MILAN, April 29, 1945, Italian Patriots executed Benito Mussolini. Saturday, and Sunday a howling mob is kicking and spitting on his remains lying in the center of this city where Italian Fascism was born.
Mussolini’s face wears a disdainful snarl. He died shouting “No! No!” to a firing squad which took his life, and that of his mistress, near the village of Dongo on Lake Como near the Swiss border at 4:10 p.m.
The body was taken by truck to Milan and dumped in the city’s square. The bullet penetrated Mussolini’s bald head through the left forehead and passed entirely through it, tearing out part of the skull above and behind the right ear. The brains which took Fascist Italy into the war ooze onto the filth of a dirt plot in the center of Milan.
Along with Mussolini, the Patriots killed his mistress, Claretta Petacci, and 16 other Fascists, many of them members of his cabinet. The bodies of all were brought to Milan, which American Fifth Army troops, under Lieutenant General Mark Wayne Clark, entered Sunday. A mob of more than 5.000 persons immediately set upon the corpses marking the final end to Fascism which carried Italy to its doom.
One woman reportedly fired five shots into Mussolini’s body, crying: “Five shots for my five assassinated sons!” All bodies were strewn about a small area. A few Patriot guards tried to hold the crowds back but the guards were shoved back so that they stepped on the bodies.
While I was examining the remains Sunday, the crowd surged forward and almost shoved me atop the body. Partisan guards began firing into the air and some semblance of control was regained.
Early in the morning, when the bodies were dumped into the square, Mussolini’s head had rested on the breast of his dead mistress . Her body had several bullet holes in the chest. Blood stains showed crimson on the dainty white blouse with lace ruffles, which miraculously had escaped most of the muck and filth which covered the bodies of Mussolini and the others.
Her dark, curly hair had been dragged in the wet soil.
Signorina Petacci was about 25 years of age. She was the daughter of a Rome doctor. Mussolini met her on a beach in 1939 and built a large villa for her outside Rome and, with his influence, tried to make her a motion picture star but she failed in that venture. The mistress was arrested after Mussolini was ousted as premier in July, 1943, but the Germans rescued her and she joined Mussolini in Northern Italy.
Mussolini’s face was ashen gray. His dark jowls hung loosely. He wore a nondescript military jacket and gray riding breeches of the Italian militia, which had a tiny red stripe down the sides.
But the air of splendor which once surrounded the blacksmith’s son who rose to become the world’s first dictator was gone. His body, which had been manhandled many times, was covered with grime. He wore high black boots but there was no luster left in their polish.
Civilians spat on the bodies. Occasionally someone would break from the crowd and run across them, making sure that he tramped on Il Duce. The story leading up to Mussolini’s capture and execution was told to me by a Partisan leader whose battle name is “Eduardo.” He commanded Italian Patriots south of the Po River.
“I had heard Mussolini had been arrested and taken to a villa near Dongo,” he said. “I was in command of 2,000 men in Milan Province and none of us wanted Mussolini to be freed or to escape to Switzerland, so I sent 10 men with an officer to Dongo.
“Mussolini, in a German uniform, was in a cottage on a hill outside Dongo with his mistress. When he saw the Italian officers coming toward him he thought they had come to free him and he threw his arms happily around the woman.
“When he was told that he was going to be tried he was shocked. But our men under an officer gave them both a trial and condemned them to death. “When he heard the death sentence Mussolini cried: “Let me save my life and I will give you an empire!”
“However, the trial committee – from the 52nd Garibaldi Brigade and an officer from the Milan Partisan Command – continued their plans for the execution almost immediately. “Mussolini and Petacci were shot together at the cottage. “When the soldiers were about to shoot, Mussolini cried, ‘No! No!’ Those were his last words. “He did not wear a blindfold. “The jury some hours later examined the other Fascists and my men shot them all together in the Dongo town square. Among them was the brother of Mistress Petacci. When they were led out to be shot, Petacci tried to escape but she was shot down. “These men died well. Mussolini died badly.”