765.75/445: Telegram

The Minister in Albania (Grant) to the Secretary of State

27. Italian troops occupied Tirana at 10 o’clock this morning and are in full control with the assistance of the Italian Minister and staff and a few high officers of the Albanian Government. The resistance to the Italian invasion collapsed when Bang Zog fled from the Royal Palace in Tirana shortly after 6 o’clock last evening. The King accompanied by one or more of his Ministers and members of his court is believed to be headed for Greece. It is reported this morning that Queen Geraldine who was sent out in an ambulance car with her 2 days’ old baby early yesterday morning arrived at Florina, Greece last night. I am reliably informed that the Catholic members of the Cabinet have remained in Tirana; these are Rrok Gera, Minister of National Economy, who talked with the Italian army commander near Shisk yesterday, and Kol Thaci, Minister of Finance. Ndoc Naraci, Director of Communications, is also on duty and I have been informed that Dr. Mihal Sherko, Secretary General of the Ministry Foreign Affairs, and Director of the Albanian Press Bureau is still here and further that he was at the Italian Legation this month. The King stood his ground and was supported by the majority of the members of his Government and by the people. But as he indicated [Page 381] to me in the audience Wednesday20 he could only make a show of resistance for his forces were overwhelmingly outclassed.

At 6 o’clock this morning I visited a downtown section of Tirana. There were still a few stray shots after much firing during the early part of last evening. I observed a dozen or more Albanian gendarmes on the streets, in front of the Italian Legation and guarding the building which houses the Ministry of the Interior. Here I found Colonel Stamati, Chief of Staff of the Gendarmerie, and Minister of Communications Naraci. From the information I received it appears that the Italian Military Attaché, Colonel Gabrielle, is actually in control of this office although the Italian troops were still several miles away on the Durazzo highway. The gendarmerie Chief of Staff received a note from Colonel Gabrielle while I was talking with the former. It appears now also that much of the firing last night was staged to frighten the population although it is known that political prisoners who left the jails when the Government collapsed yesterday afternoon participated. Bang Zog’s Palace in the heart of the city was looted of those things which the King left behind. His Majesty carried away with him most of his valuables, it is understood. I did not see any signs of damaged buildings and it is now apparent that there was no real rioting. Nor was there any demonstration against the King before his departure, contrary to widely published reports and broadcasts from Italian sources. This was nothing more than pure propaganda for the purpose of trying to justify the Italian invasion. The Albanian hate of the Italians remains with the exception of a few who have received cash benefits and other emoluments and perhaps the leaders of the Catholic population in the principal centers.

From information I gathered this morning it appears that the reports given out by the Albanian press bureau yesterday regarding the character of the fighting was somewhat exaggerated. The bombardments, bombings, and the casualties were not as severe as the military bulletins. No figures of casualties are available. The ports of Saranda, Valona, Durazzo and Shengjim were occupied by the invaders after resistance by small forces of Albanians.

Italian soldiers on motorcycles followed by small tanks entered the Tirana square at 10:30 and massed for a return through the city just beyond the Legation compound. Many bombers circled overhead and one flew dangerously low over the Legation as though in defiance of the American flags which we mounted yesterday for protection against possible bombing. Although several thousand men and boys lined the square as the troops entered there was no demonstration and only faint hand clapping by a few score. A special issue of the Shtypi [Page 382] afternoon newspaper appeared on the streets simultaneously with the entrance of the troops. The headlines of the article were as follows:

“The friendly Fascist troops commanded by General Guzzoni reestablished a new order in Albania. The Italian appeal to the Albanian people. Yesterday’s events—the plundering of the Royal Palace by special authority, prisoners let loose. Order reigns everywhere, normal life reestablished. Government employees and artisans and professionals are invited to reassume their duties and offices.”

A small delegation of Albanian Parliament leaders attempted to penalize supporters this morning for support of the Italian regime but the effort is understood to have been a failure. The former Archbishop of the Albanian Orthodox church Vissarion made a speech urging cooperation with the Italians but it was coldly received. The Albanian Ministries are deserted except for the doorkeepers and a few subordinate officers who do not try to conceal their bitterness. It is reported that the Italians will attempt to form a new Albanian Government. In the meantime there is no government and I await the Department’s instructions.21

Count Ciano arrived at the Tirana City Hall at noon and saluted the crowd with Dr. Mihal Sherko Secretary General of the Albanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and director of the press bureau and Xhafer Ypi, Chief Inspector of the Royal Albanian Court standing with him. Ciano then drove to the Italian Legation. There was little applause.

  1. See telegram No. 21, April 6, 7 p.m., from the Minister in Albania, p. 371.
  2. On April 12 the Department merely acknowledged the receipt of Legation’s telegrams Nos. 12 to 34.