J.C.S. Files: Telegram

The Commander in Chief, Allied Force Headquarters (Eisenhower) to the Combined Chiefs of Staff


W–8854/8954. General Smith met Generals C1 and Z2 in Sicily on 31st August. To AGWar for the Combined Chiefs of Staff and to USFor for the British Chiefs of Staff signed Eisenhower. This is Naf 346. General C had come straight from Rome and General Z accompanied General Smith to conference from Algiers. In addition to General Smith and other officers from AFHQ representatives of CinC Mediterranean, Air CinC and Deputy Commander in Chief were present at the meeting.

Immediately after assembling General C read from a document instructions which he said he had received from his government. The gist of his statement was as follows. “If the Italian Government were a free Government they would be perfectly prepared to accept and announce the armistice terms as desired by Allies. The Italian Government was, however, no longer free but was under control of the Germans. Since the Lisbon meeting3 the German forces in Italy had been considerably strengthened and no part of Italy was without German troops. This being so, it was manifestly impossible for the armistice to be announced at the time desired by the Allies, i.e. before the main Allied landing in Italy. The Italians must first be quite sure that the Allied landings would be in sufficient strength to ensure success and guarantee the security of Rome where the King and the government intended to remain.”

The subsequent discussion developed into a series of attempts by Generals C and Z to find out the strength of the forces the Allies intended to land and particularly if a landing in strength was to be made north of Rome.

It became clear that the Italian government wished our main landing to be made north of Rome so that they could be sure of protection against the German divisions in the vicinity of the city and that moreover they were not prepared to announce an armistice until they were quite sure that the Allied landings were to be successful and in [Page 1258] strength. General C mentioned the possibility of the Allies landing 15 Divisions in the Rome area.

General Smith made it abundantly clear that he was not prepared to continue the discussion on the basis of the armistice being announced after the main landing had taken place nor was he prepared to give any information on the strength or locations of the landings.

At this point General C said that he must follow the instructions given him and before saying anything further must return and consult his government. He then raised 3 additional points, reading from a paper. He first asked whether the Allies would accept the movement of the Italian fleet to Maddalena rather than to an Allied port as this would soften the blow of surrender to the Italian fleet and to the Italian people. He was informed that this would not be acceptable and that the Italian fleet would have to be disposed of in accordance with the armistice terms. It was pointed out to General C that in any case the Taranto portion of the fleet could not reach Maddalena whereupon General C said it would be quite agreeable that that portion of the fleet should go to Tripoli.

The second point raised by General C was steps the Allies intended to take to protect the Vatican City. On being questioned on the meaning of this he said “to protect the Vatican City against the Germans”. General C was told that the protection of the Vatican City was at one with the protection of Rome.

Third and lastly General C stated that great pressure was being brought by the Germans to get possession of Allied prisoners captured by the Germans in Africa. General C was very doubtful whether the Italian Government would be able to continue to resist this pressure. This was noted.

At this point both Generals C and Z attempted to reopen discussions on the main issues and General C again asked to be given the opportunity to consult his government.

General Smith stated that the terms were final and that the time limit for acceptance of them had already expired but in view of the discussion the Allies were willing to extend the limit for acceptance until midnight 1/2 September to enable General C to consult his government again. A firm acceptance or refusal must be given by that time.

During subsequent discussion it became clear that General C was considerably more apprehensive of the German strength and threats to his country since the Lisbon meeting and that he was no longer so certain that the Allies would be able to stage an effective invasion of Italy.

General C was therefore told in unmistakable terms that whatever the German strength or Italian attitude might be it was the Allies’ firm intention to carry the war onto the Italian mainland and drive [Page 1259] the Germans out of Italy regardless of any suffering that might be caused thereby to the Italian people, Nothing could now stop Italy becoming a battlefield and she could shorten her sufferenings only by accepting completely the Allied proposals. One rather disconcerting point was that whereas at Lisbon General C had given Brigadier Strong full information on German troop dispositions, he refused to do so at this meeting, stating that in view of the trend of the discussions this was obviously impossible.

Generals C and Z returned to Rome on evening of 31st August and General C has promised to communicate a definite acceptance or rejection of the terms by midnight 1/2 September. In event of acceptance he will return to Sicily in order to coordinate matters of detail. In any event the special means of communication between AFHQ and Rome would be kept open for the present.

As result of the above and General Smith’s other conversation with the Italians it is clear that the Italian Government will not pluck up courage to sign and announce an armistice unless they are assured of Allied troops being landed in the Rome area and to give them some guarantee of protection against the Germans. If these troops are landed, General C hopes to arrange that the Italian Divisions near Rome will do all within their means actively to oppose the Germans and we also hope that the Italians will carry out widespread sabotage and similar anti-German measure[s] which may facilitate the general Allied operations. I have therefore decided in principle to land an Airborne force near Rome at the appropriate time and am informing General C accordingly repeating that the dispatch of this Airborne force is contingent on an Italian guarantee that the conditions as outlined by General Smith will be kept. The most important of these being that the armistice is signed and announced as desired by Allies; that the Italians seize and hold the necessary airfields and stop all antiaircraft fire; that the Italian divisions in Rome area take action against the Germans.4

  1. Giuseppe Castellano.
  2. Giacomo Zanussi.
  3. See ante, p. 1070.
  4. For a later report to Roosevelt from Ambassador Robert Murphy concerning these discussions and the subsequent developments leading to the signature of the “short” armistice terms on September 3, 1943, see post, p. 1275.