, his acquiescence to Mussolini's views (for example his insistence on augmenting the Italian contingent fighting on the Eastern Front) led to a fatal dispersion of Italy's meager resources.

In January 1943, after the definitive loss of the African campaign and the setbacks suffered by the Italian army in Russia, Cavallero was dismissed and replaced by General Vittorio Ambrosio. In response to Cavallero's dismissal, members of the Fascist leadership like Galeazzo Ciano, openly hostile to him, openly expressed their satisfaction.

After Mussolini’s government was toppled by the King, the newly appointed Prime Minister Pietro Badoglio ordered the arrest of Cavallero. In a document written in own defense, Cavallero claimed the merit of having opposed Mussolini and his regime. After Italy surrendered in September 1943, he was freed by the Germans, and was offered by Kesselring the command of the forming armed forces of the Repubblica Sociale Italiana, but the finding of the letter led to some suspicions.

In the morning of 14 September 1943, he was found dead by a gunshot in the garden of a hotel in Frascati, after having dined and talked with Kesselring the night before; it is still up to debate wheter he committed suicide or was assassinated by the Germans. It seems however that he expressed firmly his will to refuse collaborating with the Germans.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Scherzer 2007, p. 258.


  • Ceva, Lucio. "Cavallero, Ugo". Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (in Italian). Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die 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 [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.