124.843/116: Telegram

The Minister Resident in Ethiopia (Engert) to the Secretary of State

389. My 372, May 26. An Italian major called yesterday afternoon and said he had been sent by Marshal Graziani to deliver a written order for Tanner’s expulsion. He added that it had at first been intended to notify Tanner direct, but that “As a matter of courtesy to the American Minister,” the Marshal decided to deliver it through me.

I informed the major that I considered this an extremely grave step and that I could not accept an order for the expulsion of any member of my staff. I told him that “as a matter of courtesy to the Marshal,” I had refrained from making an official complaint regarding Tanner’s detention, his brutal treatment, and the fact that he was not permitted to communicate with me. I added that no one deplored the incident more than I did, and that by way of disciplinary action for whatever share Tanner may have had in it, I had forbidden him to leave the Legation since then. Moreover, I understood that Tanner had orally apologized to an Italian captain just prior to his liberation. I then requested the major to present my compliments to the Marshal and to state that in view of the above considerations I hoped he would agree with me that it would be far preferable if we considered the incident as closed. I could only foresee endless annoyance [Page 293] to both of us if we permitted a relatively uninteresting row in a public bar to degenerate into an international argumentation.

The major promised to convey my message and 2 hours later returned to inform me that “as a further indication of Italian good will towards the American Legation and Government” the Marshal had consented to cancel the expulsion order. However, as he had never been informed of Tanner’s oral apology, he inquired if I would be willing to have Tanner put it in writing. To this I agreed, and in a personal letter to the major on blank paper and without any indication of his connection with the Legation, I instructed Tanner to say, “If I have unintentionally insulted an Italian officer I wish to express my regrets.”

Considering the special circumstances of the case and the precarious situation of all legations here, I feel this was by far the simplest way of preventing an unpleasant controversy.