740.00119 Control (Italy)/4–3045

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of European Affairs (Matthews)

Participants: The President, Mr. Grew, Admiral Leahy,91 Mr. Phillips,92 Mr. Matthews

Mr. Grew stated that he had asked to see the President to discuss a problem which had arisen with regard to Venezia Giulia and the Prime Minister’s telegram (No. 22)93 to the President on this matter. He said that there were two phases to the problem which the Prime Minister seemed to confuse: first, the operational phase resulting from the desire of Field Marshal Alexander to establish his control [Page 1128] over Trieste and Pola in order to protect his lines of communication to Austria, and second, the question of future administration of the Istrian peninsula by Allied Military Government. Reports had just come in, Mr. Grew continued, indicating that the Yugoslav Partisans have already occupied Trieste and Pola. We might, therefore, be faced with the question of whether to use American troops to compel Tito’s forces to withdraw. He said that the Department felt that it would be most unwise to employ American forces to fight the Yugoslavs. The President promptly said that he did not intend to have American forces used to fight Yugoslav forces nor did he wish to become involved in Balkan political questions. Admiral Leahy said that he felt that Field Marshal Alexander has all the guidance he needs in Fan No. 53694 from the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Mr. Grew pointed out to the President that in Naf 932, Alexander expressly stated his intention of telling Marshal Tito of his plans and of stating that if any of Tito’s forces remain in that area they must come under Alexander’s command. Mr. Grew said that while it seemed unlikely that Tito would comply with Alexander’s wishes, Fan 536 specifically directs Alexander to communicate with the Combined Chiefs of Staff before taking further action in the area in question if the Yugoslav forces there fail to cooperate. The President was likewise informed that the Department felt that we could concur with the Prime Minister’s suggestion that obtaining prior Russian consent to Alexander’s operations was not necessary. It was pointed out as a pertinent fact that under his present general directive, Alexander has the authority to use American forces under his command for operational purposes anywhere in Italy; consequently it would require further instructions from the Combined Chiefs of Staff to alter or limit this authority. Alexander, however, had ordered the 15th Corps composed only of British forces to head east towards Trieste and there seemed, therefore, no need to raise the question of his operational directive at this time.

In conclusion, the President gave instructions for the Department to prepare a draft telegram in reply to the Prime Minister and submit it to Admiral Leahy, the telegram to emphasize that American forces should not be used to fight Yugoslav forces or for political purposes in the Balkans. (The attached draft was subsequently prepared, taken to Admiral Leahy and approved and dispatched by the President.)95

  1. Adm. William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy.
  2. William Phillips, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State.
  3. See telegram 417, May 1, 8 p.m. to Caserta, p. 1130.
  4. This directive contained the plan for the administration of Venezia Giulia approved by the Combined Chiefs of Staff and set forth in telegram 975, April 29, 2 p.m., to Moscow, supra.
  5. See telegram 417, May 1, 8 p.m., to Caserta, p. 1130.