Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Phillips)

During his call this morning the Italian Ambassador referred to the situation in Ethiopia and to the reports that large supplies of arms and ammunition were being purchased in this country for the Ethiopian Government. I replied that this was the first I had heard of any such transaction; that I doubted its accuracy and that it seemed to me very improbable that the credit of Ethiopia was such that American companies would dispose of large supplies to it. It was possible that small purchases had been made, but I could not see very well how we could stop them. The Ambassador seemed to understand our position in this regard. He went on to describe the situation as he saw it vis-à-vis Ethiopia; his Government did not wish to declare war on Ethiopia; they wished merely an outlet for Italian commercial activities, and that various parts of Africa was made use of by other European countries for similar purposes. As proof of his statement, he referred to the fact that only a comparatively small army had been dispatched from Italy, mentioning, I believe, 30,000 men, which was far from the amount necessary if it had been the intention of Italy to absorb Ethiopia. I said that I was somewhat fearful of sickness among the Italian soldiers as soon as the heat of the summer began, and the Ambassador admitted that this was a very serious problem.

William Phillips