740.00119 Control (Italy)/3–345: Telegram

The Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theater (Alexander), to the Combined Chiefs of Staff

Naf 872. 1. Reference is made to Mat 418 of 23 November in which certain proposals were made for Allied Military Government of Venezia Giulia. I have just returned from a meeting with Marshal Tito in Belgrade. While there I tried to extract from him his views on the subject of Venezia Giulia. In opening the discussion I stared that when forces under my command occupy Austria the control of the L of C61 to Trieste would seem to demand my occupation of all territory west of the 1939 frontier between Italy and Jugoslavia and the establishment of Allied Military Government in that area. In reply Marshal Tito offered the following comments:

He accepted the idea of Allied Military Government within the zone of my communication provided his civil administration already installed in the areas in question was retained, his reason being that unless such civil authorities were allowed to function chaos would ensue. He was prepared to agree that his civil authorities should be responsible to the Allied Military Government.
Assuming that the object was to protect the L of C between Trieste and Austria he did not consider it necessary for the Allies to occupy the Istrian Peninsula.
He offered me the use of communications running through Ljubljana though he pointed out that these of course were well within the frontiers of Jugoslavia.

2. From information obtained over a period of several months there is ample evidence to show that Slovene intention is to extend their hold over as large an area of NE Italy as possible in order to create a good case for annexation to Federal Jugoslavia of maximum territory in NE Italy. East of the Isonzo the influence of JANL62 [Page 1109] is paramount in all areas not under effective enemy control and great efforts are being made to extend this influence westwards at least as far as the Tagliamento. This process includes subversion of Italian Partisan Brigades as a condition of their being allowed to operate in the area. In these circumstances it is evident that there is likely to be considerable internal disorder in that part of NE Italy east of the Tagliamento when evacuated by the Germans and when the Allied forces first march in.

3. The occupation of Austria and the safeguarding of the L of C of Allied occupying forces make essential that the port of Trieste, and railways leading from it into Austria be under my control, and that I have full powers to maintain law and order in that area. The International cable line from Rome to Vienna must also be under my control. In view of the circumstances explained in paragraph 2 preceding, these requirements and the consequent security of the L of C can only be assured by the imposition of Allied Military Government at least upon that portion of NE Italy which will comprise such L of C area.

4. If nothing but operational interests were concerned, an attempt could be made to conclude an agreement with Marshal Tito which fixed a military boundary running approximately north-south through Venezia Giulia. The area to the west of this boundary could then be under my military control. In that case no mention need be made of administrative arrangements for the area to the east which would presumably come at once under Jugoslav rule. An assurance could be sought that all Jugoslav and Slovene troops west of such boundary would come under our operational command.

5. The following political considerations, however, appear to preclude an attempt to make such an agreement:

Any such agreement, expressly limited though it might be to purely operational purposes, would be construed by Marshal Tito, by the Italian Government and by outside world as recognition of Jugoslav sovereignty over territory east of proposed boundary. No doubt the Foreign Office as well as the State Department are opposed to any action which would compromise the 1939 frontier between Italy and Jugoslavia in advance of a general peace settlement.
Italian Government has been assured that the whole of Venezia Giulia will be placed under Allied Military Government similar to that already obtaining in Italy.

6. In any event it would be necessary to ensure that naval control of the ports between Fiume and Trieste both inclusive be vested in Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean whose representatives would [Page 1110] work in close cooperation with Commander, 15 Army Group or Jugoslav Forces as appropriate.

7. Essential considerations of which any solution to the problem must take accounts are:

Provision for the control and security of the port of Trieste and L of C thence to Austria.
Avoidance of any action that would appear to pre-judge the final disposal at the peace conference of disputed territory, or that would appear to be a breach of faith with the Italian Government.
Avoidance of armed conflict between Allied Forces and Jugoslav or Slovene Forces under command of Marshal Tito.

8. It is accepted policy that all Italy (including of course Venezia Giulia) should be subject to Allied Military Government on liberation from the Germans, and the considerations in 7a and b above require that there should be no departure from that policy. On the other hand, the fact must be faced that Jugoslav (Slovene) Forces are already in occupation of large areas of Venezia Giulia, and Jugoslav Civil authorities are already installed in the areas in question. The Jugoslav Forces will probably be in a position to extend their hold over the whole country before other Allied forces can arrive, and there may well be some force in Tito’s contention that, unless his civil authorities are allowed to continue to function, chaos will ensue. In order, therefore, to meet the requirement in 7c as well as those in 7a and b above, it is suggested that we should make a virtue of a necessity and invite the Provisional Jugoslav Government—as soon as it is formed—to participate, as an ally, in the Allied Military Government of Venezia Giulia. In that event, I recommend that the Joint Provisional Jugoslav Government be asked to send representatives to consult with members of my staff in formulating plans for the Military Government of Venezia Giulia, and that it should be arranged that British or American Forces occupy the L of C area and perhaps also Fiume and Pola; that the Jugoslav Forces in other parts of Venezia Giulia come under the orders of the appropriate Allied Commander; and that AMG officers should be associated with such existing civil authorities as may be found functioning in the territory.

9. In my view the acceptance of this plan will depend entirely upon an agreement to the general scheme between the three great powers, the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia, before the invitation is made to the provisional Jugoslav Government. I therefore request that urgent steps be taken to secure agreement between the three great powers.

  1. Line of Communication.
  2. Jugoslav Army of National Liberation.