Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini (Italian pronunciation: [beˈniːto mussoˈliːni]; 29 July 1883 – 28 April 1945) was an Italian politician, journalist, and leader of the National Fascist Party (Partito Nazionale Fascista; PNF), ruling the country as Prime Minister from 1922 to 1943. He ruled constitutionally until 1925, when he dropped all pretense of democracy and set up a legal dictatorship. Known as Il Duce (The Leader), Mussolini was the founder of Italian Fascism.
In 1912 Mussolini was the leading member of the National Directorate of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI). Prior to 1914, he was a keen supporter of the Socialist International, starting the series of meetings in Switzerland that organised the communist revolutions and insurrections that swept through Europe from 1917. Mussolini was expelled from the PSI for withdrawing his support for the party's stance on neutrality in World War I. He served in the Royal Italian Army during the war until he was wounded and discharged in 1917. Mussolini denounced the PSI, his views now centering on nationalism instead of socialism, and later founded the fascist movement. Following the March on Rome in October 1922 he became the youngest Prime Minister in Italian history until the appointment of Matteo Renzi in February 2014. After removing all political opposition through his secret police and outlawing labor strikes, Mussolini and his followers consolidated their power through a series of laws that transformed the nation into a one-party dictatorship. Within five years he had established dictatorial authority by both legal and extraordinary means, aspiring to create a totalitarian state. Mussolini remained in power until he was deposed by King Victor Emmanuel III in 1943. A few months later, he became the leader of the Italian Social Republic, a German client regime in northern Italy; he held this post until his death in 1945.
Mussolini had sought to delay a major war in Europe until at least 1942. However, Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, resulting in declarations of war by France and the United Kingdom and starting World War II. On 10 June 1940, with the Fall of France imminent, Mussolini officially entered the war on the side of Germany, though he was aware that Italy did not have the military capacity and resources to carry out a long war with the British Empire. Mussolini believed that after the imminent French armistice, Italy could gain territorial concessions from France and then he could concentrate his forces on a major offensive in North Africa, where British and Commonwealth forces were outnumbered by Italian forces. However, the UK government refused to accept proposals for a peace that would involve accepting Axis victories in Eastern and Western Europe, plans for an invasion of the UK did not proceed, and the war continued. In the summer of 1941 Mussolini sent Italian forces to participate in the invasion of the Soviet Union, and war with the United States followed in December.
On 24 July 1943, soon after the start of the Allied invasion of Italy, the Grand Council of Fascism voted against him, and the King had him arrested the following day. On 12 September 1943, Mussolini was rescued from prison in the Gran Sasso raid by German special forces. In late April 1945, with total defeat looming, Mussolini attempted to escape north, but was captured and summarily executed near Lake Como by Italian Communists. His body was then taken to Milan, where it was hung upside down at a service station for public viewing and to provide confirmation of his demise.