Albania had a large economic and industrial importance to Italy. Benito Mussolini took power in 1922 and started exploiting the country's mineral resources. Italy also had large amount of trade with Albania. The two countries made a defensive alliance in 1927. As Hitler annexed Austria and conquered Czechoslovakia, Mussolini felt that he was the weaker member of the "Pact of Steel". Italy offered King Zog 1st, leader of the Albanians, money in exchange for full colonization of his country. He refused. As riots broke out in the streets of Albania demanding that the country be defended at all cost, Mussolini prepared the attack.
On the 7th of April 1939, the Italian troops, led by General Alfredo Guzzoni, attacked Albania. 100,000 men accompanied by 600 airplanes attacked all the main ports on the Albanian coastline. Against them, King Zog's army of 15,000 poorly equipped soldiers were easily defeated. The main resistance though, was at the port of Durrës, where the Italian troops were held off for 5 hours before reinforcements finally crushed the local army. Zog and his family fled the country on the 8th of April, exiling into Greece. The Italians reached the capital, Tirana and on the 12th of April 1939, Albania surrendered to Italy and became part of the newly formed Italian Empire. 160 Albanians and about 400 Italians died in this campaign while hundreds of Albanians were wounded.