740.0011 European War 1939/26912/7a: Telegram

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

140. Personal for the Ambassador. Please communicate immediately and orally to the Chief of Government the following message from the President:

“I want to thank you for your courteous reply to my last verbal message to Your Excellency.

Events have been marching swiftly but I still believe that political long range vision favors the limitation of the war to its present areas.

I hope it will be helpful to Your Excellency in keeping war out of the Mediterranean and out of even much wider areas and populations if I make the following suggestions to you:

The people of the United States are greatly concerned by the indications of the past few days which would seem to show that there was an increasing possibility of the extension of the European War to the Mediterranean area.

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I realize fully from your recent messages and from public statements which you have made that the Italian Government desires to obtain readjustments with regard to Italy’s position.

If you are willing to inform me of the specific desires of Italy in this regard in order to insure the satisfaction of Italy’s legitimate aspirations in that area, I will communicate them to the Governments of Great Britain and of France.

I would take this action in the belief that I am thereby rendering a constructive service at this critical moment with the hope that the cause of peace might thereby be furthered.

Likewise, I would communicate such a message from you with the understanding that if an agreement were arrived at, it would involve an assurance to me by the French and British Governments that such agreement would be faithfully executed by them at the end of the war and that those Governments would welcome Italian participation at any eventual peace conference with a status equal to that of the belligerents; and, finally, that you would in similar fashion assure me that the claims of Italy would be satisfied by the execution of this agreement and that the agreement so reached would avoid the possibility of Italy entering the war.

With the terms which you might be willing to propose or with the counter terms which the French and British Governments might desire to propose I am of course not concerned; nor can I undertake any responsibility other than that indicated. My sole desire in making this suggestion is to make a practical effort towards avoiding the extension of the war. Roosevelt.”

Please telegraph immediately the nature of the reply that may be made.