The Ambassador in Italy ( Page ) to the Secretary of State
[Received November 21—1 p.m.]
2384. Adriatic and Jugo-Slav questions paramount subject discussed in all Italian circles. Some show indignation against tolerance by Allies and even Italian Government to Croats in their extraordinary action in Fiume and on Dalmatian coast. Many claim such Croats are part of Austrian army who, under terms of armistice, should have evacuated territories and so far as territories were included in armistice, this contention is difficult to reject. Many of these officers were formerly Austrian, certain of them still wear Austrian uniforms with new insignia. Press filled with accounts of critical conditions of Fiume, Zara, Sebenico, etc., which are inflaming Italian opinion. This is increasing feeling against French who are believed to be stirring up Jugo-Slav hostility toward Italians and according to all reports, including those of our naval people, have acted throughout to [in?] opposition Italians and in a way to intensify Jugo-Slav hostility.
Without relation to final disposition I deem it proper to say that it must be unwise to permit those who were but lately among most active belligerents against Allies and ourselves, to assume day following complete defeat their armies, position of neutrals or Allies and seize strategic territory and warships agreed by armistice to be surrendered. This situation, unless promptly resolved will certainly increase the already tense relations Italy and France and may finally involve us also.
The opinion of our naval people, who have been at conferences along Adriatic is, I hear, that the French representative has been very difficult, declining generally to agree with Italian suggestion even when all other representatives united therein. This is in accord with French policy as indicated in many directions in French press.