President Roosevelt to the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union ( Stalin )74

212. I have received from Ambassador Harriman a letter addressed to him by Mr. Molotov regarding an investigation being made by Field Marshal Alexander into a reported possibility of obtaining the surrender of part or all of the German Army in Italy, in which letter Mr. Molotov demands that this investigation to be undertaken in [Page 738] Switzerland be stopped forthwith because of the non participation therein of Soviet officers.

I am sure that the facts of this matter, through misunderstandings have not been correctly presented to you.

The facts are as follows: Some few days ago unconfirmed information was received in Switzerland that some German officers were considering the possibility of arranging for the surrender of German troops that are opposed to the British-American Armies in Italy commanded by Field Marshal Alexander.

When this information reached Washington, Field Marshal Alexander was authorized to send an officer, or officers, of his staff to Switzerland to ascertain the accuracy of the report, and if it appeared to be of sufficient promise, to arrange with any competent German officers for a conference with Field Marshal Alexander at his headquarters in Italy to discuss details of the surrender. Soviet representatives would, of course, be present if such a meeting could be arranged.

The Soviet Government was immediately informed of this investigation to be made in Switzerland and was later informed that it will be agreeable for Soviet officers to be present at Field Marshal Alexander’s meeting with German officers when and if such a meeting is finally arranged in Berne to discuss details of a surrender at Caserta.

Attempts by our representatives to arrange a meeting with German officers have met with no success up to the present time, but there still appears to be a possibility of such a meeting.

You will, of course, understand that my government must give every assistance to all officers in the field in command of American Forces who believe there is a possibility of forcing the surrender of enemy troops in their area. It would be completely unreasonable for me to take any other attitude or to permit any delay which must cause additional and avoidable loss of life in the American Forces. You as a military man will understand the necessity for prompt action to avoid losing an opportunity. It is in the same category as would be the sending of a flag of truce to your general at Koenigsberg or Danzig.

In such a surrender of enemy forces in the field, there can be no political implications whatever and no violation of our agreed principle of unconditional surrender.

At any discussion of details of surrender by our commanders of American Forces in the field, I will be pleased to have the benefit of the experience and advice of any of your officers who can be present, but I cannot agree to suspend investigation of the possibility because of objection on the part of Mr. Molotov for some reason that is completely beyond my understanding.

I do not expect much from the reported possibility, but I hope you will, with the purpose of preventing misunderstanding between our [Page 739] officers, point out to the Soviet officials concerned the desirability and necessity of our taking prompt and effective action without any delay to accomplish the surrender of any enemy military forces in the field that are opposed to American Forces.

I am sure that when a similar opportunity comes on the Soviet front you will have the same attitude and will take the same action.

  1. Copy of telegram obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y.