740.0011 European War 1939/26913/7: Telegram

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

154. By direction of the President you are requested to call on Count Ciano and deliver to him orally the following message for the Chief of Government:

The President has received and has of course given the most thoughtful consideration to the reply conveyed by the Chief of Government to the President’s last message.41

The President feels compelled in the most friendly manner, but at the same time with the utmost frankness, to lay certain very important considerations before Signor Mussolini.

If the war in Europe is now extended through the entrance of Italy into the war, direct interests of the Government of the United States will be immediately and prejudicially affected. The President has already reminded the Chief of Government of the historic and traditional interests of the United States in the Mediterranean. These interests have been upheld over a period of almost 150 years. This Government has never asserted any political interest in Europe, but it has asserted its clearly defined interests of an economic and property character. Through the extension of the war to the Mediterranean region and the inevitable destruction of life and property resulting therefrom, the legitimate interests of the American people will be gravely curtailed and such a possibility cannot be viewed with equanimity by their Government.

An extension of the war into the Mediterranean region will almost unquestionably likewise involve a further extension of the war area in the Near East and in other regions of the world. The President has already stated his belief that such further extension of the war might well bring with it the involvement of countries at present remote from the scene of the hostilities. The President feels it necessary to emphasize that possibility. The social and economic relations between the Americas and the whole of Europe are greater than with any other part of the world. These relations are already gravely disturbed as a result of the present hostilities. In the event that there were any further extension of the war, they would obviously be even more seriously disturbed.

In conclusion, the further extension of the war as a result of Italian participation would at once result in an increase in the rearmament program of the United States itself and in a redoubling of the efforts of the Government of the United States to facilitate in every practical [Page 714] way the securing within the United States by the Allied Powers of all of the supplies and matériel which they may require.

Signor Mussolini will recognize that arming on an unprecedented scale in the Americas will make difficult the reduction of armaments in Italy, Europe, and the rest of the world at the conclusion of the present wars. The establishment of normal internal economic and social programs will, therefore, be made infinitely more difficult.

As the Chief of Government well knows, the relations between the Italian and American peoples have always been particularly close and friendly and the President feels sure that the Chief of Government will also recognize that the President has desired and now desires to promote profitable commercial relations between the two countries, as well as a friendly understanding and comprehension of their respective policies and interests between the two Governments. It is for these and the other reasons mentioned that the President believes that entire frankness on his part in these grave moments will be construed by the Chief of Government as an indication of the President’s earnest desire to maintain and promote good relations between the two countries.

Please telegraph immediately the reply which may be made to you.

  1. Presumably reference is to oral reply reported in telegram No. 420, May 27, 1 p.m., supra. No other reply from Mussolini has been found in the Department files.