The Ambassador in Italy (Phillips) to the Secretary of State
[Received April 8—4:05 p.m.]
123. Given the uncertainty of obtaining authentic official information from Italian sources other than Ciano the Department will appreciate the difficulties in forecasting events and it is of course too soon to be certain that the assurances which were given me yesterday (see my 121, April 7, 8 p.m.) to the effect that the independence and integrity of Albania were to be respected will be strictly carried out. A formal assurance that Italy intended to respect the independence and integrity of Albania and the status quo in the Mediterranean was, however, again given to my British colleague last night when he presented Ciano with a memorandum respecting the Albanian situation and the Italian commitments under the Anglo-Italian agreements of 1938.
My own impression is that the campaign against Albania was undertaken for several reasons: (1) to secure for Italy certain strategic [Page 386] points on the coast, notably Valona and the adjoining peninsula which lies close to the Italian island of Saseno, since with these points in its possession and the possibility of controlling Corfu, Italy may well regard the Adriatic as its sea; (2) with Italian troops in Albania and already on the Italo-Yugoslav frontier Yugoslavia will be obliged to remain associated with the Rome–Berlin Axis; and (3) the situation in Albania where according to Ciano’s explanation a growing resentment among the people against Zog’s misgovernment and an anti-Italian sentiment encouraged by him were creating a difficult position for Italian interests: military, financial, and commercial. It may also be that the Italian campaign was undertaken at the instance of Berlin and as a part of the resistance to any encirclement program against the totalitarian states and in this connection it may be of interest to note that the Italian press has implied that other powers were endeavoring to gain a commercial foothold on the Adriatic which might be detrimental to the Italian position.
According to reliable reports the Italians have been actively reenforcing several of their outlying positions notably Rhodes, Libya, Spain, Spanish Morocco, the French and Yugoslav frontiers. The Military Attaché reports that all frontier installations and units in the outlying possessions are now at full war strength and a recent report from the Consulate at Trieste states that according to a reliable authority 30,000 additional troops were sent during the past week to the Italian-Yugoslav frontier. It is also estimated that the present strength of the Metropolitan Army including troops in Albania and Spain approximates 950,000 men. 280,000 are only partly trained recruits and 200,000 are older men with little training. It appears that the army as thus organized is not as a whole prepared for immediate offensive action and there is little reserve of war material adequate for a long struggle. Furthermore airplane manufacture has not been increased. It should not be overlooked, however, that the measures already taken may be in the nature of preparing the mobilization machinery necessary for a future general mobilization which might be required should any movement on the part of Germany involve its partner. It should also be noted that the Italian military positions are now so widely distributed that they constitute a series of formidable “nuisance values” in any negotiations which Italy might undertake.
The French Naval Attaché has just apprised Kinkaid29 that in view of the Albanian affair there is little or no possibility that Franco-Italian conversations can be begun. (See my 122, April 8, 11 a.m.30)