J.C.S. Files: Telegram

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


W–8846/8919. A detailed report1 has just been submitted to you concerning conversations betwen my representatives and General C [Page 1260] and General Z (to AGWar for the Combined Chiefs of Staff and to USFor for the British Chiefs of Staff from the Commander in Chief. Naf number 347. Bigot Avalanche.) The following is intended to be a presentation of principal factors as they now exist.

Italy is in fact an occupied country and its government has no freedom of independent action. The most that could be expected from any governmental decision would be the influence [on] certain portions of the Italian armed forces to act in our favor and possibly to inspire something in the order of a general strike.
The German occupation of Italy has become so strong as to change materially the estimates on which Avalanche was originally planned. While apparently the German strength south of Rome has not been greatly increased since the retirement of German forces out of Husky , yet, subject to limitations of transportation, the large German reserves concentrated in the north of Italy could be used aggressively at any moment that the German Commander believed such action desirable. Our own air action can do something to delay movements of such reserves, but it is not strong enough to impose the almost complete paralysis of communications that was achieved in Sicily.
At this moment, the Italians are far more frightened by the German strength and reprisals within the country than they are of our threat of invasion or even of our bombing operations. They are particularly concerned about the Rome area, and it appears certain that they will make no attempt whatsoever to agree to an Armistice unless assured of some help in the Rome area to stiffen up the resistance which the Italian formations in that region might make against German occupation of the city. We believe that the employment of an Airborne Division for this purpose, under the conditions we have laid down to determine good faith on the part of the Italians, would be a good gamble, because the success of Avalanche may very likely turn upon obtaining a degree of Italian help that will materially delay movement of German forces.
Consequently, under my instructions to support any Italian units that would actually fight the Germans, I have determined to employ an Airborne Division in the Rome area if we can be sufficiently assured of the good faith of the Italians.
Our rate of build up in Avalanche has been previously reported and, as you know, is painfully slow. However, the decisions of the Combined Chiefs of Staff at Quadrant clearly visualized the vigorous prosecution of my mission of knocking Italy out of the War. Since this can be done only by seizing a substantial port, I have no thought of abandoning plans for Avalanche . But I do consider it absolutely necessary to get every possible atom of support I can from the Italian formations.
Nothing that I am doing now or will do in the future implies any promises to any particular government or heads of government with respect to their status after occupation by Allied Forces.
We attempt to keep the Combined Chiefs of Staff fully informed of every development in these tangled negotiations. The only reason that more frequent reports have not been submitted is because of the lack of decisiveness in the representations of General C and General Z and consequent lack of progress in negotiation. They are merely frightened individuals that are trying to get out of a bad mess in the best possible way and their attitude is, I believe, indicative of that of the whole country.

My own belief is that the Italians will probably allow this situation to drift and will not seek a formal armistice. They are too badly demoralized to face up to consequences and are not sufficiently assured of the safety of Rome.

  1. Supra.