J.C.S. Files: Telegram

The President’s Personal Representative in North Africa ( Murphy ) and the Commander in Chief, Allied Force Headquarters ( Eisenhower ) to the Secretary of State and the Chief of Staff, United States Army ( Marshall )


W 8750. General Z1 in his conversations (From Murphy and Eisenhower for Hull and Marshall Eyes Only) with us has mentioned the following political points in regard to the Italian situation. The Italian government’s position not only started by being weak at home but it was faced with a desperate military and political situation aboard [abroad?]. One of its difficulties is that it is dominated by used men the King Badoglio etc who have for many years submitted at least in part to the domination of the Fascists. It is too much now to expect spectacular initiative on their part. General Z made the analogy with Marshal Pétain. Although in his opinion the authority of the government was not seriously questioned in Italy now by the Italians even those of the extreme left and it had been able completely to set aside Fascism nevertheless the slowness with which these measures had proceeded has meant that the Germans have had sufficient time to make dispositions to take over and that they may very well do so before the Italian Government completed arrangements with the Allies. He emphasized that no one could tell how long the Germans would leave the Italian Government any freedom of action whatsoever. It might be a question of days or even hours before complete German control would be assumed through the use of military forces if necessary. This might take the form of a Quisling Government under some former well known Fascist such as Farinacci who is now [Page 1194] in Germany or of the appointment of a German Gauleiter. Whereas the bulk of all Italian elements are convinced that Fascism is a dead letter in Italy their primary concern today aside from the fundamental desire to rid the country of German military forces is the fear that the German General Staff may decide to throw Germany into the arms of the Soviet Union since there was no doubt in the minds of most intelligent Germans that they could not win the war. General Z said that in Rome there had been a number of indications that conversations had taken place between the Russians and the Germans prior to the Orel offensive. In Italian opinion the German General Staff and party leaders calculate that rapprochement with the Soviet Union may offer the guarantee of preserving Germany intact as a nation even though it may be welded into a Soviet bloc. The Germans are confident that their industrial population would eventually achieve a dominant situation in such a Teuton–Slav combination. The appointment of Himmler as Minister of the Interior controlling 3,000,000 SS the Italians regard as the first step in this direction. On the other hand they have nothing to hope for [from] the Anglo-American nations but disintegration and ruin. Italy according to General Z is badgered by this fear that once in the camp of the Americans and British it would later be faced with a Russo-German combination at its front door with Britain and America far away. He points out that one of Germany’s difficult problems lies in working out a procedure whereby the power may be transferred if the German General Staff for example should effect the elimination of Reich Chancellor Hitler. That is a much more difficult process than is the case in Italy where the Royal House provides a medium by which legally the transmission of power can be effected in the traditional manner. In Germany a violent break undoubtedly would be required. General Z gave an interesting account of Mussolini’s downfall which had followed a meeting of Fascist Grand Council the vote of which had been 17 to 7 against him. His only supporters being such extreme Fascists as Farinacci and Scorza. After the meeting Mussolini was summoned to the Royal Palace where the King brushed aside Mussolini’s pretensions to continue on a modified basis and flatly informed him that his resignation had been accepted. On leaving the Palace Mussolini was ushered into an automobile in the guard of Carabinieri and was first taken to Lipari. His present whereabouts are not definitely known to the General but he is thought to be in the North Tyrrhenian Sea. It should not be forgotten in the opinion of General Z that the House of Savoy has acted as a stabilizing influence in Italy for the past 6 centuries. He believes this peg on which a transition régime may be attached is essential if chaos in Italy is to be avoided. The present Italian regime is managing to keep comparative [Page 1195] order and tranquility in the country which according to the General should work to the benefit of the Allies. The disposition of Italian forces in the Rome area is stated by the Italians to the Germans as designed for the purpose of protecting the area against an Allied landing but actually it is intended to defend the city and the airfields against the Germans. According to General Z many airfields in Italy are still controlled by Italian forces who after an arrangement will receive and aid the Allies. In his opinion every top Italian officer is opposed to the Germans and ready under an appropriate arrangement to join with the Allies. General Z declared that he was not informed of the nature of the last conversation between Mussolini and Hitler, said that the recent meeting between the Italian General Staff and Field Marshals Rommel and Jodl was limited to technical army matters. Virginio Gayda General Z informed me has been interned outside of Rome. I took the liberty to suggest to General Z who agreed that he[we?] would appreciate the internment of Pound, the traitor American, who has been broadcasting from Rome during these past months and that he be held for delivery to us at the earliest possible moment.

  1. Giacomo Zanussi.