The Barnes Review November/December 2018 (PDF)



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The political philosophy of Benito Mussolini—which inspired German National Socialism and Adolf Hitler—was deeply rooted in his experiences as a heroic soldier in World War I and his opposition to the evils of Marxism he saw growing in Italy. Once a devout Marxist, Mussolini overcame that brainwashing.



We’ve all heard of the “Great Escape” of Allied soldiers from Stalag Luft III during World War II. But few of us have heard of the escape of Hauptmann Franz von Werra, a German pilot who became “the one who got away”—the only German officer to escape from his Allied jailers. Here is his saga.



Just as any patriotic business owners would, the owners of the I.G. Farben industrial company helped their nation during wartime. After Germany lost the war, however, I.G. Farben’s owners and employees were considered war criminals and brought to trial.



The first Allied general to be killed in World War II, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest III gave his life to save his men. His legacy is censored, however, due to the politically incorrect legacy of his great-grandfather.



Lt. Col. Edward Kennedy always loved history. When asked to come up with a military display for Black History month, he decided to honor those blacks who fought for the Confederacy. This is when trouble started.



Twenty-five years after Pearl Harbor, Dr. Harry Elmer Barnes published his analysis of the attack, blaming FDR for orchestrating the attack to get the U.S. into the war. To this day, Barnes’s study cannot be refuted.



They were the only battles of World War II fought on U.S. soil. But few people know the Japanese overran and occupied two strategic islands in the Aleutians.



Her name is synonymous with “traitor,” but Iva Toguri d’Aquino, aka “Tokyo Rose,” though she was charged, convicted and imprisoned, did not deserve her punishment.



We often hear of the white perpetrators of slavery—the shackling of blacks, American Indians and whomever else we can get our hands on. But here is the tale of a white man enslaved by red men of the northwest.



During World War II, U.S. Navy Seabees performed vital construction work for American armed services, sometimes just yards from the enemy in tight quarters. But wielding a weapon in such an environment was difficult, hence the invention of the Haight glove gun.



Recently, President Trump has suggested the formation of the U.S. Space Force, toying with the idea of militarizing space. This issue, we take a look back at Ronald Reagan’s laser-based Strategic Defense Initiative and the moral, financial and ethical ramifications.

Fascism: The Child of WWI

When social evils are allowed to fester during peacetime, they may be smelted into new, redeeming values in the crucible of combat

The political philosophy of Benito Mussolini—which inspired German National Socialism—was deeply rooted in his experiences as a heroic soldier in the first world war and his opposition to the evils of Marxism, overcoming his brainwashing as a young boy.

By Marc Roland

From the moment he came into this world on July 29, 1883, in Dovia di Predappio, Italy, Benito Mussolini was raised as a radical Marxist by his indoctrinating father, Alessandro, who, forbidding the infant’s Christian baptism, named his firstborn instead after an avowed atheist, Mexico’s pinko president, Benito Juárez. Even the boy’s middle names—Andrea and Amilcare—were adopted from those of similarly revered, if now obscure, socialists, Andrea Costa and Amilcare Cipriani.

The fanatical father kept his growing son close as an apprentice to the family blacksmith trade, until, having matured into a young man ready for becoming Alessandro’s ideal Italian apparatchik, the teenage Benito joined Italy’s Socialist Party, in 1901. The following year, fleeing mandatory army service, Benito emigrated to Switzerland. Arriving in Lausanne, he eventually became secretary of the Italian Workers’ Union there, personally con ferred with Vladimir Lenin and was soon after jailed for two weeks on charges of agitating violent general strikes.

During December 1904, he was in Italy again to avoid his in absentia conviction for desertion by taking advantage of a recent government amnesty, granted on condition he enlist in the armed forces. Mussolini chose the elite Bersaglieri, a highmobility, light infantry unit of skilled professionals, noted for their tough training and reckless courage. This reputation would be borne out in the Great War to come 10 years later [World War I], when 210,000 of them suffered 82,000 casualties—32,000 killed plus 50,000 wounded.

The Bersaglieri was and still is today Italy’s treasured military tradition, formed as long ago as 1836, for purposes of ambushing or upsetting the enemy with accurate marksmanship and speed, defending mountain positions, protecting retreats and leading improvised, surprise strikes. Integral to the success of these bold tactics, Bersaglieri excelled in mortars and hand grenades, both weapons requiring quick wits and agile strength. Characteristically running into battle with their 66-pound backpacks, these special forces were renowned for their stamina and physical prowess.

As a Bersagliere, Mussolini felt he was in his natural element, enjoying the unit pride of fellow field experts, whose camaraderie thoroughly disabused him of his politically prejudiced disdain for everything military. Here, on the contrary, was the hitherto elusive “true socialist brotherhood” of brothers in arms. Daybreak, but not yet the sunrise of his enlightenment, had dawned. Following a two-year tour of duty, he returned to his hometown in Forlì, where Mussolini edited a weekly newspaper, Lotta di classe (“The Class Struggle”).

In September 1911, he was jailed again, this time for five months, after leading a riot protesting Italy’s “imperialist war” against Libya, an action that, upon his release, won him control of the Socialist Party newspaper. Under his superior editorship, Avanti’s circulation soon rose from 20,000 to 100,000 readers. By early 1914, Mussolini considered himself a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist, unquestionably toeing the Socialist Party line of opposition to the outbreak of European hostilities in August by declaring on the front page of Avanti, “Down with the war! We remain neutral.”

But soon after, he began developing serious doubts about the consistent inability of his fellow socialists to anticipate the onset of such an unparalleled calamity then beginning to rapidly engulf the entire civilized world they had long promised to transform into a “workers’ paradise.”

On the contrary, their rabbinical-like obsession with every jot and tittle of their political dogma had put them out of touch with reality, thereby exposing the endemically flawed ideology that bewitched them. The whole tissue of socialism’s unraveling insanity and lies began to undo the leftist mold into which he had been born and cocooned from the cradle through his young adulthood.

Despite that brainwashed upbringing, he could think for himself after all. On December 5, 1914, like a man tearing off a filthy shirt, Mussolini publicly denounced the Marxists for failing to recognize that the war had made national identity and loyalty more significant than class distinctions: “The nation has not disappeared! We used to believe that the concept [of nationality] was totally without substance. Instead, we see the nation arise as a palpitating reality before us. Class cannot destroy the nation.

Class reveals itself as a collection of interests, but any nation is a history of sentiments, traditions, language, culture and race. Class can become an integral part of the nation, but the one cannot eclipse the other. The class struggle is a vain formula, without effect and consequence wherever one finds a people that has not integrated itself into its proper linguistic and racial confines.”(1)

But Mussolini had not merely fled from his former ideologues into the warmer embrace of mainstream politicians. Far from it—he still deplored Italy’s government officials, who declared war on the Central Powers of Austria-Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria and Turkey’s Ottoman Empire. These self-styled “statesmen” remained what they had always been—transparently incapable of acting on behalf of their own people, because they invariably strove for monetary self-interest and personal power. To such exploitive non-entities, the present, international crisis was nothing more than another career opportunity.

Mussolini envisioned displacing both their dictatorship of high finance and the Marxist “dictatorship of the proletariat” with a dictatorship of talent, a meritocracy: “As long as men are born with different talents, there will always be a hierarchy of abilities. This leads to a hierarchy of functions, and a hierarchy of functions—Listen! Listen!— will logically, naturally provoke a hierarchy of power associated with categories and subcategories. We’re talking about organizing the state.”(2) All that mattered, now that the escalating war had already been going on for four months, was that his fellow countrymen could not be left in the lurch; their suffering must be concluded as quickly and victoriously as possible.

To that end, the 31-year-old ex-Marxist rejoined his Bersaglieri unit. By then, he had divested himself of what was a lifetime of error, an intellectual and emotional cleansing that left him spiritually drained but also purified and searching for something else, something better, even if sought for in a cannon’s mouth. Long after the war, looking back on the uncertainty Mussolini and his fellow countrymen experienced at that time, philosopher Giovanni Gentile observed “that Fascism had emerged as the expression of a search for a renewal of Italian political and spiritual life.”(3)

Nor was the young man immune from the temper of the times, which similarly infected many millions of honest, if deluded, patriots around the world they would all rush in to destroy. Oxford historian Dr. Paul O’Brien succinctly describes how “the ‘war culture’ that was created in Italy [beginning in 1914], as in other belligerent societies,” arose from emotional engineering perpetrated by master propagandists of mass psychology. This phenomenon emerged as an expression of the “total” nature of the first world war, and the “brutalization” of conflict which it provoked in the imagination, as on the battlefield. It was a vision based on a simplified and extreme polarization of the nation and its enemies.

At one end of the cosmos stood a negative image of the enemy as the ideological absolute, as the supreme evil, an aggressor, an out-and-out barbarian, and a veritable menace to humanity and to civilization. At the other stood the supreme good, the national collective, the righteous allies and the just war for freedom and defense. Then there was the obverse of the nation/enemy dichotomy; that is, the enemy within, whose scheming and plotting undermined national will and played the game of the external foe. Finally, all this was measured against sacrifice, defined principally (but not solely) by the suffering and death of the soldier for the salvation of the nation.

Hence, “war culture” represented a cultural mobilization, a mustering and focusing of hatred for the enemy and a subsequent interrelated reinforcement of pro-national and pro-war sentiment and identity.(4) Accordingly, the basic instincts for tribal preservation and sense of fairness in essentially good, even merciful human beings were ignited and perverted by professional liars for power agendas that bore no resemblance to the synthetically incited but successfully aroused patriotism that motivated Europe’s utterly duped, self-slaughtering rank and file. Their otherwise usual perspicacity and cool clear-sightedness had been thoroughly obscured in a fever of artificially heated hysteria.

Mussolini was not exempt from this pervasive delirium of international suicide, but carried along with it, like countless other men, in the tempestuous tide of a counterfeit conflict he and they were too psychologically conditioned, deceived or naïve to understand. Assigned as a private in the 33rd Battalion, 11th Regiment, Mussolini was positioned on the far northern sector of the fighting at Isonzo, approached via Caporetto, a name that still brings shudders to anyone familiar with the early 20th-century events that soaked westernmost Slovenia with blood. It was here, amid the 12,000-foot-high Julian Alps continuously blowing with sub-zero winds, that Italian soldiers would fight the deadliest series of major battles in their country’s history, suffering one of modern history’s most catastrophic defeats.

On arrival at the front, Mussolini noted in his Diario di Guerra, “one has the impression that the war is near. The sound of cannon thunder reaches us from afar.”5 It ominously presaged the brainstorm of Army Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna, who launched four major operations all along the Isonzo and Trentino rivers, where the terrain, mountainous and broken, was utterly unsuited for offensive warfare, with no room to maneuver. Accordingly, each of Cadorna’s massed attacks collapsed in turn, for an unprecedented quarter of a million Italian casualties. Favored by natural defense, the victorious Austro-Hungarians could not be dislodged, suffering very few losses in comparison, while picking off their densely packed enemies hedged in by steep cliffs, where they advanced stumbling over a rock-strewn battlefield. Undeterred by these perceived setbacks, Cadorna ordered seven more offensives, all of them doomed to defeat, along with their men. Taking advantage of these repeated failures, a combined Austro-Hungarian/German army counterattacked on October 24, 1917.

Foolishly, Cadorna had disposed most of his troops too far forward, where they were slaughtered by the first artillery bombardments before Central Powers troops could even climb out of their trenches. He had simultaneously neglected defense in depth, allowing the enemy to steamroll over Italian positions. On the verge of total collapse, his entire army fled in disarray, leaving behind 275,000 Italians captured by the foe. As his forces were imploding, Cadorna fled to safety in Padua, abandoning the entire Italian Second Army to its fate. Despite his desertion, responsibility for the calamity did not belong to him, he insisted, but had been caused solely by Italy’s cowardly soldiers.

To underscore this claim, he ordered disciplinary charges against 6 percent of his own servicemen. Sixty-one percent of them were found guilty, then given sentences ranging from dishonorable discharge and exile to imprisonment and death. Some 750 were executed, the highest number of any army during World War I. In the words of David Stevenson, professor of international history at the London School of Economics, Cadorna earned “opprobrium as one of the most callous and incompetent of first world war commanders.”6 This was the same chief of staff under whom Private Benito Mussolini and his comrades strove for victory and survival. In early September 1916, Mussolini arrived with his regiment at the Isonzo front.

On the 17th, an enemy shell “detonated near Mussolini, covering him and others with leaves and earth. That evening, he noted [in his diary] that they had been ‘baptized by the fire of a cannon’.”(7)

The next day, Mussolini “noted that four or five crosses of a collective grave bore no names: ‘Poor dead, buried in these impervious and solitary mountain ranges! I will carry your memory in my heart forever’.”(8)

A similar sentiment appears in his entry for February 14, 1917: “A dead soldier wrapped in tent canvas passes. Few soldiers follow him. A priest makes some gestures. The passers-by take off their headgear and move on. At the foot of these hills are the cemeteries, which consecrate them. Ours increases in size. The brief funeral did not interrupt the traffic and the movement of other men. My melancholy thoughts turn to that unknown soldier of Italy, who goes under the ground, while with its warmth the sky announces spring.”(9)

These words contradict standard descriptions of Benito Mussolini as a fire-breathing warmonger, unmoved by the tragedy of others. Indeed, publication in English translation of the future Duce’s war diaries prompted John Gunter—one of America’s foremost 20th century writers, author of the classic Death, Be Not Proud—to describe Mussolini in 1940 as “one of the best journalists alive.”(10)

Remarkably, Mussolini only occasionally appears in his own diaries, where space is mostly given over to his fellow suffering comrades “in the heat of rifle and machine gun exchanges, ‘the fire of an infernal intensity.’ Right at that point, following cries of ‘Hit the deck!’ ‘Hit the deck!’ Mussolini wrote, ‘But I must get up, and give my place to an injured soldier, whose arms have been shattered by the explosion of a bomb’.” Mussolini wordlessly covered the badly wounded man with his own blanket in the numbing cold.(11)

He let others speak for him. While at the Isonzo Front, around Christmas 1916, 33rd Battalion soldiers interviewed by Amilcare DeAmbris and Benedetto Fasciolo told the visiting journalists, “with less dodging, he [Mussolini] could have had a less uncomfortable life by going to write in the orderly room or in the major’s office. When mess time arrived, Mussolini received his meat, broth and bread,” both men observed, “and, in a self-sacrificial gesture, gave the meat to another soldier. When the fruit arrived, he made sure that everyone got an equal share.” When they prepared to leave, DeAmbris and Fasciolo felt “a pull at our hearts for Mussolini, who is always in danger.”(12)

As long before as September 20, “his colonel sought to isolate him [from being sent into the fighting] with an administrative job, which he declined.”(13)

Sometime afterward, the Italian army’s inspector general explained how Mussolini “was promoted to the rank of corporal ‘for merit in war.’ The promotion was recommended because of his exemplary conduct and fighting quality, his mental calmness and lack of concern for discomfort, his zeal and regularity in carrying out his assignments, where he was always first in every task involving labor and fortitude.”(14)

Once, a young soldier approached him, saying, “Signor Mussolini, since we have seen that you have much spirit (courage), and have led us in the march under grenade fire, we wish to be commanded by you.”(15)

More “grenade fire” was exchanged with their resolutely dug-in Austrian opponents on February 22, 1917, when Mussolini hurled a standard specimen of its kind—an Excelsior-Thévenot P2—at a far trench, killing several enemy infantrymen. The next day, one of the Frenchmade “Ballerinas,” as the Italians nicknamed them, fitted for a trench mortar, accidentally exploded while he was standing in front of it, sending hot shrapnel into his face and lower body. Forty or more fragments were removed, mostly from his thighs, all without benefit of anesthetic, which was not available at the nearby dressing station, in Doberdò. From there, he was rushed to the Ronchi field hospital. Physicians treating his numerous injuries additionally discovered that Mussolini has contracted paratyphoid fever, resulting in bradycardia (slowing of the heartrate) and hepatosplenomegaly (enlargement of the liver and spleen), accompanied by sustained, abnormally high body temperatures, debilitating migraine headaches, plus severe abdominal pain.

He was hospitalized for half a year, eventually cured of his ailments and released the following August, but in weakened condition. Mussolini had served nine months on the front lines and luckily survived, unlike many thousands of his comrades, who died within weeks or even days of their arrival in the Julian Alps. Fifteen years later, as Italy’s chief of state, he told American audiences via a Fox Movie-tone newsreel, in clear English, “I will speak to you in a few, brief words of a serious problem, which interests the whole of mankind; namely, peace or war. I know what war means. The terrible, personal sacrifices of an entire generation of young people have not vanished from my memory. I have not forgotten, nor will I permit myself to forget it. I was myself severely wounded. Then and now, as man and prime minister, I have before my eyes an awful panorama of the political, economic, moral and spiritual consequences of war. Italy will never make any policy in supporting war. On the contrary, we heartily welcome the prospect of our own disarmament in mutual accord with all others, as an international goal.”(16)

Four years earlier, in 1928, he had enthusiastically endorsed the Kellogg Pact, the first article of which condemned “recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce[d] it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.”(17)

At the time, Mussolini was no doubt heartily sincere in his desire to avoid military confrontations of any kind, anywhere, and not only due to his personally painful injury. A threatened repetition of World War I, with its potential for another Caporetto, was out of the question. “Italy needs peace,” he continued, “a long, secure era of peace, to be able to exploit and consolidate the concrete results of our Fascist government. Fascism wants to ensure the cooperation of the Italian nation with all other peoples for a future of prosperity and peace.”(18)

Clearly, more than Mussolini’s body was still marked by his wartime experience. The persistent uncertainty and ideological emptiness he felt after late 1914, when he divested himself of Marxism, began their gradual replacement with the stark, everyday reality of life and death in the trenches. “Despite discomforts and dangers,” he wrote three years later, in a December 27, 1917 frontline report for Il Popolo d’Italia newspaper, “I have the privilege of assisting in the formation of a trenchocracy, a new and better elite, which will govern the Italy of tomorrow.”(19)

“In this moment,” he confided a month earlier in his still-private diary, “the Italian people is a mass of precious minerals. It needs to be forged, cleaned, worked. A work of art is still possible. But a government is needed. A man. A man, who, when it occurs, has the delicate touch of an artist, and the heavy fist of a warrior. Sensitive and willful. A man who knows the people, loves the people, and can direct and fold it—with violence if necessary.”(20)

He was only half-thinking of himself, because the potential candidacy for such a man was already incubating in the Reparti d’assalto, assault units of ferocious volunteers, known as the Arditi, or the “Daring Ones,” from the Italian verb, ardire, “to dare.” First in combat, they undertook the tactical role of shock troops, opening the way for broad infantry advance by breaching enemy defenses, involving the most dangerous field operations, as expressed in their motto, O la vittoria, o tutti accoppati: “Either victory, or we all die.” Very many did.

Mussolini saw in this dauntless warrior-elite possibilities for transforming and expanding such extraordinary esprit d’corps into a new worldview that rejected other political theories for an ideal beyond all the failed conventions of left or right, inspired instead by a self-sacrificing comradeship striving on behalf of the whole nation. “[After] forming into a combatants’ association on January 1, 1919,” writes O’Brien, “[t]hey intended to regroup those who had fought ‘for the greatness of Italy’ and continue in peacetime ‘the ascension of the great Italian nation.’

For the Arditi, the war had been a revolution, which could not finish in the blink of an eye, but which had to continue without, and, if necessary, against the masses. As they saw it, the war had done away with distinctions between bourgeois and proletarian parties and had exalted the nation above both. In particular, they nurtured an enormous bias against the Italian Socialist Party. “In the week following the end of the war, Mussolini was to be found in the company of a number of Arditi at the Caffè della Borse, in Milan. He said, ‘I feel something of you in me, and perhaps you recognize yourselves in me.’ On a visit to Il Popolo d’Italia’s offices the following day, a group of Arditi declared to Mussolini that they wanted to be at his side ‘to fight the civil battles for the greatness of the Fatherland’.”(21)

Their adoption of black standards, skulls with daggers in their teeth, flames and black shirts, had all symbolized the desire to face danger and overcome death at the front. These were the same symbols and images adopted by the “squad members” of Benito Mussolini’s National Fascist Party in the early 1920s. His Squadristi “were wearing black shirts reminiscent of the elitist Arditi founded as special shocktroop units during the Great War. The actions of these men were thus informed by reference to the experience of that conflict, now mythologized as the great founding event of Fascism. …”

MARC ROLAND is a self-educated expert on WWII and ancient European cultures but is equally at home writing on American history and prehistory. He is also a book and music reviewer for the PzG, Inc. ( and other politically incorrect publishers and CD producers. Roland has written dozens of articles for TBR. To review them, access the yearly author/subject index found in the back of each year’s November/December issue of TBR.

1 Gregor, Anthony James. Young Mussolini and the intellectual origins of fascism. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1979.
2 O’Brien, Paul. Mussolini in the First World War: The Journalist, the Soldier, the Fascist. Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers, 2004.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Mussolini, Benito. Il mio diario di Guerra. Società editrice il Mulino, 2016.
6 Stevenson, David. With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918. MA: Belknap Press, 2013.
7 Mussolini, op. cit.
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid.
10 Gunther, John. Inside Europe. NY: Harper & Brothers, 1940.
11 Mussolini, op. cit.
12 O’Brien, op. cit.
13 Ibid.
14 Delzell, Charles F. Mediterranean Fascism, 1919-1945. NY: Walker and Company, 1971.
15 Mussolini, op. cit.
16 Fox Movietone Newsreel, “Special,” July 6, 1930.
17 Klibansky, Raymond, editor. Mussolini Memoirs. London: Orion Publishing Group, Ltd., 2000 reprint of the 1949 original released by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London).
18 Fox Movietone, op. cit.
19 O’Brien, op. cit.
20 Mussolini, op. cit.
21 O’Brien, op. cit.