Giovanni De Lorenzo (* 29. November 1907 in Vizzini; † 26. April 1973 Vizzini) was an officer of the Italian army. As general, he was head of the secret service Servizio Informazioni Forze Armate (SIFAR), and later the Carabinieri.
De Lorenzo was born in Sicily as the son of an artillery officer. He studied shipbuilding in Genoa, but then followed the same career path as his father and served as lieutenant colonel in the Italian Expeditionary Force in Russia during World War II. After the fall of Mussolini in September 1943, he joined the partisans and was subsequently working for the Servizio Informazioni Militare (SIM), which had been established by the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale and thus the Allies.1
Head of SIFAR
By recommendation of US-ambassador in Italy, Clare Boothe Luce, Lorenzo was chosen as head of SIFAR.2 Under De Lorenzo, the SIFAR participated in the US project "Demagnetize", which was to prevent "by all means" a Communist takeover in Italy and France.3
Under De Lorenzo's leadership from 1955-1962, the SIFAR opened dossiers on a total of 157,000 people (Fascicoli), including mostly innocent citizens and politicians. These dossiers were, inter alia, used as means to exert pressure or to blackmail people.1 Allegedly, de Lorenzo gave Thomas Karamessines, Chief of Station in Rome (1959-1963), two copies of each file, one for the CIA station in Rome, the other to be sent on to the CIA's headquarters in Langley.4
How close CIA agents were involved into Italian politics at the time can be grasped by the statements of former Italian defense minister, Paulo Taviani:
"Former defence minister Paulo Taviani [told Magistrate Casson during his 1990 investigation] that during his time in office (1955-1958), the Italian secret services were bossed and financed by the boys in Via Veneto' - i.e. the CIA agents in the US Embassy in the heart of Rome." (William Scobie, Observer, 18/11/90)
Another project, operation "Gladio", was also launched in the mid-1950's, which foresaw the creation of a stay-behind army to be activated in the case of a Communist takeover, which was under the supervision of the NATO's Clandestine Planning Committee as well as the CIA.
"US documents declassified in the 1970's show that General Giovanni de Lorenzo, the chief of Sifar (Italian Military Intelligence), joined the US in the 1950's in preparing a plan against a Communist takeover, but did not inform his own government. According to a document released by Mr Andreotti last month the CIA and Sifar sketched a plan in November 1956, codenamed Gladio, to form a force of 1000 men capable of guerilla warfare and espionage. A training base was set-up in Sardinia and 139 weapons and ammunition dumps were hidden in Northern Italy." (Wolfgang Achtner, Sunday Independent, 11/11/90)
According to CIA Deputy Chief of Station in Rome (1964-1965), Felton Mark Wyatt, "in charge with all the liaisons with the Italian secret services", the central figure on the Italian side of Gladio was head of SIFAR, Giovanni De Lorenzo:
"The key man really was the chief of SIFAR and the Carabinieri as well, because most of the Gladiatori were ex-Carabinieri or Carabinieri that could go over to a stay-behind operation."
A SIFAR report from 1959 surfaced in the course of the Stragi Comminission enquiries, which sketches out the Italian Gladio operation in detail.5
The document made recourse to NATO's Clandestine Planning Committee "emanating" from the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, the headquarters of the NATO's Allied Command Operations (ACO), having a "consultative function."
General Commander of the Carabinieri
Even after his replacement as SIFAR chief and his appointment as general commander of the Carabinieri in 1962, De Lorenzo retained significant influence on military intelligence, because all important positions there were also occupied by Carabinieri, and thus were subordinated to him.6 Under his leadership, the paramilitary police of the Ministry of Defense was modernized and upgraded. It received, among other things, American tanks of the type M47 and armoured personnel carriers M113.
In the words of the former resistance fighter and short-term Prime Minister Ferruccio Parri (PSI), De Lorenzo created "his own small private army, superior in discipline and efficiency to the rest of the armed forces"1 De Lorenzo wanted to react to the bomb terror of the Liberation Committee of South Tyrol with brutal countermeasures. According to the records of Carabinieri General Giorgio Manes, he agreed with Colonel Francesco Marasco that for every Italian killed, five South Tyroleans should be shot.7
The Piano Solo ("Solo Plan”) was a Fascist coup plot to be executed in the case of a communist election victory, supported by American intelligence. The plan was drawn up in 1964 mainly by De Lorenzo, general commander of the Carabinieri at the time, in close cooperation with CIA secret warfare expert Vernon Walters, William Harvey, chief of the CIA station in Rome (1965-1967), and Renzo Rocca, Director of the Gladio units within the military secret service SIFAR (later SID). The plan never saw practical implementation and, once discovered, led to the removal of De Lorenzo, who on the basis of this story built a military post-career as a right-wing politician.
In April 1963 the socialists and communists did well in the polls, with over 25% of the votes in that year's election, and members of the socialist party given cabinet posts. When in November of that year Kennedy was assassinated, the fear for a communist overtake clearly rose.
On 25 March 1964 De Lorenzo met with the commanders of the divisions of Milan, Rome and Naples and set up a plan with them to deal with a situation of "emergency" on the part of the Carabinieri, and only them. The meeting had been officially authorized by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Rossi.
The plan aimed to ensure the military control of the State by the Carabinieri, and only them, through the occupation of the so-called "nerve centers" and, above all, provided for a project of "denucleation", that is, the withdrawal and subsequent rapid removal of 731 people considered dangerous in the world of politics and the union.
According to this plan, the Carabinieri (Gladiatori) were take control of the main public institutions and services, including television, railways and telephones. These included the Quirinal Palace in Rom; essential media infrastructures (television, radio) such as the newspaper L'Unità; as well as the headquarters of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), Italian Socialist Party (PSI), and the Italian Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity (PSIUP).8
In a second step they would “neutralize” the communist and socialist parties mainly by detention of Italian Communist Party (PCI) cadres. They were to be round up and brought to the headquarters of the Guastatori Training Center of Poglina, near Capo Marrargiu, in the territory of Alghero (the main military training base of the clandestine Galdio structure910), in record time by SIFAR, where they would be "guarded" until the end of the emergency. The list of subjects to be imprisoned would have been obtained and processed on the basis of the confidential name files of SIFAR.
On 2 June, the traditional Republic Day parade was awaited by an extraordinarily large number of soldiers. On the occasion of the following celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Carabinieri Corps, postponed from 7 to 14 June due to previous commitments of the President of the Republic, the commander general De Lorenzo had the newly equipped mechanized brigade parade with an impressive supply of weapons and heavy vehicles.11
After the parade, citing logistical reasons, the General Command announced that the troops who had flocked to the capital for the celebrations would stay there until the end of the following month. Some groups of non-commissioned officers, trained in the previous months in the use of electronic transmission equipment, moved in great secrecy and maximum confidentiality to Milan and Rome to be prepared, in case of implementation of the plan, so as to be able to immediately occupy the headquarters of the RAI.
Daniele Ganser describes the scenario as follows:
Rocca first used his secret Gladio army to bomb the offices of the DCI and the offices of a few daily newspapers and thereafter blamed the terror on the left in order to discredit both Communists and Socialists. As the government was not shaken, De Lorenzo in Rome on March 25, 1964 instructed his secret soldiers that upon his signal they were to 'occupy government offices, the most important communication centres, the headquarters of the leftist parties and the seats of the newspapers closest to the left, as well as the radio and television centres. Newspaper agencies were to be occupied strictly for the time only that it takes to destroy the printing machines and to generally make the publication of newspapers impossible.' De Lorenzo insisted that the operation had to be carried out with 'maximum energy and decisiveness, free of any doubts or indecisiveness' and, as the Gladio investigation put it, made his men 'feverish and biting'. The Gladiators equipped with proscription lists naming several hundred persons had the explicit order to track down designated Socialists and Communists, arrest and deport them to the Capo Marrargiu where the secret Gladio centre was to serve as a prison. The document on 'The Special Forces of SIFAR and Operation Gladio' had specified that 'As for the operating headquarters, the Saboteur's Training CAG is being protected by a particularly sensitive security system and equipped with installations and equipment designed to be useful in case of an emergency.' In an atmosphere of greatest tension the secret army was ready to start the coup. Then, on June 14, 1964, De Lorenzo gave the go-ahead and with his troops entered Rome with tanks, armoured personnel carriers, jeeps and grenade launchers while NATO forces staged a large military manoeuvre in the area to intimidate the Italian government. Cunningly the General claimed that the show of muscle was taking place on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Carabinieri and, together with feverishly anti-Communist Italian President Antonio Segni of the right-wing of the DCI, saluted the troops with a smile. The Italian Socialists noted that somewhat unusually for a parade the tanks and grenade launchers were not withdrawn after the show but stayed in Rome during May and most of June 1964.12
On June 25, 1964, the Moro government, the first center-left government of the Republic, resigned. A possible re-edition of the center-left would not have pleased Segni, since he saw a serious risk of destabilization for Italian democracy. During the protracted coalition negotiations between Democrazia Cristiana (DC) under Aldo Moro and the Partito Socialista Italiano (PSI) in July 1964, President Antonio Segni, who belonged to the right wing of the DC and rejected a centre-left government, called on De Lorenzo several times.
On 16 July, Segni sent De Lorenzo, to a meeting of representatives of the DC, to deliver a message that, according to some historians, referred to the readiness of the president, if the negotiations for the formation of a new center-left government would fail, to confer a subsequent mandate to the President of the Senate Cesare Merzagora, for the formation of a "president's government", composed by all the conservative forces in the Parliament.1314
In late 1965 De Lorenzo was promoted to Chief of the General Staff of the Italian Army. The plan had obviously been kept secret, although some rumors had been circulating since the beginning more and more insistently, provoking in 1965 the metamorphosis of the SIFAR in the almost identical SID, formalized the following year.
Its public discovery came only a few years later, thanks to several articles in L'Espresso directed by Eugenio Scalfari, which began a journalistic campaign that reconstructed the events of the "black two-month period" giving it the characteristics of an unfinished but undeniable coup.15 The «bombshell» of the L’Espresso was followed by a court case between de Lorenzo on the one hand, Scalfari and Lino Jannuzzi (authors of the articles) on the other; after a condemnation of journalists in the first degree all ended with a remission of a lawsuit.16
After the existence of the secret SIFAR dossiers had become public, he was retired from his post at the Army's General Staff in April 1967 and investigation procedures were initiated by various bodies. From the Carabinieri it was the deputy general commander, General Giorgio Manes, already previously in collision with De Lorenzo (and also with one of his successors, Ciglieri) and one of the first to publicly admit the existence of the plan, to direct an investigation that resulted in the famous "Manes report". Manes, in fact, was as a subordinate well involved in the plan and some of his private notes of the time were later examined in court to reconstruct the phases of the preparation of the plan.17
On July 22, 1968 a military investigation commission criticised the behavior of De Lorenzo harshly,18 but considered that his illegitimate plan (because it was prepared without the knowledge of government officials and other law enforcement agencies and entrusted solely to the carabinieri) was unattainable and quixotic, branded it "a deplorable deviation" but not as an attempted coup d'état.16
Part of the material collected by the investigating bodies was left out for “security reasons”, thus missing vital evidence, and the list of those to be “de-nuclearised" was also lost (while the SIFAR files were ordered to be destructed).
In 1990 the government headed by Giulio Andreotti decided to remove the classification and it emerged that the PSI headquarters should also be occupied, with 20,000 carabinieri to be deployed.16
Meanwhile, in 1968, De Lorenzo became a deputy in the ranks of the Italian Democratic Party of Monarchical Unity and, in the new role, with motion n. 484 of 9 October 1968, tried to organize and decide how the parliamentary inquiry work that concerned him would be carried out.
A second CIA-backed right-wing coup code-named Tora-Tora, also known as Golpe Borghese, was planned for December 1970, but was called off at the last minute. Reportedly, the phone call that aborted it came from President Nixon himself.
From 1971 on, De Lorenzo become a deputy of the Movimento Sociale Italiano (“Italian Social Movement”) party, but two years later died.
The Senate commission investigating Gladio in their final 370-page report concluded in 1995 that ‘It emerges without the shadow of a doubt that elements of the CIA started in the second half of the 1960s a massive operation in order to counter by the use of all means the spreading of groups and movements of the left on a European level.’
However these words were not strong enough for some Senators who continued the investigation under the chairmanship of Senator Pellegrini and concluded in June 2000 that
"those massacres, those bombs, those military actions had been organized or promoted or supported by men inside Italian state institutions and, as has been discovered more recently, by men linked to the structures of United States intelligence."19
- De Lutiis, Giuseppe. I servizi segreti in Italia. Editori Riuniti, Rome, 1991.
- Ganser, Daniele. NATO's Secret Armies. Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe. Routledge, 2005.
- Ginsborg, Paul. A History of Contemporary Italy. Society and Politics, 1943-1988. Palgrave Macmillan, New York/Basingstoke (Hampshire), 2003.
- Flamini, Gianni. L'Italia dei colpi di Stato. Newton Compton Editori, Rome, 2007.
- Montanelli, Indro & Mario Cervi. L'Italia degli anni di piombo. Milan, Rizzoli, 1991.
- Pellegrino, G., G. Fasanella, C. Sestieri. Segreto di Stato. Sperling & Kupfer, 2008.
- Tunander, Ola. Democratic State vs. Deep State: Approaching the Dual State of the West. Peace Research Institute Oslo, 2008.
- Wiki Spooks: Operation Gladio
- “SIFAR Special Forces and Operation ‘Gladio',” Report by the Italian Military Secret Service (SIFAR) on Operation Gladio, 1 June 1959, http://www.php.isn.ethz.ch/kms2.isn.ethz.ch/serviceengine/Files/PHP/20213/ipublicationdocument_singledocument/8a92b89a-40bc-4933-a3aa-4c5dd449514d/it/590601_report_gladio.pdf.
- 1. a. b. c. Paul Ginsborg, A History of Contemporary Italy. Society and Politics, 1943-1988, Palgrave Macmillan, New York/Basingstoke (Hampshire), 2003, p. 276.
- 2. Dario N. Azzellini, “Gladio in Italien,” In: Gladio: Die geheime Terrororganisation der Nato, Elefanten Press, Antifa-Edition, Berlin, 1997, p. 27.
- 3. Rodney Carlisle (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, M.E. Sharpe, 2005, entry Italy, provided by Luca Prono, p. 336.
- 4. Giuseppe De Lutiis, I servizi segreti in Italia, Rome, 1991.
- 5. “SIFAR Special Forces and Operation ‘Gladio',” Report by the Italian Military Secret Service (SIFAR) on Operation Gladio, 1 June 1959, http://www.php.isn.ethz.ch/kms2.isn.ethz.ch/serviceengine/Files/PHP/20213/ipublicationdocument_singledocument/8a92b89a-40bc-4933-a3aa-4c5dd449514d/it/590601_report_gladio.pdf.
- 6. Alexandra Locher, Bleierne Jahre. Linksterrorismus in medialen Aushandlungsprozessen in Italien, 1970–1982, Lit Verlag, Wien/Zürich 2013, p. 54.
- 7. Hans Karl Peterlini, Südtiroler Bombenjahre. Von Blut und Tränen zum Happy End? Raetia, Bozen, 2005, p. 282.
- 8. Gianni Flamini, L'Italia dei colpi di Stato, Newton Compton Editori, Rome, 2007.
- 9. G. Pellegrino, G. Fasanella, C. Sestieri, Segreto di Stato, Sperling & Kupfer, 2008, p. 53.
- 10. Veronica Bortolussi, I rapporti tra l’estrema destra italiana e l’Organisation de l’Armée Secrète francese, Thesis, Università Ca’ Foscari, Venice, 2016 / 2017, p. 36, http://dspace.unive.it/bitstream/handle/10579/12182/857843-1208195.pdf.
- 11. Indro Montanelli & Mario Cervi, L'Italia dei due Giovanni, Milan, Rizzoli, 1989.
- 12. Daniele Ganser, NATO's Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe, Routledge, 2005. ISBN: 0714685003. p.72
- 13. Gianni Flamini, L'Italia dei colpi di Stato, Newton Compton Editori, Rome, p. 82.
- 14. Sergio Romano, “Cesare Merzagora: uno statista contro I partiti,” Corriere della Sera, 14 March 2005.
- 15. Indro Montanelli & Mario Cervi, L'Italia degli anni di piombo, Milan, Rizzoli, 1991.
- 16. a. b. c. Indro Montanelli & Mario Cervi, L'Italia degli anni di piombo, Milan, Rizzoli, 1991.
- 17. Luca Grimaldi, Uno scandalo italiano: L’Espresso e il caso SIFAR, misterditalia.it, www.misteriditalia.it/pianosolo/Unoscandaloitaliano(Grimaldi).pdf.
- 18. “An Italian general is cleared, rebuked,” New York Times, July 23, 1968, https://www.nytimes.com/1968/07/23/archives/an-italian-general-is-cleared-rebuked.html.
- 19. Daniele Ganser, p. 82.