Roosevelt Papers: Telegram

Prime Minister Churchill to President Roosevelt 1

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Following from Former Naval Person to President dated August 16th.

1. I send you herewith 4 telegrams I have received from London about a renewed approach by Badoglio. The following is the kind of answer which I suggest should be made. Begins. We note the following statement of the Italian Envoy. “We are not in a position to make any terms. We will accept unconditional surrender provided we can join the Allies in fighting the Germans.” We for our part cannot make any bargain about Italy changing sides nor can we make plans in common at this stage. If, however, serious fighting breaks out between the Italian Army and the German intruders, a new situation would be created. The Italians know quite well that the British and United States Governments do not seek to deny to Italy her respected place in a [future2] Europe. The Italian Government should therefore resist the Germans to the best of their ability as soon as possible pending the arrival of the Anglo-American Armies. In particular they should stop further invasion of Italy by the German troops by blowing up bridges and tunnels and tearing up railways lines and roads in the north of Italy and thus cutting the communications of the German troops in the South of Italy. Effective action of this kind would be regarded by the victorious Allies as a valuable service and would render further co-operation possible against the common foe. There is no doubt of the ability of the Italian government and people to destroy and paralyse the German communications and action of this kind would be a proof of their sincerity. Another proof would be the safeguarding of British and Allied prisoners from being taken away to Germany, in any case where this is attempted by the Germans [Page 589] and the Italian Government have not the power to resist the prisoners should be set free and succoured by the Italian people. A further vital service which the Italian Government certainly has it in its power to render to the Allies is to sail the Italian warships to any ports in Allied occupation. Fourthly the furnishing by the Italian Government of any information of the German dispositions and any assistance given by the Italian troops and people to the disembarkations of the Allies when they take place, especially if accompanied by fighting between the Italians and the Germans, would be favourably recognised. Fifthly, any co-operation between the Italian troops in the Balkan peninsula and the various patriot forces in the field, taking the form of resistance to the Germans and leading to bloodshed, would be favourably viewed. Thus, by taking hostile action against the common enemy, the Italian Government, Army and people could, without any bargain, facilitate a more friendly relationship with the United Nations. In particular, we state that if the Allied troops arrive at any point where they find Italians fighting Germans, we shall aid the Italians to our utmost. Ends. Eden should be here tomorrow and we can discuss the whole position together. I send you this budget in order that you may see the way my mind is working.

[Attachment 1—Telegram]

The British Foreign Secretary (Eden) to Prime Minister Churchill 3

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Concrete No. 231—16th August. Following for Prime Minister from Foreign Secretary.

Following Telegram No. 1404 of August 15th just received from His Majesty’s Ambassador, Madrid.4 Begins:

A letter was handed me this morning from His Majesty’s Minister to the Holy See5 asking me to see the bearer. When I agreed two Italians entered the room who introduced themselves as General Castellano,6 Chief of General Ambrosio’s Military Office, and Signor Montanari of Consulta.7 General Castellano informed me that he came officially and with full authority from Marshal Badoglio to put before [Page 590] His Majesty’s Government the Italian position and to make a specific and very urgent proposal. The Marshal wished His Majesty’s Government to know that Italy was in a terrible position. Practically the whole country was in favour of peace, the Italian Army was badly armed, there was no Italian Aviation and German Troops were streaming in by the Brenner and Riviera. Feeling against the Germans was intense. The Italian Government however felt powerless to act until the Allies landed on the mainland. If and when however the Allies landed, Italy was prepared to join the Allies and to fight against Germany. If the Allies agreed in principle to this proposal General Castellano would immediately give detailed information as to the disposition of German troops and stores and as to co-operation that the Italians would offer Mihailovitch in the Balkans. General Castellano was also empowered to concert operations e.g. connected with the Allied landings from Sicily. Marshal Badoglio regarded it as essential that action should be taken immediately as every hour meant the arrival of more German Units in Italy and at present there were thirteen Divisions and the German plan was to hold the line of the Apennines and Ravenna.

I then put the following questions—What would the Italian Government do in answer to the Allied demand of unconditional surrender? The General’s answer was “We are not in a position to make any terms. We will accept unconditional surrender provided we can join the Allies in fighting the Germans”. I then asked whether similar proposal had been made to the United States Government or in other Quarter? He replied “No. This was the first official proposal”. I then asked how he had got out of Italy. He answered on a false passport under the name of Raimondi as a member of the Italian Mission en route for Lisbon to meet returning Italian Ambassador from [to] Chile.8 He would have to return to Home with the Ambassador on August 20th. He then asked whether I could give him an immediate answer and said that if so he would at once give my military Attaché complete military information about German and Italian Dispositions. I said I could not do this but that I would telegraph urgently and ask His Majesty’s Government to send instructions to His Majesty’s Ambassador at Lisbon.9 I then gave him a letter asking His Majesty’s Ambassador to see him. He said provided he could rejoin his Mission by August 20th he would be ready to fly to London.
I made it clear that I was expressing no opinion whatever on the offer but that I would transmit it most urgently and secretly to His Majesty’s Government. He impressed me as a man of weight and sincerity. He arrives at Lisbon tomorrow Monday afternoon and wall immediately give my letter to His Majesty’s Ambassador. The letter merely introduces him. I assume that you will send His Majesty’s Ambassador at Lisbon instructions as to the next step. General Castellano insisted repeatedly on the great urgency.10 Ends.

[Page 591]

Following are our comments on the above. Begins:

It is to be noted that the whole of this Italian approach is based on combined operations with us against Germans, “Italian Government feel powerless to act until Allies land on Mainland”. General Castellano says he is empowered to “concert operations, e.g., connected with the Allied landings from Sicily”. As regards unconditional surrender, he says “We will accept provided we can join the Allies in fighting the Germans”. The only military advantages which these proposals offer are unopposed landings by Army and Navy and Italian co-operation in running railways, ports, etc. but if conditions in Italy are as stated by Castellano we are reasonably sure of this co-operation even though we insist on unconditional surrender. In view of the quality and morale of the Italian Troops in the Balkans, the offer of co-operation with Mihailovitch is not likely to be a very substantial contribution to military operations and would give rise to considerable political complications. Moreover military co-operation would mean at least that the Italians retained their Arms, including the Fleet and would probably eventually claim Allied status and advantages. We could not in any case concert operations with them if that means revealing any of our plans. I am instructing His Majesty’s Ambassador to hold these Envoys in Lisbon where it appears that they contemplate staying until August 20th. At the moment, of course, he can only listen to what they have to say and tell them he is seeking instructions. I presume you will wish to return the answer, already given through Signor Berio at Tangier,11 that the Italian Government should place themselves in the hands of the Allied Governments, who will then state their terms adding that the question of the assistance that Italy could give us against the Germans cannot be determined until this has been done. Although at first sight this offer of co-operation sounds tempting I feel that if we accept it will land us in all sorts of difficulties both military and political with few if any corresponding advantages. If this judgement is correct I am sure we ought to stick to our present policy of refusing to make the Italian Government any promises or enter into any bargain with them in return for their surrender. It is notable that General Castellano has produced no written credentials, though that may be explained by the furtive manner of his departure from Italy. I am telegraphing to Vatican to ask for further information and am asking His Majesty’s Ambassador in Lisbon to try to extract more from the Envoys as to their bona fides. I am not repeating this Telegram or Madrid Telegrams to Washington or to Algiers. Leaving it to you to act as you think fit about communicating with Americans.

[Page 592]
[Attachment 2—Telegram]

The British Foreign Secretary (Eden) to Prime Minister Churchill

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Concrete 232—16th August. Following for Prime Minister from Foreign Secretary.

My immediately preceding telegram. Following telegram received from Madrid No. 1405 of 15th August. Begins:

General C. has called again to ask whether General Eisenhower could send a senior staff officer to join the Lisbon talks. I said I would immediately transmit to you this request. When I asked General C. why Marshal Badoglio had not made these proposals direct to General Eisenhower he said the Italian Government was so closely watched by the Germans that they did not dare and that it seemed safest to use the pretext of Lisbon mission for talks in Madrid or Lisbon. Marshal Badoglio, knowing me personally as a result of my military service in Italy, had hoped for talks in Madrid but General C. understood that [as] I was neither authorised to give him any discussions, authorised to give him any answer nor was my Military Attaché available for discussions, they must be transferred to Lisbon. I should be grateful of course if you could keep me generally in touch with any developments. See my immediately following telegram. Ends.

[Attachment 3—Telegram]

The British Foreign Secretary (Eden) to Prime Minister Churchill

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Concrete No. 233 16th August. Following for Prime Minister from Foreign Secretary.

My immediately preceding telegram.

Following telegram received from Madrid No. 1406 of August 15th. Begins.

General C. made following additional points.

Fascist militia has been disarmed. Their hostility to the Army is however very bitter and if the Government cannot reach agreement with the Allies on basis of Marshal B’s proposals, Germans may try to stage a, comeback for Mussolini militia and Fascist leaders although Mussolini and Fascism are discredited.
Although the country is almost solidly for peace, the inhabitants scarcely less solid against the Germans and will consequently support an Italian military alignment with the Allies.
Germans are deeply entrenched in Government machine and Hitler sent the 2 S.S. Division[s] Adolf Hitler and Deutschland to Reggio Emilia to intensify German control.
All the Italian troops have been withdrawn from the Russian front. German troops have taken over garrison of Greece. Salonika in particular is in exclusively German hands.
Italian Government if aligned with the Allies is ready to repudiate the independence of Croatia and to reach agreement with Yugoslavia over Dalmatia.
Line that the Germans intend to hold in Italy is Genoa to Ravenna. They are threatening the Italian Government with air and gas reprisals if they do not continue resistance.
Recent Allied air attacks particularly the last on Rome and Milan have done great damage but almost exclusively to Italians. The Italian Staff in the event of an agreement will give the Allies fullest possible details for the purpose of inflicting the maximum damage on German troops and stocks. The Italian Army could in this event do much to cut the Germany supply line. Pope knows nothing of General C’s proposals but Cardinal Maglione helped to obtain letter of introduction from His Majesty’s Minister at the Holy See to me.
General C. and Signor M. although they possess individual passports are travelling on omnibus papers covering the whole mission en route for Lisbon; if Germans discover General C’s identity they will kill him on his return to Italy.
Chilean [Italian] Ambassador [to Chile] and Staff are on the Spanish S.S. Cabo De Buena Esperanza and General C. and Signor M. will have to return with them immediately after her arrival, e.g. August 20th or August 21st in Lisbon.

See my immediately following telegram. Ends.

[Attachment 4—Telegram]

The British Foreign Secretary (Eden) to Prime Minister Churchill

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Concrete No. 234. Following for Prime Minister from Foreign Secretary. My immediately preceding telegram. Following telegram received from Madrid No. 1407 of August 15th. Begins;

3.12 My comment, based of course solely on this interview, is that Italian Government seem definitely prepared to accept unconditional surrender provided

Allies land on the mainland.
Italian army fights the Germans.

Without these two conditions Italian Government will not have sufficient courage or justification to make a complete volte-face and will drift impotently into chaos. Whilst His Majesty’s Government alone can judge of wider issues at stake, my advice would be to give urgent [Page 594] and serious attention to General C’s proposal if for no other reason than to obtain intelligence about the German intentions and dispositions. These he will only disclose to a senior military officer after agreement has been reached upon for this alignment of Italy with the Allies. This being so, you may wish to send immediately some senior staff officer to meet him in Lisbon. [Garble] he was careful to say that whilst his mission was military, he was authorised to speak for the whole of the Government including Minister for Foreign Affairs. Italian Embassy in Madrid know nothing of the mission or proposals. He had, however, been given a message for Marquis Ajeta, Italian Chargé d’Affaires [Counselor of Legation] at Lisbon, but in view introduction to His Majesty’s Ambassador and of the need of great secrecy, he does not propose to deliver it. He will therefore appear in Lisbon as Signor Raimondi official of Italian [Ministry] of Finance and member of delegation of welcome to Chilean Ambassador.

4. You will note that I had no opportunity of consulting you as to my meeting these enemy subjects. Until they started talking, I had no idea of their nationality and their apparent bona fides and letter of introduction from His Majesty’s Minister at the Holy See convinced me that you would wish me to listen very carefully to their statements. Signor M. took no part in the discussion except to clear up one or two points on which I needed an interpreter. He speaks English perfectly. Ends.

  1. This message is endorsed as follows in Roosevelt’s handwriting: “Given me by Ronny Campbell at White H[ouse] 4:30 p.m. Aug. 16. I told him to tell WSC. in Quebec that I approve his ‘kind of answer’. FDR”. There is also an endorsement recording that this message and its attachments had been shown to General Marshall on August 18, 1943. Copies were forwarded to Hull on August 16, 1943, by the British Embassy at Washington (740.00119 EW/8–1643).

    On August 17 the following telegram of the same date from Ambassador Winant was forwarded to Roosevelt at Quebec by the White House Map Room in telegram No. White 92: “To the President only, from Winant. An approach has been made by Italians to the British Ambassador in Madrid. Their letter of introduction to him came from the British Minister at the Vatican. The British have the detailed story and I think it has also been called to [the attention of?] the Combined Chiefs of Staff. I can not evaluate the weighting of it. It recognizes the principle of unconditional surrender. I assume you have already been informed but I had no way of being certain so am forwarding this brief notice.” (Roosevelt Papers)

  2. This word is a manuscript interpolation on the source text.
  3. Copies of this message and the three following telegrams were forwarded to Hull by Leahy on August 18, 1943 (J.C.S. Files). These four messages were also forwarded to Eisenhower.
  4. Sir Samuel Hoare.
  5. Sir D’Arcy Osborne.
  6. This name was garbled as received, and has been corrected both here and later in the message.
  7. This is apparently another garble in the message as received. Franco Montanari was a Consul Third Class in the Italian Foreign Service.
  8. Pier Filippo de Rossi del Lion Nero. Chile had severed diplomatic relations with Italy.
  9. Sir Ronald Hugh Campbell.
  10. For Castellano’s accounts of his peace missions, see Giuseppe Castellano, Gome firmai Varmistizio di Cassibile (Milan: Arnoldo Mondadori, 1945); Giuseppe Castellano, La guerra continua (Milan: Rizzoli, 1963).
  11. See ante, p. 578.
  12. It is not clear from the source text why the paragraphs in this message are numbered 3 and 4. There appear to be no omissions.