File No. 763.72/9182
The Ambassador in Italy ( Page) to the Secretary of State
[Received March 16, 7.10 a.m.]
1472. The Minister of Treasury, Nitti, called on me and made with great earnestness a statement to the following effect: That in Italy great reliance is placed on the United States; that Italy is the only country of the Entente in imminent danger; that, Russia having fallen, only two fronts remain, the French and Italian; that France has drawn to herself all the great forces of the Entente and has now about 9,000,000 soldiers defending her front, of which less than half are French; and that, moreover, France has also all the economic advantages which are tremendous; that Italy, on the other hand, is alone on her terrible front, save for less than 200,000 French and British soldiers, and has against her nearly the entire army of Austria besides contingents which the Turks, Bulgarians and Germans have furnished and will continue to furnish; that Austria-Hungary, moreover, has in her favor all the advantages of the frontier; that Germany will first strike Italy as the weakest section of the Allied front in hopes of obtaining the great resources of northern Italy, and if she succeeds will then drive Allied armies from Balkans and Palestine, thus saving Turkish Empire, subjecting to herself northern Italy, the Balkans, Turkey with Palestine and Mesopotamia, and finally Russia, or a great part thereof; that Italy is in urgent need of aid with many of her railways stopped and many of her munition factories closing exclusively for want of fuel; that the Allies do not show enough friendly cooperation in this field; that France has now a coal consumption ten times greater than that of Italy, and Italy would be content with one-sixth of coal used by France, but to live and make war she must have at least 650,000 tons of coal per month and quickly, 20,000 freight cars and 200 railway locomotives; that England and France can give everything needed, but will not do so unless the Government of the United States exercises opportune pressure; that there are 3,000,000 Italian subjects in America and one might say all the [Page 154]Italians have relations [there]; that in this moment of real danger, nothing would strengthen morale of the people more than to send at once detachments of American troops to Italy where even two or three regiments would be useful; that military leaders naturally prefer a single army and point of attack, but American generals should recognize need of action in Italy; that in Italy great confidence is felt in American cooperation with war and in the effective pressure which the United States can exercise on England and France in favor of Italy, but in order to be effective her action should be immediate.
I send the foregoing by cable at Nitti’s express request that it be brought to the attention of the President immediately, and I myself feel that the situation is of such gravity as to demand immediate and serious consideration. Nitti’s memorandum certainly presents a case of great urgency.