711.00111 Armament Control/495

Memorandum by the Chief of the Office of Arms and Munitions Control (Green)

The Italian Ambassador called at my office late this afternoon. He was very much flushed and more nervous and intense than I have ever seen him before. His usual calm suavity was entirely lacking. He told me that he had just had a long conversation with the Secretary and he gave indication of being somewhat flustered as a result of that conversation.

The Ambassador began by describing in general terms his conversation with the Secretary. He then discussed in some detail the case of the tanker Ulysses35 He said that he considered the action of this Government in regard to that vessel “an unfriendly act”. He said that he had used that expression in his conversation with the Secretary and that the Secretary had objected to the expression. He said that in using the expression he had attempted to convey exactly the meaning [Page 834] which he had in mind, and that he hoped that his imperfect knowledge of English had not led him into using an expression which carried a meaning stronger than that which he had intended. He spoke at some length on this case and was particularly emphatic in his statement that this Government would not have incurred any risk had it permitted the tanker to carry a cargo of oil to Italy. He said that his country was involved in “an economic war”, and that the action of this Government in respect to the Ulysses seemed to his government to be an act in aid of those powers which were waging economic war against Italy. He said that this economic war was entirely unjustified, and that although he was willing to admit that Italy had made many tactical errors in her recent diplomacy, nevertheless her cause was just and her action in respect to Ethiopia entirely justified.

The Ambassador said that when the President and the Secretary issued statements on October 31 [30], in regard to commercial transactions with the belligerents, he had hoped that those would be the last statements issued in regard to that subject, and that he and his Government had been greatly disappointed and disturbed at the Secretary’s statement of November 15.

Up to this point, I had said nothing to the Ambassador beyond polite phrases indicating that I was attentive to what he was saying. At this point, I asked him whether he had any information which would indicate the possibility of a peaceful settlement in the near future.

The Ambassador answered that that depended entirely upon Great Britain. He then denounced Great Britain in strong terms, saying that the British Government was entirely responsible for forcing the other members of the League to apply sanctions to Italy, that the sending of the British fleet to the Mediterranean was “a hostile act” intended to bring “military pressure” on Italy, and that if Great Britain persisted in her present policy, Italy would rather go to war than submit. He said that the Italians recognized that if they went to war, Italy would be crushed, but that no self-respecting nation could submit to such pressure as that to which Italy was now being subjected, and that if this pressure was continued, a hopeless war with the powerful coalition arrayed against her would be the inevitable result.

From several expressions used by the Ambassador in the course of his conversation and particularly from his very strong protestation of personal friendship when he left my office, the impression which I had in my conversation of yesterday with Rossi Longhi—that the Italians here feel very strongly their isolated position and that they are super-sensitive in respect to it—was re-enforced.

Joseph C. Green
  1. See memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs, November 18, p. 819.