File No. 763.72Su/86
The Diplomatic Liaison Officer with the Supreme War Council ( Frazier ) to the Secretary of State
[Received May 4, 10.25 a.m.]
51. The question of further Italian reenforcement for France was discussed on the 1st and 2d instant. M. Clemenceau asked General di Robilant whether it was possible to send more Italian troops to France. General di Robilant answered arrangements have been made to send two divisions but that no more could be spared for the present; he said that in reply to a suggestion that an Italian offensive should be made on the Austrian front to act as a diversion to the German offensive, General Diaz had replied that the weather at the present time made an offensive impossible. Nevertheless the offensive was being prepared and would be carried out when conditions were more favorable.
Signor Orlando remarked owing to the large number of Slavs in the Austrian Army desertions were frequent; these deserters were not cowards but on the contrary brave men who deserted in order to apprise the Italians of any projected move on the part of the Austrian Army; he said that in this way the Italian Army was well informed of intention of its adversaries. The deserters were unanimous in asserting that an Austrian offensive was in preparation. He stated that he was in principle favorable to the idea of the supreme command being extended to Italy; he added that in his opinion the agreement of Beauvais was susceptible of two interpretations.
A long discussion then followed upon this subject. Mr. Lloyd George drew attention to the fact that according to the agreement of Beauvais each commander in chief reserved the right, in case he [Page 224] considered that a decision of the supreme commander created a danger for his army, of referring the decision to his Government; this, he added, was a very important reservation. Signor Orlando finally consented to abide by the agreement of Beauvais as far as Italian troops fighting in France were concerned, and largely at the suggestion of General Foch agreed to accept the agreement of Doullens1 for coordination [of the] action of the Italian commander with that of the generalissimo in France. Signor Orlando remarked however that, whenever the same conditions existed in Italy of French, British, and American armies fighting side by side with Italians, he would be in favor of accepting General Foch as generalissimo. In the midst of this discussion General Pershing emphatically stated that he had always been convinced on the necessity of a supreme commander; he believed that the same principle might be extended to Italy with advantage.
- Mar. 23, 1918.↩