740.00119 Potsdam/7–1345: Telegram

No. 482
The Special Assistant to the Director of European Affairs (Reber) to the Director of European Affairs (Matthews)1

20. For Matthews from Reber.

I understand that Field Marshal Alexander has proposed that Stone be retained as Chief Commissioner for a period of three to four [Page 713] months in view of the difficulty of having a civilian chief commissioner2 while military government is still maintained in the north of Italy. He has suggested that during the interim Douglas proceed to Italy as Vice President Economic Section with the understanding he would replace Stone at the expiration of this period. The British Chiefs of Staff recognizing that this would probably be unacceptable propose instead that Douglas be appointed temporarily as Deputy Chief Commissioner.

Douglas and the War Department have not yet been informed. It will be possible to postpone the presentation of this British proposal for a few days until you and possibly McCloy have had time to explore the matter further with the British Chiefs of Staff at Terminal . It is further understood that Alexander will arrive there on July 15.

  1. Sent to the Secretary of State over the signature of Grew.
  2. Cf. the following memorandum of June 14 from Grew to Truman, headed “Appointment of James H. Douglas, Jr. as Chief Commissioner, Allied Commission in Italy” (file No. 740.00119 Control (Italy)/6–1445):

    “A basic principle in our treatment of Italy has been the idea of encouraging the Italians to assume their civic responsibilities, with less reliance on Allied guidance, and to develop a competent administration under their own leadership. To this end we have sought progressively to eliminate the control features of the Allied Commission, and, as rapidly as possible, to reduce the military functions of the Commission and to give to it an increasingly civilian character.

    “We now have an opportunity, upon the departure from Italy of Mr. Harold Macmillan (British), who, in addition to his political functions, had been designated by the Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean, as ‘Acting President’ of the Allied Commission, to review that organization from the standpoint of making it a more effective instrument, with emphasis on its civilian functions.

    “The President of the Commission is the Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean, and if, as we understand, the position of ‘Acting President’ will not be filled, the Chief Commissioner would thus again be the ranking officer of the Commission, responsible directly to the Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean. Recognizing the definite advantages in having a civilian officer in this key position, steps are now being taken through the Combined Chiefs of Staff to relieve Rear Admiral Stone, USN, of these duties and to replace him by Colonel James H. Douglas, Jr., AUS, who has recently returned from service in a key post in the Air Transport Command. The choice of Colonel Douglas has the full approval of the Foreign Economic Administration and the War Department which is prepared to release him from his military status so that he could serve in a civilian capacity. He is fully familiar with the problems involved, is an advocate of the policy of giving to the Commission a more definitely civilian character, and is himself ready to revert to civilian status.

    “I think this is an excellent choice, and I should like now to suggest that Colonel Douglas be given the personal rank of Minister, which would facilitate in many ways the performance of his work. I should be grateful if you would let me know whether you would approve such a designation for him.”