Editorial Note

Harriman recorded the conversation at this meeting as follows in an informal memorandum:

“Played Bezique and talked with the Prime Minister, beginning around eleven PM and lasting till after two in the morning. Part of the time Brendan Bracken was present.

“The Prime Minister was much elated by the Italian developments, saying that he had been convinced for some time that a situation could [Page 1217] be developed in which the Italians would fight on our side (I know this to be true.)

“The drama of the Italian fleet leaving Spezia to join us moved him deeply and he called in his secretary and dispatched a cable to Cunningham to consult with Eisenhower and give the ships a friendly and dignified reception.1

“He discussed plans for disposition of the British ships freed by the Italian developments and has a program worked out for the number that might be dispatched to the Pacific to help us against the Japs. He is keen about this not only because of the war but as an indication to the American people of Britain’s good intent against Japan. He has prepared a memorandum to submit to our Chiefs of Staff on the details of this subject.2 This is an indication of the speed with which he always acts in taking advantage of changes in the war picture.

“We talked a lot about Russia and the impending conference. He showed me his interchange of cables with Stalin3 and discussed them.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“I have not seen him in so enthusiastic a mood for a long time. (On account of Italy.) He expressed the view that Badoglio had lived up in letter and spirit to the armistice and that, although we could never allow the Italians to be full allies, we ought to give them opportunity to redress themselves and if they behaved properly they should be rewarded for it. He said it would be very important to the President with 9,000,000 Italians.

“He started framing a speech which he would make on this subject to the House when the time came for applauding the Italians, the gist of it being to describe them as a people who had thrown off the oppressor’s yoke and freed themselves from the exploitation of the Nazis. He described in vivid detail how they had betrayed the Italians at every turn.

He was upset when later on a dispatch came in stating that one of the Italian battleships en route to our controlled ports had been bombed.

“He thoroughly enjoyed Bezique as he evidently had been working under great pressure with the President (The President had left for Hyde Park just before I joined him.), and he enjoyed the relaxation although we talked about the war all through the game.

“He expressed in detail and with great enthusiasm his opinion of General Marshall; that he and General Marshall saw things alike. General Marshall’s mind moved quickly and forcefully under changing conditions.4 He didn’t feel he understood King.

“I had an opportunity to suggest to the Prime Minister that General Marshall be used in rather [a] broader way than was now being contemplated in London. He jumped at this idea and pressed me to give him something more in detail. I told him that this was entirely a matter for the President to develop if he wanted to.

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“As typical of the speed with which the Prime Minister acts, I mentioned to him the importance of getting the four Italian liners that were now engaged in repatriating Italian citizens under a previous agreement with us, ships like the Saturnia and Vulcania. I explained how important they were for troop lift. He immediately said he wanted to have a memorandum on this. I ran into Admiral King at the White House at noon the next day and found that the Prime Minister had talked to him about it, urging that everything be done to find out where they were and to have them available as quickly as possible, and had sent a memorandum to General Ismay about it. At every favorable turn he attempt[s] to take advantage of it by expanding his strategic plans.

“Brendan left us and went to bed rather early.” (Harriman Papers)

  1. See Churchill, Closing the Ring, p. 115.
  2. Post, p. 1287.
  3. See Churchill, Closing the Ring, pp. 280–281; Stalin’s Correspondence, vol. i, pp. 155–158.
  4. Cf. Harriman’s account of this remark by Churchill in an address delivered at Lexington, Virginia, October 24, 1967, Congressional Record, vol. 113, pt. 25, p. 33926.