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After the Cold War had ended, then Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti confirmed to the Italian Senate in August that Italy had had a secret stay-behind army, codenamed Gladio — the sword. Suggesting that the secret army might have linked up with right-wing organizations such as Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale to engage in domestic terror, the Italian Senate, amid public protests, decided in that Gladio was beyond democratic control and therefore had to be closed down. During the s, research into stay-behind armies progressed only very slowly, due to very limited access to primary documents. The first purpose was clear: If there had been a Soviet invasion, the secret anti-communist armies would have operated behind enemy lines, strengthening and setting up local resistance movements in enemy held territory, evacuating pilots who had been shot down, and sabotaging supply lines and production centers of the occupation forces. The second purpose, the preparation for an emergency situation, is more difficult to understand and remains the subject of ongoing research.
It was also called the " Stay behind network ", since if the Red Army invaded Europe , its members would 'stay behind' enemy lines and disrupt Soviet control. Gladio was responsible for bombings , kidnappings and assassinations to such an extent that the network was publicly exposed in Italy in the s and was the subject of a BBC documentary by Alan Francovich some years later. What has come to be called Operation Gladio was never intended to be publicly acknowledged. It was a multi-national military plan to arm and train clandestine groups in many perhaps all of its member countries and elsewhere in Europe. The official narrative on these networks is confused, contradictory and definitely incomplete, with many basic questions unanswered. The stated reasons for establishing undercover armed groups has tended to focus on use of the secret armies as a fifth column to provide armed resistance in the case of a Soviet invasion. The power hierarchy of Gladio remains unclear to this day, and is unknown to elected national leaders.
Operation Gladio is the codename for clandestine " stay-behind " operations of armed resistance that was planned by the Western Union WU , and subsequently by NATO , for a potential Warsaw Pact invasion and conquest in Europe. Although Gladio specifically refers to the Italian branch of the NATO stay-behind organizations, "Operation Gladio" is used as an informal name for all of them. Stay-behind operations were prepared in many NATO member countries, and some neutral countries. The role of the CIA in Gladio and the extent of its activities during the Cold War era, and any relationship to terrorist attacks perpetrated in Italy during the " Years of Lead " late s to early s are the subject of debate. Switzerland and Belgium have had parliamentary inquiries into the matter. The word gladio is the Italian form of gladius , a type of Roman shortsword. Following the fall of France in , Winston Churchill created the Special Operations Executive SOE to both assist resistance movements and itself carry out sabotage and subversive operations in occupied Europe.
the military secret service operated the anti-Communist army within the state in Allied Stay-Behind doctrine', Serravalle explains in his book on Gladio and.
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