Leahy Papers: Telegram

No. 572
The Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean (Alexander) to the Combined Chiefs of Staff 1

Naf 1023, FX 12507. Cite Fhgeg. Sent to the Special Signals Office of the Air Ministry for the British Chiefs of Staff, and to the Adjutant General, War Department, for the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Repeated for information to SHAEF Main.

In the course of the conferences concerning Trieste, a difference arose with the Yugoslavs with respect to the interpretation of the Belgrade agreement, paragraph 3, relating to the continuance of civil administration. The memorandum submitted by the Yugoslavs (which contained proposals unacceptable to us) and our comments thereon were attached to the agreement which was forwarded to you.2 I request confirmation of our interpretation, to serve as a basis for possible future action or discussion, in view of (a) radio broadcasts [Page 855] during the past few days, (b) the attitude expressed by the Yugoslavs, and (c) declaration by local Slovene groups. I also request any further guidance which you may wish to send.

The following is generally the present situation in our area with respect to civil administration: In part, Italian administration is functioning, but in part it has been suspended by action taken by the Yugoslavs during the time of their occupation. Organizations such as the Consorzio, Sepral, and the Office of the Civil Engineer are still functioning executively under chiefs appointed by the Yugoslavs. The prefecture staff continues to be paid, but it has been relieved of all executive responsibility; instead, committees of liberation have been established by the Yugoslavs. These committees have subcommittees (with jurisdiction in various administrative fields) which have been exercising executive powers up to now. The regional committee has exercised executive control over the whole area, with the above pattern being followed down through the district and communal level.

This committee structure established by the Yugoslavs is obviously not finally or completely organized, but it constituted the machinery which was in operation when our occupation began. The Yugoslavs take the position that we are committed, under the Belgrade agreement, to adopt this committee structure as the “existing administration”.

The agreement signed at Belgrade provides, in paragraph 3: “Use will be made of any Yugoslav civil administration which is already set up and which in the view of the Supreme Allied Commander is working satisfactorily.” We have maintained that this agreement intended that the commitment on our part to continue the existing administration pertained not to the system of administration itself but rather to personnel. We have also maintained (a) that the Italian system of administration must be continued in its essentials since the basic law of this area is Italian and must continue to be so, and (b) that we cannot recognize the system of committees as an executive instrument of local government, although we will use committees in an advisory capacity, where they are useful, as we do in other parts of Italy.

The wording of paragraph 3 of the Belgrade agreement may give some colour to the Yugoslav claim. We submitted a draft, you will remember, which used the word “administrators” instead of the term “administration”. The position would have been entirely clear if our draft wording had been adopted in the final text of the agreement. We are bearing in mind, of course, the qualification that, in the Supreme Allied Commander’s opinion, the administration must be working satisfactorily. We do not feel, however, that we should depend on this qualification, as this might result in a totally anomalous situation in which we would have the Italian system of government [Page 856] operating in one locality and a committee system functioning in the neighboring one. Obviously, in practice this would be unworkable.

We are convinced that our position, as described above, is the correct one and, as a practical matter, the only position which we could adopt.

  1. Kirk called Grew’s attention to this message in telegram No. 2767 of June 26 (file No. 740.00119 Control (Italy)/6–2645). The substance of paragraphs 3–5 had previously been communicated to Grew by Kirk in telegram No. 2682 of June 19 (file No. 740.00119 Control (Italy)/6–1945).
  2. For the memorandum and comments referred to, see the enclosures to document No. 561.