Ugo Cavallero
Born20 September 1880
Casale Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy
Died13 September 1943 (aged 62)
Frascati, Lazio, Italy
Allegiance Kingdom of Italy
Service/branch Royal Italian Army
Years of service1900–1943
RankMarshal of Italy
Commands heldChief of the Defence Staff
Battles/warsItalo-Turkish War
World War I
World War II
AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Order of the German Eagle (1st class)

Ugo Cavallero (20 September 1880 – 13 September 1943) was an Italian military commander before and during World War II. He was dismissed from his command due to his lacklustre performance, and was arrested upon the fall of Benito Mussolini's regime. Cavallero was later freed by the Germans, but refused to collaborate and was found dead the following day.


Early life and career

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.[1] A man of vast culture, Cavallero was fluent in both German and English.[2] Still in the army, Cavallero fought in Libya in 1913, during the Italo-Turkish War, and was awarded a Bronze Medal of Military Valor.[3]

In 1907, Cavallero was initiated in the regular Masonic Lodge "Dante Alighieri" of Turin, which was affiliated to the Grand Orient of Italy.[4] Subsequently, he become a member of the Scottish Rite Serenenissima Gran Loggia d'Italia located in Rome, where on 15 August 1918 he received the 33rd and highest degree.[5]

World War I

In 1915, Cavallero was transferred to the Italian Supreme Command. A skilled 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

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

Field-Marshal Erwin Rommel (left) during a meeting with Ugo Cavallero (second from the right). General Ettore Bastico is visible next to him (first from the right).

After Italy entered World War II, on 6 December 1940 Cavallero replaced Pietro Badoglio as Chief of the Defence Staff. Shortly after his appointment, Cavallero 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.[6] In the meantime, his role as Chief of Staff was filled by General Alfredo Guzzoni.

On 15 and 19 May 1941 Cavallero, submitted proposals for the Stato Maggiore's complete reorganization to Mussolini. This was implemented in June. The Stato Maggiore Generale was redesignated Comando Supremo, made more efficient and transformed from a mere advisory body into a true military high command.[7] Under Cavallero, the Comando Supremo maintained good relations with Oberbefehlshaber Süd, the command of German forces in Italy. Cavallero worked closely with German Field Marshal Albert Kesselring; however 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, shared by Kesselring and Rintelen, was however discounted by Hitler and Mussolini.[8] Cavallero was promoted to Marshal of Italy on 1 July 1942, soon after the promotion of Rommel to Field Marshal (largely to prevent Rommel from out-ranking him).[9] 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 meagre resources.[2]

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.[10] 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 letter written in his own defence, Cavallero claimed he had opposed Mussolini and his regime. After the Armistice of Cassibile in September 1943, the Germans freed him. Kesselring offered Cavallero command of the forming armed forces of the Italian Social Republic, but the discovery of the letter led some to question his loyalty.


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 whether he committed suicide or was assassinated by the Germans. It seems, however, that he firmly expressed his will to refuse to continue collaborating with the Germans.[2]


See also


  1. ^ Mitcham, Jr., Samuel W. (2007). Rommel's Desert War: The Life and Death of the Afrika Korps. Stackpole Books. p. 206. ISBN 978-0811734134.
  2. ^ a b c Ceva 1979.
  3. ^ Bianchi 2012, p. 57.
  4. ^ Gnocchini, Vittorio (2005). L'Italia dei Liberi Muratori. Milan-Rome: Mimesis-Erasmo. p. 65.
  5. ^ Pruneti, Luigi (2012). Aquile e Corone, L'Italia il Montenegro e la massoneria dalle nozze di Vittorio Emanuele III ed Elena al governo Mussolini. Florence: Le Lettere. p. 112. OCLC 825554858.
  6. ^ Bianchi 2012, p. 58.
  7. ^ Tucker, Spencer (2003). Who's Who in Twentieth Century Warfare. Routledge. p. 50. ISBN 1134565151.
  8. ^ Sangster, Andrew (2015). Field-Marshal Kesselring: Great Commander or War Criminal?. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 79–81. ISBN 978-1443876766.
  9. ^ Battistelli, Pier Paolo (2021). The Balkans 1940–41 (1). Mussolini's Fatal Blunder in the Greco-Italian War. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 11. ISBN 978-1472842589.
  10. ^ Tucker 2016, p. 101.
  11. ^ Scherzer 2007, p. 258.


  • Ceva, Lucio (1979). "Cavallero, Ugo". Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Volume 22: Castelvetro–Cavallotti (in Italian). Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana. ISBN 978-8-81200032-6.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 – The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
  • Ceva, Lucio (1995). "Il maresciallo Cavallero". Storia Militare (in Italian). III (19): 4–12. ISSN 1122-5289.
  • 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.
  • Bianchi, Andrea (2012). Gli Ordini militari di Savoia e d'Italia (in Italian). Associazione Nazionale Alpini. ISBN 978-88-902153-3-9.
  • Tucker, Spencer (2016). World War II: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection. Santa Barbara: ABC CLIO. ISBN 978-1-85109-969-6.