Ugo Cavallero was born September 20, 1880 in Piedmont, Italy and was a senior Italian commander of World War II. He was most famous for his overly optimistic view of even the worst strategic situations and a generally poor performance in combat.
After attending Scuola Militare, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 59th Infantry Regiment of the Italy Army in 1900. In 1904, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutennant and became an instructor in the Scuola Centrale di Tiro in Parma. In 1911, he completed a college degree in mathematics and completed the course work at Scuola di Guerra. He was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1912, and became a member of the general staff of the Torino Division. In 1913, he fought in Libya during the Italo-Turkish War, and was awarded a Bronze Medal for Military Valor for his bravery during the Battle of Sidi el Garbàa. In 1915, he briefly served with the 1st Alpine Regiment, then in May transferred to the Italian Supreme Command. He was promoted to the rank of Major in Dec 1915. In Aug 1916, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of Military Order of Italy. In Oct 1917, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel, then in Dec 1918, Brigadier General. As an operations chief, he played a major role in the Italian tactics deployed during the Piave and Vittorio Veneto victories during World War I. In Feb 1919, he was nominated the president of the Italian military delegation to the Permanent Inter-Allied Committee in Versailles, but in Jun, he retired to become the general manager of the firm Pirelli.
In 1925, Cavallero returned in support of Prime Minister and Minister of War Benito Mussolini's Under-Secretary. In 1926, he was made a senator. He was promoted to the rank of major general in 1927. After political conflicts with Pietro Badoglio, he retired again, and became the president of the industrial group Ansaldo. He was made a count by the King of Italy. He left Ansaldo in 1933.
In Nov 1937, Cavallero returned to service once again, and was given the rank of Lieutenant General; shortly, he was made the commander of the Combined Italian Forces in East Africa in Jan 1938. He returned to Italy in Apr 1939. He was awarded the Silver Medal for Military Valor and promoted to the rank of General on 10 May 1940. Cavallero became the head of the Italian Supreme Command on 6 Dec 1940 and the commander of Italian forces in Greece on 30 Dec 1940. In 1942, Cavallero opposed Erwin Rommel's expedition into Egypt, and repeatedly complained to Berlin regarding Rommel's disrespect toward the Italian commanders in Rome, but he was ignored. In the same year, he was given the title of Marshal of Italy. In Feb 1943, as Italy began losing ground to the Allies, he was dismissed as the head of the Italian Supreme Command. After Mussolini's government fell in Aug 1943, he was arrested on the orders of Badoglio; he was set free by the king, but he was arrested again by Badoglio. On 27 Aug, he wrote a letter to Badoglio falsifying his hatred for Mussolini and Italian fascism, but the new Italian government ignored it. On 12 Sep 1943, he escaped with the Germans, who intended to make him a military commander in the Italian puppet government that Berlin wished to set up, but the idea was dropped when German intelligence agents found Cavallero's letter in Badoglio's Rome office. With both Rome and Berlin viewing him as a traitor, he committed suicide by taking a pistol to his head. A conspiracy theory exists that his suicide was forced upon him by Germans.
- Ugo Gavallero entry in the World War 2 Database