740.0011 EW 1939/33982b: Telegram
The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant)
2958. The preservation of Rome has been raised with this Government recently by the Irish and Spanish26 Governments, by numerous appeals from the Catholic hierarchy in Central and South America and Australia, and is constantly kept before the Department by the Apostolic Delegate and the Holy See.
The recent offer of the Spanish Government to act as intermediary with the German Government to spare Rome the consequences of war was referred, with a communication from the Holy See on the same [Page 1295] subject, to Admiral Leahy and the United States Chiefs of Staff on March 27.
General Marshall27 replied on April 8 in the following sense:
The British have constantly objected to making Rome an open city on the grounds of military considerations as indicated in a letter of March 9 from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The United States Joint Chiefs of Staff would welcome an opportunity to examine any proposal looking to the preservation of Rome from damage or at least placing the responsibility therefor on the Germans which might be put forward by General Wilson, by the British Chiefs of Staff or by the British Government, should the British change their attitude in view of recent developments. The United States Joint Chiefs of Staff know no military reason why the question should not be taken up with the British Government on the political side, however, although they do not feel justified on military grounds in reopening the question with the British military authorities at this time.
The Under Secretary and his party have background information on the open city question of Rome with the exception of these more recent developments outlined above.
You should see Mr. Eden27a at an early date and discuss this question with him. Inform him of the concern of this Government and of a large group of Americans for the preservation of the monumental city of Rome. Inform him of the willingness of our military authorities to examine any proposal which the British military authorities might put forward looking to an agreement for the demilitarization of Rome and its recognition as an open city. Express the earnest hope of this Government that some means may be found to save Rome from further damage or, if that is not possible, at least to place the responsibility for further destruction squarely on the Germans. A possible solution may be that which the President discussed with the British Chiefs of Staff in Tehran last December. The Under Secretary has information concerning this plan.