The British Embassy to the Department of State
In view of difficulties which have arisen with the Soviet Government in regard to negotiations looking to the surrender of German forces in North Italy, His Majesty’s Government consider it urgent to agree to a procedure which could be followed in similar cases in the future.
- As His Majesty’s Government see it, German approaches may be of
- (a) for a total surrender, and (b) for a purely military surrender on a single front.
- As regards (a) the position is clearly established under the secret protocol agreed in Moscow in 194379 whereby the three governments are pledged to consult together with a view to concerting their action.
- As regards (b) His Majesty’s Government have carefully considered the view that in the preliminary stages it would be sufficient in the case of an Anglo-American theatre of operations if the Soviet Government were kept informed through military channels of what is going on.
- His Majesty’s Government feel, however, that matters of such vital political importance are involved that it is essential to clear any further approaches in the first instance through the diplomatic channel. They do not think this need necessarily entail any serious delay provided procedure to be followed in handling these approaches is agreed.
- In laying down the procedure His Majesty’s Government therefore consider it necessary in the first instance to distinguish between (1) offers of military surrender by German Commanders in Chief and (2) local surrenders in the field. The latter are of course purely a matter for military authorities on the spot. On the other hand an offer of military surrender by German Commander in Chief on the Eastern, Western or Italian fronts, whether or not it arises immediately [Page 744] out of military operations, clearly involves wider issues. Such an offer could be made either by direct contact at the front under a white flag or by preliminary contact on neutral territory. Through whichever channel such an offer may be received, His Majesty’s Government would propose the following procedure—Information of any such approach from the German Commander in Chief in Italy or on the Western front should at once be communicated to the Combined Chiefs of Staff. If it is decided to follow up the offer, the British and United States Ambassadors in Moscow would be instructed urgently to inform the Russians of the approach and to say (a) that if the bona fides of the offer is established, arrangements will be made for fully accredited German representatives to proceed to whichever Allied Head Quarters is concerned in order to discuss the implementation of the offer of surrender; and (b) that if any such discussions materialize, and if time permits, the presence of Russian representatives should be welcomed at them in order that they may have first hand information of their progress. It would however be clearly understood between the three Governments that actual conduct of purely military matters connected with the surrender of the German army in question would rest with the Supreme Allied Commander on that front. In the event of any political questions arising, the issues would of course immediately have to be referred to the Governments.
- As regards the establishment of the bona fides of an offer His Majesty’s Government consider that it would be better in any future case to avoid sending military representatives of SACMED or SCAEF81 to meet German representatives on neutral soil and that any contact which may be established should be maintained through suitable Allied organisations on the spot. (If for any reason the Supreme Allied Commander considers it desirable to employ military representatives for the purpose he should first refer to his Governments.) His Majesty’s Government would further propose to limit strictly the role of such organisations to that of satisfying the Allied Commander in Chief of bona fides of (a) the German emissaries and (b) the German offer and, this done, of arranging for fully accredited representatives to proceed to the competent Allied Head Quarters where alone discussions of any offer would take place.82
Washington , April 4, 1945.
- Reference is to item 13 of the Secret Protocol signed at Moscow, November 1, 1943, Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. i, p. 749.↩
- Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force.↩
- A copy of this aide-mémoire was sent to Admiral Leahy under cover of a memorandum from the Assistant to the Secretary of State, Charles E. Bohlen, on April 6, not printed. Mr. Bohlen wrote: “The Secretary of State would appreciate very much your obtaining the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in regard to this British suggestion concerning agreed procedure for surrender of German forces in the future. The State Department’s opinion is that in view of certain developments this is not the best moment to bring forth any such suggestion although the idea of agreed procedure for such matters is in itself most desirable politically.” (740.00119 EW/4–645)↩