121.840 Welles, Sumner/68½: Telegram

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

132. Welles’ brief visit to Rome has been exceedingly helpful. As the Department is aware the Chief of Government18a has refused to receive any Americans since February 1938 and this was the first opportunity therefore since that date in which our views on various matters could be presented to him personally as [by?] a responsible American. I have always been in doubt whether my opinions given from time to time to Ciano have reached the Duce, nor in my frequent [Page 13] contacts with the Foreign Minister has the latter ever attempted to explain the views of his chief on international trends or events.

This total absence of contact with the Chief of Government as well as the continued uncertainty of his opinions make it very difficult to report with any degree of certainty the Italian Government’s position on matters of interest and concern to us.

Welles’ visit and the autograph letter from the President19 have afforded a needed occasion to sound Mussolini on various matters.

But in addition to the information which Welles obtained, his friendly approach to the subjects touched upon during both conversations seemed to strike a responsive chord, which Hitler19a too has been lacking, especially on the part of Mussolini.

It is probable that Mussolini and Ciano will interpret the cordial sentiments expressed as an indication of our desire to let “bygones be bygones” and for a closer collaboration hereafter between the two countries.

I would welcome such an interpretation and at the same time I venture to express the hope that we on our part will not let occasions pass when we could properly convert friendly sentiments into mutual beneficial actions.

While it is clear that the Italian Government has gone out of its way to extend to Mr. Welles all courtesies including elaborate floral decorations at the stations in Naples and Rome, private car from Naples to Rome and then to the Swiss frontier and official automobiles during his stay in Rome, the Italian press has been reserved in discussing the visit. Such articles as have appeared have come from Italian correspondents in other European capitals.

  1. Benito Mussolini, Italian Prime Minister, and Head of Government.
  2. See footnote 37, p. 29.
  3. Adolf Hitler, German Chief of State, Fuhrer, and Chancellor.