Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Long)
When I handed the attached note19 to the Italian Ambassador he asked if he might read it, and after doing so said he appreciated the full significance of the note and would transmit it to his Government, but that his Government had attached a great deal of importance to this incident and he was not entirely sure how it would receive the information contained in the note. His Government felt, he said, that these men were acting under instructions from his Government and that they were innocent victims, and that his Government did not look with complacency upon the situation in which they found themselves. The above were not his exact words, but it was to that general effect.
The Ambassador also added that if maximum “sentences and penalties were imposed upon these men in great numbers, it would be a very aggravating experience for his Government, and he hoped that some way could be devised to make it comparatively easy for the sailors, about eight hundred of whom were involved, but he did not know how many of that number would be indicted.
The implications from his remarks were that his Government considered this very seriously and that they might even use it as a reason for breaking off relations. That thought was somewhat negatived by the additional and parting information that Admiral Lais was leaving tomorrow and that his Government was asking an agrément as Naval Attaché for the person who had preceded Admiral Lais as Naval Attaché.