740.00119 (Potsdam)/5–2446

No. 473
Briefing Book Paper
top secret

Memorandum for the President

Subject: Retention of Allied Forces in Italy

The attached telegram from Caserta (2801—June 28)1 indicates that Prime Minister Churchill will take up with you at the meeting the desirability of leaving substantial American forces in Italy and elsewhere in Europe until major problems are settled.

The military requirements of the redeployment program must, of course, come first. Nevertheless from the political aspect it is most important to maintain the Allied character of the forces remaining in Europe during this interim period through at least token American participation. Total withdrawal would inevitably be interpreted as a sign that the United States is relinquishing a direct influence on future settlements and cannot be counted on strongly to implement the principles we have proclaimed. The presence of American troops even in limited numbers inspires confidence because the United States is felt to be the only truly disinterested great power participating in European affairs.

As regards Italy, it is essential to retain Allied troops during the interim period. Many indications point to the fact that subversive elements are counting upon their withdrawal in order to further their own ends, whereas moderate elements have repeatedly asked for the maintenance of Allied, and especially American, forces. There are large quantities of partisan arms still in the hands of the more irresponsible elements, and the natural disintegration of law and order in a defeated, devastated country affords a favorable atmosphere for a resort to violence for the settlement of political and social problems such as that which in 1919 led to fascist totalitarianism. It cannot be excluded, either, that the powerful armed forces which still exist just outside Italy’s frontiers might find in these possible disturbances an excuse to intervene and “restore order”. It is probable that the mere presence of Allied troops will suffice to preserve a satisfactory measure of law and order, precluding the development of a situation which would result in losing all we have thus far achieved in Italy.

Italian internal security forces and the small Italian Army which is now being recreated have thus far done a reasonably satisfactory job [Page 705] in maintaining public order, but they are still largely dependent upon the moral and material support of the Allied forces and could hardly be expected to cope alone with the situation which would undoubtedly arise upon the rapid withdrawal of Allied troops.

The Chief Commissioner of the Allied Commission2 has formulated a plan for the retention of five Allied divisions in Italy in addition to service and administrative units employed in the redeployment of personnel and matériel and exclusive of Allied forces in Venezia Giulia; this plan is outlined in a telegram from Rome (1693—June 20), also attached.3

The principle should be established that Allied troops will not be wholly withdrawn from Italy until after the Italian people have had an opportunity, in accordance with the Moscow Declaration,4 to choose their form of democratic government. It is therefore recommended that at least a token force of United States troops be left in Italy in order to inspire Italian confidence and to avoid the suspicion and the possible serious trouble which might result if British forces alone remained in Italy.

  1. Document No. 172.
  2. Rear Admiral Ellery W. Stone.
  3. Document No. 474.
  4. i. e., the Declaration Regarding Italy released November 1, 1943. Text in Department of State Bulletin, vol. ix, p. 309.
  5. So dated in the Briefing Book, but the original of the memorandum, signed by Byrnes, was dispatched to Truman on July 4 (file No. 740.00119 Control (Italy)/6–2845).