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Date: Wednesday, 1 January 1936
Italian troops march past billboard of Fascist Dictator Benito Mussolini during 1936 invasion. Humiliated by a defeat at Adwa by Ethiopian troops in 1896, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was one of the few African leaders who ruled without European colonial interference. Yet, Ethiopia was heavily influenced by Italy. Fueled by the need for revenge and expansion by colonization, Mussolini sent his newly mechanized legions under the command of Comando Supremo (Itallian Army) Field Marshal Rodolfo Graziani across the Abyssinian border from Italian Somaliland and Eritrea on October 3, 1935. In 3 days Adwa was engulfed. By November Italians were 80 miles into Abyssinia. Resistance was heavy throughout the country. Graziani destroyed the Intelligentsia, and killed many Coptics in reprisal for partisan attacks. Field Marshal Pietro Badoglio (1871-1956) took command later in 1935 and immediately ordered gas attacks to quell the unrest. On May 5, 1936, the Italian army marched into the capital of Addis Ababa and Ethiopia surrendered. On June 30, 1936, Selassie, who escaped the invading Italians, spoke before the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, in protest of the attack, despite Italian attempts to interrupt his speech. "It is us today. It will be you tomorrow." he warned. The League of Nations condemned Italy's aggression and imposed minor economic sanctions in November 1935. Under the Neutrality Act, the United States stopped arms trade with both sides on October 5 and tried to limit exports of oil and other materials to normal peacetime levels on February 29, 1936. On October 9, 1935, the United States, not part of the League, refused to cooperate with any League action. The League sanctions were lifted on July 4, 1936 when Italian East Africa, Africa Orientale Italiana (AOI), was formed by Italy. in 1940, AOI was virtually isolated from Italy: the maritime transports were totally cut off, and supplies could arrive only from air, although always in dismal quantities. On March 27, 1941 the stronghold of Cheren was captured by the British troops after a strenuous defence from general Orlando Lorenzini. Eritrea was lost when the town of Massaua surrendered on April 8. The war was effectively lost on May 1941, when the Fascists at Amba Alagi under viceroy Amedeo di Savoia surrendered in face of overwhelming Allied troops. The last Italian force under General Guglielmo Nasi at Gondar surrendered on November 28, 1941.