860F.00/679: Telegram

The Ambassador in Italy (Phillips) to the Secretary of State

91. My telegram number 90, March 16.85 I told Ciano86 this morning that I had come to him in the thought that he might give me some statement regarding the Italian Government’s attitude toward events in Central Europe which I could transmit to Washington. He replied [Page 48] somewhat hesitatingly that developments had proceeded in accordance with the Rome–Berlin Axis and added with even more hesitation “and in accordance with an understanding between the German and Italian Governments.” He used the expression that developments had proceeded “in their normal course”.

I asked him whether my impression was correct that the Italian Government had agreed previously to the separation of Slovakia from Bohemia and Moravia. He replied that I was “neither correct nor incorrect in this impression.”

I said that Hitler’s performance had greatly shocked American public opinion and that while naturally I had no communication to make from my Government I did wish to tell him that the brutal methods employed by Hitler in seizing Bohemia and Moravia by armed force had created a profound impression in the United States. Ciano seemed interested and I repeated that such was indeed a fact. He made a point of the lack of national spirit exhibited by the Czechs as indicated by the fact that they had not fired a single shot. Adding that Hacha and Chvalkovsky had gone to Berlin and “given away their country”, he exclaimed “what could be said for a country which showed so little spirit of resistance”.

As I was leaving I adverted to Ciano’s opening statement that developments had proceeded normally under the Rome–Berlin Axis and I inquired whether I might transmit this to Washington. He became distinctly confused and asked me not to do so. After endeavoring for some moments to think of the proper phrase he said “there were no adjectives which could be used.” His confusion and inability or unwillingness to formulate any statement would seem to justify the inference that the seizure of Bohemia and Moravia had come as a disagreeable surprise.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs.