On this day in 1945, “Il Duce,” Benito Mussolini, and his mistress, Clara Petacci, were shot and killed by Italian partisans while attempting to flee to Switzerland.
The 61-year-old deposed former dictator of Italy was installed by his German allies as the figurehead of a puppet government in northern Italy during the German occupation toward the close of the war.
As the Allies fought their way up the Italian peninsula, defeat of the Axis powers all but certain, Mussolini considered his options. Not wanting to fall into the hands of either the British or the Americans, he fled to a neutral country in disguise.
His disguise failed at the Swiss Border where he tried to slip in with some German soldiers. Mussolini and Petacci were shot and their bodies sent to Milan.