The Ambassador in Italy ( Phillips ) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 25—2 p.m.]
73. Your 19, February 24, 1 p.m.5 and 20, February 24, 6 p.m. I have already sent a note to Count Ciano describing the dangerous situation affecting the American personnel and property in Addis Ababa and asking that immediate steps be taken to afford effective protection. I am also seeking a personal interview with him.
I welcome your instruction to Engert in which you state your belief that he should depart on leave prior to March 1st. To me the situation does not yet require the withdrawal of Hughes. Of course if we could withdraw the American personnel altogether and place American interests in Ethiopia under the American Consul General in Naples it would be a happy solution. This step has already been taken by the Turkish Government under the Turkish Consul at Bari, by the Peruvian Government under the Peruvian Consul General at Genoa and by the Polish and the Swiss Governments under their respective Consuls at Rome. However, this would presumably require recognition at this time by us of the new situation in Ethiopia.
In the present circumstances a simultaneous withdrawal of all the American personnel might be looked upon as passing judgment upon a situation regarded here as one of domestic concern. I would favor less abrupt action and am inclined to think therefore that it would be better for Hughes not to withdraw at the present moment unless of course his life and the lives of his staff are in positive danger.
For the Department’s information there has been no hint as yet in the Italian press of the seriousness of the situation beyond that reported in my 70, February 24, noon. An official communiqué this afternoon announces the capture and execution of Ras Desta which the press interprets as an important factor in pacification.