In the Second World War Umberto di Savoia, son of King Vittorio Emanuele III, was the Crown Prince of Italy. According to dynasty’s tradition, he was excluded from any role in the State’s affairs and followed a military career in the army. Umberto and the Italian dictator Mussolini disliked each other and Mussolini considered excluding him from the succession.
During the war, he commanded Army Group West in the campaign against France. In 1942 he received the rank of Field-Marshal but was given no other command. On the proclamation of the armistice on 8 September 1943, the Royal Family and the Government left Rome for Brindisi to avoid capture by German forces. Umberto wanted to go to Rome to organize resistance in the capital, but the King forbade this.
During the Italian campaign Umberto often visited the front line. On the eve of the first Battle of Monte Lungo (8 December 1943), he volunteered for a dangerous air reconnaissance mission, flying with an American pilot over the German defence lines under heavy fire from their anti-aircraft artillery.
Edwin Walker, commander of the Third Regiment of the First Special Service Force, nominated Umberto for the American Bronze Star Medal, but this was not awarded for political reasons. When his father, King Victor Emmanuel III, abdicated, Umberto reigned for 34 days, from 9 May to 12 June 1946. When Italy became a republic, Umberto left Italy and lived and died in exile in Cascais in Portugal.